CAWA Brings Mike Law to Perth Feb 2016

Working the first ascent of Grass Direct (25)
Working the first ascent of Grass Direct (25)

Mike Law is an Australian climbing legend and CAWA is bringing him to Perth in February 2016 to run a couple of clinics and speak at the AGM.

Mike was a leading climber in the 70s, developing many cliffs and new routes. Over the next 40 years he continued to put up many new routes (2800 m worth in one year!). Along the way he has climbed around the world, developed and tested bolting methods (placing over 2000 bolts in the last decade), and used his degree in materials science to test bolts and trad gear.

When middle-age hit he succumbed to an office job and worked on time-efficient training and climbing efficiently. Apart from climbing everywhere, his interests are the physics of climbing, belaying and gear.

Some of the best descriptions of ‘The Claw’ can be found in his book, ‘Law Unto Himself’ (2013). Reproduced here with permission are some excerpts to help create a picture of this colourful, outspoken man and whet your appetites:

Glenn Tempest says:

‘In the early 1970s a young red-headed Sydney schoolboy exploded onto the Australian climbing scene. Michael Law was born in era of dinosaur lines, etriers and ironmongery but, by a stroke of luck, his appearance also coincided with the first ripples of the free- and clean-climbing movement that was soon to become a tsunami. Young, quirky and tormented, Michael quickly became what many of us believe to be the most talented of Australia’s now legendary ‘New Wave’ generation of the 1970s and 80s.

His anarchistic behavior and constant blurring of ethical boundaries is matched only by his talent for spotting exceptional new lines and a voracious appetite for climbing them. The truth is that Michael has probably put up more classic climbs than anyone else in the country and there will be very few of us who have not praised, cursed or celebrated his efforts.’

From ‘Oozing to a Different Tune’ by Simon Mentz (foreword):

‘In today’s world where everyone climbs 8c and all you need to know about climbing can be accessed from your phone, the ramblings of some weak old codger in book form might not appear all that appealing. But while there is an ever increasing production line of strong climbers hitting the cliffs, it would appear that the factory must have lost the mould to Michael Law whose unique approach to climbing has been more akin to an artist than an athlete. (Note to reader: it should be acknowledged that Michael was once young and strong).

Michael’s impact on Australian rockclimbing is undeniable. His first claim to fame came way back in 1974 when as a fifteen year old schoolboy he made the first free ascent of the Blue Mountains testpiece, Janicepts at grade 21. Over the next four decades he went on to establish hundreds of quality new routes throughout Australia on everything from grotty little urban crags, frightening sea cliffs, consumer-friendly sport cliffs, superb trad crags and remote big cliffs. He is arguably responsible for more classic routes throughout Australia than anyone else.

But it is not just his long resume of new routes that Michael is renowned. His ability to ooze up a piece of rock that might spit off far stronger climbers, his ability to look at climbing from a different perspective and his creative and irreverent approach to so many other aspects of climbing – from protecting climbs with imaginative pieces of equipment (that may have been better left in his imagination) to outlandish fashion. He has entertained, inspired, frustrated and annoyed generations of climbers with his brilliance, enthusiasm and at times controversial approach.

From a personal perspective, I can’t think of any climber whose new routes combined with his writing I have derived so much pleasure. The more I climbed the more Michael’s writing spoke to me and the more I appreciated that X-factor that so many of his routes seemed to possess. Despite the many frustrating hours trying to work out baffling sequences to some of his climbs I always found them extremely rewarding. Usually it was a case of technique over brute strength. And like the moves on his climbs, much of his writing has lingered in my mind over the years too. Sometimes it was simply a route description from one of his guidebooks, such as this gem to Vampire Crack (grade 14) at Hanging Rock near Melbourne…
This is the token old-fashioned classic, it’s got the lot. A tight, thrutchy knee and squeeze chimney with sparse protection which is often wet. Especially in winter when the cliff is even more like a urinal wall. Despite all this it’s quite pleasant in a boy-scoutish sort of way.

Michael’s ability to capture the essence of something in as few a words as possible is also exceptional; I loved his effort many years ago when in a guidebook he reduced the entire climbing history to Mt Piddington in the Blue Mountains to this… ’64 -’67; the great John Ewbank. ’67 till now; the mobs. In recent years, grades climb and climbers fall. The only point to focus on is the leading edge of the present. However the current tendency for hung-over days on overhangs to merge into more wasted evenings can only be encouraged.’

Mike has a wealth of experience to share and we will be running two different types of clinics for CAWA members to cater for both less experienced and more advanced climbers.

More details about the clinics and how to register will be sent to members over the next month or so.

Dena Rao
CAWA President

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