Our delayed flight landed in Melbourne after dark, and Pinches was quite stressed out about the rental car (it was her first time) and also late-night driving. Around ten we were finally on the road with Crimps behind the wheel. We were on our way to the Grampians.
After a midnight pit-stop at a gas station and nearly hitting a kangaroo at 100km/h (That woke us up), we finally arrived at the campground at 2 AM. As it turned out, we had managed to book the wrong campsite. Too tired to deal, we fell asleep in the car.
No Worries! A quick phone call the next morning fixed the problem, and we could pitch our tents on the peacefull lawn filled with wildlife!
The Stayplton Campground is nicley located, quiet and peaceful. Kangaroos and emus jump about the tents and wierd bird song can be heard all morning. However, it's quite expensive just for the right to sleep on a flat piece of grass. Althoug they provide rainwater, toilets and a "bush shower" (a suspended bucket of cold water in a cubicle), we did expect a little more for the steep price. Not really a problem though, we just went to the local pool in Horsham when one of us became visibly dirty. Six dollars for a swim and a good scrub.
After a few days at the camp we accidentally fed a small kangaroo some of Crimps crumpets. After that "Pus" (Kitty) came to us nearly every day, begging for food or just to hang out at our campfire. Later, we learned about a campsite called "Sandy" just around the corner. Apparently free and with the exact same facilities... Oh well, next time.
As for the climbing, we mostly focused on the bouldering this time around. There is just too much to do, and so many different crags and bouldering areas to explore. Basically, we decided to thoroughly climb some of the areas and leave some for another time.
The styles of each crag was completely different. Andersons had big and small sandstone blocks, almost similar to the climbing in Norway (on completely different rock). Kindergarden was a strange fairyland with bouldering on perfect, white, sandy walls (dropoffs). The area around Hall's Gap boasted some strange, bulbous formations that spit you off when you least expected it. Hollow Mountain Cave was maybe the icing of the cake, a huge cave with lines all over, connecting the end to the top to the outside to the inside.
One grey morning with looming black skies, we headed for the Cave. Standing below the mountain, we noticed the peak (where the cave is located) was covered in a thick, swirling cloud. It looked a little damp. But several groups of crashpad-carrying boulderers walked straight for the mountain, never minding the rain. Did they know something we didn't? Still wondering what to do, Pinches asked another group with pads, "what's the deal?". After reassurances from the locals that it would be dry no matter what, we followed them up the path.
It had stopped raining when we got there, and we jumped on our projects with a growing sea of pads. The Cave filled up with more and more giddy boulderers as the skies slowly darkened above, unnoticed by us busy cave dwellers.
Someone produced a guitar from between a pad, and the mood was getting even better. From just outside the cave, some could hear a mans voice calling, "Oh shit it's coming". And then suddenly, like a ton of bricks, the rain hit us.
In the blink of an eye the wind had stirred up and anyone outside was drenched to the bone in a matter of seconds. While most of us was safe under the roof, a commotion stirred up as some of us had left clothes and gear just outside the cave mouth.
When all supplies, clothes and pads was saved from the rain, we had a moment's respite in the dry cave. People got back to their projects and the music started up again. Just as we got back to the "Extreme Cool" problem far down in the bottom of the cave, we heard a girl calling from far above. "Rivers you guys! Rivers coming!".
There was quite a fuss once again as water started flowing down all over the cave floor. We tried our best to cooperate to save pads, ourselves and everything from the streams forming on the ground. Little islands of rock appeared all around, dividing families and crews.
Someone had the foresight to bring tarps. With some strategically placed rocks, the tarps provided dry ground for the pads. We just kept on bouldering.
Because Pinches can't stop bouldering, she occasionally went by herself while Crimps rested up. (Crimps probably had the right idea some of the days, but if you're psyched... y'know.) One such day it was raining, pretty cold and a fresh breeze blew over the Grampians. Pinches decided to hike up to kindergarden because the guidebook said it was one of the better places to climb in the rain. She also wanted to try a couple of boulders up there. Not having high hopes of meeting other people because of the weather, she was pleasently surprised when a crew from Singapore was hanging out under "Spanking the monkeybars".
After a quick warmup in a down jacket with the pad blowing away a couple of times, she went over to join the crew under "Spanking". Going all out was pretty comfortable with a sea of crashpads, and being the only one climbing, good spotting. The Singapore-crew kind of decided it was too cold to climb, and just hopped around trying to keep warm. Pinches ended up having five crashpads for herself most of the day. After a couple of failed tries, a lunchbreak, new beta and a couple of more tries, Pinches finally sent the boulder. After a couple of tries on "Point and Shoot", everyone moved over to "Gripmaster", and finally some of the boys started climbing. After a lot of cheering, two almost sends and a rain-storm, everyone felt really tired (and cold) and headed down. A very strange day indeed.
After nearly a month of cave climbing, our bodies couldn't handle any more. We started to explore the easy trad climbing below Hollow Mountain. In Summerday Valley there is a lot of very easy naturally protected, single pitch routes, great for restitution and gear placement practice.
We think we're ready for Tassie now!
From a hostel in Melbourne.