Monday, June 16, 2008

Photos AUSTRALIA pictures !!!

Et la premiere moitie des photos de l'Australie (incluant le Totem Pole!!) sont la pour vous:

The first half of the pictures for Australia are up! That includes the Tote!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Australia 3: Tasmania to Jindabyne

After we finished the Totem Pole, we set to exploring the as much of Tasmania as we could. We went to Port Arthur, the old prison town which is now a historical site, which was actually quite interesting, then headed back to camp at Fortescue Bay again so that we could try to see some Fairy Penguins. They're as cute as their name implies, but we waited in the wrong spot and missed them at dusk, so we only saw them by headlamp. Oh well. The next day was a 10 pitch 220m 23 called I've Heard it all Before on Mt. Brown. You hike the mountain, then rappel down the face until you clip in just above the ocean and swells, if it's low tide and the swell is down, and climb back up the face. It was a stellar route, with a little rotten rock here and there. That seemed to be a theme for the climbing in Tasmania, great climbing, if you can handle poor rock quality. We finished our Tas tour up near Launceston for some wine tasting and Nath insisted we hit the Cadbury Chocolate on our last morning. Now it was time to go back to Arapiles!

We blitzed through Melbourne this time, and met Lazar, Derek's friend, in Horsham where he kindly picked us up late at night. The next few weeks were spent climbing with Lazar. Both he and Nath progressed quickly while they were there. Lazar was consistently onsighting 21 by the time we left, and Nath was able to onsight a 22 by the time we left. It was fun watching them improve and get better. I spent a lot of time on routes in the 23-25 range. I have to say that the 23's at Arapiles were difficult to say the least. They were often runout, sustained, difficult to protect where there was gear, and were just damn hard! I think I did every three star 23 at Arapiles by the time I left, and was challenged on every one of them! Some were crazy, like the 15m traverse under a roof, or the one with a single micro stopper in about 10m of HARD face climbing. I didn't do much improving at Arapiles, because the hard routes aren't high quality, and they often were complicated to get to. I tried a few on TR and lead, but didn't go through the trouble of leading any of them clean. Instead, I finally got my wish and we headed to The Grampians!

It had been such bad weather at Arapiles before Tasmania we didn't go to the Grampians once. The weather is worse over there since the mountains are higher. We had a few days of clouds and no wind, so we headed to the Grampians for two days. The first was great since Nath got her first grade 21 onsight on gear after the sun set. By the time she was through the crux it was pretty dark so Lazar and I were climbing by headlamp! I managed to onsight a 25 and generally enjoyed myself on more pure crack climbing at the wall we were at. More importantly for me though, was going to Taipan wall. We only had one day there, since Nath and Lazar couldn't climb anything there and it was so far away from where we were camping that I never made it out there with anyone else. They patiently spent a day belaying, or in Nath's case reading. Lazar TR'd the two routes that I did, and got a hell of a workout. My two goals on Taipan wall were onsight Mr. Joshua, a wickedly sandbagged 25, and try Serpentine, one of the best routes in the world with a lofty grade of 29! Well, I onsighted Mr. Joshua after a more than one hour battle. I found every awkward rest I could and it was still as desperate as anything I've ever done in my life. When I finished the route, I ended up on a ledge huffing and puffing so tired I couldn't clip the anchors for over 2 minutes I was so tired! After that one, I headed next door to Invisible Fist, a harder route rated 26. While the hardest moves were harder, there were fewer of them, and I actually found this one easier than Mr. Joshua! It was my 2nd 5.12c onsight of the trip! After that, we neaded back to Arapiles for the rest of our climbing since the weather was rather bad.

Back in Arapiles, Nath was steadily progressing. She managed to work her way up to redpointing 21 and onsighting up to grade 20, until our last day. On our last day, she managed to onsight a three star (highly recommended) 22 in a brilliant effort! We had decided that the next day it was time to move on and we headed back to camp to prepare for our morning departure. Lazar, who had been in Arapiles longer than us, was also ready to move on to warmer climates and so he offered to give us a ride to our next destination - Jindabyne! We hopped in the car in the morning after tearing down a campsite full of memories, and headed off.

We were in Lazar's car he had bought cheap when we got to Australia, and the fun quickly began. After a few hours, we got a flat tire and the wheel was fused in some way to the car! There was no one around, of course, so Lazar and I whacked on it with a brick a bit. Eventually, Lazar figured out that we had to whack it from behind, so reached under the car and with one good swing the tire was off! We changed the tire after a funny delay, and drove to the next town to buy a new tire. After that, we were pulled over by the police for having a light out which we had to stop and fix. It was rather funny. We didn't make it to Jindabyne until around midnight due to all the delays. At this point, Lazar dropped us off and headed north to another climbing area called Frog Buttress near Brisbane where we would be meeting up with him in a couple of weeks.

Le 23 avril 2008: Australie 3 - D'Arapiles a la maison du frere de Josh

On retourne donc pour deux semaines au camping a Arapiles pour un peu plus d'escalade! J'avoue que ca ne me tente pas trop de retourner a la vie au camping. L'idee etait d'aller grimper au Grampians, juste a cote, mais ils fait trop frois la-bas maintenant puisque c'est a plus haute elevation et il aurait fallu louer une voiture se qui coutait plus cher que l'on croyait. Mais bon, comme j'ai ete malade, il y a tout plein de voies que je n'ai toujours pas eu la chance de grimper. Aussi on a notre nouvel ami Lazard (un des amis de Derek de la Nouvelle-Zelande). Lazard est tres fiable et toujours fidele au poste. Ils nous attend a notre arrivee a 10h du soir a l'arret d'autobus. Tous les autres de la gang de la Nouvelle-Zelande sont repartis sauf Derek qui part le lendemain. Lazard est en Australie pour 4 mois et il a achete une veille voiture. C'est un bon compromis, on a quelqu'un pour nous amener en ville (he, une douche et de la viande fraiche a chaque 3 jours!) et on lui offre de grimper avec nous (parce qu'en escalade il faut evidemment toujours etre au moins deux). Lazard est tres l'fun. On soupe avec lui sous ses toiles bleues. C'est notre nouvelle maison. On grimpe a chaque jour, Lazard est a peu pres du meme niveau que moi. C'est donc motivant, on s'encourage a grimper plus fort, et ca me fait un remplacant pour suivre Josh sur les voies tres difficiles! On s'est bien amuse durant ces deux semaines. Et ca m'a permis de vraiment apprendre a grimper en premier de cordee en traditionel. Non seulement j'ai apris a avoir confiance dans mes propres placement de protections, mais a ma derniere journee, j'ai reussi une voie aussi difficile que le mieux que j'avais reussi en Thailande (i.e. 22 soit 5.11a) mais cette fois sans les 'bolts'. J'etais tres fiere de moi, c'est comme accomplir un reve :) Deux jounees ou il faisait beau on est alle grimper aux Grampians. Lazard est venu avec nous et nous a donne un lift. C'est vraiment beau ici, mais les voies sont plus difficiles. C'etait parfait pour Josh qui a sont tour a realise de petits reves. Entre autre, il a grimpe une voie qui s'appelle 'Mr. Joshua' (hihihi, a cause du nom mais aussi parce que c'est l'une des belles voies la-bas) de niveau 26, soit 5.12c, encore plus difficile que le Totem Pole (mais sans toute l'aventure!).

Mais comme la temperature commencait a se gater encore plus, et qu'on avait atteint nos objectifs (pas tous, mais on reviendra!) il etait temps pour nous d'aller visiter le frere de Josh. Non mais on est en Australie depuis 6 semaines et il n'a pas vu sont frere depuis tellement d'annees qu'il en a perdu le compte... Lazard decide de partir en meme temps que nous pour aller visiter des amis a Sydney et du meme coup de nous donner un lift jusqu'a Jindabyne, dans les 'Snowy Mountains', la ou vit Pete, le frere de Josh. On saute sur l'occasion, ca va etre moins cher puisqu'on va partager les couts de l'essence, mais aussi beaucoup plus amusant que de prendre l'autobus. Car embarquer avec Lazard dans sa vieille Subaru, c'est une aventure a chaque fois! On part donc le matin apres avoir tout ramasse (on l'a evidemment aide a defaire toutes les toiles bleues) et c'est parti. On a toute une longue journee de route a faire. Tout va bien jusqu'en debut d'apres-midi ou on a un flat! Premier incident. Rien de grave, on s'arrete et on change le pneu. C'est presque l'fun, je n'ai pas fait ca depuis que je suis demenagee a San Diego! Je me depeche donc d'installer le 'jack' et de sauter sur la barre pour devisser les 4 bolts. Probleme: une fois les bolts enlevees, la roue ne veut pas sortir. On a beau tout essayer, frapper de toutes nos forces, mais la roue est jammee la a cause de la rouille je crois! Apres pres d'une heure d'efforts, Lazard a reussi a sortir la roue en utilisant une brique qu'il a trouve. Ouf, on repart, mais on doit arreter dans un garage pour acheter un autre pneu. Deuxieme incident: on se fait arreter par la police a cause d'une lumiere brulee! Au prochain village, on arrete a une station d'essence pour acheter une nouvelle ampoule et les gars se sont amuses a la changer. Il faisait deja noir, ils etaient plutot comiques avec leur lampe de poche de camping sous le capot de la voiture! Et pour terminer le tout, les derniers kilometres sont dans les montagnes, a traversers de tout petit village qui s'active que durant la saison de ski, et bien toutes les stations d'essences etaient fermees car il commencait deja a etre tard le soir... ouf, on s'y est rendu de justesse, completement dans le rouge! On est donc arrives passe minuit chez Pete et sa femme Annette, qui ont gentiment heberge Lazard pour la nuit. Wow, de vrais lits, une douche et des oeufs au dejeuner pour tout le monde, quel paradis! A part la visite chez John en Tasmanie, on ne se rappelle pas de la derniere fois que l'on a ete dans une maison...

Qu'il fait bon d'avoir un vrai endroit ou rester. Et quelle belle maison. Gigantesque et toute neuve, Pete est contracteur, sur un ranch avec les chevaux d'Annette. Il fait drole de se lever le matin et de voir les chevaux courir pas la fenetre. Leur 'bay-window' dans le salon est tellement grande, que j'y ai vu ma premiere etoile filante un soir en regardant la tele!!! On avait pas envi de visiter quoi que ce soit. Pete a pris deux semaines de vacances pour passer du temps avec nous et Annette travaille qu'a temps partiel. Donc certaines journees on s'amusait a aider Pete sur des travaux a la maison, Josh a appris a souder et moi a couper des arbres avec une 'chain-saw'! Et d'autres journees on partait tous ensembles pour visiter. On est alle a Canberra et on a visiter des grottes. Josh et Pete s'entendent tellement bien. Ils ne se ressemblent pas du tout, un blond et un brun, mais ils aiment tous les deux discuter de politiques et de toutes sortes de choses. Je trouve ca tellement triste qu'ils ne se soient pas vu depuis si longtemps. Ils n'ont jamais ete super proche, mais la ils rattrappent le temps perdu, ils discutent du matin au soir sans arret! Quand je peux, j'essaie de rester avec Annette pour laisser les gars seuls ensemble. Annette est tres gentille et une excellente cuisiniere, on s'entend donc bien! Des bons repas et du bon vin a chaque jour... on est reparti avec des kilos supplementaires :) Mais qu'il a fait bon vivre la pendant plus de deux semaines, a pres de la moitie de notre voyage, c'etait un repos bien merite, les vacances des vacances!! Merci beaucoup a Pete et Annette, ils viendront peut-etre nous rejoindre au Nepal en Octobre, ca serait genial, sinon on va beaucoup s'ennuyer, on ne sait pas trop apres quand on les reverra. C'etait triste de partir, on avait tous le coeur gros...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Le 16 avril 2008: Australie 2 - Tasmanie & Totem Pole

Ah la Tasmanie, on y a entendu que du bien, mais le climat est similaire a celui de la Nouvelle-Zelande. On avait achete nos billets d'avion en fonction des marees basses afin d'augmenter nos chances de pouvoir grimper le Totem Pole. Plus que chanceux cette fois-ci, on a eu la plus belle des semaines des deux derniers mois, soleil pratiquement a tous les jours et environ 20C, ce qui est rare a ce temps-ci de l'annee, pensez a la mi-octobre au Quebec. On avait loue une petite voiture, mais cette fois-ci pas besoin de dormir dedans, on est reste chez John, l'ami rencontre il y a 2-3 jours. John est un drole de gars, intelligent, excellent joueur d'echec, etait un cale d'informatique plus jeune, il fait maintenant une maitrise sur le bouddhiste, n'a pas un sous, loue une grande maison avec 5 colocs, mais super genereux, ils invitent tous les voyageurs comme nous a dormir chez-eux, ils ont de vieux matelas en permanence sur les planchers du salon, etc. Mais surtout, ils n'achetent jamais de nourriture. John et un de ses colocs font les poubelles! Chaque soir ils plongent dans les poubelles de l'epicerie ou de la patisserie. J'vous jure ils reviennent avec toutes sortes de trouvailles. Je n'en croyais pas mes yeux! Des provisions a la caisse. Tous les pains et patisseries frais du matin jetes dans une grande boite. Des caisses de gauffres, de chocolat chaud, fines herbes, etc. Des tonnes de fruits et legumes... disons pret a etre manges! Mais sans farce, il rapportent suffisamment pour se nourir et nourir tous les invites. Mais bon, on ne voulait pas abuser (et j'preferais quand meme acheter ma viande fraiche!) on a surtout mange a l'exterieur (faut bien en profiter, on retournera au camping pour 2 semaines). Bref, je coupe ca court sur la Tasmanie, car je veux focusser sur notre grande aventure qu'est le Totem Pole. De facon generale on a adore la Tasmanie, les payages sont tres beaux, les gens super sympathiques, c'est beaucoup plus petit que la Nouvelle-Zelande, et ils ont d'excellent vins!!!

Le Totem Pole c'est donc une voie d'escalade tres difficile et tres renommee a travers le monde. Il n'y a que peu de grimpeurs qui puissent s'y attaquer. Un des reves de Josh et moi je ne pouvais pas refuser cette occasion. On en avait beaucoup parle avant notre depart, c'etait le 'gros' projet de notre annee. L'une des motivations a grimper a tous les jours en Thailande pour devenir plus fort. J'etais juste un peu inquiete, car puisque j'ai ete malade et que je n'ai pas beaucoup grimpe a Arapiles, je ne suis pas au meilleur de ma forme. Le Totem Pole c'est donc un pilier de roche situe dans la mer, imaginez un grand cube rectangulaire qui fait 70m de haut et 4m de cote. J'ai vu cette photo partout dans les magasines d'escalades et posters, c'est un des grands classiques. Je ne croyais jamais avoir un jour la chance de m'y rendre. C'est a nos limites de ce que l'on peut grimper, plus precisement, a la limite de ce que Josh peut grimper en premier de cordee et moi suivre en 2e de cordee. Mais ce n'est pas seulement de l'escalade, je le repete, c'est toute une aventure....

On part donc a 7h le matin de chez John qui habite a Hobart pour se rendre sur la peninsule au sud de la Tasmanie avec notre nouvelle amie Castilla (celle rencontre la veille vers 11h du soir!). On est pret, tres excites, on a vraiment hate de le voir en vrai ce Totem Pole dont on a tant entendu parle. Apres deux heures de voitures sous la pluie, on arrive au camping. Et oui, il devait faire beau, mais il pleut. On se dit tant pi, on est ici, on va au moins faire la marche d'approche, 2h de hiking, et au pire on y laissera les sacs-a-dos avec tous l'equipement pour le lendemain. Pour grimper le Totem Pole il faut de la chance, une combinaison de plusieurs elements: pas de pluie, pas trop de vent et maree basse. Vous comprendrez bientot pourquoi. Donc apres 2h de marche avec des kilogrammes d'equipement sur le dos, j'suis deja fatiguee, en plus on s'est leve tot le matin, on le voit enfin ce Totem Pole! On arrive par en haut, on regarde en bas de la falaise a nos pieds et on le voit, il semble tout petit vu d'ici!! Par chance la pluie s'est arretee. On y tente notre chance. On descend a travers les brousailles, Castilla fait aussi un peu d'escalade, elle peut donc nous suivre sur ces sentiers non-amenages. Apres pres d'une autre heure, on trouve finalement l'encrage. Ouf, c'est juste le debut. Meme si j'en avais entendu parle, je ne comprenais pas trop. Je savais que c'etait une grimpe difficile et situee dans un endroit exceptionel, mais la je venais de realiser que c'est pas juste une grimpe, mais toute une aventure. J'me dis c'est ca, les gens viennent ici pas juste pour la grimpe, mais pour toute l'aventure. Mais plus tard je vais realiser que cette voie d'escalade est non seulement difficile, mais de qualite exceptionnelle.

La deuxieme etape est donc de se rendre au pied du Totem Pole. Presentement on est au bout du sentier, attache a l'encrage en haut de la falaise et le Totem Pole est dans l'eau en bas de nous. Normalement en escalade on arrive en bas de la falaise, on la grimpe, puis on utilise un encrage pour redescendre en rappel sur la corde. Cette fois-ci on arrive par en haut. Josh descent en premier. Il est maintenant en bas de la falaise attache a la corde qui elle est attache a l'encrage ou je suis au haut de la falaise. Et la l'aventure commence. Josh doit 'swingger' sur la corde en direction du Totem Pole et essayer de s'accrocher a l'encrage au bas du Totem Pole. Je ne sais pas si vous pouvez imaginer. Il est pendu a une corde, se pousse avec ses pieds de la falaise vers le Totem Pole, juste au dessus des gigantesques vagues qui frappent la roche a toute allure (d'ou on a besoin de la marree basse et de pas de vent, sinon les vagues seraient trop grosses) et s'il manque son coup, il revient a toute allure vers la falaise! Au 7e coup il a reussi a s'accrocher au Totem Pole. Je descends aussitot. Pour moi c'est plus facile puisque Josh tiendra l'extremite de ma corde de facon a ce que je puisse descendre jusqu'a lui. Une fois aussi attachee a l'encrage au bas du Totem Pole c'est la grimpe qui commence. Mais juste avant, j'dois vous dire que pour un moment je me suis vraiment demandee ce qu'on faisait ici. Non mais faut vraiment etre fous. On est attaches a la parois, dans un endroit ou il n'y a pas de secours possible (il faisait bon de savoir que Castilla etait la a nous observer), assis dans nos harnais d'escalade (position pas tres confortable je vous le jure!) les vagues frappent si fort sur nos fesses qu'on en a deja les pantalons tout mouilles. Avant meme que je dise quoi que ce soit, Josh me regarde dans les yeux et me dis que c'est juste de l'escalade comme a l'habitude, que l'environnement est intimidant, mais que tout ira bien. Oh la la, pour qu'il me dise ca, je comprends alors que lui aussi a un peu peur et se demande bien ce qu'on fait ici!!! Et moi dans ma tete je me dis "que de l'escalade oui, mais sinon y'a rien de comme a l'habitude"... c'est ca l'aventure. Mais bon, le seul moyen de revenir a la terre c'est de se rendre en haut de se pilier. Et on a pas de temps a perdre.

Josh commence a grimper, il doit "aider" les premiers metres (c'est-a-dire placer une protection et tirer dessus plutot que de grimper avec ses mains) car la roche est trop mouillee. Moi je reste la a l'assurer, essayant de cacher mes pieds dans un petit trou pour garder mes souliers d'escalade au sec autant que possible. Grimper sur une roche mouillee ou avec des semelles mouillees c'est impossible, vous comprendrez que ca glisse bien trop! Malgre les vagues qui me frappent, je dois garder mon attention sur Josh, j'ai sa vie entre mes mains. En bon grimpeur qu'il est, il fait tres bien et se rend a la fin de la premiere moitie, la la roche forme un plancher ou l'on peut se poser. Il s'accroche au 2e encrage et me regarde pour me donner le signal qu'il est 'safe'. Au meme moment la plus grosse vague m'envahie, j'ai de l'eau jusque par-dessus ma tete, comme je regardais Josh en haut, j'ai la figure tout arrosee et j'en perd meme mon capuchon rempli d'eau!! Pas de temps a perdre, c'est a mon tout de me sortir de la. Josh m'assure, m'aide a passer la section de roche mouillee en mettant autant de pression qu'il peut sur la corde et je commence ensuite a grimper. Apres quelques minutes ah que les muscles de mes bras sont tres durs et font mal. Je n'arrive plus a me tenir. En escalade on appelle cet effet le 'flash pump'. Normalement, en debut de journee on grimpe des voies plus faciles pour rechauffer nos muscles. J'avais deja grimper des voies aussi difficiles techniquement, mais jamais sans rechauffement, dans tout l'excitement, je n'avais meme pas realiser que j'allais devoir grimper une voie tres difficiles avec des muscles froid. Je lache donc prise et me repose un peu mon poid sur la corde. Apres plusieurs effort, je rejoins Josh. A ce meme moment la pression relache, on se sent mieux, on est sorti des vagues, on a passe la partie la plus difficile, on sait maintenant qu'on va survivre!!! Ce n'est plus qu'une question de temps avant qu'on atteigne le sommet, en autant qu'on y arrive avant la noirceur...

Josh a aussi reussi la deuxieme partie sans tomber, une "on-sight" qu'on appelle, et du meme coup realiser un reve! Moi un peu plus reposee je le suis a mon tour. Je fais bien pendant la premiere moitiee de la 2e partie, jusqu'a ce qu'il y ait une craque horizontale dans la roche juste 2-3cm trop haute pour que je puisse l'attrapper (j'peux pas vous dire comme j'aimerais parfois etre juste un peu plus grande). Evidemment la je tombe, et je me bas avec la roche, mais a chaque fois qu'on tombe, a cause de l'extension dans la corde, on doit recommencer le meme mouvement difficile, c'est tres fatiguant. Cette deuxieme partie m'a semblee treeees longue! A quelques metres de la fin, mes muscles faisaient si mal que pendant quelques minutes j'ai cru ne pas y arriver. Josh me rassure, un peu d'adreneline, et je le rejoins enfin. Ca y est, on est la, tout en haut de ce Totem Pole. Quel bon sentiment d'accomplissement que d'arriver au sommet. On vient de passer des heures d'excitement se sentant seul au monde dans cet endroit completement depaysant. Mais du meme coup, qu'est-ce qu'on entend pas? Un claxon et des cris d'encouragement???!!!!?!?!?! Mais d'ou ca vient??? Des hikers du haut de la falaise et un bateau de touriste qui passait par-la ont eu la chance de nous voir finaliser le tout. J'vous jure que ca faisait drole d'entendre ces claquements de mains alors qu'on croyait etre seul au monde avec Castilla prenant des photos :)

Mes ce n'est pas fini! Oh oui on est tout en haut du pilier, mais on doit retourner sur la rive... On avait 2 cordes pour grimper le Totem Pole. Derek nous avait gentiment prete la sienne, qu'on est chanceux d'avoir des amis ici! Donc il y a la premiere corde si vous vous rappelez qu'on a attache au haut de la falaise pour pouvoir descendre et 'swingger' jusqu'au Totem Pole. Cette corde a toujours une extremite attachee au haut de la falaise, et l'autre extremite, je l'ai trainee avec moi tout le temps que j'ai grimper. Cette corde faisait un grand 'U' puisqu'elle pendait entre le haut de la falaise et moi sur le pilier de roche. Donc du poids supplementaire lorsque je grimpais, mais notre seul moyen de retourner sur la rive. Si on perdait cette corde, on serait reste pris sur le Totem Pole, sans eau, sans nourriture. C'etait donc ma mission la plus importante, on a pas hesite a l'attacher a moi deux fois plutot qu'une! On a donc grimpe avec la deuxieme corde. Une fois au sommet du Totem Pole, on doit attacher l'extremite de la premiere corde que j'ai apporte a l'encrage au haut du Totem Pole. De facon a ce que la corde soit tendu entre le haut du Totem Pole et le haut de la falaise. Et la il reste a s'attacher a cette corde, sauter dans le vide, puis se tirer jusqu'a ce qu'on rejoingne Castilla de l'autre cote!!! En escalade on utilise toujours le principe de la 'redondance'. C'est-a-dire que tout doit etre double en tout temps pour que si une partie quelconque brise (ce qui n'arrive pratiquement jamais), la doublure va nous retenir et on ne mourra pas! Mais cette fois-ci c'etait bien plus epeurant que d'habitude. Je n'aurrais pas ete satisfaite d'avoir le tout en double, ca a plutot ete le tout redondant 3 ou 4 fois, pas question que quelque chose lache et que je tombe 70m de haut dans ces vagues immenses! Donc avec plus de redondance qu'il en faut, Josh part en premier. Fidel a lui meme, il a adore sauter et se tirer jusqu'a la rive. C'est maintenant mon tour, et egalement fidele a moi meme, ah que je n'aime donc pas sauter!! Je m'attache a la corde qui est tendue, maintenant toute seule au sommet du Totem Pole, assise en petit bonhomme a l'extremite de la roche j'ai aucune envie de sauter, pour la premiere fois de la journee j'ai vraiment peur, mais je sais qu'il n'y a rien de dangereux et que je dois juste le faire. Je prend mon courrage a deux mains et j'y vais.... Une fois dans les airs, le sourire m'a rattrappee. C'etait vraiment amusant de se tirer sur cette corde pour rejoindre Josh et Castilla de l'autre cote. C'etait si amusant, qu'avant de defaire la corde et les encrages, on a envoye Castilla s'amuser sur notre 'tyrolean', elle a traverser jusqu'a ce qu'elle ait pu de sa main toucher au Totem Pole et revenir. C'etait notre remerciement pour la patience de notre photograph. J'peux pas croire qu'on ait des photos de cette aventure, quelle chance!

La grande aventure tire donc a sa fin. On doit retourner au camping, un autre 3h de marche dans la noirceur, mais on avait la pleine lune pour nous eclairer! Tout semblait si parfait. Qu'il faisait bon d'etre de retour les deux pieds sur terre et de partager toutes ces emotions avec Castilla. J'suis pas certaine que mon texte rend justice a tout ce qu'on a vecu, probablement que les photos ajouteront un peu, mais s'il y a une chose qui m'a suivi tout le long de la journee (et la je pense a ma tante mimi) c'est: "ah que j'avais donc envie de pipi" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Australia 2 - The Totem Pole!!!

All you climber types know Tasmania for one thing: The Totem Pole. One of the very sought after coveted ascents in climbing. It consists of a thin freestanding spire of rock 4m wide that thrusts out of the raging ocean almost 65m. The picture of the first free ascent is so famous it's used world wide. Even non-climbers in Tasmania and Australia knoew what it is! The difficulties are many. It's an extremely difficult and exposed climb. Typically, you just have to worry about weather, but just to get on "The Tote" you have to worry about the sea as well! You need so many factors to come together for a successful ascent, that you have to be damn lucky! There has to be low wind, no rain, and the temperatures have to be reasonable. The surf has to be low, as does the tide. In order to maximize our chance of success, we set our plane tickets to coincide with low tide during mid-day (it's that important). The chance of success was still low. We planned to be in Taz for a full week, ready to wait it out if we had to! Tazmania is known for bad weather and high surf, so I still wasn't sure about our chances of even getting on the route!

Well, we flew into Hobart, picked up our rental car (they tried to rip us off, bring your internet receipt, luckily we did) and headed to a friend of a friends we had met in The Pines at Arapiles. He not only let us crash at his place for a few nights, but took us out climbing at Mt. Wellington the next day! It was dolerite columns, very similar to basalt, but the friction is the best I've ever seen in my life! You could hold onto anything! Lucky too, since the features were few and far between sometimes. We did one 60m trad line that I think I got off route on since it was supposed to be a classic. I ended up on chossy rock and it was much harder than rated (by the way, Taz is apparently known for sandbags - when a route is harder than rated) but I made it and Nath followed. After that, I tried onsighting a multipitch 24 (5.12a) sport (bolted) route up an arete and managed to pull it off. By then, we were already running out of time so we took off. When I asked John (the guy we were staying with) what type of rock the Totem Pole was, it turned out to be DOLERITE! I was excited since I had essentially just "calibrated" and gotten used to the rock and the style since the Totem Pole is a multipitch 25 mostly bolted route up an arete!!!

That night, while crashing at John's place, some other travellers showed up and they crashed there too. With the most amazing bit of luck, possibly ever, one of them was an occassional climber and when she found out what we planned to do the next day she asked if she could come and watch! We of course said, "Sure, do you mind taking pictures!" We suddenly had a photographer for one of the most amazing routes on the planet!

We woke early and made the 2 hour drive to Fortescue Bay where the Totem Pole is, and then after some preparations we started the 2+ hour hike out to Cape Huay. It had rained on us on and off during the drive, and I just hoped it would dry enough for us to climb the route. We arrived at the end of Cape Huay and I looked down from the edge of the cliff where the trail ends, and gaped at what I saw. The Totem Pole was a tiny little finger sticking up out of the water over 100m below with waves ravaging the base of it. We started the "climber's" hike down, which took a little while and we were finally at our destination a little before noon staring, level, with the top of our objective! Perfect! Low tide was at 12:05, the rain had dried enough, while cloudy and a little cool it was still warm enough to climb since there was very little wind. Despite what seemed to me large surges of waves slamming into the base of the Totem Pole, everything was falling into place......

Luckily, a friend from Arapiles (Derek) had let us borrow a rope so we had two for the route (you have to have at least two ropes to climb and get off the thing), and I tied one to the mainland for the rappel, grabbed all the gear, put on my harness, rain jacket, and stuffed my climbing shoes and chalk bag into the rain jacket in an attempt to keep them dry from the maelstrom of waves I was descending into. Before I left, I instructed Nathalie, "When I'm off rappel, come down QUICK, because neither of us want to be hanging down there longer than we have to!" I didn't really know what to expect, but I was nervous. There isn't much that gets me nervous when it comes to climbing, but the Totem Pole did the trick.

To help you picture it, the Totem pole is at the end of a small peninsula of land (Cape Huay) that drops precipitously into the ocean. From the end of the Cape, the Totem Pole is squeezed between the mainland and another island formation named the Candlestick by climbers. Beyond that is another larger island that keeps extending out where the peninsula ended. The Totem Pole is right between two land masses at a pinch point in the ocean, with open ocean on either side. This means that the waves/swells come from BOTH DIRECTIONS! The rappel is roughly 180' into this intimidating situation, and then you have to get on the thing! Near the bottom of the rappel, I ended up standing on a small ledge a little over 2 meters above the surging ocean. As the swells came through from either direction they crashed into rocks and sent spray everywhere.

I prepared myself for what I had to do: run (barefoot), leap across the gap between the mainland and the Totem Pole swinging on the rope I had just rappelled in on, and take a small wire (a nut with the head pushed down for you climber types) and try to hook it on the head of a bolt that had been placed on the Totem Pole by climbers. If I missed, I would swing back violently into the wall behind me. I prepared the nut, clipped to a long sling attached to my harness, and sprinted across the small ledge leaping for all I was worth! As the gap between me and the Totem Pole closed, I quickly realized how hard this would be. Right at the apex of my swing, the bolt was barely in reach and I only had one attempt at catching it with my small wire before flying backward into the rocks behind me. I reached, I hoped, and I missed! As quickly as I could, I turned around and prepared for impact before attempting to absorb all that swinging energy with my bare feet on rocks. Ouch! I swung back to the ledge and stared at my objective again, a tiny little bolt around 15' away.

I steeled myself for another attempt. Still staring at the bolt, ignoring all else, I ran and jumped as hard as I could... BOOM! A wave came in right as I was swinging and exploded around me soaking my legs with its spray. I stayed focused, but again my attempt to hook the bolt was a miserable failure. I slammed back into the wall behind me feet first again and realized this really wasn't going to be easy. I swung again and again, and eventually on my sixth or seventh try I hooked the head of the bolt with my little wire and I suddenly realized I was a sitting duck for those surges below! The rock was wet almost 2m above my head, and each wave the crashed into the base from the left side of the Totem Pole would be having it's way with me. Luckily, I had my shoes and chalk bag hidden in my rain jacket....

I quickly started working on creating a redundant anchor. I had carrot hangers for the 2nd bolt. I quickly put one on and clipped myself into it. The 2nd bolt I clipped was rusted and bent over from over use and metal fatigue. Then I realized that I couldn't get a proper hanger on the first, good bolt since I was already hanging off it with a wire. That problem quickly solved itself when the wire (pulled straight out since I still had tension on the rappel line) blew off the bolt sending me down onto the crappy bolt below. It wasn't much of a fall onto that lower bolt, but it scared the hell out of me! Suddenly I was hanging off of a single crappy bolt and the rappel line, and if that crappy piece of metal decided to go, then I'd be swinging rather violently back into the wall behind me. As quickly as I could, I got a hanger on the first bolt and clipped back into it! Then, I took myself off rappel and it was time for Nathalie to come down as the waves smashed into the wall beneath me. The whole time, the explosions from the waves seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. Either the waves were getting bigger throughout the day, or the tide had turned and was rising beneath my feet.

As Nath decended, I turned my attention to the waves careening into the base of the Totem Pole. While intimidating as hell, I quickly realized that I'd never seen water that blue in my life! It was amazing! Most water has a blue-green look, but this was BLUE!

I started scanning the line I would be climbing above me, and realized that not only was it wet and difficult, but it was also far to the first carrot bolt! It was at least 10' before the next bolt, but at least there was a tiny dripping wet crack above and to the left in the direction of the bolt.

Nath came down and we situated ourselves on the tiny cramped hanging belay, and I unclipped from the anchor to start climbing. Looking down, I realized that if I fell from even a little ways up, that would put me not only in the ocean with quite a bit of metal attached to me, but I'd be attached by a rope to hold me in the spot where the waves were slamming into the rock! Oh yeah, did I mention that those cold waters have Great White sharks? With the rock so wet and the danger so high, I decided to go the safe way, and I placed two pieces of gear in the crack up left and hung on them while I put my climbing shoes and chalk bag on, which had managed to stay dry. The shoes weren't dry long though, since the rock was soaked. I pulled up on the pieces of gear until I could at least reach something dry with my hands, and I chalked up and started climbing. The first 10' were the most intimidating I started smearing my feet on tiny wet holds while pulling strenuous lieback moves in order to reach the bolt above, and even after my feet were on drier territory the shoes were still wet underneath. I kept going until I could place a hanger and a clip into the first lead bolt on the route. I looked up and it was going to be a battle to the ledge above. There are few holds, and few bolts as well. I climbed as quick as I could, feeling guilty hearing every wave that slammed into the base knowing that Nathalie was being soaked by them. There was only so much I could do though, since I was climbing 5.12a with no warmup and the protection was spaced enough that I had to take it seriously and methodically to make sure I didn't go for any frequent flyer miles. Luckily, Nathalie had a huge grin on her face every time I looked down! What a trooper!

I worked my way up and up, and eventually found myself past the last bolt on easier territory. I placed a cam in a small crack since it was a long ways to the ledge, still, and when I was finally standing on top of the 2m ledge I let out a whoop of joy! I had done it, I'd conquered the scary, mentally demanding first pitch of the route with no falls at all! I quickly clipped myself into the bolts and pitons at the ledge, and looked down to yell, "Off belay!" Just as I was finished yelling the biggest wave so far slammed into the base and kicked up a spray so violent that I saw Nathalie disappear in the froth. When the white fell back into the ocean, there she was, the hood of her jacket pulled off from her head by the weight of water that had just landed in it! It was time to get her out of there! I hauled up rope as quick as I could until it was tight, threw it through my belay device and she was off the belay and on her way to join me. She did spectacularly, pulling all the moves of the pitch, except she just wasn't ready to try 5.12a without warmup. Her forearms "flashpumped" and she had trouble hanging on and had to rest occasionally on the way up.

Once we were on the ledge, I knew we were through the hardest part mentally, and that we would get to the top, so I was excited! However, I was on the other hand I was anxious. I had just climbed the first pitch "onsight" which meant climbing it without falling first try. It's the purest, most rewarding way to climb something. I still had a chance to onsight the Totem Pole! I haven't met anyone who has done it, including climbers who are better than I am. Looming above was 40m of wicked hard sustained climbing on the thinnest of holds with a grade of 25 (5.12b).

With the mix of excitement and anxiousness, I started up the pitch hoping that I could pull it off onsight! As I worked my way up the pitch, I realized that it was going to be a long protracted battle. I wanted to take it slow, rest where I could, and make sure I didn't fall. The pitch was amazing, simply perfect. Climbing an endless corner for move after move up a square pillar 4m across balanced in the blue, blue ocean... I slowly unlocked every sequence, and difficulty. When I got tired, I pulled harder. When I ran out of holds, I judged it right and leapt for the next hold far away hoping it was good, and it was. When I couldn't hold on any longer, there would be a small 2" foothold to take some weight off my hand so I could rest. I committed myself to climbing without hesitation when I was far above gear, and I slowly unlocked the puzzle over the course of the next hour or more, on one of the greatest climbs I've ever done. Toward the top, I was using my core muscles so much that my abs ached from helping my hands and feet work together efficiently. As I topped out on the final ledge, I could barely believe it! I had onsighted the Totem Pole! It was one of my biggest goals of the entire climbing trip and I had done it! I sat down and clipped in, and just enjoyed sitting on the top of such a beautiful ocean spire while I prepared to bring Nath up behind me.

This pitch was graded 23 in the guidebooks, so I hadn't realized it would be quite so hard for her. Nath had never climbed a 25 before (this is the true grade, I found out, after talking to many others and looking at the grade everywhere but a Tasmanian climbing guide) and again the lack of warmup that day took its toll. In addition, the holds were spaced in such a way that it would have been extremely difficult for her to link certain features with her 5'1" frame. Reach is definitely a factor on the Totem Pole. She climbed the first half splendidly, but as she reached the more difficult sections (where I had to jump between holds because they were too far apart) she had more trouble. Eventually she made it to the top, taking about as long as I did on my ascent of the 40m pitch, and we were both sitting on the top ledge together!

There was a final 3m summit block that I quickly lead up, for some pictures, and down lead. Peter Croft says, "Summits matter" and in this case I had to agree. After this, we had to start working on getting OFF the thing! The whole time Nathalie was climbing, she had the rope we had rappelled off the mainland attached to her. Before we had climbed, I had explained how important it was to her and how under now circumstances could she drop it, so it was attached to her with two locking carabiners. Now, the rope made a huge "U" between us on the summit of the Totem Pole, and the anchor back on the mainland. I pulled it tight, like a tightrope but with more slack, and tied it to two bolts on the summit of the Totem Pole. After I did this, I clipped into the rope and jumped off the edge of the Totem Pole to dangle 60m above the raging ocean below. I pulled myself hand over hand out to the middle and just hung there a while since I'd rarely be in such a spectacular position in my entire life. Once I was satisfied, I continued on to the mainland to set it up so Nath could do the same and we could get the ropes back. Nath was terrified to hop off the Totem Pole with so much air under her heels, but once she did, she immediately loved it. I showed her how to flip upside down and pull yourself to the other side efficiently, and we were back on the mainland having completed our first "Tyrolean Traverse" ever! Cassia, the traveller who came out with us, even threw on a harness and went out to touch the Totem Pole and come back!

With that, we packed up. It was getting dark, quick, and I had no idea that a 2 pitch 65m climb could take that long! I hadn't even brought headlamps out with us. Luckily, we had a full moon to walk back to the car with, and so we started the 3 hour slow moonlight walk back riding the high of success from our amazing, beautiful day!