Forgive me, Chockstone, for it has been many months since my last confession.
With some flack about the lack of climbing-related content on the forum recently, here’s a trip report.
It had been several years since I was down at Freycinet. One of those places you say “I must get back here, soon”. The last few summers have flown past, but in January we got the gumption to just go ahead and book the ferry.
Tuesday evening we set sail, and spent Wednesday in Hobart wandering around the “Origins of Art” exhibitions at MONA. Unfortunately I’d twinged my back on Tuesday morning and could hardly stand straight, so I was very happy to lie down for an hour in the afternoon after we’d checked in.
Thursday the weather report didn’t look so great, so we were in no hurry to get going. Some food shopping at Salamanca ensued, I picked up some fresh fish at the docks and wandered around inner Hobart until I could find an unguarded backyard tap to fill the water containers. About 11am we headed off in the direction of Swansea, getting annoyed at the locals who drive 80km/h in the right lane. In a 110km/h zone.
We went straight through to Whitewater Wall which proved to be dry. There had been a sprinkle but the forecast had been overly pessimistic. After unloading enough camping gear from the car to claim our space, we headed over to do “Apline”, the super-classic 2-pitch grade 12.
Not so fast. One thing I’d forgotten about coastal climbing was to check the tides as well as the weather. At around 3pm the tide was high and there was a serious swell. On scrambling part-way down the cliff Paula’s face turned to a look of terror as she saw the boiling sea wash up against the base of the route.
Whitewater Wall on a bad day
Better get a move on!
After watching the waves for a few minutes we decided it might be OK to start from a higher ledge, slightly right of the route, which was also protected by a small buttress. A quick dash across a wave-washed gap and we were flaking the rope, cautiously watching the sea.
Paula led off and decided expediently to lead straight up a crack to meet Apline about 10m up. This proved straightforward and she continued. I got one or two splashes, and was happy to get on belay and climb well out of reach of the water.
Paula leading up “Apline High Tide Variant”
Me seconding, well clear of the surge
Paula was so rapt with pitch 1 she wanted to lead the rest of it, so we reflaked. While on belay I saw another climber scramble down and wave to us. This was Josh who we later met at camp, travelling from the US for 3 months. He joined us for a few drinks, there was enough fish to share between the three of us and we retired to bed.
Friday the weather was going to be better but we still had no idea of the tide schedule. The Hazards was an option, well clear of the sea. Except you needed to get around the Sea Level Traverse to get there. At 9:30am when we left Sleepy Bay car park the water was still high. After traversing around for a few minutes we were thwarted by an uncrossable section due to the waves. On going higher there was a steep corner that looked downclimbable but the first move was intimidating, so we backtracked and took a higher detour.
Racking in the car park
The Sea Level Traverse
The Sea Level Traverse (2)
On the next section we had to make a slabby traverse around, and the great friction of the bare granite was suddenly replaced by slippery greasy mossiness. I managed to make the move but Paula got partly soaked by a rogue wave while waiting in line. Despite this we arrived intact at the Horizontal Chimney where I set up to belay.
The Horizontal Chimney
We moved across then up to the start of our chosen route, “Pneisses” a 6-pitch grade 15 (it’s 16 on thecrag). We’d heard the nearby classic “Japhlion” was quite run-out, but the description of Pneisses sounded more friendly. The first pitch said “boldly..” but the others didn’t mention anything bad. Oh such trust!
I squirmed around a bushy tree at the start and up a good crack, which I followed until fairly high on the slab to its right, then took off across No-mans-land. There were no runners for about 15m but it wasn’t too hard. At the right-hand side of the slab you had to make a tricky move down into the adjacent corner, which again was all manageable, and I continued up to a nearby tree until about the 50m mark.
Pneisses Pitch 1. What’s 15 metres between Friends?
Paula came up and eyed the next pitch. “There doesn’t look like any gear”.
There was a little bit of debating and some marshalling of courage, then she took off. About 5m up a small cam fitted into a shallow pocket (not great) and then nothing. Isolated sentences of abuse about guidebook editors and runouts followed, but she kept padding upward, upward, upward. There may have been an f-word or three. After running it out for another 18 metres she reached a small bush – almost slipping off on the mossy section just before reaching it – tied that off and kept going about another 10m to a bush belay.
I followed, expecting the climbing to be moderate, but got a surprise – even on second I had to stop and take some care, and also almost slipped just as I grabbed the bush runner. 40m fall potential, fairly serious, and maybe, just maybe worth a mention in the route description?
Pitch 3 was no better. I looked up; ahead the route steepened considerably and it looked like no gear for another 10-15m. I padded up the slab, reached the headwall, and found the next section sustained and hard enough to take my time. Imagine the crux pitch of Brolga with no gear until half-way and you’d be on track. I was eying off my options to leap into the chimney/gully to my right if I started to fall, as a far better option than tumbling 20+ metres past my belayer. It occurred to me that if I faltered we were going to have problems getting up, and maybe off.
Finally I got a small shitty wire in then made two more hardish moves to the safety of a short section of crack. I kept going to a reasonable belay off cams.
Pneisses Pitch 3
end of Pitch 3
Despite the upsets Paula sized up pitch 4 and decided it looked runout again, but OK. She climbed upward and tied off the smallest bush of the story thus far as a runner at about 10m, then got some cams in at about the 30m mark. After that, a blue cam in a poor placement, but then complained of rope drag and baulked at heading upwards. In an attempt to resolve the drag issue, she flicked the rope, but the blue cam popped out and then slid down the rope, entangling itself in one of the bushes. Shit.
After a small deliberation –maybe a dummy spit, but there were no other witnesses, so the secret dies with me – she downclimbed, freed the blue cam from the bush and opted to belay. I came up and led through, the top section of the pitch being solid at the grade but with occasional gear. Great climbing.
Leading up Pitch 4
Pitch 5 said something about heading to the right side of the headwall. However, the corner on the left looked steeper but promised some protection at last, so I led up that instead. At the next stance, a mantle led onto the slab above then up to the belay (no gear again) and belayed off a tree and a large rounded pinnacle that I convinced myself qualified as a belay bollard.
Coming up pitch 4
Pitch 5 variant
Paula led through pitch 6, with another steep unprotected start to a bush runner, then up. It was a long pitch of some 50 metres, and quite sustained, but with some gear from time to time again. Classic at the grade. We walked back down the Skyline Traverse, arriving back at the car about 5:30pm. A great day out, but not for everybody. Clearly bolts hadn’t been invented in 1975.
Back at camp, Josh had met another Tassie climber, Kevin, and was planning to catch up with Frida and Darius who were tripping around independently. Darius had taken a break to deal with car trouble. Kevin was apparently up for anything and Mt Amos was suggested for a group social day.
We drove out the next morning and secured a spot at the Wineglass Bay carpark before it filled up with hikers. Heading up the Mt Amos track the two younger and fitter members of the group soon took the lead. About 30 minutes in, Paula started to complain we should have turned off by now and then at 40 minutes we came to a halt with the others in sight above, and realized we’d come too far. A quick backtrack and we turned off to the cliff and found the base of “RH Negative” (17, ***), which Josh was keen to lead.
I think we were supposed to turn off back there …
I loaned him a #4 cam and they racked up. After 5 minutes we realized we were far too impatient to watch people climbing, so walked back right to the start of Dogstyle (**18)., On the way we encountered Darius and Frida, and said hello.
A Henry Barber 18 called “dog style”, I should have been suitably warned. About half way up my legs decided they were tired of stemming and I took a rest on a doubtful cam. Inertia followed.
Ultimately I picked up and continued, only to find the top of the route ended in a gnarly granite offwidth and I hadn’t brought anything bigger than a blue Dragon. Which I placed in the last possible tipped-out place then groveled up the rest of the crack. In a pair of shorts. Bad idea.
Paula loving the offwidth finish to Dogstyle (18)
Darius later leading Dogstyle (18)
Paula followed in much better style and traversed over to clip the anchors at the top of the local sports route, “I Wish She Were Mine” (***19). Sounded good in the guide. I joined her and rapped down, preplacing draws, but realized about half way down that there were two lines of bolts, and the route we were planning to do was to the left. Something new then? Undeterred, I clipped the rest of the hangers and got ready to lead off.
It was clearly harder than 19. Afterwards, we worked out this was “Project” (23), and quite good. I didn’t lead it clean, but Paula almost seconded clean until her foot popped off at the crux. We lowered back off and did “I Wish She Were Mine”, also good.
We wandered past Dogstyle again, where it was entertaining watching Darius avoiding placing any body parts in the crack, and somehow still managing not to fall off.
Back at the packs, Josh and Kevin were just finishing ___ (25). The others gave RH Negative an uninspiring review, and we were all feeling like a break, so headed back to camp. Josh wanted to give “In The Heat of The Night” (24) at Harlequin Rocks a shot, so we came along to watch, then did Ice Nine (16) a lovely seaside crack which we broke into two pitches to ease communications.
Josh leading In The Heat of The Night (24)
Paula coming up Ice Nine (16)
That was it. Another gorgeous evening at camp. The next morning we opted to take the easy last day option, packed up at our leisure and walked down to Little Bluestone Bay to scope out some other routes and then take the long road back to the ferry via some wineries.
Another week could easily be spent. If you haven’t ever climbed there, start trip planning now.