Simon Carter's Onsight Photography http://www.onsight.com.au Where Climbing and Photography Meet Fri, 25 Jul 2014 02:53:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Daila Ojeda interviewhttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/07/daila-ojeda-interview/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/07/daila-ojeda-interview/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 02:57:18 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3737 Daila Ojeda

Interviewed by Monique Forestier. Photos as credited.

Daila Ojeda is a well accomplished sport climber best-known for her hard ascents at Oliana, which include Fish Eye (8c), Mind Control (8c/+), El Gran Blau (8b+/c), and many more hard ascents scattered throughout Catalunya. Monique had the chance to catch up with Daila recently and ask her a few questions about her climbing and her future.

Daila Ojeda, Mind Control (8c/+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila Ojeda, Mind Control (8c/+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Onsight: Let’s start with a bit of back ground for those who don’t know you too well. Where did you grow up? What sports did you play as a child? And how did you eventually get into climbing? How old were you when you started climbing?

Daila: I am from Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), I was born there in a little village where normally people surf, there is not a lot of climbing there, it’s not a famous sport. When I was 18 I watched a little bouldering competition in my home town I fell in love with this activity, I fell in love specially with the women, I saw the girls, super feminine, beautiful, super flexible, like a cat, lithe. I made climbing friends from my village and every weekend would ask them to take me outside for climbing. Come on, come on, can I climb with you? I am super thankful to these people, they took me climbing, they set up top ropes for me and helped me climb.

Daila Ojeda at Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila Ojeda at Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Onsight: What did you like so much about climbing?

Daila: When I start it was just something new, especially to be outside, I love being outside for sport, like surfing. Others sports like football or tennis or whatever you are always in the same place but with climbing it is always different.

Onsight: So you moved from Canary Islands to be where the ¨real¨ climbing was, to Catalunya. Was it a difficult decision and what made you decide to do so?

Daila: When I started climbing, I realised that I wanted to be close to the rock, I wanted to climb you know, so I wanted to be close to the climbing. I met friends who lived in Catalunya also I met my boyfriend in this time, Dani Andrada and thought well maybe I can go there. This is one of the best areas for climbing and I decided to move there. And I thought I can always come back to Gran Canaria to visit my family, my friends, it’s close. So finally I have been here now for almost ten years. Good community and good place to live also, beside from the climbing.

Daila Ojeda, Mind Control (8c/+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila Ojeda, Mind Control (8c/+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Onsight: You know that you have inspired many females around the world with your ascent of Fish Eye in 2010, including myself. What was it about this route that attracted you to it?

Daila: When I try one route it is important for me to like the route, the line. If I don’t like it I don’t want to try. But this one was a long route and the style I liked, when I saw people climbing I thought I want to try this. My boyfriend then, Chris Sharma, he bolted the route and he said, yeah you have to try, he encouraged me. Also other friends they told me if you like the route and if you want to climb 8c then this one is solid 8c. It is good because a lot of the time with women, what happens is that you climb the route then people say it’s soft, it’s is easy, it gets downgraded. It wasn’t so important but I liked the style of Fish Eye and I wanted to see the limit for me now, so it would be good if people don’t say it’s easy later on. Fish Eye was the perfect route, the perfect moment for me to try and I was motivated.

Onsight: So when you did Fish Eye, did you then think differently about yourself as a climber? Did you feel confident that you could push it further?

Daila Ojeda, Pati Pa Mi (8b), Siurana, Spain. Photo: Colette McInerney.

Daila Ojeda, Pati Pa Mi (8b), Siurana, Spain. Photo: Colette McInerney.

Daila: Yes, yes. When I did it I thought  I can do that, but it’s a new grade, like when I first climb 7a it was like oh I can do that, yeah now I can try harder routes. I felt super motivated and satisfied and proud of myself. You know you can do that and it motivated me and gave me confidence to try harder routes.

Onsight: What did you do to celebrate?

Daila: Nothing special, you know, but I remember going to dinner in Ponts, in the little village, with friends, having beer, nothing special but it was special at the same time.

Onsight: After Fish Eye you went on to do Mind Control (8c/+). Tell us about the process. Did the route come easy? Or was it a fight?

Daila Ojeda, En Gran Blau (8b+/c), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila Ojeda, En Gran Blau (8b+/c), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila: I don’t think it’s much harder than Fish Eye, it’s harder but not much harder. Before I went to do Mind Control I was trying El Gran Blau, for me it was not hard in the moves, but solid, hard for short people, and it was psychological. I tried it a lot, I wanted to do this route and I fell many, many times at the top. I thought about not trying this route anymore. But I don’t like this idea, I like to finish a project. I’m a little bit black or white. But then I thought maybe now I think I am a bit stronger and I can try Mind Control and leave El Gran Blau for the moment, for my mind. But in my mind I never thought I am strong enough to do Mind Control, how I can do that, because it is harder than El Gran Blau and I haven’t done that. But I knew I can do El Gran Blau and I can come back and thought also that it was super good training for Mind Control. I did Mind Control faster than El Gran Blau. Then when I came back to try El Gran Blau I was more confident.

Onsight: Fish Eye and Mind Control are super classic modern day test-pieces which have become popular with other women (and men) to attempt. You were the first woman to climb both of these routes and, as I said earlier, you accents have been an inspiration to me to try these routes. How do you feel knowing that these routes have become popular routes for the strongest women to try in order to push their own limits?

Coco Carter, Daila Ojeda and Sasha DiGiulian sharing beta for Mind Control (8c/+), at Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Coco Carter, Daila Ojeda and Sasha DiGiulian sharing beta for Mind Control (8c/+), at Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila: Well I feel happy for that. I mean when you climb beautiful routes you feel like everybody has to try this!

Onsight: Who is your role model? Climber or otherwise?

Daila: People who don’t have fear, not just climbers, people who just try and live their lives in the present, they like what they do and they are happy. Yes many other people but mostly my father. He was a really positive person, he told me, you have to be happy, if you are in Gran Canaria studying or climbing you have to be happy, now you have the time. He say don’t worry about things just do it. So I like this role model.

Onsight: So what do you do for climbing training? Do you write a program? Do you train on plastic? Do you use a finger board, do you campus?

Daila: When I started climbing I trained in the climbing gym in Gran Canaria, There are not many climbing areas and I was studying and I was working and had no time so I just climbed in the gym. I went there to train, not specific training I went there just for bouldering, do whatever with my friends. After when I came here, to Catalunya, I was just climbing outside. I don’t know if this works for everybody because many times you go to the cliff and you don’t know if you will be strong, or you have to rest this day. You may arrive and say OK I don’t like this moment I can’t climb today, I am tired. But for me it is important to be motivated more than stronger physically. If I want to try this route, because I love it, I try because I feel good in the route, sometimes I feel stronger in my body but it doesn’t work for me. So I think this is slow for getting stronger but it’s better for motivation.

Daila Ojeda, Pestilence (7c+), Sector Big Ben, La Turbie, France. Photo: Colette McInerney.

Daila Ojeda, Pestilence (7c+), Sector Big Ben, La Turbie, France. Photo: Colette McInerney.

Onsight: Last year you were plagued by a finger tendon injury, how did you manage the ups and downs of not being able to climb for most of the year? What training did you do?

Daila: Yes I tore my pulley. They said maybe you can have surgery or rest. So I decided to rest. It was a bad time but a good time. I realized that I was not happy not climbing. But I discovered that I needed to be balanced, to have a good life without climbing. Now I can do many other things in my life to be happy not just climbing. I that moment I went to Gran Canaria to see my family often, I went to skiing, I traveled more and almost every day I went running, it was good for my mind and good for my body. And now after one year I am happy to come back climbing but not like there isn’t anything else in my life.  I am psyched for traveling to know other places, pushing my limits but also trying new areas, climbing not hard routes but different styles, different countries. I don’t want to forget why I start climbing.

Daila Ojeda, Star Gladiator (7c+), Castillon, France. Photo: Patrick Franza.

Daila Ojeda, Star Gladiator (7c+), Castillon, France. Photo: Patrick Franza.

Onsight: You must come to Australia.

Daila: Yes I would like to go there. Especially now I have completed one cycle of my life and now this is a new cycle, to travel with climbing.

Onsight: You have now relocated to Italy, where about in Italy did you go and why did you chose this particular spot?

Daila: Last summer I decided to go to Italy for a climbing holiday with my friends from Gran Canaria. It was nice for me to climb in another place, new routes, like when I first came to Catalunya. The people there are similar to the Spanish super open people. I met friends and I was traveling between Catalunya and Italy a lot, and I thought that I would live in Era Vella (our house in Catalunya) but when I went back there I realised that I don’t want to be here now. I have many important people and friends in Catalunya but not for living, I decided to go to Italy and change my life cycle and find a balance there, working, climbing, be more grounded than before. I feel good in my climbing and personal/sentimental life here so I am starting my new adventure in this amazing country!

Daila Ojeda, Pestilence (7c+), Sector Big Ben, La Turbie, France. Photo: Colette McInerney.

Daila Ojeda, Pestilence (7c+), Sector Big Ben, La Turbie, France. Photo: Colette McInerney.

Onsight: How does the climbing compare to Catalunya?

Daila: I just know few climbing places in Italy. I live close to France so I climb in both countries. I like the landscape, it has more mountains close, snow, you can do other things. I am psyched to know new places here!

Onsight: Have you been able to meet a positive climbing scene there?

Daila: Yes for sure where I live there is a nice climbing gym (Il Punto) the people there are super nice. There is a youth women’s team and I would like to coach them, they are psyched, I am psyched. Also there are a big climbing community here, Italian people are really psyched and motivated.

Daila Ojeda, Mind Control (8c/+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila Ojeda, Mind Control (8c/+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Onsight: What cultural differences are there in Italy compared to Spain? Do you speak Italian?

Daila: I try to speak Italian it is very similar to Spanish. I want to go to school also because in the future if I want to work there it’s important to know the language. It is a beautiful language and so I am psyched to learn. The best cultural thing in Italia for sure is the gastronomy; food and wine are super good here!

Onsight: You have a new project now at Andonno in Italy called Noi (8b+) it is described as ‘old school’. Tell us about this route.

Daila: Noi, it’s a super logic line, fisic moves and then one thin crack. When I came back from Brazil last year I hadn’t been climbing a lot so initially I didn’t want to try because its 8b+ and I was only climbing 7b in Brazil. But my friend, Barbara (Raudner) from Austria, she’s super psyched a real fanatic, she tried the route, Noi, and said venga Daila you have to try the moves. When you try the moves you get hooked, and I felt super good and I was very close to doing it but then we went for a little travel to Sicily. When I came back it was wet and cold. But now I will come back it’s dry again!!

Onsight: A climber of your calibre must have several financial sponsorships. How do you support your climbing lifestyle?

Daila: I feel very lucky because I have a lot of support from my sponsors, like prana, Scarpa now, Sterling ropes and Petzl who I have been with several years now. I have to say thanks to my sponsors otherwise it is not possible for me to do what I have been doing for many years now. Thank you to all!

Onsight: So you have recently signed on with Scarpa shoes, what is your favourite model?

Daila: I love Boostic! And now they have the new Booster S, this is super, super nice, it is comfortable and I feel a lot of precision. It’s a nice balance between being soft and precise. Now I can’t try any other shoes.

Onsight: Where next? What are your plans for this year?

Daila Ojeda, En Gran Blau (8b+/c), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila Ojeda, En Gran Blau (8b+/c), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Simon Carter.

Daila: I never know my future plans but I see the next short term plan is going to Italy and to make my life there. After I want to go to Catalunya, Sicily and make a summer trip to USA. Maybe also Cuba?

Onsight: Where is your favourite place to climb in the world?

Daila: Now Oliana. But there are so many places that I haven’t been.

Onsight: Many thanks for your time today Daila.

—————-

Daila is sponsored by: Scarpa, Sterling Rope, Petzl , prAna, Climbskin, Margullo Canarias.

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Les Calanques, France ~ galleryhttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/05/les-calanques-france-gallery/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/05/les-calanques-france-gallery/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 03:22:01 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3631 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.

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Thanks for visiting my site! More soon.

~ Simon

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

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Barbara Zangerl ~ interviewhttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/04/barbara-zangerl/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/04/barbara-zangerl/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:59:36 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3502 Barbara Zangerl ~ interviewed by Monique Forestier. Photos as credited.

Austria’s Barbara Zangerl (25) initially made her name in competition bouldering winning the Italian Melloblocco five times. On rock she achieved the first female ascent of Pura Vida (V12/V13) at Magic Wood in Switzerland back in 2008. Soon after she was forced to stop bouldering due to a back injury and turned her energy towards roped climbing. It seems that the shift in disciplines has allowed Barbara to excel even further. Last year she completed the highly venerated “Alpine Trilogy”, comprised of, End of Silence, Silbergeier and Des Kaisers neue Kleider. Respected for their boldness, these enduring multi-pitch routes are in alpine style and have long run-outs, all three routes were established in 1994 and given the grade of 8b+. I met Barbara at Oliana (Feb 2014) and was excited to ask her some questions about her climbing achievements and future plans.

Barbara Zangerl, Delicatessen, 120m (8b), Corsica. Photo: Klaus Dell'Orto.

Barbara Zangerl, Delicatessen, 120m (8b), Corsica. Photo: Klaus Dell’Orto.

Onsight: Hello Barbara thank you for your time today.

BZ: No problem thank you.

Onsight: I would like to start by asking you about your background. Firstly where did you grow up? How did you get into climbing? What age were you? And did you do any other sports before this?

Barbara Zangerl, <strong>Shining</strong> (8a), Silvretta, Austria. Photo: Reinhard Fichtinger.

Barbara Zangerl, Shining (8a), Silvretta, Austria. Photo: Reinhard Fichtinger.

BZ: I grew up in Strengen, a small village in Arlberg region, in Tyrol and now I changed the place I live in Bludenz (Vorarlberg) as I also work in the hospital (as a radiological technologist) I started climbing when I was 14 together with my sister, we started in a bouldering gym in Flirsch and we started climbing for the first time. In the beginning I was just focused on bouldering. One year after I started bouldering we went the first time outdoors to Ticino and tried bouldering outdoors. That for me was fun and it was cool to try it together with lots of friends. Before climbing I tried a lot of sports, I tried skiing, football, but did not like them so much.

Onsight: Why did you think that climbing was a good fit for you?

BZ: For me it was really cool to go for the weekend to another place, see new places, new people and to go away from home for some time. And especially it was cool to try together with friends boulders and push each other, getting better and better.

Onsight: So you started as a boulderer and you were very successful. Tell us a little about this time.

Barbara Zangerl, Hotel Supramonte, 400m (8b), Gola di Gorroppu, Sardinia. Photo: Radek Capek.

Barbara Zangerl, Hotel Supramonte, 400m (8b), Gola di Gorroppu, Sardinia. Photo: Radek Capek.

BZ: Yes when I started the first time in the gym, I was so motivated for bouldering that after the first time then I went three times a week. We didn’t train, like real training, we only went bouldering and after when we went outdoors for bouldering, for me I would sit under the boulder for so long and try many times, that I could just do it, it felt natural for me this process.

Onsight: Due to a back injury you were forced to change from bouldering to roped climbing, initially how did you feel about this prospect?

BZ: It was really hard for me because the pain at the beginning was not so painful and I thought I can go bouldering and when I take a rest for two or three weeks it will be okay but it wasn’t. I tried it a lot of times after the injury but it was impossible for me to do it, it was really bad at this moment and then I realised that I must stop for a minimum of one year otherwise it would come back. Then it was a strange process because there are so many different sport climbing places near my home town that I had never climbed at before, so it was good fun to climb all these routes. Then after I never looked back to bouldering, for me it was a new experience just like when I first went bouldering.

Onsight: Last year you completed the highly venerated “Alpine Trilogy”. What made you choose such an adventurous goal? What specific training did you do? How did you prepare?

BZ: It was not my goal to complete this trilogy I only wanted to try Silbergeier. It was really cool because I found a partner, Nina Caprez, so we tried the route together, but at this time my back injury returned because of an under-cling move on Silbergeier and I had to rest half a year again. After this I thought I couldn’t go back to Silbergeier because the risk was too high. So then I searched for a route which is similar to Silbergeier and then found End of Silence and the year after I went to this route and tried it sometimes but in the beginning it was really hard. I thought it was sport climbing multi-pitch, I only had quickdraws with me, but it wasn’t, it was alpine style and I needed Camalots for the easier pitches of End of Silence. At the first ground up try in this route the risk was too high without mobile protection so after five pitches we must come down. In this year I completed End of Silence and then after I went back to Silbergeier and it felt so much better, I didn’t try this under-cling move so many times. And then after doing Silbergeier doing the trilogy, for me it was the goal.

For training I just tried the routes. For me it is always like this, when I try a boulder I just practice the boulder and for sport climbing I just try the route. In winter I train specifically bouldering in the gym.

Barbara Zangerl, End of Silence (8b+) 11 pitches, Berchtesgaden Alps, Germany. Photo: Hannes Maier.

Barbara Zangerl, End of Silence (8b+) 11 pitches, Berchtesgaden Alps, Germany. Photo: Hannes Maier.

Onsight: The first one off your list was End of Silence (11 pitches of 7a+, 6a, 6c+, 6c, 7b+, 7c+, 7b+, 8b, 8b+, 7c+ and 7a+) which you completed in August 2012. It was established by Thomas Huber on the compact rock of The Feuerhorn in the Berchtesgaden Alps in Germany. The real difficulty comes at the 8th and 9th pitch. How did you conserve you strength and focus for such a long day? Was there a reason to tackle route one first?

BZ: I tried this one first because I was not sure if I could go back to Silbergeier but I liked it because it was similar style. It was crimpy, not so overhanging and beautiful rock. It was a real mental challenge because in the beginning I was near to falling at the first 7c+ but I climbed up to the 8b without a fall and then I did the 8b on my first try because I had too, otherwise I would not have enough energy for the next pitch. I was really tired at this point and then I fell two times on the 8b+ and I thought now it is finished. I felt so tired but I think it was only my head, because I really wanted to do it, and that was the reason why it worked. I also had a fall after on the 7c+.

Onsight: How many times did you attempt this route?

BZ: I tried it for two months and I only tried this route. I always had one climbing day and sometimes we were 10 hours climbing in the wall, then I rested for two days and then go again. This was all the training I did. I went there ten days.

Barbara Zangerl. Photo: Monique Forestier

Barbara Zangerl. Photo: Monique Forestier

Onsight: The second route that you completed was Silbergeier (240m, 6 pitches; 8b, 7c+, 8a+, 7a+, 8b+ and 7c), which is located in Switzerland’s Rätikon mountains and was established by Beat Kammerlander. You had teamed up earlier with Nina Caprez who went on to do the first female ascent. Did you think that Nina was interested in completing the trilogy also?

BZ: She asked me last year if we can try together Des Kaisers neue Kleider but she had to work in her new flat and she had no time to join with me. But at the moment I think she is not interested in trying it.

Onsight: In August 2013 you completed the last of the trilogy, Des Kaisers neue Kleider (240m, 9 pitches; 6b, 7c, 8a+, 7b+, 8b+, 8a, 6b, 8b+, 6c) this one is situated in Austria’s Wilder Kaiser mountains and was established by Stefan Glowacz. It has an 8b+ pitch midway and then another as the second last pitch. How did this route go for you on the actual send day?

BZ: Mmmm. For me this was the hardest route of the three because, and this was mental, this was the biggest challenge I ever had, because I climbed without falling until the last hardest pitch (8b+) and there I had six falls, and I always fell at the middle of the pitch on the last hard move. Also there are strange climbing passages because you have to stand on really small foot holds and for me it was also a little bit of luck too, not to slip.

Onsight: So you fell six times and then you made it through. So at what point do you say it’s enough I cannot go any further?

Barabara Zangerl, Full Equip (8b+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Monique Forestier.

Barabara Zangerl, Full Equip (8b+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Monique Forestier.

BZ: I did this only because on every try I got one move further or did it a little bit better, that was the reason why I tried it again and again. Otherwise I would stop.

Onsight: You obviously have incredible fitness to do all of the lower climbing and then be able to try and try again.

BZ: Yes I think it is all about the head. In this moment I was so motivated to finish it because I have so many hard pitches behind me and that was the reason I didn’t want to give up.

Onsight: How long did you rest between each attempt?

BZ: 20 minutes always 20 minutes. I rested on a ledge for twenty minutes and then after 30 minutes there was a big ahhhh and then rest again. In the end the last 6c was a real fight.

Onsight: How did you feel when you realised that you had succeeded in becoming the first female to achieve this goal given that only a few men have done the same (Stefan Glowacz in 2001, Harald Berger in 2005, Ondra Benes 2009 and Mark Amann 2013)?

Barbara Zangerl sending Mind Control (8c+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Walker Emerson.

Barbara Zangerl sending Mind Control (8c+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Walker Emerson.

BZ: For me it was a crazy feeling to do all of these routes and when it was finished it was… Onsight: a relief. BZ: Yeh but the big adventure was finished so I was disappointed. At first it was very cool, one of the best feelings I ever had but also a little bit sad because I had a lot of cool days with a lot of cool people. For me the best thing is when you find somebody who has the same motivation as you, for a route, and you can push each other, if somebody finds a new solution for a move, then that’s the best for me.

Onsight: You are here now in Oliana. I have seen you literally tear this place apart in a matter of weeks. Is this a holiday for you? Does this count as training?

BZ: No it’s a holiday for me, the first climbing trip after my winter training indoors.

Onsight: You did Fish Eye (8c) quickly and then in a matter of three days you went on to do your first 8c+ with Mind Control. So what next? Will you be looking to try a 9a?

Barbara Zangerl sending Mind Control (8c+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Walker Emerson.

Barbara Zangerl sending Mind Control (8c+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Walker Emerson.

BZ: No I think not, I am more motivated for multi-pitch climbing in the summer and for me I only do sport climbing in Autumn and Spring and so I think I would need a really, really long time, or maybe it’s impossible for me to climb 9a. So I don’t know, it’s not a goal in the next time for me.

Onsight: What do you do for training? Do you have a strict training program or training cycle?

BZ: I only train in winter and there I have a special training, I do only bouldering for 6 weeks and there I chose three boulders, one boulder with slopers, one boulder with pinches and one boulder with crimps. I climb each boulder six times with one and a half minutes break  between, this is called Aufbau in German. And this I do for 12-15 days with rests between and after I just go bouldering and climbing routes for one month. And after, when it’s possible to climb outside I only climb outside.

Onsight: What is on the horizon as far as your alpine multi-pitch climbing goes? Do you have specific goals in mind?

BZ: I really want to learn crack climbing better because I am very bad at this. For me the most important thing in climbing is to do different things to keep my motivation high. Now I am motivated to do multi-pitch alpine style and also sport multi-pitch but also to improve in crack climbing, I will go to Indian Creek (USA) in end of March. This year I am also motivated to try Pan Aroma 8c (right of Bella Vista) in the Dolomites. I was in this route years before with Hansjörg Auer, for belaying him, when he did the first repeat of this route. I was fascinated by this route and I really want to go back sometime, hopefully this year.

Barbara Zangerl sending Mind Control (8c+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Walker Emerson.

Barbara Zangerl sending Mind Control (8c+), Oliana, Spain. Photo: Walker Emerson.

Onsight: Whatever the discipline you seem to excel. You have done Super Cirill (8a) a nine-pitch crack line on natural gear, located near Ticino, Switzerland. How do you rate climbing on natural gear compared to sport climbing?

Barbara Zangerl, Super Cirill, 9 pitches (8a) near Ticino, Switzerland.

Barbara Zangerl, Super Cirill, 9 pitches (8a) near Ticino, Switzerland.

BZ: For me it was completely different, I did multi-pitch routes before and they were graded much harder but for me Super Cirill was so hard. I couldn’t climb this crack and I had a lot of tries and it felt so hard. I couldn’t boulder these moves out and it was just like fighting and hopefully stay on the crack.

Onsight: So you are comfortable climbing on natural gear but not so much with crack climbing?

BZ: I feel often scared about the gear and when I climb on bolts I don’t feel scared but with gear, scared for sure. Now I am trying a route in my home town and this route you can only use nuts and three cams, no bolts, and for me I feel scared on this route but when I go back I will try it again.

Onsight: Where in the world is your favourite place to climb?

BZ: A lot of different places. I like Rocklands for bouldering. Also near my place I like Switzerland and the Dolomites, a lot of different places.

Onsight: Thank you so much for your time.

BZ: You are welcome.

For more about Barbara, see her website at barbara-zangerl.at
Barbara is sponsored by: Sterling Rope, Black Diamond, Adidas and Five Ten.

And here’s a video of Barbara attempting Super Cirill:

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Tsaranoro Madagascar ~ gallery and betahttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/04/tsaranoro-madagascar-feature-gallery-beta/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/04/tsaranoro-madagascar-feature-gallery-beta/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 07:09:49 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3467 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 –> www.onsight.com.au/gallery/madagascar-tsaranoro

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

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Daniel Fisher ~ interviewhttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/03/daniel-fisher/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/03/daniel-fisher/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 04:43:20 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3275 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!http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/03/slacklining/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/03/slacklining/#comments Sun, 16 Mar 2014 06:29:32 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3247 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!

]]> http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/03/slacklining/feed/ 0 Kalymnos Greece ~ gallery and betahttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/03/kalymnos-greece-climbing/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/03/kalymnos-greece-climbing/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 00:16:00 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3199 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 coverhttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/02/rock-ice-cover/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/02/rock-ice-cover/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 05:32:57 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3038 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 Luisahttp://www.onsight.com.au/2014/02/memorial-maria-luisa/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/02/memorial-maria-luisa/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:28:07 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=3029 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?http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/02/elphinstone/ http://www.onsight.com.au/2014/02/elphinstone/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 23:38:57 +0000 http://www.onsight.com.au/?p=2752 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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