Building trust, the traditional way
Updated: Mar 6, 2018
A weekend in the Blue Mountains with my mate James learning to climb trad, building trust, and exploring some more of what this world heritage area has to offer.
3 - 4 March 2018
James and I had been planning this training weekend for months, we longed to extend our ability to explore beyond bolt bearing crags. Up until this point, we'd be climbing where fixed protection had been bolted to the rock providing regular places to clip our climbing rope to. This is called 'sport climbing'. Traditional climbing is a style of rock climbing where the climber needs to place all the gear needed to protect himself against falls. More difficult, more risky, more expensive, but much more exciting.
Normally, we head out straight after work on Friday, but on this occasion we decided to wait for the Sydney rush to die down before heading southbound. We chilled out in the back yard of James' heritage listed home and wolfed down Cole's premium sausages and admired James' recently delivered gear. Shortly after, with eyes on the prize (cold beer!), we packed my Navara with climbing gear, swags, and beer, and headed down the M1 towards Pennant Hills Road. The best places to camp are located up past Blackheath, however, we decided to try something new and save 45 mins of driving time for the next morning by staying at Bulls Camp Reserve located in Woodford. Nothing exciting, but a good location to roll out the swags and wind down the work week with a few cold ones.
The next morning, we met up with Alex and Marty at Altitude, a regular climbers meeting place. Day one of training was spent standing in front of cracks, placing different types of protection (cams, wires, and hexes), trying to get them as stuck as possible, thinking about whether the position, gear, and rock would hold us in the event of a massive fall. To be honest, not sure how a nut the width of my car key will keep me hanging instead of bouncing, but I guess it's all about trust! Once we had a decent grasp on how to place gear in a 'best as you can' position, we learned how to build anchor systems designed to be able to allow us for the best part, bringing our buddy up! As the afternoon sun passed overhead and the day's instruction came to a close, James and I started to discuss sneaking in a climb before we lost total daylight. A 3/4 twist of a hoppy bottle put those thoughts to rest.
The end of Mt York Road had always been my 'go to' place to camp but I had always heard Perry's Lookdown was also a nice place to rest aching limbs. I thought we'd check it out and near the end of the dirt road a sign directed us right, towards the camping area, or left, to Anvil Rock Lookout. 'Heck, let's check out the lookout first', we thought. Were we ever glad we did. The raised platform at the end of the 5 minute walk gave us 360 degree views, Sydney to the East, Mt Wilson to the North, Mt Victoria to the West and Katoomba to the South. The sky was clear, the air still, and the small platform afforded just enough room for two swags to engulf the anvil.
That was honestly the best night I'd ever had in the Blue Mountains. James and I stayed up after the sun went down and sipped our beers while lounging on the comfort of our swags having good ol' fashion boy talk. We mainly spoke of upcoming adventures and as we gazed on the moonlit cliffs across the way, we reflected on how we previously thought what was unachievable by us last year was now within our grasps. When we finally did lay our heads to rest, my eyes remained open, gazing at the stars above, watching the odd comet zip beyond passing aircraft. I'd wake periodically throughout the night, comfortable in my Burke and Wills swag, each time the moon positioned higher in the night sky. At sunrise, James and I sat silently staring out to the east, the orange glow of the sky luring us out of bed to continue part two of the weekend's adventure.
The course finished well, James and I both ascended climbs at Mt Piddington, trusted our gear placements in whatever cracks or crevices we could get those tiny bits of metal into. To learn more about climbing training in the Blue Mountains, try the Blue Mountain Climbing School. They offer a range from introductory to self rescue and other specialty training courses.
This weekend was all about trust. Trust your training, trust your gear, and trust yourself. Most importantly, something achieved only through sharing adventures, trust your belayer.