Wolgan Valley, Australia The Climb ? Organ Grinder (60m, 5c+)
Wolgan Valley is about 2 hours North West of Sydney and is a mecca for trad climbing. The sandstone rocks and ageless rock formations have earned nickname of ?The Gardens of Stone?
First climbed in the early sixties, Wolgan Valley has remained a bit of a secret spot for climbing in the Blue Mountains.? Only 2 guide books have been printed and the latest edition was circulated in 2002, making it a very rarely explored destination.? I got lucky enough to spend three days exploring one of the main walls, called ?The Coke Ovens? in a recent trip.? My girlfriend and I had a chance to further our trad climbing skills while taking in amazing scenery.
Having done a bit of multi-pitch climbing in the past, I wanted to spend time working with Meiqi on the basics of multi-pitch trad climbing.? Most of the routes around Wolgan Valley are trad routes.? There are a few bolted routes, but the grade is usually at the advanced to expert level.? Before we began, I discussed with Meiqi a few points of the basics of trad climbing which I thought it would be good to share.
When starting off with the basics of trad climbing, you will use a lot more gear than sport climbing. You will need to carry quickdraws and cams and wires to complete the pitch and the weight of all the gear can add to the challenge of the climb.
Trad Climbing – Get an accurate idea of how much gear you will need to complete the climb.
Too much gear will weigh you down and hinder your movements.? Not enough gear and you end up having huge run outs (lots of space) between protection placements. For example, if a pitch is 30 meters, then typically you want to place protection every 2 to 3 meters.? Of course, this varies from climb to climb.? For example, placing a protection just before the crux and just after the crux is a bit of a common practice.
Trad climbing – Do the calls and buddy checks that you practice at the gym
- Climbing, Am I on Belay, Belay On, Safe, Slack?
- Check the belay device, the knots and that both of you are tied into the rope
When doing a multipitch, chances are, you wont have a clear view of climber.? Maybe you wont have a view at all.? So the calls are important.? Make sure to be loud when you make the calls.
Trad Climbing – Be mindful of the belayer (They will Thank you)
Your belayer is below you, so be mindful as you place your hands and feet for any lose rock or dirt.? It will hit them.? The belayer must remain constantly aware.? Belaying is not exactly an exciting job, but it is extremely important to remain alert as the climbers life depends on it.
Trad Climbing – After Completing that first pitch, belaying from above
Once the lead climber completes the first pitch (which is usually at a suitable place to set up a safe anchor to belay), they set up a solid equalized anchor to belay from.? Remember the calls: ?Safe? ?Off-Belay? ?Belay Ready?. The belayer below needs a bit of time to prepare to climb.? Give the calls and once you are safe, you can start pulling up the rope knowing that it is tied to the belayer, because you did the safety checks. While pulling up the rope, keep it as neat as you can and off to one side.? You don?t want the coils to entangle your feet while you are trying to belay. Remember to be patient as the 2nd person has to clean the climb (remove any trad gear placement), and this can take time.? You don?t want them to rush and drop gear.
Trad Climbing – Stay safe!
Make sure as the top belayer you stay on the equalized anchor and have a tie in point separate from the point you are using to belay. No need to put too much stress on one single anchor point.? Also stay alert while belaying. Not only to the climber, but also be mindful of the time as well as the weather.? You don?t want to be in the middle of a multi-pitch route when it gets dark or the weather changes and a storm hits.? Be mindful of the surroundings.
Trad Climbing – be sure to Rotate between the lead climber and the second climber.
Because leading is exhausting work (extremely rewarding and fun though), make sure to switch up who is the lead climber and who is the second climber. It makes a big difference to get that rest between pitches.
We spent the day practicing these techniques while completing two pitches, taking time to enjoy the views, and discussing what we had practiced.
Completing the multi-pitch and standing from the top we still had to get down. We were lucky with some great rappels and beautiful sunset in the background, it was an epic outdoor day.
adventures in the world
Being winter time in Australia, the sun sets rather quickly and we made it down just in time to pack up our gear and start the path back to camp.
You cannot connect the dots looking forward, only when looking backward, and as I look back at that day, the little things learned on these climbs prepared me for the big wall climbs to come.? The reward is in the risk?
adventures in the world
This is by no means an exhaustive checklist to the a full course in trad multi-pitch climbing, but rather an overview of the first steps of getting into trad climbing.
Join us on one of our courses to get the skills to confidently do outdoor rock climbing, whether you prefer sport, trad, multi pitch or all of the above.
Even more rewarding is joining one of our treks that will utilize these skills while summiting amazing peaks.
Check out our upcoming treks,
or email Patrick@wildfirexpeditions.com for more information