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Mick and Pete in the Gramps

Mick and Pete in the Gramps

A little over twelve months ago myself, Michael Tonen and a good mate of mine Jim McGuinness experienced around 6 days bouldering in the Grampians. The trip was so good we thought we would try to get back the next year around at the same time. Well, that time has come around however, unfortunately Jim could not make the trip this year.

The trip was almost put in jeopardy a number of times during the 12 month lead up. Unfortunately, I was struck down by a condition which affects us all at some stage. A debilitating condition which has the potential to destroy a climbers career. I am sure you guy’s are all thinking oh no, elbow tendonitis, A2 pully, shoulder injury. Nope, this is much worse. Old man syndrome! The condition has symptoms of the above whereby you seem to injure yourself every time you step into the gym or pull on rock. Luckily I found a temporary treatment to this devastating condition, stubbornness. I eventually decided to just train anyway despite injuries and hope for the best. This was after a little bit of a wakeup call after another climbing trip which we won’t mention or go into any details.

Michael Tonen, the kid who has fingers of steal, a build of David Graham and the motivation we all wish we had more of. You can often see him at the gym (Pulse) hanging off some ridiculous small crimp, hanging off the hangboards tucked away in the corner or pulling himself tirelessly up the campus board (often double handed). Last year in the Gramps he managed to do v8, in the 12month lead up he has already secured v11 and FA v10. Impressive huh! However, the weeks prior to our trip he was gaining weight, this was due to his head becoming bigger. He was blowing me off my own problems at the gym, building in confidence and taunting me as I use different beta. Who is this guy? Some young punk whippersnapper! Whilst he may have brutal finger strength, there is something he lacks, wisdom (something he calls old age). How will he go this trip? You will have to read on to find out.

The Grampians, some of the BEST rock in the world! Being there brought back many memories, good times with friends, climbing, bouldering and finding time to kill on rest days. Last year we stayed in cabins as it gets super cold down there this time of the year. These are awesome, a nice fire where wood is restocked every day, a simple kitchen, hot water and a fantastic location among bushland and kangaroos. Being there last year I remember thinking to myself this is as good as an overseas trip, the quality of the rock is unbelievable and no matter what your preference is in style, you got it.

There may be one drawback to the Gramps, it’s 13.5 hours away! However, the time was passed with many mindless conversations covering numerous topics such as ‘what if the duration of your life was limited to certain amount of breaths? Would exercise be detrimental? Or number of blinks, profanities spoken, etc. Of course there were many conversations about beta, international climbers, how we can work less and climb more, basically anything to pass the time.

We arrived around midday on Monday the 9th, we were greeted with mist, fog and rain. However we were determined not to let these moist conditions dampen our spirits. We headed straight to Hollow Mountain Cave (HMC). Here it was dry and conditions were actually pretty good though extremely cold. The first day not much happened. Michael fell after the crux of a v9 called ‘Amniotic World’ 3 times! I fell coming into the crux of ‘Amazing Sounds’ v12. We were hoping we would just hike all projects and goals for the trip, though it now seemed the holds were further away than last year and they may even be a touch smaller.

The second day again it was raining, this time worse. You could not even see the mountains as they were buried in a deep layer of mist and fog. We decided to head to the Kindergarten as this should have the highest chance of being dry. Throughout the day, it turns out everyone else had the same idea as there were around 10 of us here bouldering at the one small spot. The atmosphere was great. Michael sent ‘Spanking the Monkey Bars’ v8 easily and I polished off a problem I had not done there called ‘Flash Gordon’ v7. Conditions slowly deteriorated throughout the day as multiple people tried there projects and it warmed up slightly.

The third day was a rest day where we scoped out future projects. Running around in the mist and fog trying to find lines we were not familiar with. Unfortunately, many of the lines we found were wet and the chances of us trying them this trip would be minimal. Next time.

The fourth day we woke to heavy rain, though the wind was down. It was cold as our fire had gone out during the night and all in all whilst it was not spoken, we both were thinking the same thing……….this is S*#T. We had not seen the sun since we left. We just had a rest day and knew we didn’t have the time to waste another day. We ate breakfast in silence, packed the car and headed off. Again we were off to HMC as not much else would be dry and we both had projects up there. There was minimal talking whilst walking/climbing into the crag, with the exception of the occasional profanity as one of us tripped on a stone or slipped on a rock. We arrived to find conditions were pretty good and out of nowhere there was a glimpse of sunshine streaming through broken cloud.

Half an hour after that and BOOM, we were in business SUNSHINE. More people arrived and slowly the motivation and enthusiasm was back. Once again the atmosphere was high as people hammered away at their projects for the day. Michael was successful as he polished off ‘Amniotic World’ v9 and I fell off the final hold of ‘Amazing Sounds’ 4 times in a row. As the problem is 25 moves or so by the end of the day I was hammered, so no success for me though Michael was looking strong.

The fifth and final day. Today sunshine was everywhere with minimal clouds. People were out and about everywhere, guides had groups out climbing, elderly people were trekking their way up numerous walking tracks and there were boulderers all over the place. Michael decided to check out a few other blocs he was interested in at ‘Andersons’ as I headed up to HMC once again to have my last few shots on my project.

As soon as the sun is out and your muscles can relax a little instead of being cold and constricted, your whole attitude changes. You are no longer there just for the project, you are there for the experience and can take in what an amazing place this is. I ended up sending ‘Amazing Sounds’ v12 shortly after a warm up and chat with a few friends.

I spoke with some older people on a couple of occasions during the limited days we were there. Both of these people were not from the area and came from overseas destinations, one of them being Hong Kong. Both of these people expressed what an amazing place this is, one of them saying ‘they would never see it again’. The man from Hong Kong said ‘what a wonderful lifestyle we have’ (being able to leave work and come climbing here). At times we train in the gym for many weeks leading up to a superficial goal we set ourselves. We/I can become so obsessed with this superficial goal that at times we/I can simply not see the bigger picture. Once we let go a little of our/my obsession and enjoy the activity, day and surrounding often the original goal will fall into place.

Pete Tosen 15.07.12