Bunny Bucket Buttress – Round 1

Bunny Bucket Buttress (18) 270m. Sport.

  1. 20m (18) Traverse out right and back left to flake, reachy. Up to ledge, 2RB.
  2. 20m (18) right and up seam and corner to ledge. Up a move and diagonally R to arete, then R to ledge and 2RB.
  3. 40m (18) Up dirty slab and R across corner, traverse R to nose and up corner and nose to ledge. 2RB on block or walk R 8m to 2BB at base of wall.
  4. 30m (8) Travers diagonally R past bolts to 2RB on block further up or tree belay at the top of the slab.
  5. 40m (8) climb across ledges and walls (and a lot of bush…) past bolts to below orange overhang, L to 2RB below corner.
  6. 40m (17) Up choss and head out L staying low under roof. This pitch can give bad drag, either sling the first 3 bolts to reduce drag, or bring second up to belay on second bolt. Head up pumpy wall to big ledge. 2RB.
  7. 40m (18) Up vertical pump and move L to layback move at top.Needs 15 draws. 2RB.
  8. 40m (13) Left across ledge, diagonal L past bolts and across groove. Climb loose left wall to 2RB on top. Lots of rope drag

That’s what the guidebook has to say about this patch of rock in Pierces Pass in the Blue Mountains. There is even a helpful topo which draws a nice clean line from the bottom of the cliff, all the way up to the top. Too easy.

BBB topo.png

I have climbed this route 3 times now. I have had 3 epics.

To reach the climb, you have to do two rope stretching abseils down into the Grose Valley. Once you hit the deck, you either have to climb back up the 200m high cliffs towering above you, or walk for hours along a BASE jumpers’ exit track to get back to civilisation.

Grose Valley
Rainbow in the Grose Valley

Climbing Bunny Bucket Buttress is the easiest way out.

But it’s not that easy…

Here are three epic tales from the Grose Valley:

Round 1

The first time I climbed Bunny Bucket Buttress, I had a lot more enthusiasm than experience.

My climbing partner that weekend was reluctant to go.  It had been raining in the mountains a few days earlier and he was worried that the rock would still be wet.  I had my heart set on doing the climb though, and wasn’t going to let logic and weather forecasts defeat me.  In an effort to persuade them to join the madness, I offered to lead the first pitch.  I feigned a confidence that was, in reality, pretty weak at camp and non-existent by the time we pulled our ropes down the last abseil and fully committed ourselves to the adventure.

I battled my way through the first pitch, then swung leads until we reached the famous lunch ledge.  Above the ledge was an imposing looking roof.

You don’t have to dangle upside down, but you do need to traverse underneath the roof and out onto a huge vertical headwall.  As I ate my lunch and waited my turn, the roof seemed to double, then triple in size.

When I finished lunch, it was my turn to tie into the rope and lead off through the roof.  It might seem counter intuitive, but leading this pitch seemed less scary.  If I fell off under the roof while leading, I could still see and speak to my belayer.  They could keep the rope tight, give me some tips and I could just take my time getting from bolt to bolt if I needed to.

If you climb second, your belayer is 30 metres above your head, round the corner, totally out of sight and out of earshot.  If you fall while seconding, you just swing out into a few hundred metres of empty space and have to prussik back up.

BBB topo.png
Using prussiks to ascend a rope

By some mix of fear and stubbornness, I managed to bully my terrified body through the roof and out onto the headwall.

80 metres of vertical jug hauling stretched on above me.  Big holds, big views (and in my terrified mind, big gaps between bolts).

I could feel fear and tiredness rising up in me.  I was exhausted.  I was struggling to hold on to the giant holds. The exposure was starting to get to me.

I needed a second to reset. I needed to be in a better headspace if I was going to finish the pitch.

I reached the second last bolt. I clipped one of my long strechy half ropes into a quick draw and yelled “TAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE”.

I wanted my belayer to take all the slack out of my skinny half ropes, so that I could lean back, weight the ropes and rest for a moment.  I looked forward to shaking my arms out, checking out the view, taking a few deep breaths and calming down. My arms were screaming as I waited for the rope to come tight.

It didn’t.

The next thing I heard was my belayer screaming ‘OFF BELAAAAAAAAAAAAY”.

Panic stations.

I fumbled with draws, found my safety and clipped myself hard into the bolt. I didn’t realise that I was holding my breath until I actually sat back onto my safety line.

My belayer had assumed that I had already reached the anchor point at the end of that pitch.  They assumed that I was now “SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAFE” on a nice wide comfortable ledge, ready to bring them up after me.

When you are actually ‘safe’, you want your belayer to release the rope, so that you can pull in all the extra slack.  That way you can basically reel them in, and bring  them up to your beautiful ledge on a nice tight rope.  If they fall off the wall at any point, they don’t fall far.  They might loose half a metre of height, then just start climbing again. Everyone’s a winner.

If you are not safely standing on a ledge , clipped in to an anchor, you do not want your belayer to release the rope.   If the rope is not winding back and forth through their belay device, they cannot catch you if you fall.

I wasn’t safe.  I was still dangling off the side of the cliff.  The valley floor was over 100m below me now.

My voice reached a super sonic pitch as I screamed back at my belayer to try to explain what was happening.  The other parties climbing above me could hear me and see what was happening. Their voices joined mine.  Soon I was back on belay and ready to climb again.

My plan to take a good rest and get into a better headspace went out the window. I just wanted to be off that rock.

A thousand thoughts swirled through my head at high speed. I was in way above my head.  I was taking to long to get up the climb.  I was holding other people up.  The sun was getting closer tot the horizon. There were still about 2-3 pitches to go. I was exhausted. I was scared. I was over it. I was crying.

I pressed on, because there wasn’t much else I could do.  Still crying, I reached the last bolt before the anchors.  I was standing, eye level with the bolt.  My hands and feet precariously balanced on slippery holds, hidden amongst the much better holds that I couldn’t see in my tunnel vision.  At that point, I would have given anything for that bolt to be clipped.  I stared at the bolt as if willpower alone would be enough to clip the rope in.  On any other day, I would have looked around for a more comfortable stance to clip from.  But not this day.  The whole point of my existence was to clip that bolt in that moment.

I carefully leaned back to unclip a quick draw from my harness.

Not careful enough.

As I leaned back, my left hand slipped off the rock.  My right hand was already off the wall. My right foot slipped and I was off. Upside down. Falling. It was a long pitch, lots of slack looped between the bolts in the roof.  My half ropes were new and stretchy.  Down, down, down.

I distinctly remember thinking, how can I still be falling?

After a few seconds that lasted forever, I crashed into the wall.  a few bolts below my high point.  A quick body scan confirmed I was still in one piece.  It was the biggest whipper I’d taken outdoors.  The climbers above me applauded once they realised I was OK. They swear they heard my scream gradually deepen as the doppler effect kicked in.

I pulled myself back up to my high point.  There was only 2-3 metres between me and the next ledge, but I threw a little tantrum and built an anchor where I was.  Luckily for me, there was an old carrot bolt right next to shiny new ring bolt.

I seconded the rest of the pitches.  I watched a beautiful sunset over the valley wihth 2 pitches to go. I topped out in the dark.  By the time I got back to the car, it was nearly 8.30 and I was an absolute wreck.

Bunny Bucket Buttress had kicked my bumbly butt.

Read my next post to find out what happened on my next Bunny Bucket Adventure.

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