Aller Anfang ist schwer.
That’s what Dirtbagjens told me when I said I wasn’t sure how to start this post. It’s a tricky decision, because the start of the story is not as fun as the rest of it.
It started when I was called into the boardroom one afternoon at work.
There were three people at the table. Three awkward smiles. I sat down and added a fourth.
‘It’s bad news unfortunately’ said smile number one.
I was coming up to the end of my graduate contract at the law firm I worked at. Things had gotten a bit quiet in our office over the past month or so. I had rotated through a few teams and there wasn’t really room in any of them for me. The word ‘unfortunately’ floated across the board room a few more times. They were quickly followed by other words like ‘with the market as it is’ and ‘anything we can do to help’. My contract was not going to be renewed. The other grad in our office faced the same smiles soon afterwards.
I jumped on my bike and cycled home along the harbour. Thinking all sorts of things all at once. When I was almost home I did a rough calculation of how many days I had until the end of my contract, and how much leave I had built up. I decided I could probably give myself a long weekend before I left.
I bought the guidebook for climbing at Point Perpendicular and convinced Dirtbagjens to skip a few days of work and adventure south with me.
Things get better
This is where the story gets much better. It’s also much easier to tell. I don’t even need to type it out. You can just watch it here.
Maybe I’ll tell you a few more tales. It was an extra long weekend after all.
The climbing at Point Perp is equal parts beautiful and terrifying. You access all the climbs from above. Often you have to abseil off trad anchors down towards the angry ocean swirling below you. The wind always seems to be the strongest right at the edge of the cliff. It always takes me a few moments and few deep breaths before I can lower myself off the edge of the world.
There is a lighthouse at the end of the point. There are a bunch of climbs on the cliffs all around the lighthouse. What this means is that on a sunny day, there will often be a group of people who drove out to see a lighthouse and find crazy people scaling cliffs. On a nice day, you often have a decent crowd of onlookers.
I still smile when I think about a conversation I had with one of the onlookers.
I had just seconded a climb which had a horrible offwidth section right at the end. I grovelled my way up, grunting and making all kinds of weird noises as I struggled to wedge myself into the rock. Those noises probably sounded even more ridiculous once they echoed up the crack and reached the spectators.
Somehow I wriggled all the way up and finally stood up in the sunshine on top of the cliff. An Irish backpacker had come over to see what all the fuss was about. She was really interested in the logistics of getting up and down the cliffs. She asked what happened if we fell. I explained the difference between leading and seconding climbs.
She quickly grasped the idea that falling on lead was not ideal, especially when you were falling onto trad gear a long way below. She was quiet for a moment, then said “Hang on… if you’re climbing here, on these cliffs, you always start at the top right? There’s no need for anyone to lead is there? Why would you do it?”
It’s a perfectly good question. Asked by a sane and rational person. I think I just laughed and acknowledged that she had made a good point. It probably would have taken quite a while to explain why we were all choosing the sheer terror of climbing above crashing waves and a decent run out. I think I’ve had at least one sneaky fear-induced cry on every trip to point perp. But I’d go back again in a heartbeat. Maybe one of these days I’ll try to explain this particular brand of madness on this blog.
Our Terminal World
The next story I want to tell is about this climb called Our Terminal World.
The route was put up by Simon Carter, a guy who makes a living out of beautiful climbing photography and equally beautiful guidebooks. The photo above really doesn’t do it justice. It’s a big triangular arete that hangs out over the sea… then it just ends. If you rap down, your ropes go past the bottom of the rock and float in empty space above the water.
Simon Carter’s photos really show off the epic location. In fact I suspect a lot of the motivation for bolting the route came from the opportunity to take some spectacular photos. Dirtbagjens had seen the pictures and wanted to check it out.
Getting to the climb was a mission. We bushbashed. We got lost. The haulbag kept snagging on trees. We didn’t really know what we were looking for.
We collected a few more scratches and bruises before finding ourselves at the top of the climb.
It’s so steep, that from the top of the cliff, you can’t actually see the start of the climb. It’s too far underneath you.
The day we first arrived was grey. We knew rain would come that afternoon. Below the climb, a group of huge boulders just break the surface. Patterns of white spray wash over and around them in the dark blue water. It was an intimidating place.
Dirtbagjens set up a toprope for himself and I top-belayed from the edge of the cliff. You really need two ropes to do this. The climb starts quite a few meters to the right of the final anchor… which is one carrot bolt (or in our case, one carrot bolt and an elaborate back up made from slinging boulders and placing trad gear).
That first day, I couldn’t even bring myself to look over the edge. I just kept the rope as tight as I could and hoped that loud angry ocean hadn’t jumped up and swept Dirtbagjens of the cliff.
Eventually he topped out. Looking happy and tired. The climb is grade 25. The moves are hard enough without the heart-pumping point perp fear factor.
He squeezed in another lap that day and a few more on the next trip. Each one lap was stronger and more confident than the one before.
By the second trip, the weather was better and the ocean less angry. I even worked up the courage to clip myself to the anchor and wriggle over the edge to look down to the start of the route. I’m pretty brave.
Our Terminal World remains on the ticklist for Dirtbagjens. I’m sure we’ll be back to try it again one of these days.
Next stop Nowra
Because it was an extra long weekend we made a quick visit to Thompson’s Point on our way home. This is a really popular sport climbing crag in Nowra. After a few days of trad climbing over the ocean, clipping bolts was pretty stress free.
We camped on one side of the river at a caravan park that hires out canoes for free. In the morning, all you had to do was paddle across the river and start climbing.
It was really windy on the night we stayed there. We had set up our camp on the riverside, but had our sleeping mats and sleeping backs outside on a tarp while we cooked dinner. Dirtbagjens had gone down to the water to collect some refreshing beverages that we’d left to chill. A huge gust of wind through and picked up his Exped. I went racing after it and caught it just before it went over the fence ready for a moonlight swim.
After a decent amount of beer and wine had disappeared, it was time for bed. At this point we realised that Dirtbagjens’ sleeping bag was gone. It must have been blown away with the same gust of wind. I was convinced it would be sitting on the bottom of the river by that stage. Dirtbagjens was much more confident. He was pointing a torch at the water, ready to dive in if he found the sleeping bag floating somewhere.
The beam of light brushed past the only tree on the river bank. The light moved back and we realised that the sleeping bag had wrapped itself around the tree and sat there safely for the last few hours.
A little more luck
I’m happy to report that my luck continued when I got back to the real world. Another law firm was hiring at exactly the right time. I hastily put together a resume and went off to a job interview.
I’ve been at the new place ever since. So I’m still a dirtbaglawyer.