Simon Carter's Onsight Photography » Simon Carter Where Climbing and Photography Meet Fri, 25 Jul 2014 02:53:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Les Calanques, France ~ gallery Thu, 01 May 2014 03:22:01 +0000 Two things:

I’m sending out another email newsletter today. I’m psyched about these and have had a great response from them. Many thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven’t already, and would like to get an exclusive look at some of my best recent work, and much else besides, then please subscribe –> here. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

And I’ve just added a photo gallery of the beautiful Les Calanques which overlooks the Mediterranean in France. After putting that together, I’m frothing for a holiday there! See the gallery –> here.

Thanks for visiting my site! More soon.

~ Simon

Chloé Minoret, Le Denti (7c+), Goudes, Les Calanques.

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Tsaranoro Madagascar ~ gallery and beta Tue, 08 Apr 2014 07:09:49 +0000 Visiting, and trying to climb on, the massive granite domes of the Tsaranoro Massive in the Southern highlands of Madagascar, was without doubt one of the most memorable climbing trips I’ve ever done.

So I’m delighted to present a new feature gallery on Tsaranoro. And words by Monique Forestier to help get you inspired — plus some beta to help get you started on your adventure, should you ever be keen. But even if this is a place that you’ll never visit, it sure is worth knowing about. Biggest quality walls in the Southern Hemisphere and all. And the lemurs!

Be sure to check out the gallery here –>

Benno Wagner, pitch 10 of Manara-Potsiny (8a), 600m (18 pitches) on Tsaranoro Be, Tsaranoro, Madagascar.

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Daniel Fisher ~ interview Wed, 19 Mar 2014 04:43:20 +0000 The first time I saw Daniel Fisher climbing was in the 2012 Australian Nationals, lead competition, when he put on an impressive display, blitzed the field, and took the title. It was obvious that he was one of Australia’s best up and coming new generation climbers. But then things went a bit quiet (at least to me), until recently, when at the end of January Daniel made the second ascent of White Ladder at Nowra – Australia’s first grade 34 route — which was established some 10 years ago and had gone without a repeat ascent until now (it’s discussed in our interview with Chris Webb Parsons here).

Given that Daniel is one of only a handful of Aussie climbers to crank that hard, I thought it could be interesting to find out what makes him tick, chew the fat and get some tips. So we put some questions to him and found out just what might be his “special sauce”…

Daniel Fisher on the opening moves of Attack Mode/White Ladder at Nowra, Australia.

Daniel Fisher on the opening moves of Attack Mode (32)/White Ladder (34) at Nowra, Australia.

Onsight Firstly tell us a bit about yourself. How old are you now, where did you grow up?

Daniel I’m 21 years of age. Born and bred here in Canberra, lived here my whole life. I’ve been climbing for ten odd years now, probably a bit more but yeah, I love it here in Canberra.

Onsight So you first started climbing around Canberra? How did you get into climbing?

Daniel My dad is an Outdoor Education teacher. I have four brothers (two older and two younger) and we were always climbing up the walls and climbing the trees in the backyard, and I think that because dad was an Outdoor Ed teacher that progressed that and took us outdoor climbing. I started when I was three or four years old, I was out there with dad nearly every weekend and half the time he’d pull us up to the top and then we’d just sit up there and admire the rock and stuff. I think that struck a chord with me when I was outdoor climbing. Then when I was eight my elder brother started in a rock climbing squad in Canberra and about a month after he started I kind of thought, “yeah, I need to join this squad” and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Onsight What did you like about it?

Daniel Not so much anymore but when I was younger I used to struggle with heights. So climbing I guess was kind of a way to attack that and try to approach my fears I guess. That’s what my parents always taught me and try to push the boundaries I guess.

Daniel Fisher on the opening moves of Attack Mode/White Ladder at Nowra, Australia.Onsight So when your dad took you out climbing was that Orroral Ridge (near Canberra)?

Daniel No, we did a lot of Nowra trips mostly, it was more family friendly than Booroomba and Orroral Ridge.

Onsight Is your dad a pretty keen climber?

Daniel Yes, he is a P.E. teacher and so he injures himself a lot and so he spends more time talking about climbing and wishing he could climb rather than actually climbing. But when he does have a good couple of months when he’s not injured then he’ll come down to Nowra with me. He’s belayed me sometimes on a couple of my projects and it’s really nice to have him there and have the support, both of my parents are really lovely like that. Dad’s always willing to take days off work to belay me, particularly if I think things are really close and I think I’m going to send. And so I give him a call and he’ll say, “Alright I’m coming, I’m coming”.

Onsight Do your brothers still climb?

Daniel No my elder brother got busy with work, family and he has kids. And my younger brother, Zac, he’s an avid climber but this year, my parents are Mormon and so he’s going overseas on a mission for two years and with his mission he’s not allowed to climb, so he’s slowed downed this year because he knows he’s got that ahead of him. He loves it I think he’ll eventually come back to it.

Onsight Your parents are Mormon?Daniel at home in the house of power. Cheesdale, Nowra.

Daniel Yes. Both my parents are very religious and go to church every weekend.

Onsight Do you?

Daniel Not anymore. I used to until I was 18 but not since then. I still hold the values very dear like the family values are good to aspire to but it just didn’t work out so well with me and church I think.

Onsight What values in particular?

Daniel Things like respecting your elders and very strong family values. Every Sunday we all go and have dinner together and we all sit down and we have strong family connections. I don’t like swearing and that sort of thing. I think the values that my parents instilled on me from a young age I really appreciate. I have strayed away from what my parents have taught in some areas. I do drink alcohol. A lot of friends my age may go out on weekend and drink heavily whereas for me I’ve learnt that that ruins your weekend and my parents have always said “well you’re not going to climb the next day”, so what ‘s the point? So, if I do have a drink it’s a one or two sort of thing only and not ruining the next day.

Onsight Maybe that’s part of the secret to your success. So tell us about the climbing scene in Canberra these days. I grew up there and always thought it was a good place to get into the outdoors. But the place seems to produce a disproportionate number of really good climbers. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

Daniel I believe Cait Horan was a huge driving force behind Canberra for a many number of years. She built up the squad, she had three or four different levels in the squad and was constantly pushing kids through that. It meant that there was a really tight knit group of us. We were training three days a week and every time there was a competition we would all go, and we would all do really well. There are probably… ten or fifteen of the original squad that are still climbing. We are all best mates and it’s given us a strong grounding I think. That initial build has helped Canberra continually produce a strong array of climbers. Instead of it kind of dwindling there are always the new squad members. I was in training today and there are so many kids that keep popping up. They start, they build all of their technique and strength and they progress until they’re in that final squad. I think that, in itself, has helped so many different Canberra climbers to keep motivated for such extended periods of time. It’s really supportive at the climbing gym, everybody knows each other and keeps pushing each other and that’s what helps me become a good climber and keeps me motivated is knowing that there are always people in there pushing me harder, and I want to beat them, and they want to beat me, and it’s just this cycle of getting better slowly.

Daniel Fisher on his way to winning the 2012 Australian Nationals.…we had Angie [Angie Scarth-Johnson who we interviewed here] come through… within a month or so she was climbing with all the older climbers… just because she was so strong.

Onsight That’s really not the answer I was expecting, I thought you’d be talking about how wonderful the climbing and bush is around Canberra, not about the gym scene.

Daniel Yeah, It’s a different scene now, it’s interesting. I find coming from Canberra I’ve always being quite motivated. I don’t know if that’s because of the people I climb with. I find that we are all motivated so when we get to the crag if it’s raining then we still climb all day. We don’t have that luxury to say “oh no, I’ll just come down tomorrow”. I’ve travelled all this way, I know I’m not going to send my project but I’m going to make it a good training day, and you walk away not being able to lift your arms above your head, but you’ve achieved so much more than taking a rest day and coming back the next day. It’s really high motivation all the time with most of the Canberrans.

Onsight What do you do for a living (job, study)?

Daniel I’m studying to be a teacher in Design and Technology being Woodwork and Metal work the area I want to go in to the most. That’s full time study but I work on the side doing high access work, abseiling off the side of the buildings, cleaning and maintenance of them.

Onsight The first time I saw you climbing was in the Nationals in 2012, where you blitzed the field in that one. Are comps important to you, are you planning to do more of them?

Daniel In all honesty I struggle with comps, I’m not a huge fan, I stress a lot. So I get in to the comps and I try to ignore the anxiety that I have, but I’m not very good in comps because… I think my style is more to explore as it comes and not very flowing, which I think tends [to work] very well in comps, you need to have that slow style where you need to make sure that your feet are perfectly placed and that sort of thing. Whereas I’ve had a number of comps where I’ve fallen off the first moves of the route. So yeah, I’m not a huge fan of comps. I do enjoy them, I do walk away sore and I do feel that they are a really good training aspect. I do plan on doing the bouldering series again this year but yeah, I struggle with comps.

Daniel Fisher winning the 2012 Australian Nationals.Onsight So what did you get up to after the 2012 Nationals? It’s like things went a bit quiet for a while, if that’s far to say?

Daniel So towards the end of 2012 I started getting an injury in my forearms which was just from over climbing. It was just a strain in my forearms. I was working towards getting the first ascent of a route in Canberra called Vertigo, and I was training quite hard for that and fell off towards the end of the crux on a few good goes and then got rained out for a few weeks. After that I took a six week break because the pain was so much that I couldn’t climb. I had a month climbing again but the pain came back and eventually that pain got too much again so then I stopped for four months. In that time I saw a Physio to start with, did a few months with him, then I saw a Chiropractor, an Acupuncturist and an Osteopath and none of it worked well. All of them came close but it was on the border line, they would say “okay you’re fixed go and climb again” but then the pain would come back within a two week period. My mum was hassling me to go see an acupuncturist, this little old Chinese lady and so finally I went to see her. I’d planned to go to the Grampians for ten days regardless of the outcome, just go anyway with my forearms in the condition they were in, I was happy to go away and hang out and stuff. And so I had one session with her and went to the Grampians and climbed ten days straight with no pain what so ever. It was incredible. I’ve had three sessions with her now and I’ve not had a problem since.

Onsight You climb at Nowra a lot, is that because it’s accessible?

Daniel Yes, but also the style suits me very well, they are short, powerful hard routes. And for me I train a lot of that in the climbing gym at Canberra, it’s very short at Canberra, maybe 10m if you’re lucky. So all my training is bouldering and that flows very well into Nowra I think.

Onsight So you’ve ticked a lot of the hard routes at Nowra?

Daniel Yes most of the hard routes, there’s still a couple that I’d like to get done. One of my favourite was Stamp Tramp or Tramp Stamp depending on which way you look at it, it goes up through the Grease Cave which is grade 32, a gorgeous flake line through the roof. That for me was a huge accomplishment. That was right before I went over to Europe for the World’s [the Youth World Cup]. I stopped going outdoors for about three months and I trained solely indoors for the World’s. Then I went outdoors for one weekend and it felt so easy and that for me was such a huge realisation of how good training is I guess. It was so motivating to know that all that training and all that time and effort that I’d put in had paid off so well.

Daniel Fisher crushing Chessy Afro Box (33) at Cheesedale, Nowra.

Daniel Fisher crushing Chessy Afro Box (33) at Cheesedale, Nowra.

Onsight So when did you go over to the World’s?

Daniel In 2011 I went over to Austria and spent two months over there, one month in Austria and one month in the Frankenjura with Rob and Carlie (LeBreton).

Onsight When you say World’s was that Lead or Boulder? How did you go?

Daniel That was Lead World’s (in Imst). So again, comps not being my forte, in the heats I placed 9th in both and I was feeling really good. I went in to the finals, that day it was raining, I had a wet rope, wet shoes, all the excuses. I came out and slipped off early on which I was very unhappy with because I didn’t feel pumped and I felt like I could’ve kept going. I ended up placing 19th, which I was very happy with but still it was frustrating because I knew I could’ve done so much better.

Onsight Do you think you’d do more World Cup comps?

Daniel Probably not. Again I’m not a massive supporter of comps, eventually I’d like to give it another go, challenging wise and motivation wise it would be amazing but not any time soon.

Daniel on the Attack Mode (32) section of White Ladder.Onsight And you liked the Frankenjura?

Daniel The climbing lifestyle is such an amazing thing, being able to shut out the world and being able to live, eat, breathe climbing every day for a month with Rob and Carlie, who are both lovely people, was just amazing. I almost became their son after a month.

Onsight Let’s move on to White Ladder which you’ve just climbed a few weeks ago. Tell us the process behind that; you mentioned you first tried it a few years ago?

Daniel So the bottom of White Ladder is called Attack Mode, grade 32, and you add an extra bolt and you’ve got White Ladder, which is 34. I sent Attack Mode in 2010 and kind of always wanted to go on further and send White Ladder. But I remember jumping on White Ladder and not being able to do a move, having no chance what so ever, didn’t even come close to being able to do the move. Then kind of tried it again on and off for the next couple of years, four or five years, until eventually at the end of last year I jumped on it and finally did the move, that for me was huge and I thought this will eventually go, I’d love to start training for this. So I started doing a lot of power endurance training and at the start of this year went back again. I did the start bit and that but it didn’t feel amazing and then got into White Ladder and the moves just felt easy. It was huge, that for me lifted such a mental block, I think, and a physical block, just knowing that I could do those moves quite comfortably. So the next week I ended up coming out and spending two days on that. The first day didn’t go so good I fell off six or seven times and I was a bit down trodden. I took the next day off, and back on it again on it the day after that. Yeah got it on the last send of the day, I was very lucky and very happy with that.

Onsight Wow, that’s pretty good because every time you’re having to do Attack Mode.

Daniel Yeah I was running seven to ten laps on that a day and was physically exhausted. So it was quite a relief to have sent it. I remember sitting down before the last attempt, sitting down feeling sore not thinking that I was going to send and already I’d planned out the week ahead of me… in preparation, just in case I failed on that trip, but it didn’t come to that which was nice.

Daniel on the Attack Mode (32) section of White Ladder.Onsight There hasn’t been any controversy has there, because you didn’t carry a chalk bag, that it wasn’t a valid ascent? Tell us about that.

Daniel So just before the last go I was sitting down chalking up before I pulled on and as I’m chalking up I’m thinking to myself. I don’t actually chalk up once in this route, I cannot physically take my hands off long enough to chalk up, and so I unclipped it, put the chalk bag down, and ended up sending the route. Then all the people I was with ended up teasing me quite a bit. Saying, I don’t know if you can count the send on that, you didn’t have your chalk bag on, I don’t know if that counts…

Onsight (laughs) I just made that up, I wasn’t expecting anyone would have hassled you about that. But obviously the weight you left on the ground made all the difference.

Daniel It must have cause that’s the only difference between all the other shots.

Onsight Any current projects? You mentioned Vertigo? The ridiculously thin, sharp, overhanging crack, seam on the back of the Tower Rocks at Orroral Ridge near Canberra. I actually aid climbed that back in 1986 in preparation for Ozymandias.

Daniel Fisher pulling the crux of White Ladder.Daniel Firstly, congratulations on your aid climb that is not a nice one to aid climb I don’t think. So yeah, I’d probably been out there about seven or eight times just trying the route, there’s a nice window at the end of the year where it’s not too hot and it’s not raining… when it’s in pristine condition. It’s this unbelievable line, it’s these two perfect cracks that run side by side probably for ten metres or so and you’re just doing these tick tack moves. For every hand move you do about six foot moves and by the end of it my forearms are about to explode. It’s just amazing climbing.

Onsight Really? It just looks horrendous.

Daniel Yeah. Well I think until I send it I’m just going to keep positive about how much I enjoy the climbing. It is one that I use a lot of tape for on my fingers. As the day progresses the tape builds up.

Onsight Any other projects or places you’d like to go? What are you plans with your climbing?

Daniel I’d love to get back to the Blue Mountains this season. Every other year I’ve had Nowra there and it looked like such a daunting task. There are still a lot of open projects at Nowra that are waiting for a first ascent and I’d love to go down and tick but will see how it goes.

Onsight Anything on the world scene?

Daniel Ideally ever since I was young my dad explained to me that the world’s hardest climb was Action Direct, where you’re popping from single finger to single finger. I did actually get on it when I was over there and felt all the moves, and the holds felt a lot better than I thought they’d be, there was no mono’s as such, lots of shallow two finger pockets and the thing I struggle with the most was keeping my feet on. So that for me has always been a lifetime goals and it will always be a lifetime goal…

Onsight Who are your role models, if any? Why?

Daniel I’ve always looked up to my dad. Since I was young my dad to me has always been my hero. I remember we were at the crag one time, when I was about eight, and I went up to him and asked, “Dad, dad, what’s the hardest climb you’ve ever done? How hard does it go?” He replied, “One time I did a 25”. I remember that blew my mind, “a 25, that’s incredible” I screamed. I couldn’t fathom a 25 and my dad, like that was huge for me. And so always since then I love thinking back to that moment. That’s how I push grades because I remember thinking that 25 was such a mind block for me back then, whereas now I’m looking at things up at 8c+, and 9a is the dream for me. I’ve always wanted to achieve 9a and it’s such a huge block but I always think back to that moment, trying to be positive and think oh, its only 25, it’s okay.

Daniel Fisher.Onsight Is your dad taking a lot of pleasure watching you achieve in climbing?

Daniel Yeah. The first thing I do when I get home is either I’ll go over to my parent’s house or my dad will call me. He’ll say, “So what did you do this weekend? Tell me everything you did.” And so I’ll sit down and explain. And he’s like, alright so how did you do this move? And what did you do here? Maybe you could do this. It’s such a good bonding experience. I love coming home from climbing and having my dad there to support me. When I came home and told him that I sent White Ladder he was over the moon it was incredible. That’s always been a huge part of climbing for me. How supportive my dad is.

Onsight That’s awesome. So tell me your secret; what do you do for training? Any tips for us punters?

Daniel Lately lots of campussing and lots of power endurance I cannot emphasise that enough.

Onsight What do you do for power endurance training?

Daniel I have four problems (which are just at my limit) and I do five sets of them. So I do one lap of each of the four problems (in a row) as quick as I can and then take two minutes break and then do another lap and two minutes break. So I’ll do that five times and that’s enough for me. It not only trains power endurance it trains power. That’s what I did in preparation up to World’s and I can’t speak enough for power endurance. It hurts and it sucks but after you’ve put in your month and a half it’s incredible the difference it makes.

Onsight Certainly seems to! Thanks Daniel, that’s great. Congratulations again on sending White Ladder and thanks so much for your time.

Daniel is sponsored by Edelrid and Scarpa through Outdoor Agencies.

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Goddam slackers! Sun, 16 Mar 2014 06:29:32 +0000 Goddam Slackers! Don’t they know I have work to do? But that’s right, “I’m a photographer”. And what better “excuse” to “slack off” for a bit — and get out and capture some of the sweet slack-line action that I’d been hearing about. This was a little get together of like-minded slackers — and it was right here in the Blue Mountains.

Of course, slack-lining is easy-peasey. Set that tape up just one foot above the ground, and I too have no trouble walking it like a boss for all of at least 0.57 seconds. But no. We’re talking about the long and high pant-pooping version of slacklining here — highlining.

James Short stridently striding the length of a mega-long line, somewhere high above the Megalong Valley, Blue Mountains.

James Short stridently striding the length of a mega-long line, somewhere high above the Megalong Valley, in the Blue Mountains.

The first time I saw high-lining was when some guys walked from the summit of the Totem Pole, back in 2007. Well it sure is good to see that the gear has progressed since then. Now they have specifically made tape instead of climbers webbing, and other bits and bobs, which helps make for safer set ups.

I guess a lot (but of course not all) slackliners got into to it through rock climbing, since it is a popular way to spend rest days at camp sites such as Arapiles, Camp 4, and the like. But now it’s definitely a sport all on it’s own. The community is growing fast, the psych is high, the skills are on the up and up. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this.

Shane Yates walking the walk.

Shane Yates walking the walk.

This was great to see. And fun to hang out for a bit. Thanks gang. Here’s a few more shots from the day — just click any image to browse them all. Thanks for visiting my blog. More soon.

James Short. Tim Desmond. Skills. Tim Desmond. And spills. Tim Desmond. This time really at the end of his tether. Otemta Sanna. Otemta Sanna. "Hi Mum!".
James Short. Goddam Slackers!

James Short. Asleep in the job. Goddam Slackers!

]]> 0 Kalymnos Greece ~ gallery and beta Mon, 10 Mar 2014 00:16:00 +0000 Over the last 20 years I’ve been lucky to have photographed at dozens of climbing areas around the world. Keep your eye on this web site as we will be regularly releasing new photo galleries here. Along with my photos, there will be some information and beta about each area.

First up, lets take a tour of Kalymnos in Greece – one of the world’s great climbing holiday destinations. See the gallery –> here.

To stay in touch, and get bonuses (including computer wallpapers for images like this one below), be sure to sign up for our newsletter –> here.

Evan Stevens, The Siege of Thermopylae (6c+), sector Spartacus, Kalymnos, Greece, with Telendos Island in the background.

Evan Stevens, The Siege of Thermopylae (6c+), sector Spartacus, Kalymnos, Greece, with Telendos Island in the background.

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Rock and Ice cover Thu, 27 Feb 2014 05:32:57 +0000 Had a nice surprise when opening my Post Office box on Friday. There staring up at me was the latest Rock and Ice Magazine – and with my photo on the cover! Had to look twice. Wasn’t expecting that. Was I dreaming? So I unwrapped it and had a closer look. Yes, it is for real, that cover is glued on there good and proper. Perfect reproduction and several shots of mine running inside too. Stoked!

I know, it’s probably funny, that after 20 years in the game I can still get excited about a cover — but I think that’s good – yeah? But Rock and Ice is not just any magazine. They have an awesome team who really know what  they are doing and it’s no surprise to see the magazine is going great-guns. I’ve been a contributor for years and am always proud to get my work in there. As always, thank you Rock and Ice for publishing my work!

The photo is of Steve Moon climbing Pole Dancer (22) at the end of Cape Raoul, Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia.

The photo is of Steve Moon climbing Pole Dancer (22) at the end of Cape Raoul, Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia.

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Memorial Maria Luisa Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:28:07 +0000 The Memorial Maria Luisa Photography Competition seemed like a good cause so I entered a few shots. I’m happy they both ended up with Highly Commended awards in the climbing category. Sweet!

See all the winning photos on their web site here.

Lee Cujes making the first ascent of License to Climb Harder (7c), on The Face -- one of 2153 limestone karsts in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

Lee Cujes making the first ascent of License to Climb Harder (7c), on The Face — one of 2153 limestone karsts in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

Doug McConnell leading, with Dean Rollins belaying, on The Ewbank Route (aka The Freed Route), which they freed at grade 27 in January 2009, on the 65 metre Totem Pole, at Cape Hauy, Tasmania, Australia.

Doug McConnell leading, with Dean Rollins belaying, on The Ewbank Route (aka The Freed Route), which they freed at grade 27 in January 2009, on the 65 metre Totem Pole, at Cape Hauy, Tasmania, Australia.

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Is the future of hard Australian climbing set in (Elphin)stone? Wed, 05 Feb 2014 23:38:57 +0000 It’s a rhetorical question really — but we do think it is about time to unveil Elphinstone.

So what is this “Elphinstone” that we speak of? Well first, let’s be clear, we are not talking about the town of Elphinstone in Victoria, the County of Elphinstone in Queensland nor the reef of Elphinstone in the Red Sea. No, none of those — but Google Elphinstone and that’s mostly what you’ll find. Here we’re talking about the mega new (and mega hard) sports crag of Elphinstone (Elephant Stone) in the Blue Mountains!

Maybe you saw some “better than Taipan (Wall)” hype on Facebook but chances are you’ve probably not read too much about this place as yet. In typical Blue Mountains style, initial discovery and development was kept rather quiet, understandably. Word kind of just seeped out. But the Elephant is out of the bag now, so to speak. In fact, all of the currently available crag beta is now available on The Crag website here. The first two sentences there claim, and say, a lot:

This crag will prove to be the citadel of hard climbing in the Mountains. Pitches are generally around 30-35m, uncharacteristically sustained and pumpy, on bullet proof rock.

So let’s take a look at Elphinstone, it’s also an excuse for me to show you some new pics. Without further ado, may I present to you… (drum roll please)… ELPHINSTONE!!!

035 D0334-unveiled

The Main Wall. Way steeper than it looks and the height is deceptive; it’s about 30-metres up to the grey rock.

Looking from Cahills Lookout in Katoomba, Elphinstone is easily visible on the Radiata Plateau (which starts near Explorer’s Tree) to the north. So it is likely that climbers had gazed at the wall and at least considered the possibilities in the past. It wasn’t until Rowan Druce came along in 2011 with a vision for the place — and the energy to nut out the difficult approach — that the ball got rolling. The only practical approach is via a 50-metre vertical and overhanging abseil. That in itself isn’t such a great problem but getting out again on a regular basis wouldn’t have been a lot of fun. That problem was solved with a whole bunch of rungs.

Roman Hofmann attempting Tiger Cat (33), Elphinstone.

Roman Hofmann attempting Tiger Cat (33).

Initially, the fact that the rungs aren’t glued in can be a little disconcerting, but not too many of them seemed to have pulled out — as yet! In any case, you use your abseil rope and an auto-belay device (such as Mini-Traxion or Ropeman) to protect yourself on the climb out. It’s overhanging and can be pumpy with a pack on. But the easiest bolted route at Elphinstone is solid grade 26, so if you can climb here then the rungs shouldn’t feel too bad!

With the all-important end-of-the-day back-to-the-pub access sorted, Rowan and Lee Cossey together spent months bolting the plum lines on the spectacular and extremely steep Main Wall. Later Emil Mandyczewsky and Julian Saunders came along and snagged the plums at the Dumbo Love Sector. There is also a smaller area between the Main Wall and Dumbo Love Sector, called Gay Paris Wall, which more recently has sprouted a few lines. Scott Boladeras, Chris Coppard, Ben Cossey, Tom O’Halloran and Matt Norgrove have also contributed to the development here.

Matt Norgrove, Tiger Snatch (30).

Matt Norgrove, Tiger Snatch (30).

This crag is not like some others that have been developed in the Blue Mountains over the years — only to turn into white elephants. I’ve hung out there a bit this last year and — having seen the action, the rock and the many projects now on the go — I do think it’s fair to say; this time we do indeed have the real elephant deal. And that, of course, is something that a lot of Blue Mountains (hard) climbers had been hoping for.

I find it strange, and a little inspiring, to think that one of the best hard crags in the Mountains has only been discovered and developed in recent years. Will this herald a new way of looking at things? A whole lot of thrutching around in the bush and re-examining things previously under our noses perhaps? That could be interesting. In fact, I hear there’s a new crag… oh, never mind.

On paper it would seem Elphinstone has little basis for wresting the “jewel of hard sports climbing” crown away from Diamond Falls — just yet. Diamond Falls is home to one 35, two 34′s, and seven 33′s. All the Elephant can boast is two 33′s and six 32′s. Long way to go kiddo. But of course — it’s the projects. After so much time and effort has gone into bolting it’s now time to climb and inevitably there will be more big – and bigger – numbers to fall, perhaps soon. And if Elphinstone ever felt the need to pad out the numbers, it could take a leaf out of Diamonds Fall’s book, and it too could be blessed with a whole bunch of link-ups. But seriously, Elphinstone does have a lot going for it compared to Diamond Falls: afternoon shade, far friendlier (less razorbladesque) rock, and much longer routes. “Pitches are generally around 30-35m, uncharacteristically sustained and pumpy”, sums it up really. Wonderfully long, hard Euro-style resistance climbing. In a nutshell, perfect for ultra-hard climbing!

Edward Hamer, Tiger Cat (33). Clearly the route to do here..

Edward Hamer, Tiger Cat (33). The route to do here.

And what about that “better than Taipan” claim? Well, of course it’s a joke — and sacrilegious at that! That notion would undoubtedly have some Victorian-centric commentators squirming in their pants. Of course, nothing can dare to be compared to the beloved majestical Taipan!

Or can it?

Of course, Elphinstone doesn’t nearly have the good looks of Taipan. And in the same way that dating a model can, very occasionally, perhaps, possibly, on occasion, suck, in a small way, Elphinstone is perhaps very slightly more the kind of crag you’d want to have a serious relationship with. I remember chatting with Chris Sharma last year at Oliana, we were comparing Oliana and Ceuse and I mentioned that the rock at Oliana wasn’t as perfect as at Ceuse. But Chris pointed out that this was in fact a good thing for ultra-hard climbing. Compared to Ceuse’s smooth perfection which sometimes completely blanks out, Oliana is more broken and flaky but those little edges always seem to show up and give climbers something, however small, to work with. The result is very long sustained stretches of extremely hard climbing. And that’s a similar situation with (smooth perfect) Taipan and (edgy featured) Elphinstone. Add to that the fact that Elphinstone is somewhat steeper, and nor does it yet suffer from Taipan’s legacy of *cough* bad bolting, and it seems that in *some* ways, at least, the “better than Taipan” claim may not be quite as delusional as it first seems — though some qualification is certainly required.

Will Currie working Brummel Hook (30).

Will Currie working Brummel Hook (30).

So anyway, “Is the future of hard Australian climbing set in (Elphin)stone?” Well, it was a rhetorical question because, of course, nothing is set in stone, and developments can and do occur elsewhere. But if the question was, “Will Elphinstone have much of an impact of the development of hard climbing in the Blue Mountains, or even Australia?”, then the answer to that is: yes indeed, and in time surely a fairly significant one. Of course, some of Australia’s strongest climbers don’t live, or regularly climb, in the Blue Mountains, but there are some that do. And for these locals, this crag has been a godsend. Indeed, the crag has already seen some significant ascents, in particular Andrea Hah’s send of the freshly minted Tiger Cat last year, which was only the second grade 33 route to be climbed by an Australian woman. Also, because of the hard resistance style of climbing, the fitness that climbers develop here will transfer nicely to other places as well. So Elphinstone is already having an impact on the development of hard climbing around here — and it is really just getting started.

But in a nutshell, the routes at Elphinstone are long gob-smacking lines with great climbing. They have got some of the best climbers around here inspired and excited. Frothing. And in terms of hard climbing — or just climbing in general — that, surely, is the most important thing of all.

So welcome to Elphinstone!

Just click on an image to browse the gallery.

Roman Hofmann attempting Tiger Cat (33). Roman Hofmann attempting Tiger Cat (33). Will Currie working Brummel Hook (30). Main Wall on the left, and Dumbo Love sector in the shade on the right. Andrea Hah warming up on Tiger Snatch (30). Training for Spain? Monique Forestier attempting Tiger Cat (33). Yeah, better than Taipan. Kind of. Edward Hamer, Tiger Cat (33), Elphinstone. Edward Hamer, Tiger Cat (33), Elphinstone.

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Blue Mountains new access info Thu, 30 Jan 2014 10:32:09 +0000 There is some important new climbing access information and a new access track to The Freezer and Cosmic County, as well as Logan Brae, in the Blue Mountains. If you plan to climb at these crags, please make yourself familiar with the situation and be sure to use the new tracks. All the info is here.

Guide Map altered mk2

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Goal Zero & sponsors Fri, 24 Jan 2014 00:29:18 +0000 Great news! I’m really honoured to have been selected as one of the ambassadors for Goal Zero in Australia! Joining a great team of ambassadors too.

In case you don’t know about them, Goal Zero is an awesome company making solar power practical and portable. Learn how to solar power your adventures by following them on Facebook here and on their website here.

Very stoked about this. Thanks Goal Zero!

Lunchtime top-up of my iphone with the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus, at Mt Buffalo last year.

Lunchtime top-up of my iphone with the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus, at Mt Buffalo last year.

Speaking of sponsors, I’ll just quickly take this opportunity to thank my long term rope sponsor Sterling Rope who have been supporting me for at least 10 years. I use their static ropes for photography and dynamic for climbing. If I have to trust my life to a rope, and I do, then I couldn’t be happier to use Sterling Rope. They are a fantastic brand, check them out here.

Many thanks also to La Sportiva — makers of great climbing and approach shoes. And Julbo — creators of stylish sunglasses and entrusted protectors of my eyes. Both of these brands got behind me last year.

It’s not only awesome to use great gear from these brands, their support does help me a lot in my work.

Thank you so much. You rock!

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