Words by Ben and Karl.
Photos and video by Ben, Karl, and Phil.
I’m not exactly sure when it was that I first heard about Ozy. I think I’d asked someone about the tallest cliff in Australia so naturally Frenchman’s cap and the Buffalo North wall came up. Shortly thereafter I found Max Fourman’s Ozy Direct TR on Blogger and have had it bookmarked ever since.
Climbing Ozy Direct has been a dream of mine for years. I’ve spent countless nights lying awake in bed fantasising about it, but there’ve always been other climbing adventures needing more immediate attention. I’m not even sure why I wanted to climb it so passionately. I suppose in part because of the challenge, the location, the beauty of the thing, but I guess mostly I liked the idea of what it asks you to give to get it done compared to the ‘big’ climbs at Arapiles.
Since Christmas 2010 Karl, Phil and I had been comparing calendars looking for a weekend where all three of us would be free for our Ozy attempt. It wasn’t until May that a window appeared.
We did some research, sourced a bit of beta, and printed out a bit of a guide that I made up specifically for the route, and we were off on Thursday 5th of May after work on the road trip up to Mt Buffalo.
We arrived at 10ish to -2 degrees so slept in the stone hut just up from the hang gliders ramp. A crackling fire and a mug of port had us toasty and well slept ready for our 5am start the next morning.
Day 1 – Use the defender of the faith rap to reach comet ramp, rap comet to the base of the climb, I’d aid the first 3 pitches and haul to big grassy. Spend the night there.
Day 2 – Karl aid pitches 4 – 6 to the Gledhill bivvy, haul and spend the night there.
Day 3 – Flip for the remaining pitches to Wilkinson’s and go find some good grub down in the valley.
Now I know many folks who do Ozy Direct elect to shiver bivvy on big grassy, eat cold meals, and only take enough water to keep them alive, but not us. I’m prepared to be labelled a wuss for liking my sleep, tasty food, and plethora of gear options but we were a team of three, so we could afford to haul the kitchen sink. Bailing was not an option, remember it’d taken till May for a window of opportunity so we packed to minimise the ability for wether to impact our success.
We took 2 portaledges each with a deluxe fly, Jetboil for cooking, plenty of food, Whiskey, 3 litres of water per person per day, CB radios, 2 60m dynamics and a 120m static, enough warm clothing to trigger spontaneous combustion, and a rack capable of buckling even the strongest man’s knees.
We were up and at ‘em at 5 on the dot with enthusiasm and energy to spare. Coffee and a good breaky followed by the last civilised sh!t we’d have for days. We parked the car west of the oval just off Crystal Brook so we’d have the shortest walk in to the Defender of the Faith rap station.
I’d considered the south side track walk in, and the Chocky community seems to be divided about 50/50 between the south side vs defender, but we had an absolute sh!t load of gear so opted for the rap in.
We added a new sling to the already descent collection of extenders at the chain and doubled over our 120m. The raps were strait forward. Even with all the gear. At Comet ramp, Karl and I rapped all the way to the base of Ozy and saddled up, while Phil did a few trips up and down comet to bring down all the gear.
It was time to climb.
I aided the two bolts to the mantle move to gain the ramp. It was great to be in etts again! Once at the ramp (which leads to the base of the thin crack proper) I was struck by my first oh sh!t moment. We were all wearing hiking boots (didn’t even consider taking climbing shoes) and the seam that could probably be aided in summer was a weeping, slimy brown mess. I dug about with my nut tool for a bit to clear the mess but the slime would close over again immediately after so even finding a placement didn’t seem like it was possible. Not wanting to burn too much time on this section, and ruling out freeing the slab moves, I used the tree to the right to swing up to the higher ledge, and garden my way up to the base of the vertical seam. I’ll tell you what: Next time someone asks “I’m beginning my rack what should I buy” I’m going to suggest a little Easter egg hunt on this ledge. It’s caught massive amounts of booty over the years. Rifling through the grass I found half a dozen nuts and RP’s, a nice talon hook and some biners.
Onto the seam and I was underway properly. I’d read about these ‘pin scars’ heaps, but could only imagine how they’d be. Most of them gobbled up RP’s and I made good progress. We had a sh!t load of small cams, but only two were true Aliens. I quickly realised that these little buggers were bred for this kind of gig. I found my rhythm and knocked over the first two pitches in a little under 5 hours (including Karl jugging and cleaning, and us eating a bit of lunch). We had a good 3 hours of daylight left but the crux pitch ahead of me.
Phil was still on terra firma, had ferried the gear, spectated for as bit, and was beginning the water run’s down to the brook to fill our water bottles (we’d rapped in with empty containers).
In the weeks leading up to this weekend I had thought long and hard about this adventure, often finding myself day dreaming at work and somehow creating “memories” of great times I was destined to have. My main goal in life at that time was to br