Climbing up a vertical rock face, some half dozen metres above the entirely unforgiving ground, I am relying entirely on my finger strength… and a carrot.
I am in the Blue Mountains, and being introduced to lead climbing. I’ve tried it once before, but for the most part I’ve always climbed using a top rope. For those without a climbing background: top roping is when you’re climbing with the rope already in the anchor above you (literally, the rope is already at the top), and your belayer is taking in slack.
Conversely, lead climbing means that your rope is behind you, and you have to bring it up as you climb, clipping it into bolts so that – if you fall – you only fall as far as the last bolt before the rope catches you. Of course, the most dangerous section of the climb is the first, before you’ve reached the lowest bolt.
If I fall here, only the belayer can save me.
Nevertheless, I reach the first bolt: it’s a carrot.
These hex bolts were the original bolts used in Australian sports climbing, and are named for their vague similarity to that delicious vegetable. They have various advantages and disadvantages that are passionately disputed within climbing circles, but since I’m not a committed climber I’m happy to keep my never-muscled-and-calloused-enough fingers out of the debate.
Suffice to say, these are common in the Blue Mountains, and so it was inevitable that climbing trips as part of the Australian National University’s Mountaineering Club (ANUMC) Blue Mountains Extravanganza* would encounter them. I was climbing at the Dam Cliffs on the last day of this long weekend, and I’d just been taught how to climb on these carrots: that is, by slipping a bolt hanger over them, clipping a carabiner/quick draw into the bolt hanger, and then clipping the rope through that.
At last, clipped in, my belayer can relax in their readiness to break my fall and take the rope instead. “On Belay!” is the call that I am relieved to hear, and I can continue climbing:
Trusting only to my finger strength, and a carrot.
* The Blue Mountains Extravaganza (BME) is the long-weekend adventure of the ANU Mountaineering Club (for a longer description, read Nick’s post). I spent the Saturday abseiling down Malaita Wall and sliding down Empress Canyon, the Sunday canyoning in Upper Bowen’s Creek, and the Monday climbing at Dam Cliffs.
For more photos, see the appropriate Flickr album.