Krish Seewraj and friends have written up a new mini-guide for the Smith Beach Rocks area. It’s posted up under the mini-guide section of the CAWA webpages.
There seems to be little or no previously publicly available info on this area and so they have named the routes. If anyone has prior claim to any of the routes, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with proof and details so that the mini-guide can be updated.
Last Saturday night (15 January) was a beautiful evening for the CAWA film night in Ash and Megan’s backyard. It started with Dena and Megan, barefoot, in the kitchen, and one of them pregnant, preparing food for the soon to arrive hoards of hungry climbers.
I turned up at about 6 pm and starting setting up the projection and sound gear. Ash had already set up a very professional looking screen.
About 31 people turned up and enjoyed a dinner of gourmet sandwiches, sushi, sausage rolls, spinach and feta rolls, salad, cake and other delights.
Two films were shown, the first a climbing doco made up of a number of short films. We were treated to some quite amazing, and at times, very funny climbing antics.After a short break, we started with the movie.Despite being a rather old film, I think it was enjoyed by everyone as it featured not only some good climbing shots, but also intrigue, car chases, greed and romance (or was it just plain ol’ lust?) and it was very non-PC!
Given the success of this film night, we might we running some more!
The Christmas/New Years CAWA camp ran from 27/12/10 to 03/01/11 with about 30 climbers camping at “Uncle Don’s” orchard, 20 km out of Albany, making this one of the biggest CAWA trips in recent years.
The camp was very multicultural, with imports from England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic and Spain, to mention but a few.There were even a few token Australians there.Fortunately Graham speaks most languages known to humanity and was on hand to provide translations.
The focus of this trip was The Gap area, Blowholes and Peak Head, as there was a shortage of 4×4’s capable of doing the West Cape Howe trip. The one main trip to the Cape resulted in lots of very tired and dust-covered van de-boggers returning to camp late in the evening saying that they were never going to push Kevin’s four-wheel drive van ever again through soft, or any other, sand.
The Gap and Blowholes provided plenty of excitement, with the ranger telling climbers to get out of sight of the tourists, climbers wandering through scrub searching for non-existent tracks, and Richard leaping to the rescue of plummeting children while the parents stood around waiting for the children to plummet.Actually, the ranger was generally helpful and it was his arguably justifiable concern for the bumbly tourists that was the issue.
At Peak Head, Albatross and Baylac Direct were very popular as usual.Ross bolted two more pitches of his climb, ‘Transformer’, which he started last year with Dena.Ross lead the two new and the fourth pitches while I did my best not be blown off the lead on the third pitch.It’s a great climb and for those that want a real adventure at a harder grade than the usual and it’s certainly worth the effort.Pitch 1 is a fairly solid 23, the next three pitches coming in at 22, 19 and a 13.
The other new route that went up was on the Philosopher’s Wall at the Blowholes.Two large flakes with a small semi-detached flake connecting the two seemed an obvious line to me.It’s only a short climb, but it was a bit of fun and good practice for cam placements.Francis suggested the name ‘No fat bastards’ as he was afraid that if some fat bastard pulled too much on one of the flakes, the whole thing would come off and guillotine the climber and belayer.Maybe that’s why no one had ever bothered to put a climb up there before.
New Year’s Eve was celebrated, as usual, at the Golden Town Chinese restaurant, where I counted 23 people at our table.There were no other customers in the restaurant after we all took over.When the electricity failed, the place was soon lit up by a dozen or so head-torches and a couple of candles stuck on to straw mushroom tins.Who else but climbers would be so prepared?
On the way back to Uncle Don’s, a quick visit was made by some to Dog Rock.It was quick, because while the first police car just slowed down and then took off, the second one stopped. (Meggs, we needed you there!)
The next stop was The Spider Web and the skateboard track. Lacking a skateboard didn’t phase anyone and a number of cool tricks were done on the track.
Those still out then we rushed back to meet the others back at Uncle Don’s for the final midnight countdown.Kelly organised the testosterone- and alcohol-fuelled party-games.Games that I didn’t play when I was 12 years old and ones that I still don’t play now.Luckily I had locked away the bush-chopping machete, pitchfork and net and there were no lions available, otherwise I’m sure Kelly would have organised gladiatorial-style combat for her amusement.
A CAWA film night has been organised for Saturday, 15 January 2011, starting at 6.30 pm. CAWA will provide dinner in the form of platters and finger food (there will be plenty) but please bring along whatever you would like to drink. Also bring chairs and a blanket.It will be in the back-yard at someone’s house and the address will be provided to people that respond by email to email@example.com.
The films have yet to be finalised, but will probably be a short climbing doco while everyone socialises and eats, followed by a movie.
The cost is free to CAWA members and $5 for non-members.
RSVP by 10 January is essential for catering purposes (and if you want to know where you are going).
Finally, have a great Christmas and New Year everyone!
The 2010 end-of-year CAWA BBQ was a great success despite the rather cloudy and cold conditions.
About 20 people turned up to boulder, err… swim, sit around (or rather stand) and chat, and consume large amounts of snags, steak, veggie burgers and other consumables.
The new CAWA T-shirts and tops were available, although there seems to be a bit of a problems with some of them – see the previous post. Similarly, a number of people bought copies of the new edition of the CAWA Perth Climbing Guidebook.
The next CAWA event will be a Gym Crash on the 7th of December. For more details, see the post on the Events page.
A number of people have already purchased the new CAWA T-shirt or singlet. However there appears to be a problems with the placement of the logo on some of the tops, particularly the female red singlets – the logo is very far to the left and very low and looks – kinda weird.
If you have one of these, please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We have contacted the printers and are in the process of organising replacement tops.
The male T-shirts and the female short-sleeve v-necks seem to be fine, but if you are not happy with yours, please let us know asap.
A new batch of CAWA T-shirts and tops have been printed and are now available.
There are a range of styles and sizes. These are listed below. The photos are the supplier catalogue photos and obviously don’t show the logos and text. New photos showing the actual tops and logos etc will be put up soon. Anyone willing to model for the photos?
Grey Marle fitted cotton T-shirts with CAWA logo on right chest and an updated ‘WA Climbing Tick List’ on the back. Printing in dark grey. Sizes M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL.
‘Titan’ (sort of a dark burgundy red) cotton fitted T-shirts with CAWA logo on right chest and an updated ‘WA Climbing Tick List’ on the back. Printing in white. Sizes M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL.
Red fitted V-neck cotton/spandex T-shirt with CAWA logo on right chest and an updated ‘WA Climbing Tick List’ on the back. Printing in white. Sizes 8, 10, 12, 14, 16.
Black fitted V-neck cotton/spandex T-shirt with CAWA logo on right chest and an updated ‘WA Climbing Tick List’ on the back. Printing in white. Sizes 8, 10, 12, 14, 16.
Red cotton/spandex singlet with built-in brassiere with CAWA logo on right chest. Logo in white. Sizes 8, 10, 12, 14, 16.
The price is $25 each. If you want one posted out to you, that will be an extra $6. The tops will be available at the CAWA BBQ (that’s tomorrow – Sunday 04 Dec 2010) and at Gym Crashes and on CAWA Trips. Email CAWA or speak to someone on the CAWA committee if you want one. You’ll also be able to order these soon when you join CAWA or renew your membership on-line. The new Perth Guidebooks will also be available when you join/renew.
This year the end of year 2010/11 CAWA trip will again be to Albany. The dates are Monday 27 December until 03 January 2011.
We will be staying a private property about 20 km east of Albany. Unlike last year’s camp, it will be a reasonable distance away from mad mooing cows, roosters crowing at 2.30 in the morning, and far enough away from the road-trains so that everyone who wants a good night sleep can get one.
At the property there is a hot shower (with a view), flush toilet, a shed with a fridge and a gas stove, and a small undercover area. However you will need to bring your tent, sleeping bag and other camping gear.
To cover the cost of gas for the shower, and electricity, we will be charging $2 per night per person.
If you are interested in coming, please let us know and directions and more information will be sent to you.
As usual, we will be making day trips to The Gap, Peak Head, West Cape Howe (who’s got a 4×4?), the Porongurups and any other places that people want to go to.
On New Years Eve we will probably be going to a restaurant in Albany. The last few years we have been going to a cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant, but if someone wants to suggest somewhere else that isn’t too expensive, please do. Otherwise we could also just have a BBQ at the property.
The expedition really started at Talkeetna as we made our way to the Kahiltna airstrip where we loaded the masses of gear, approximately 70 kg per person including group gear, into a small plane.Before the flight we visited the cemetery nearby to pay respect to the fallen climbers of Denali.As we sat tight during the flight, it took us up past the tundra and then skilfully close to the sharp ridge mountainsides of the imposing and seemingly never ending Alaska Range.It was magnificent scenery and we landed at base camp on Kahiltna Glacier at 2200 metres altitude on our June day.The visibility was poor when we landed and we were totally unaware of the surroundings.
After we set up camp, we were treated to an unusual shower of slushy rain, which rarely happens in Denali.All the gear became wet and heavy and we had to retreat to the cook tent to make the necessary modification to rucksacks, sleds and harnesses that are required to climbing and moving safely on such big and notorious glaciers, which we would soon experience over the next three weeks.Overnight the slushy rain turned into solid ice and was weighing our tents down heavily.The relatively warm temperature of the previous day had disappeared and we were really feeling the cold dry air, which meant we were going to move.But, as we were going to find out, this previous weather had a lasting effect on Kahiltna Glacier.Today we were going to attempt to negotiate the glacier and move up to 2400m, Camp 1, located at the North East Fork Junction.
For our first full day on the glacier the normal aim would be to carry a cache of food, fuel and equipment to Camp 1, at the North East Junction, then return to Base Camp.However, not wanting to get stuck at Base Camp, and wanting to take advantage of the colder weather (colder the better for glacier travel), we packed up everything and ‘single carried’ towards our second camp below Ski Hills at 3430m.The route initially drops down Heart Break Hill, aptly named I imagine for those tired climbers returning from the standard West Buttress attempt, who face one final uphill push.But as we were attempting to traverse and finishing off at Wonder Lake, we set off looking forward to our own, never to experience that particular ‘heart break’, or so we thought.
We set off in three rope teams of four (i.e.12 climbers in total) and after about three hours of moving across the glacier in white-out conditions, the air cleared and, despite our heavy loads, most of us were doing well.One climber however was already struggling badly and after some consultation with the guides it was decided that his trip would have to come to a sad end! As the climber would have to head back to camp, for safety reasons, an entire rope team of four climbers needed to accompany him back.I volunteered to join the team as I was feeling good and thought that I needed that extra training.
After we said our farewell to the retiring climber, we left base camp for the second time to catch up to the other teams at Camp 1.It wasn’t long before we saw some large holes in some of the ice bridges en-route, but we made good progress and arrived at Camp 1 understandably knackered after an extra 13 km on a single carry day.As we arrived we quickly learned that this was not the same fate for the other rope teams who had pushed on to Camp 1 earlier.They had experienced two big crevasse falls, one which took an hour and a half to get the climber out.Thankfully no one was hurt.Eventful but a small taste of things to come.
The second day we carried a load towards Camp 2 at 3430 m.The Hill to the head of Kahiltna Glacier, but we actually cached at Kahiltna Pass and returned back to Camp 1.This is ‘expedition’ style as it involves ‘climb high, sleep low’ approach and it is part of the process of acclimatisation.The only disadvantage is that you would have probably climbed the mountain three times in distance-wise when once you finally reach the summit.The weather at Camp 1, although cold, had not really been too bad but on the carry up we definitely noticed that we were moving into a different layer of weather on the mountain, as visibility dropped and winds picked up.We saw a small bird that had been blown up the mountain and flew around us aimlessly in the white-out only to drop down and die in the bitter cold.Tragic.Life is harsh.
Day three saw us move camp.Although the loads were lighter in our packs due to caching the previous day and some being on our sleds, it felt just as hard as a normal carry day as we had to take down camp and then put up camp again on arrival.The move today was still a tough one though, as a storm was brewing and when we reached Camp 2, the storm was peaking and wind was ferocious.
The storm that had greeted us on our arrival to Camp 2 had subsided by the morning of day four, and comparative warmth in out tents has been replaced with a cold but calm camp.We easily retrieved the cache from below Camp 2 for this active rest day.
The objective of day five was to set ourselves up for a light move day by carrying a heavy load up to just past Windy Corner (4030m).Before reaching this notorious place, the plateau itself provided us with a taste of things to come.I got my first sign of altitude sickness here: slight nausea with a light headache.This is normal for me as I know from previous expeditions on Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and Elbrus, 4000m to 4500m mark is the most delicate stage for me.While we rested on the plateau, I took off my left mitten to reach into my pocket to get an energy bar and a gust of wind blew the mitten away and, as luck would have it, this was into the direction of one of the other climbers 15 metres away.My expedition would have been over if I had lost that left mitten as I surely would have gotten frostbite without it.We cached around Windy Corner and were quick to move into a safe area as a climber was killed here last season when a big chunk of rock landed on him.
The following day (six) was a beautifully clear and my altitude sickness had gone.In fact it was pretty hot, particularly when we got moving.The extremes in temperature on Denali are just that – two extremes, obviously incredibly cold most of the time, but on occasions also really hot, particularly when moving up- wards, carrying loads and in the sun.It seems climbers have to spend most of their time trying to react to the changing weather and temperatures than actually being appropriately dressed.
We packed Camp 2 and moved increasingly slowly to Camp 3 at 4340 metres at the base of the Headwall.This is a big established Camp with a feeling of community due to the number of climbers here all waiting for a weather window.This camp has a permanent ranger settlement during the climbing season to mount rescues and other missions, not to mention that it is the main springboard for summit attempts.The site is on a huge plateau and is on sage ground.Although the village of tents and the community makes it feel safe, it is at 4340 metres which on Denali feels higher due to a lower barometric pressure caused by a thinner troposphere at the ‘latitudes’.
The start of the second week on the mountain saw us go back down to Windy Corner to retrieve our supplies but some of the team were starting to feel the effects of altitude and needed a rest day.Drinking at least three litres of fluids during the night helps to reduce the symptoms.The temperature got down to minus 33°C.
We cached again just below Washburn’s Thumb at 4950 metres, where the Traverse starts to stand out as a much tougher expedition than the standard West Buttress attempt.The loads carried from now on are considerably heavier than any other parties on the Buttress and we also had sleds, we needed everything to make it up, over and out to Wonder Lake.We lost three climbers from the group on day 10 due to altitude sickness, despite the rest day.It was a bad day for the team taking the number down to eight.On day 11 we were pushed into action up the headwall onto the ridge and towards Camp 4 at 5180m.I struggled at first.It was spectacular with steep fixed rope sections and sharp knifeedged ridges with sheer drops to the glaciers.Ambitious plans were made for day 12 with the psychological relief of reaching Camp 4 where most summit attempts are made from.Hardly anyone, if anyone, had summitted throughout the previous month (May).There was summit fever!
The following morning was cold but clear.The plan we had previously made was looking slightly less doable as we all awoke feeling groggy and tired.Our ambitious plan was to return down the ridge to retrieve our cache and then continue up with the carry past Camp 4 and up onto the ‘Autobahn’ and over Denali Pass (5550 metres) effectively doing two days in one.After completing the first half of the plan, the lead guide Chris came to me for a one-on-one chat.I previously asked for rest day back at Camp 3 and was showing signs of tiredness.He was under the impression that I too should retire from the expedition.After a brief and somewhat heated ‘discussion’, he agreed that I should continue.Despite the little disagreement, I really liked Chris with his hard core approach, strict nazi-style method and the fact that he knew exactly what it took to tackle the whole climb.The other six climbers made the carry while Chris and I rested at Camp 4 and prepared dinner/hot drinks for their return. It got extremely cold (minus 36°C at 6:00 p.m.) with exposure to the harsh winds.But day 13 proved to be even colder!
It was ‘traverse or bust’ from now on and the eight of us were totally isolated in finding our own path.We were met by the ferocious winds and temperatures dropped considerably as we crossed to the north side on the Upper Harper Glacier, and big Denali storm was building around us.We were walking on un-trodden, unprobed ground and as conditions rapidly worsened to a full arctic storm, with gusts up to 100 km/h and temperature and wind chill at their lowest yet, we were looking for a place we could make camp quick smart!
We eventually found a safe area just above the Harper Icefall at about 5315 metres and visibility was down to about 10 metres.We probed the area for hidden crevasses and then began to cut out a ledge for us to pitch our three tents.The wind chill was about minus 60°C.
The storm had not eased overnight, and the wind outside was blowing in 80 to 90 km/h gusts.We were not going anywhere on day 14.Everything froze (including sunscreen) that was kept close to us in sleeping bags or down jackets.The storm died a little on day 15, but it did not feel like a summit day.We retrieved gear from our cache and returned to camp.On descent, the conditions worsened and we were again in minus 35°C to minus 40°C and 80 km/h gusts.Visibility was down to 5 metres.My left crampon suddenly gave way as we approached the camp and I fell awkwardly in the hard ice.I was lucky that this happened only 100 metres away from our camp and I hopped to camp with my right crampon.Fortunately it was fixed easily.
The following morning was greeted with great views and cold beautiful start meaning just one thing, it was ‘Summit Day’.We set off early and pushing up hard to the summit with our light packs of 10 to 15 kg.
From Denali Pass, the route breaks right up a very long but low-angled snow and ice slope, between rock buttresses to Arch Deacons Tower on the edge of the summit plateau.A short descent leads onto the ‘Football Field’, which itself is just below the final couple of obstacles before the summit.It is followed by a steep snow slope around 100 metres high called Pig Hill, intersecting the summit ridge at Kahiltna Horn.There was a final cornice crossing that proved interesting as one of our team members caused the whole cornice to ‘whumff’ and shudder as he moved across it (but thankfully it did not break off and we all made it).
The job was far from done.Our plan was to descend to the 3000 metre camp at Muldrow Glacier in order to avoid getting trapped at a higher camp during big storms.We were confident but it turned out to be an epic with snow conditions under foot starting to break-up and a few crevasse falls around the Harper Icefall punching through the ice bridges up to the waist.
The top of Karsten’s Ridge was a steep and tricky crux.I found myself not keeping the same stride as my other team members due to different a smaller size.I found myself almost running down with a full pack and sled to avoid being dragged along by the faster member in front in deep powdery snow.This was tough with just one trekking axe and carrying a 35 kg pack and having a 15 kg sled.Sections of steep ice became pleasing.The snow suddenly gave way and I took a massive tumble for about 10 metres down the 65 degree slope.I ended up facing down on my stomach with the huge pack on my back and the sled dangling off the pack looking straight down into the void and glacier below some 1000m down! I lay there for a little while being shit scared and wondering how the hell I was going to get up and out of this predicament.I managed with some twisting and turning, taking around 15 minutes to rejoin the team.It was cold in the ‘night’ and we set up camp on the compression zone of the glacier at around 3025 metres, resting the following day while really appreciating just how active and dangerous the Muldrow Glacier really is, as we heard it constantly cracking and popping all around us.
The Muldrow Glacier has been described as a Disneyland of huge crevasses and tricky icefalls.We felt privileged to be where so few people ever go, but as we were about to find out, the day quickly changed from a Disneyland of ice, to a very serious and potentially deadly game.It felt otherworldly as we set off, in and out, up and down, over and around the obstacles.Whiteout conditions ensued and we could smell burning pine from probably forest fires in the distant tundra.We came to a section called the ‘Hill of Cracks’ where crevasses start to run in every direction rather than parallel to each other.Tension was very high.It was too dangerous to set up camp and wait.We had crossed a particular crevasse a few times, and had then fallen through the snow on the other side in a number of directions and about the size of half a football pitch.This meant one of two things: we were either standing on top of a huge pillar of ice, or we had unwittingly found ourselves dangerously and precariously above a giant sinkhole.Our judgement suggested that the ice could not hold our weight.Then all of a sudden, before anyone could react, we all sank instantly.‘Whuunmmft’ and it echoed all over the valley of ice.It was eerie and scary, like the sound of a huge lightning strike at close range.The whole platform of ice that we stood on dropped at least 20 cm and then came to rest.There was no reason why the platform could not get more unstable.We all turned and ‘ran’ without hesitation back over the original crevasse, with no probing or question of what we were running over.That had just been answered.Phew! At one stage I honestly didn’t see how we would get off the Muldrow Glacier alive.
After 20 hours, numerous occasions jumping across holes, building anchors to protect the leaps, probing every step of the way, we had covered only around 10 km or so.We camped just short of McGonagall Pass at 1795 metres.Solid ground.
The final two-day push required carrying and dragging our sleds (50 kg to 60 kg per person), over rocks, shale, scree slopes and snow patches.We climbed up and over McGonagall Pass and clumsily down the boulder-ridden other side.This was followed by a 45 km trek over untrodden tundra vegetation with billions of unrelenting mosquitos, a hole in my sled gathering rocks, an icy cold crossing of 20-odd braids of glacial river water to reach our destination of Wonder Lake (640 m) at 2:00 a.m.triumphant after three weeks, having ‘Summited and Traversed’ Denali.
The CAWA Knot Night, held at Rosie O’Grady’s Pub in Northbridge on 15th September 2010, was a rousing success! There was a great turn-out of enthusiastic people keen to expand their repertoire of knots. The experience levels varied widely, but the climbers who had seen their way around a knot or two over the years, kindly shared their shortcuts for some of the ‘trickier’ knots. Learning new ways to twist rope was much more fun than it sounds! While teaching was ‘verboten’, Phil’s handout, with more than a dozen knots plus variations, was quite informative.
Everywhere one looked, there were Munters, clove-hitches and Chi-Fis galore. Phil had roped one of the building’s support pillars so folks could practise using their Munter-hitches and other knots on something solid.
Several new faces were mixed in with the old. I sat near a nice couple who were just getting into climbing, and sensibly came to see how some of the ‘basic’ knots were done. I can say that after learning the right way to tie 2 ropes together, I found a great sense of satisfaction.