Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunny Day Valley and The Watchtower crags, The Grampians, Australia

After climbing the dubious dolerite rock on Tasmania our next climbing destination was The Grampians. Having heard that this should be one of the best climbing areas in Australia I was pretty psyched! However, we were now on our own with Sofia and could no longer count on Auntie Gabrielle babysitting while we were climbing, so we had to restrict our climbs to areas with single pitch climbs and very easy access! After reading the guidebook and scouting some of the crags we ended up climbing in Sunny Day Valley and The Watchtower which both had 5 min access on good paths.

Sunny Day Valley:
We first went to Sunny Day Valley at Mount Hollow. According to the guidebook this area should have high quality single pitch trad routes in all grades on perfect sandstone rock - and we were not disappointed! We started out climbing some of the easier routes to get familiar with the rock and then worked our way up to Australian grade 18 (French 6a). I immediately got totally psyched as the rock was soooooo good with nice pockets and cracks, super gear placements and excellent friction. It was like climbing on sandpaper!

Here is a short picture gallery of the climbs we did:
The Back Wall
A look down An-tics (Australian 10, French 3) - nice rounded jugs!

Hans belaying at the top of An-tics. Note the awesome looking rock formations in the background.

A look down the great corner of De Blanc (Australian grade 12, French 4).

Hans leading the nice crack route Regatta (Australian grade 13, French 4+).

Elvira at the crux of Overkill (Australian grade 17, French 5+/6a) - the best route we climbed on the Back Wall.

The Main Wall

A look down on Waxman (Australian grade 11, French 3/4).

Australian Martin Grymel leading Texas Radio and the Big Beat (Australian grade 17, French 5+/6a) - the best route that we climbed on the Main Wall.

Martin Grymel at the top of Texas Radio and the Big Beat. This was only his second lead on own gear - a good effort in my opinion!

Elvira laybacking at the top of Texas Radio and the Big Beat.

Elvira laybacking the crux start of Halfway Hotel (Australian grade 18, French 6a).

A nosy Black Wallaby looking for food near our backpacks.

The Wall of Fools with the hardest routes at Sunny Day Valley. Unfortunately, the access was to rough with a baby to we did not climb any of the routes on this magnificent wall.

The Watchtower:
The sandstone rock at The Watchtower does not hold the same high quality as Sunny Day Valley, but the 3 minute drive from our campground in Halls Gap made it possible to rush over there a couple of times to do a few climbs after laying at the pool all day or hiking in the National Park. Initially we climbed the nice corner Beelzebub (Australian grade 15, French 5) which was a trad climb.

A look down the nice corner of Beelzebub (Australian grade 15, French 5).

We then moved on to the bolted face climbs Silvertop (Australian grade 22, French 6c) and Jugular Pulse (Australian grade 21, French 6b). Face climbing is my favorite and I was thus excited to give these routes a try. Unfortunately, I had on fall in the tricky crux of Silvertop but then completed the route - no onsight this time :-(
Jugular Pulse was protected with the old fashioned Australian specialty - carrot bolts - for which you need bolt plates that we didn't have at the time. However, the routes had a shared top anchor and we could thus climb Jugular Pulse in a top rope. It was an excellent route that was significantly easier than its neighbor - too bad I could not give it an onsight attempt!

Unknown Frenchman attempting Silvertop (Australian grade 22, French 6c).

Climbing with a baby:

So this was our first time bringing baby Sofie to the crags and how was that? Well, you certainly have to lower your expectations in terms of how many routes you are going to climb per day (on average we did 2 climbs per climbing day). Other things to consider is the access as you will need to carry a lot of extra stuff (e.g. pram, food, diaper changing stuff and toys). Finally, you have to think about the safety of the baby in terms of where you place the baby while you climb as rock, gear or yourself might fall to the ground! We also experimented with which time of the day to climb in order to allow Sofie to get her naps, and found that for our baby it was best to climb in the late mornings/early afternoons, which was typically to hot for her to sleep anyways. That it was sometimes almost to hot to climb as well was just too bad for the parents.....
The logistics are thus significantly more complicated, but it should not stop you from climbing as it is definitely not an impossible undertaking!

Sofie climbing.



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