Here is a part of the world that feels far, far away. For us, this island of Australia was also one of these places that we had to go to in our lifetime. We added it on our list with no hesitation nor second thought. Obviously, the Totem Pole is what we knew about it, but after searching for infos, there is much more than just this. Friends that went there told us to stay max 10 days there, being enough to see “everything”. We took our ticket for 2 weeks in the island, rented a little car to tour around, and booked a Airbnb to have a “home” again for 2 weeks.
When we left NZ, we did a quick stop in Melbourne for few hours to pick up and drop off some things we left at Steve's (so we don't travel with everything all the time). We landed in Hobart, biggest city of Tasmania at 5pm, hoped in our 3rd rental car of the day (funny fact uh ?!) and drove to Carlton where we were greatly welcomed by Julie, our Airbnb host. And here we were, in Tasmania, the first "first time" destination for both of us!
We opened the guidebook and let ourselves be guided by the pictures, showing some incredible rock, inspiring to adventure. We noticed pretty quick that almost everything we wanted to hit requires a lot of hiking, like 1h minimum, but we more than willing to do these, as it usually means that the rock is more remote, away from the invasive crowds.
We actually started the easy way with the Organ Pipes, a sector that is just above Hobart and has only a 20 min approach, yet super steep uphill. We headed directly to a rock called “Alberts tomb” which is a self standing pillar! After a sketchy approach to reach it, we were doubtful how the pillar was standing, with a very small base on a narrow ledge. With no warm-ups close by, we attacked one of the route we came for:"Slap Dancer", 27/ 7c. It was a strange style of climbing, between compression, balance, heel hooks and bad smear feet. We needed one try to figure out the sequence and get use to the airy surrounding, and then we both did a precise send. We obviously said “Hi” to the gnome laying on top on the pillar. Then we tried a route to the left around the corner, a 29/8a and even if both stayed a while in it, we simply couldn’t figure out a sequence in the middle. We learned later that the route has been done only once years ago by the local wizard, Garry Phillips. To finish the day we got a little epic while hiking out at night. Indeed we didn't take the good trail down, ended above a little cliff band, and we had to simo-rappel with the rope around a big bloc, actually a little pillar.
Our ultimate goal of this trip being the Totem Pole, we didn’t waste time and took advantage of the first weather window we got and headed to the Tasman peninsula. Here are Cha’s insights :
“To be honest, I had a pretty bad first impression… I think with all the pictures I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard, I idealized something impressive, majestic, wild, remote and epic to get to. The hike is 1h30 up and down big hills, on a hikers track, aka "a highway" and we walk by dozens of other hikers, all going to the same point. People seeing us with the climbing gear were like "Oh you gonna climb the Totem Pole, yes there are people on it already"... Meaning hikers could just watch us climb like spectators. There was indeed other people down there (8 total, some in the Totem, some in the Candlestick, and some in the "departure ledge". Also, part of the bad first impression was that the Totem Pole is that tiny (yet unique) pillar stuck between big cliffs.
The bad impression disappeared when I started rappelling down, being alone with the rock and the mad water below. It was amazing and intimidating, making me feel tiny in the chasm. When I reached the end of the rappel, I had to swing above the water to access the Totem Pole which was few meters away from my position. First try, I didn't even go half way, making me think "holy crap, I'll never do it, I need Josh!" but I looked behind and saw that my rope was stuck behind a little flake. So I jumped again and almost smashed into the Totem Pole, so surprised that I missed the bolt I was suppose to attach my sling in! 3rd go, did it... and got welcomed by some good splashes from the water a couple meters below me! Josh came down and climbed the first picth which had surprisingly pretty with some cool moves on a black-ish rock. I joined him at the anchor and started the 2nd pitch. This one was mixed, including a few gear placements, but we took advantage of the previous climber, Alex, who left his gear for a second ascent later on. This pith was again very pretty and super technical on an awesome rock.
I couldn't resist but do the last 5 meters to go to the tip top of the pole! To reach the “mainland” we have to set up a tyrolean with the rappelling kept with us. Again, Alex left his tyrolean so we didn’t experience the Tyrolean set up, but it was still a pretty impressive tyrolean! “. And that was it, just like that we had climbed the Totem Pole!
The day after the Totem Pole adventure, we were pretty exhausted and took it easy in the morning, but still wanted to climb at some point. We didn’t want to hike a lot again, but remembered that everything has a long hike anyway so we decided to go for it. Our next “destination” was the Moai, reachable from the same parking lot than the day before. The 1h30 hike was nicer because starting on a white sand beach, and much more flat all along.
At the end we arrived above a cliff but could see our goal below us. We rapped down to the sea level, where we could walk on a rock feature to the so-called Moai : an awesome self-standing pillar, few meters away from the water. We climbed the two main routes on it (one being mixed) and it was just so cool to stand up on this narrow ledge on top of the pillar, the waves clapping below us. We climbed the two main routes on it (one being mixed) and it was just so cool to stand up on this narrow ledge on top of the pillar, the waves clapping below us.
One morning we woke up at 4:30am, left the house at 5am and met up with Simon Bishoff at the Cape Raoul Trailhead car park in the Tasman Peninsula. Simon is a local photographer, and after following each other on Instagram, we reached out to him to know if we could do something together!
Here we are, heading to Cape Raoul! What a day! Cape Raoul is probably the craziest feature we saw in Tassie, at least we don't know how it could get any more crazy! It's a cape made of a bunch of pillars stacked together, forming like a dinosaure spine dropping in the ocean.
It’s reachable by more than 1h30 hike on an enjoyable trail, and then 8 hours roundtrip down and up of scrambling/ rappelling/ trad climbing all the way to the Pole Dancer, a gorgeous bolted line at the end of the all feature. A seal colony is installed below it, adding some stink and entertainment.
Our last "goal" was Mount Brown. It's located on the Tasman peninsula just as all the other spots. The main face on Mt Brown, 210 m tall, has a few multipitch routes, and we picked "Talk is Cheap", 9 pitches. The originality is that we first had to rappel down all the way, arriving couple meters above the sea, and then climbed up. It was awesome! The rock was of a very good quality with some neat features! We also enjoyed the hike, which was "only" 1 hour and not too steep.
The Devil is here
A reserve located on the peninsula allowed us to see the famous Tasman devil (unfortunately in extinction) and to walk around in the middle of kangaroos and wallabys!
We did good by doing all our "hits" first, because on the next days, we got 4 days of very rude weather : 2 sunny days with temps between 35 and 40°C, and 2 days of rain. So we didn't stay outdoor much, but worked a lot at home. We spent few session at the Rock it gym in Hobart and had nice time there, nicely welcomed by the owner Rick and his daughter Roxy. We even did two clinics : one with the young squad to prepare their state championship, and a group of adult to help them training for their goals. We checked out the Mona Museum, which is an enormous underground building with crazy art in it. We spent 2h walking around and loosing our directions! We also did the first podcast of the trip! It was awesome to chat with Hanny, the owner of "Find your feet", a shop and company in Hobart.
For the anecdote, on our last night in the island, we witness a bloody moon, doubled by a lunar eclipse. A beautiful show!
Tasmania was a peaceful stop, and irrationally very resting. We had a nice quiet place to stay at, we spent time in some deep wild nature, climbing on some unique rock. We have one regret, is to not have planned more time. Yes, we completed all we wanted in the 10 days that we have been advised, but there is so much more to see! Either it is in developed area like Freycinet, or in some new area on the way, or even in central Tasmania or the South West… There was a lot more that we wish we could explore. In the same time, is it possible to see everything? We would need a life time to dry our discovery thirst.
For now, we will keep dreaming of what is waiting for us: more than a year traveling around the world, the American, African and Asian continent still waiting. There are a lot of various adventures ahead of us, and we couldn’t be more excited to live more of these experiences.
Slap Dancer, Organ Pipes, Tasmania, AUS - 27 / 7c
Pole Dancer, Cape Raoul, Tasmania, AUS - 22 / 6c
Talk is Cheap, Mt. Brown, Tasmania, AUS - 24 / 7a+
The Free Route, Totem Pole, Tasmania, AUS - 25 / 7b
Ancient Astronaught, The Moai, Tasmania, AUS - 24 / 7a+
As part of the “must do”, we had lunch at the Barilla Bay Oyster restaurant next to the airport and it was delicious, just a big platter of oyster, hot and cold and with different toppings.
We arrived in the South Island of New Zealand with 47 days ahead of us and a lot of road tripping in our head. We really wanted to rent a van to live fully the NZ life, but it was too expensive as we were during their summer holidays, as well as Christmas and New Years. Instead of a van, we rented a big car (in which we could sleep in if needed) and we bought some very cheap camping gear at the Warehouse. Luckily we had a tent, sleeping bags and mats with us, so we didn’t have to find those.
To put in a nutshell, we had plans with rough dates to be here and there, but these plans kept changing with the weather, advices from local and the motivation. We packed up our tent almost every night and NZ made it super easy to be nomad, offering a lot of campgrounds through the island and at a lot of different budgets (sometimes even free).
Let us introduce Derek. Derek (Thatcher) is THE dude in NZ. He probably has developed and FA half (if not more) of all the routes and boulders in NZ. We were lucky enough to be in contact with him from connection of connection. He has been the best e-guide and beta giver (in a wide meaning) we could ask for in the country.
All we can say is : we did a lot
In the few hours following our landing in Christchurch, we drove to Castle Hill. It was the second time for Cha, so she didn't get “the surprise”, but first time for Josh and he was pretty mind blown! Super awesome, open landscape and obviously those cool grey rounded boulders on the green grassy hills! So cool! We camped at the Lake Pearson and climbed in Castle Hill two days, chased by the day heat and enjoy the evening chill. We toured around Spittle Hill and Quantum Field, which we felt very slimy, showing many years of climbing on this limestone.
Flock Hill is also part of Castle Hill but it is the sector we wanted to go the most, because it’s newer, more remote and has a lot of harder stuff. But, while we arrived on the 2nd of December, we had to wait on the 26th of December for the reopening after the lambing season. So yeah, as a Christmas gift, we went to Flock! In the opening morning we met Derek for the first time at the parking lot. Finally we got to meet him and all day long he shared with us a lot of awesome stories while wandering (climbing) through the boulders. We had a very nice day with him, Erin and Christina, and finished the day with a younger strong crew of locals Matt, Alec and Lucas.
The day after, Alec was our guide, which was pretty awesome, because it is so easy to get lost or just not find your way here. Overall we had two very great days and were super lucky with the weather, it was sunny with a little overcast and the temperature was around 15°C, perfect for good friction and good climbing!
There is so much to climb everywhere, but there is no guidebook (yet?) and everything looks climbed or climbable. If you go there, you will notice that the holds forms white patches in the grey rock. We asked about it, but pretty much the rock has a little dust cover (which gives the color) which is not very grippy, so climbers would just brush it. But then they also noticed that after rains, the rock is much stickier and figured they could bring their own water and clean the holds by brushing with water. You would indeed recognize local because they carry around a water spray and clean their route before and/or after climbing it. We experimented it, and indeed it works! The down side is that all the boulders touched end up having those white patches, so if you are wandering around and climbing whatever, it could be anything between V1 and project, and sometimes it’s honestly hard to see the difference!
We came back few times after, but we didn’t have the lucky chilly temps we had at the beginning, so everything became harder, both mentally and physically. And the rain came into play, having us stay inside for 3 days. The day the rain stopped, we went up to Flock Hill to try few climbs that we had in mind. It was so hot and after so much "climbing in the heat", we figured we would have better time going in town (Christchurch) and get some good training!
Here, we tried pretty much all the sleeping options
- Camping at the Craigieburn reserve : the closest option to Flock and Castle, but not so many facilities (rain water and shelter) for 8 NZ$/person/day. Lots of Sanflies spotted…
- Camping at Lake Pearson : a bit further (10min) but it’s free and it’s a pretty neat, just along a lake. No facilities besides a dry toilet. Sanflies spotted…
- Springfield Campground : probably our favorite for low budget. 5NZ$/person/day and it has a house with a common kitchen and dining area. Electricity, running water, toilets and bathroom (1$ for 4 mins). The owner is very nice and chill.
- Springfield Motel and Lodge : on our last week, when the rain period was here we wanted some comfort and dry place, so we decided to pay a little extra (60NZ$ for both of us) and stayed in a lodge which is a house with 4 private bedrooms and awesome common areas. This one is badass!! Super comfy, huge, new, clean and the owner is adorable.
Mount Cook bouldering
Just another one of Derek’s recommendation. He actually sent us a map and pictures of the area when we arrived in NZ and we put it on the side of our head, not making it a destination but a plan B if we had opportunity and time. After few days driving along the East coast, we were a bit bored of the sea side (ah those climbers!) and we decided to do a 2 days loop to Mt Cook for Christmas. We arrived at the Mt. Cook village with an overlook of the valleys and mountaintops including the prominent peak of Mt. Cook himself. We set up camp, drank a cold one and played some rounds of cribbage. The sun dropped and the clear dark sky popped and so we dropped the cards and watched the stars. Sounds cliché and corny but we did it anyway.
We were very excited for our first morning in the mountains.
We hit the trail directly after coffee and tea, weaving our way through the mess of RV's and tents at the campground we discovered the trail head just 50 meters from our car. We hustled along the double wide track past other walkers as the trail curved along the valley floor. We crossed a few suspension bridges along our way, very high, and long - best bridge we've walked on a trail for sure. We soon found ourselves at the Dude Incredible boulder where we heard the potential was great and the already established lines were too. We didn't expect it to be along a turn in the trail making it a spectating boulder for the 500+ people that walked by us that holiday weekend. We climbed a few warm-ups and scrambled around then hit the famous Dude Incredible stand with a very big move off of a right hand gaston to a flat ledge - for sure hard if on the shorter end. Josh found it tricky the first few attempts but then understood it was able to do the stand (V7) and low start (V8).
The locals told us about a hard traverse sit-start coming in from the right on edges and into the stand. We worked the moves and came up with the best solutions - Josh climbed into the dyno and fell, rested in the warm sun and cool breeze and then sent on his next go. Our first, first ascent in NZ clocking in around V10. Charlotte crushed most of the moves but the big move off the gaston was a tough one for her. We bobbled around (Kiwi lingo) on a boulder sitting along the glacier Hooker Lake and then checked out the other 'must see bloc' The Green Monster and decided it was for tomorrow! As we hiked out after a 11hr day in the valley, we couldn't have been more excited for some food and sleep. We returned to our car, but our tent seemed to be gone... apparently the campground was windy and sent our tent rolling across the parking lot. We were happy to have found it (rather than someone stealing it) and pounded steaks in the ground (and a hidden water pipe inches below the grass) this time around.
On our 2nd climbing day, Christmas Eve day, we hiked directly to the Green Monster bloc to get to work on cleaning and landing building. The locals have played around on some of the moves but from what we were told, nothing had been sent/ completed yet. We worked for an hour or more; moving rocks and cleaning holds. Two boulders, the green monster bloc was huge, sitting proud along the river diverging the water around it and another lower bloc with a steep roof with nice edges in the guts. We climbed a new warm we called The Greench (V2) along an arete next to the river, then to the left of that a low but high quality rock V7 we called Water Line. Then the big beast awaited, shady and ready to battle us. The first move was hard no matter how you sliced it; Josh’s beta, grab a small incut crimp in the roof and jump to a perfect smiley face rounded edge; or Cha's beta with a knee scum, undercling and dynamic stab to the same smiley faced hold. Then from there one more hard move and done - another FA in the bag and one hell of a primo line it was! We called it "The Green Monstah" V9 keeping the original name but with a Boston twist.
It was time for Christmas Eve celebration at the Mt. Cook Lodge and whew, it was awesome. Lamb backstops, sirloin steak, bottle of red and carrot cake for dinner. Then, we tossed some darts around listening to old school reggae and 80's pop on the jukebox. We couldn't have asked for a better day, a day in the mountains is always a good day - then add meat and carrot cake and you got a hard to beat day.
While driving along the West Coast down to the Fjords, we stopped in Queenstown which is an area we really liked. Through the rain drops, we spent an afternoon in the climbing sector called Wye Creek. We first were delighted by an awesome warm up, called Aratika, and it followed a perfect shard arete/ prow for 30m. Here Derek advised us to try Leviathan, a 30/8a+ that has been only recently sent and we actually did the 3rd and 4th sends of the route. It was a pure technical face with a little cruxy section in the middle. We couldn’t stay away from the roof of the sector which was just too fun to climb and pretty neat with the lake in the background.
Darrans / Little Babylone
What a week (or 8 days, 9 days? we don't even know anymore) we just spent in Milford Sound. Usually famous for the touristy tours in the fjords, Milford Sound is also great for sport climbing! We spent our time in the Milford Sound lodge where we slept in the car but had access to facilities (kitchen, showers, electricity, couches...) in a lodge close by. A nice part of it is that we were totally away from any phone or internet connection so we were able to stay away from our phones for a long time, which actually felt nice!
Between rain and humidity (we can easily say it rained 70% of the time) and other touristy things we mostly climbed in Little Babylon, where we had very good temps around 15°C. This sector is accessible by a 30min hike on a very (very) steep hill side, but it was all covered by trees so we were actually grabbing roots and walking over dead trunks the all time, like if we were climbing in a giant tree! The cliff was awesome, with plenty of routes to climb, all protected by the rain, on a beautiful granite rock. Within 5 days of climbing we climbed combined 12 routes between 8a and 8c - yes we had a great time. The highlight was totally our send of Colossus, a powerful, bouldery and tricky 8c! It was awesome to figure it out together, find our own beta (we have a very different one for the crux) and fight through the process of climbing 20m to fall on the crux at the last clip. But perseverance and micro beta change made it happen. Most exciting parts : This is the first female 8c in NZ and Josh's first 8c !!! woooohoooo!
The cliff was awesome, with plenty of routes to climb, all protected by the rain, on a beautiful granite rock. Within 5 days of climbing we climbed combined 12 routes between 8a and 8c - yes we had a great time. The highlight was totally our send of Colossus, a powerful, bouldery and tricky 8c! It was awesome to figure it out together, find our own beta (we have a very different one for the crux) and fight through the process of climbing 20m to fall on the crux at the last clip. But perseverance and micro beta change made it happen. Most exciting parts : This is the first female 8c in NZ and Josh's first 8c !!! woooohoooo!
The Darrans welcomed us, blessed us with beautiful landscapes and waterfalls, and rewarded us with an awesome time climbing and sending hard.
Another outdoor activity that I am very interested about is mountaineering. I have been doing that since she is very young, even before climbing, so it’s a goal of us to hit some nice peaks along our travel around the World. Our Oceanian summit was Mount Aspiring, culminating at 3033m and highest peak of the Mt Aspiring National Park. Even if we’ve been planning the ascent since we arrived (website, guidebook, blogs, etc.), we were waiting for a good weather window (aka 4 days in a row of nice weather) which took a while to come. And suddenly, just after entering 2018, the window appeared and everything went fast. We drove down to Queenstown from Christchurch (where we spent New Year ’s Eve my extended family Nico and Adele) to chill for few days. But we realized our weather window opened sooner than planned, so we just spent one day in Queenstown and then went to Wanaka for the last shopping, hike planning and boots renting.
The hike up and down Mt Aspiring took 4 days. It was very epic and beautiful:
- Thursday 4th, we left the Raspberry flat car park loaded with our big bags. We hike 5 hours through some big field down in a valley, along a river, by the Aspiring hut, across fun swinging bridges, in a steep fern forest and on top of rock falls. We made it to Scott's bivvy, searching for it at the end as we were being impatient to find it, but for those who read this and want to head there, just follow the marks (read poles) all the way to the last one, and you are there. This seems obvious, but it’s not mentioned in the guidebook or anywhere online. It was very hot so it was not the best hike conditions, but not so bad. We slept in this rudimentary bivvy, after having die r on top of it and set the alarm for 5h30.
- Friday 5th, after a pretty good night of sleep (despite the thousands sandflies), we started to hike up the slabs above the bivvy, thinking (cause that was the plan) we were heading to Bevan Col. Unfortunately, we got in a thick fog pretty quick and it didn't leave us all day long. After about 3h of hiking, we touch our first snow and put the crampons. But soon we felt lost, which we did for about 4-5h, walking around on rock and snow, the pea soup and the rain not helping.
Few seconds clearing came every 30min so we could get information around us, which made us realize where we were, very close to the Breakaway, a "door" to the Bonar Glacier. We followed that way and arrived in the glacier, still in a thick fog, and so we took the compass out to head to the direction of the Colin Todd Hut, that we could guess thank's to a map. We had to cross bigger and bigger crevasses, making us meander for a couple hours in the glacier. Luckily with some clearings and some sun at the end of the day, we could spot the red hut in the distance, a wonderful landmark after those hours being lost. We reached the hut around 8pm. It was a 13h day of hiking. It should have been a 6h day...
- Saturday 6th, alarm clock at 3am to head to the summit. However, some very very strong wind (we learned later up to 100km/h) outside made us stay in bed, as well as the other guides, clients and hikers in the hut. We all had a slow morning, contemplating the summit through the window, while listening to the wind whipping on the hut. The rain being planned for midday the next day (info we got thanks to the daily radio call in the hut), we weighted the pros of cons of doing an afternoon start that day or a very early morning start the day after, and couldn’t find the right answer.
Although at some point in the early afternoon, a group of 3 guys -Sam, George and Ben (sorry if not the right name)- decided to go for the summit and we figured it would be a great opportunity. Even if they were way too fast for us, it was awesome to follow them in the distance, having an idea where to meander. The route, the North West Ridge, was awesome, following a rocky ridge/arete all the way to the top, where a snow/ice cap was covering the summit. It took us a bit less that 3h25 to reach the summit in total, which is quite fast compared to the info we got.
We hiked down in the sunset, which was perfect and very special, and reached the hut just when it got dark, so we didn't even have to hike with the headlamps. We entered the hut around 9.30pm, everybody was asleep but our 3 friends who already came back from their summit and had prepared some boiled water for us (it was so kind of them). Josh and I ate diner quietly, enjoying the peaceful moment while looking at the summit disappearing in the dark night by the window.
- Sunday 7th, alarm at 7am to head back down to the valley and the carpark. We left around 9 and crossed the glacier to reach Bevan Col. It was super sunny, so we were in tank tops while walking in the snow, which was much more enjoyable than on our way in.
We also went through the right path by the Bevan Col and by what they call “the slabs” : it was much easier, shorter and more obvious than what we did on the way up. After talking with different hikers used to the area, we actually might have been a first. We hiked all the way down with our new "homie" that we met in the hut, which made the 9h (yes, 9 hours !!!) of hiking back to the car more enjoyable.
We find it always a bit hard to "reconnect" after some mountaineering. Life up in the mountain - emotions, epics, beauty, physical effort, cold, sweat, encounter, being remote, hut life - is very special.
What we saw the most in NZ, besides the sheeps, it is Waterfalls. We saw them everywhere, of any forms and they were even bigger and cooler after some rain (good thing it rains a lot down there!)
NZ being two islands, we saw a lot of beaches. There were wild and beautiful, sometimes Black sand, sometimes white sands, sometimes even pebble beaches. Near Haast, there is a neat “attraction” : for many years drivers have stopped by the beach and grab a rock, writing their name on it and making a pile of it. The pile is huge now, and we added our little rock to the construction. He really liked the beach towns Hokitika (West Coast) and Oamaru (East Coast).
New Zealand is green, very green! They are a lot of forests, and we were really mesmerized by what we called the “Enchanted forest”, which were thick and had a lot of varieties that we mostly didn’t know like some huge ferns.
Moeraki boulders/Fleurs Place
On our drive on the east coast, it rained unexpectedly and our sleeping gear got all wet, so we decided to stop and rent a cabin in a campground for the night. Luckily enough, we ended up in Moeraki were we had a WONDERFUL diner at Fleurs place, a cute restaurant on the port. After this evening and night, we even went back to Fleurs for breakfast. On the drive back, we stopped in a special attraction, the Moeraki boulders, which are big rounded rocks in the middle on the beach. It was pretty neat, and we almost wished they were bigger boulders!
We spent almost two weeks down in the Fjords and we loved it. We felt remote (which we were!) and tiny, in the middle of those 1000-2000m very steep hills, sometimes diving directly in the water. While in Milford Sound, we actually took a ferry to go to the Tasman Sea, and it was a 2h roundtrip of this landscape, dotted with a lot of waterfalls which were big because it has been raining for a while.
Above the town Glacier Fox is a glacier of the same name. It’s reached through a easy open tourist hike, which leads a few hundred meters below the glacier, giving a good sight on it.
In the same area, just at the exit of town going south, there is a little path on the left. We went there by night and saw a lot of glowworms; it was magical, just like a lot of stars.
While being so down South after the Fjords, we figured it could be fun to do a 3h detour to the Southern point of NZ, being also the most South we’ve ever been. This place was called “Slope Point” and it was interesting to see that we were much closer to the South Pole than to the Equator. It doesn’t happen that often.
We saw quite a lot of wildlife, and even if we missed out of some of them (like penguins or kiwis), we were delighted with a lot of different species.
Sheep (alright, not so rare, but there were A LOT of them)
New Zealand treated us well. We did a lot, as far as climbing, driving and sightseeing. It was a big advantage to be nomad so we can change plans easily and drive around. To be honest, it was also exhausting, having to live off of a car, packing/ unpacking every day, find electricity to be able to work the way we needed. We would do it again for sure, but not for a month and a half, maybe only a week here and there.
NZ was wild, green and pure, it was an incredible feeling to be in the wilderness most of the time, away from the city life. Once again, the climbing community has been very welcoming and we can’t say “Thank you” enough to Derek for all the good betas and help while we were there. Will we come back? We definitively have a lot more to do, like taking more advantage of Flock, climbing around Wanaka, hiking more, sending some harder projects in the Darrans, and even bolt in the northern part of the South Island… Yes, if our path comes around this continent, we might do a detour down in NZ again!
Tick list :
- Interstellar overdrive, V10, J - a must do while here!
- Jet stream, V9, J
- Captain Nemo, V8, C
- Velociraptor, V8, J (flash)
- Classic, V6, C
- The flutes, V4, C
- Split Apple Dyno, V4, C and J
- General Mayhem, V10 flash, J
- Obelisk, V9, J
- Monster Society of Evil, V9, C and J
- Captain sassy pants, V8, J
- Disconnect extra, V8, C and J
- Green Hornet, V9, C and J (favorite one!)
Aratika, 7a – C and J
Leviathan, 8a+ - C and J
Bish Bosh Bash, 7a+ - C, J / 7c+ - J
International Turkey Patrol, 7b - C, J
Solitude, 7b - C, J
Jugular, 7b - C, J
Moses, 7c - C
Hercules, 8a - C, J (this one felt more like 8a+)
No country for old men, 8a - C, J
Tantalus, 8a - C, J (double flash)
Xerxes, 8a+ - J
Cyrus the great, 8a+ - C, J
The giving tree, 8b - C
Colossus, 8c - C, J
Nothing very unusual, just like in Australia, although we will note the amount of fish thanks to the proximity of the sea and ocean all around. The specialty of the island is the Fish and Chips, which has to be tried once because it’s yummy, but it’s very very greasy (it’s fried) so you might not go back for it (we didn’t).
Australia is probably THE destination that every traveler wants to visit at some point, because it’s so far and rimes with adventure, roadtrip and wilderness! For us it was obvious to put it in our destination list, especially because of the famous climbing destination it offers. Actually, Australia was the first destination of the trip, before we decided to add to stops in Europe. In 2008, Charlotte spent 10 days in the Blue Mountains, so we wanted to try another spot : the Grampians! Located North-East of Melbourne it is the ideal destination, because of all the different type of climbing it has (all of them ?!), the proximity of the big city if we wanted to do some work, and last but not least, our friend Steve (who we met when living in Montpellier) lives in Melbourne. For the previous 3 months leading up to our trip, we exchange tons of email with Steve, mostly logistic and when to meet each other. For some further goal later in the trip, we booked Australia for 45 days starting in November, definitively not the best season for rock climbing as it is the start of their summer, but we figured we could find some good shade spot of even do night sessions.
On November 2nd, we landed in Melbourne, pick-up our rental car (which we were pleased to get an upgrade from “compact” to “SUV”) and went to the Northside bouldering gym in Northcote, to meet up with Steve who welcomed us with crashpads (we didn’t fly with any but had some coming from Petzl later), the Grampians bouldering guidebook and a homemade bread. What wonderful first few hours we got in Australia! After that, we drove 3h-ish to the Grampians and checked-in at the Mt Zero Log cabin with the owner Angela, located 5mins away from the Northern Grampians and here we were, settled down in our cabin for a month and a half.
Our plan : climbing ! This is gonna be one of the rare destination where our only plan and goal is to climb and get into projects. We started to flip the guidebook pages and we were chocked (in a good way) how dense the sectors are, some World Famous boulders being so close to each other!
Surprisingly when we arrived the temps were pretty nice, having us put long sleeves and beanies. On our first day, totally jetlagged, we wanted to make it easy with not too much hiking and we ended up at the Kindergarten. Amazing amazing AMAZING rock in orangey-white colors that has unique wavy features. One of a kind that none of us has never seen before. What a treat for our first day, we had no idea! We climbed a bunch, trying easy and intermediate boulders, tempting our fingers on some harder lines. The rock and moves quality were so pleasant! We hiked out on the sun set, thrilled by those long days which added 4 hours of daylight compared to our previous stop in Serbia.
The next day, we met up with Steve and his family : his wife Kate, and their two adorable kids Tommy and Suzy. We went to Andersens and once again we climbed around to check out the moderates up to V6. We finished the day up in the hill, where we checked out the famous Hollow Moutain Cave.... just WOW! That day, we stated something that we’ve been noticing few times and that confirmed later on : no photos nor videos can truely show you the beauty and unicity of places. The HMC is definitively a unique climbing sector. We played in there a little bit, and Josh grabbed an awesome send of Dead can’t dance, V11. To watch the sunset, we went a few hundred meters higher at Loopeys where we climbed around and contemplated the evening colors on the impressive Taipan Wall.
Finally, before a first rest day, we wanted to climb a bit more and get some volume in, so on our 3rd day we went back to Andersens and climbed a bunch of V7 (seems like half the boulders are V7 here) and also “Pumped Action” V9 (only Cha tried it and flashed it... you know by the name why Josh didn't want to try it !), and the beautiful and tricky “Etch-a-sketch” V10, flashed by Josh and sent 2nd go for Cha after figuring out her own twisty beta!
“Ammagamma” has been our zen word since we left for our trip, mostly for Josh because it's the name of a boulder problem on his dream list. Most climbers have a "dream list" whether it's just in their head or written down somewhere arbitrary, we all have goals and dreams. Ammagamma has been one of those for Josh since we booked our flights. This is Josh’s words when we arrived to the Citadel sector : ”Walking up to the boulder (this is going to sound weird) I was nervous; like the blind date feeling of "what if they are annoying, or smelly, or their headshots online were photoshopped?" I walked around the corner - palms sweating - to find it near perfect. She didn't smell bad, she looked fine, she even had a shimmer of sun on the topout for me. I quickly warmed up and started to session on my blind date...my dream boulder. I worked through all the moves, the intricate toe-hooks, the subtle finger positioning in the good/bad pockets and figured out the topout. The entire boulder revolves around a big dynamic right hand jump to a flat, rounded edge. I was very far from sticking on my first try, then after the subtle foot and momentum beta, pretty much stuck it and fell trying to put my feet back on. STOKED!”.
We left the boulder after it started to get warm and went around the corner in the “Between the sheeps” sector where Cha wanted to try "When we were Kings" 8A/ V11. It’s a boulder made for Char, steep (nearly a roof) with pockets, and power-endurance focused with a few mini cruxes. She tried it once, fell, worked through the moves quickly, rested, then sent it, making it her 2nd boulder of the grade, a great surprise at the beginning of the trip here!
Arrival of the heat wave
We found out pretty soon that afternoon climbing is relatively impossible as all the boulders (at least the one we wanted to try) are facing the sun in the afternoon, which became extremely hot (like 30°C minimum). Well, we were warned, it's the summer here and in the summer, it's hot, and yes, it just arrived in the Grampians, few days after our arrivals. So we dragged our pads in different sectors and eventually found some shaddy spot (not temps dependant boulders) like "Butcher choice" V10 in the Trackside sector, that Josh flashed and Cha sent 1st go after figuring out her own beta (again!).
Our projects not being climbable in the heat, the next days we decided to take full advantage of the climbing around and drove a bit further, checking out the Campground sector (not so interesting but wins the “least hiking” reward) and even further, the Cave of Man Hand sector in the Southern Grampians. It is an incredible little cave with crazy features and holds. We played around in the moderates, loving the compression of "The pummelling" V4. We both got a flash of "Cold hands, cold heart" V8, and then Josh kept going with sending "Manhandled" V8 and impressively (Charlotte speaking here) flashing the powerful V10 "The sound of one man hand slapping".
While in the South, we checked out the sector “Bleachers” with Steve and fam and spent a chill midday climbing around on everything that had a good look.
Meeting the Tiger
After a lot of bouldering, which felt great after almost 2 month of route climbing, we packed up the rope and quickdraws and head out to the Muline sector, a southern Grampians shaddy wall. The hike was tough, the temperature just keeping to increase. Also we noticed that the trail was not super well maintained so we had to kinda scroll through the Jungle, which is kinda weird judging by the reputation of the sector! You don’t know Muline? Then you have to know it’s most famous climbs : “Eye of the Tiger” .
After some minutes of silence to admire the so-call route and all the amazing swirly colorful rock around, we opened the guidebook, getting all psyched to climb. 5 minutes later we had our harnesses on and we warmed up on the classic " Krankandangle" 24/7a+. Then Cha started to climb on the "Eye of the Tiger" 29/8a, and here is what was on her mind : “both excited and intimidated, I was pretty sure I would be dominated by this monster. But while I passed the steepest part with a nice physical twisty beta, I felt like I was not allowed to fall after that. The end was definitively very challenging and it probably took me a while to reach the chains. But damn, this is probably my proudest and most emotional onsight, not for the grade, but for the its charisma !”. Josh followed the send train with an awesome flash of the route and let us tell you, we were psyched.
We then just moved left to try "The flying Duck" 32/8b+, which starts in "Krankandangle" for a bolt and then crosses the face (while hanging at the lip of the roof) to finish same as "Eye of the Tiger". We solved all the moves surprisingly very fast but struggled all day with the temperature, being 35°C in the shade. Finally, in the evening the temperatures got much nicer, probably 10°C less hot with a nice little breeze. So even if we were tired from our previous tries, we went back in the route and finally sticked the big move, making our way to the anchor. It was a nice reward to send this 8b+, and overall a good day, with a nice lesson learned : on the hot days, work some projs when it's the hottest, but do not ruin yourself doing some real tries, just wait for the last 2h of the day when it's getting much nicer out.
First injury and aborted trip
Something happened on the send of “Flyin Duck” : while lowered down, Josh felt an intense pain on his right side, kind of where the ribs are, and the pain never disappeared in the next days. So he went to a Sport Physio (luckily a climber, who can understand the climbing movements) and got diagnosed with a torn oblique, injury highly enhanced by how dehydrated we were that day. The recovery ? Rest for few weeks, with no real “deadline” as the rule is “climb when you don’t feel it anymore. A hard punishment only 10 day into the Australian trip, but we took it with intelligence. Indeed, we know that, climbing and pushing ourselves non-stop, we will inevitably get inured at some point, we just didn’t think it would happen that fast. And to remove a bit of remorse, it just stayed super hot so trying hard was not feasible. Later on, sweating and suffocating on another hot day, we actually decided to abord the trip in Australia. Having some duties in Melbourne at the end of the month, we couldn’t leave any sooner, but that was a nice landmark to leave to New-Zealand just after this, shortening our Australian stop at 1 month instead of 1 and a half. With about 10 days left in the Grampians, we took full advantage of it.
Sport and Trad climbing
- The Taipan Wall! Finally we walk to it and put our bags below it. We actually started to the right hand side of it, in a short sector called Spurt! Only Cha was able to climb, and she experienced some very reachy moves, as quoted “I felt pretty short on those routes as I had to do some big lock-offs and dynos, but it was very fun until a certain point when it became upsetting”. Her favorites routes in the area were “Dial-a-Lama” 24/7a+ for warm-up, “The invisible fist” 26/7b+ (probably the best one) and “Tyranny” 29/8a.
On another day, we came back for “Serpentine” 29/8a, a gorgeous and iconic mixed route in the middle of Taipan Wall. Luckily for Cha, the gear was all in place, thank's to a "Lincoln" who was projecting the route, and that made the experience a lot nicer. We ascended our way up the static rope to an anchor about 30m high, where the 42m pitch starts. Then, Cha tells “I took off and did the few first moves on the roof, but was totally blind on the next holds, so Josh took me on the first bolt, so I could see where to go after the roof. He lowered me to the anchor, and I started again, passing the roof and passing slowly every difficulty all the way to the top for a almost-onsight send of this awesome route. Somehow, just like "Eye of the Tiger" I was impressed by the route and the powerful meaning of it (not by the grade), really thinking I'd have to project it and come back for it another day. Climbing it "1st go" (mostly onsight in my heart, because it matters for me) added so much more to the experience... this is a badass route and I'm psyched I got to climb in the middle of the Taipan Wall ! “.
Climbing on the Taipan Wall was definitively an intense experience, especially because of the engagement of the routes, which we honestly don't understand the point of... if you bolt, why not make it fully safe?! For example, Cha tried “Groovy” and we’d have to say it was pretty sketchy... the bolts where far, and if she felt any time between the ground and the 3rd bolt (1st bolt being probably 20m high), she would probably have broken both her legs. We’ve got some explanation from the locals, which kinda make sense : when the area was first developed, bolters wanted their names on a maximum of the routes and on the first ascents, so they just throw a minimum amount of bolts (those being costly) and sent their proj before moving on to the next one. As the routes have been like this forever, locals don’t want to change the way it is (by adding few bolts) in those older (awesome) lines… Sure! Though we still had the feeling that those “ethics” made this amazing wall not so good to climb.
- Bundaleer, a sector that we’ve never heard of, but a must-see! We actually joined our Aussie family for a weekend down there, and we were pleasantly surprised by this sector. It’s located in the southern Grampians and is a 40 (ish) meters high cliff band, more on the vertical side. It has a good variety of trad routes and sport routes. The first thing we noticed was the colors of the wall, sometimes “normal” grey, but sometimes almost black, orange, yellow, blue and even purple. The second thing was the crazy pocket features in some routes, one almost looking like a hangboard in a middle of a blank face.
Kate and cha went on a little mission together up “the Minch”, a very easy chimney trad climb. Cha led it, as she wanted to revise gear placement. The route was ultra fun, and apparently gear were placed pretty good, even if Cha’s confidence took a while to come back.
Then Cha climbed with Steve an awesome route called "Manic Depressive" 24/7a+ which follows a steep arete but climbs on the slab part of it with very good pockets.
Finally, after Steve send his project "Touchstone picture" 28/7c+ on his 1st go of the day, he left the quickdraw so Cha gave it a go. It took her few tries to pass the bottom crimpy crux, having to find a tricky high foot beta to overpass a reachy move, and then she made it to the anchor, flashing the rest of the route. What a cool line ! It goes through incredible features that looks just like the hangboard we mentioned before, and finishes on a technical diedre. Both “Touchstone…” and “Manic” were on the spaced-out-bolts, but nothing very endangering; although I wouldn’t take the whipper at the end of the (easy) slab of “Manic…”.
- Wall of fools, why not ?! After few very hot days, we were down working on our computers, so we figured we might as well taste (test?!) what other things the Grampians have to offer. So on a disgustingly hot (we like the expression because that’s how it felt at some point, especially when some humidity came into play), we decided to go do some easy trad route and we picked the sector "Wall of fools", about 5min from the parking lot so we don't lose 2L of water sweating during the hike ;) . We loved the look of the wall : little cliff band, probably 15-20m high, beautiful colorful stripes. The only downside is that there is no anchor so you have to top out and the second has to climb top rope so that both climbers then walk around to go back to the bottom. We climbed some nice routes, remembered how to place gear - or run out like in “Soweto” 21/6c. We also played in “Arch Enema” 24/7a+ a pretty cool bolted line that goes behind an arch, in a very narrow chimney! Super fun!
- Eureka wall… Eureka! Damn the Grampians has a lot of secret jewels. We made our way down there one day and we were absolutely enchanted by the beauty of this hidden gem! Cha’s main goal was to climb “Archimedes principles” a long 25/7b trad that follows a beautiful strikes through the main part of the face. After looking at the route and reading the guidebook, we didn't know if we had the good trad gear, and especially enough of it. As our experience in trad is pretty low, we didn't want to go for it, which we think was a safe idea. Luckily, two dudes were rappelling from the anchors when we arrived, and we were able to put our rope in top-rope up there. So, as weird as it sounds, Cha sent the route top rope, placing the gear on her way (climbing and unclimbing because it would be too runned out) and it took her about 1h30 to reach the anchor, 40m high! Then she came down and left the gear in place, and went for a quick lead send, with a big storm rolling around the corner. We are pretty stoked we went there and got to climb this amazing route, especially it made some stunning epic pictures!
Through our heat fight, we had couple nice options to refresh ourselves : the super cold pool at our place, the MacKenzie falls down south (30-ish minutes drive from our place) or the winery caves in Halls Gap to refresh our palate. Actually, The Grampians are famous for the wine, and we totally agreed as we found some really nice Shiraz, a grape variety that we are not used to in Europe and USA.
Last few days in Australia
The evening before we left the Grampians, the temps somehow got chilly (meaning 15-20°C) so we wanted to enjoy some good conditions and went where we started : Kindergarten”. At that point Josh was definitively bummed to not have climbed much (more than two weeks since his injury) and felt really unsatisfied, so despite the injury, he wanted to give one more session to the Grampians. We arrived around 6pm, but it was very hot still. Although later, the wind blew very strong, bringing a nice breeze in the wall, drying it from humidity and cooling it from the heat. We tried "So you think you can dance" V11/8A, a gorgeous wavy boulder that we tried on our first day, and we made some very good links on it. Cha couldn't do some moves (missing some reach and some finger strength) but Josh, all taped up on his right side was looking good, imperturbable. When the wall got in the shade, we went for a send... and sent it smoothly, perfectly. We think we can call that a happy ending!
When leaving the Grampians to Melbourne, we head down South to drive along the coast. It makes the drive much longer, so we took two days for it, willing to enjoy a bit of down time by the Ocean. We stopped in Portland, which we did not really find interesting, but we witnessed a perfect sun set from Cape Nelson. The day after, awaken by awesome birds singing, we went to the beach for breakfast while watching sunrise. We continued our journey along the coast and stopped at beautiful beaches and nature follies - including the 12 Apostles, no so “unique” because you have to share the view with hundreds other tourists while there are actually the same (if not better) kind of “rock towers in the ocean” a little before on the west. Most recommended café:Breakfast stop along the coast in the town Port Fairy, and highly recommended lunch stop at the Basalt Wines in Killarney.
We ended our Victorian journey in Melbourne where we stayed a few days, hanging with our Australian family and with the crew at Northside boulders. We got to set for their Christmas comp at the Brunswick location which was super fun with a cool crew led by Reuben. And we also did a coaching session with a young squad at the brand new Northcote location. Melbourne is a cool town! Besides the fact that it’s just on the ocean and only 3h to the Grampians, it has some really awesome neighbourhood like Brunswick which we really really like for all the restaurants, the chill vibe and multi-cultural atmosphere!
For the end
The Grampians were beautiful. So much rock. Classic rock. New rock. Untouched rock. So many possibilities. The rock was beautiful and we felt liek living in a very colourful world for a month. Added to that, we felt just enough remote, enjoying the wilderness and big spaces of the region. So many animals too, everyday we saw an animal, it being a colorful bird, a walabi, a flat tail or other little lezard.
We feel that we didn't take full advantage of the Grampians and the region, obviously because of the heat. We missed out on a few things, for example climbing in Mt Arapiles, so close to us. That made our “Goodbye” to the country a little sad and sorry to not have enjoyed it more… but in the same time, we have both agreed that we will be back for sure, who knows how long, who knows if it’s only gonna be in Victoria, but our Australian appetite needs to be satisfied!
Krankandangle, 7a+, C and J
Touchstone Picture, 7c+, C
Tyranny , 8a, C
Serpentine, 8a, C
Eye of the Tiger, 8a, C and J
Flying Duck, 8b+, C and J
Lygon St Massacre , V3, C and J
Good man down, V3, C
Fashion, Gramps, V4, C
The Pummelling, V4, C and J
Master bates, V5, C and J
Wimmel Friedhoff, V5, C and J
Hands up, V5, C and J
Riding shotgun, V6, C and J
Hands down, V6, C and J
Falsh Gordon, V7, C and J
The Nevin Rule, V7, C and J
Rodeo girl, V7, C and J
Rise of the machines, V7, C and J
Mr Knox, V7, C and J
Mr Fox, V7, C and J
Bitch slap, V7, C and J
Underhanded tactics, V7, C and J
Caffeinator, V8, C and J
Spanking the Monkeybar, V8, J
Rave heart, V8, J
Ammagamma Stand, V8, C and J
Cold hands Cold heart, V8, C and J
Manhandled, V8, J
Pump Action, V9, C
Stand to a Sit, V9, J
Cave man, V9, C and J
Lost for Life stand, V9, J
Etch-a-sketch, V10, C and J
Butcher's Choice, V10, C and J
The Sound of One Man Hand Clapping, V10, J
When we were Kings, V11, C
Dead can't Dance, V11, J
So you think you can Dance, V11, J
Nothing really out of ordinary (compared to US and France)… although we can highlight the lamb, which was in abundance and very yummy. We also noticed a great diversity as far as multi-cultural food and restaurants.
Let’s put it straight: Serbia has never been a place in our mind to visit, neither for sight seeing nor climbing. But this changed mid 2016, when Josh has been contacted by Outdoor Collective, an NGO based in Belgrade, to attend the Reel Rock 11 Tour premieres in Serbia and do some clinics for the local climbers. Financed through the American Embassy, he spent about 10 days in November (actually while Charlotte was in Greece with the Alpine Club), traveling from town to town and discovering the gyms and the cliffs that the small country offers. When he came back from his stay, it took him about a week (Charlotte speaking here) to come back to “real life”… his head was still with the kind people he met and in the beautiful gorges he climbed at. So after talking a bit more about it, it was decided: Serbia would be our second destination of the trip.
We first reached out to Djuk at Outdoor Collective, to offer our help for anything like clinics, talks, slideshow, clinics. In the little community, it was a great opportunity for the climbers to learn and discover a bit more through our eyes and experiences. Thanks to the American Embassy in Belgrade, willing to help and promote the development of climbing in Serbia, we got some budget to come over and tour in the Country. The planning was to spend the first week in Belgrade, our weekends in gyms for some events, and move to a town called Nis, in the south, where there is plenty of climbing and developing to be done.
A WEEK IN BELGRADE
When we arrived, we were welcomed by Simone, who offered to host us for our stay in Serbia with his wonderful wife Aleksandra and daughter Milena. Our (their) place was right downtown, with a stellar view on the Saint Sava Temple, which was quite enjoyable to look at from the living room window. The family of three was absolutely adorable and we felt just like home, spending some great times with them.
The day after we arrived was Josh’s birthday, and we met up with Outdoor Collective and a bunch of friends and head to have a late pizza lunch on a boat restaurant. The local prepared a surprise for Josh’s birthday, with a big cake and gifts (Rakia!!!), which was really awesome and a nice opportunity for Cha to meet everybody.
In the next days, we visited different gyms (clubs and personal walls) in Belgrade, trained, coached a bit and did a talk downtown to introduce us and the trip, and do a slideshow about Social Media and sponsoring. It was quite interesting to brainstorm together about it and propose a didactic presentation. A week later, we went to Krucevac to do a clinic, and later on, the Serbian Federation asked us to set the bouldering nationals, which we did and it was a lot of fun !
We also went to the outdoor sectors around Belgrade :
We spent most of our time in Serbia next to a main town called Nis. A bit to the east of it, in Niska Banja, we had a small apartment, a bit old, smelly and not really at the norms. The best (worst) part was the bathroom, which had no shower but a hose coming out of the sink, with a power outlet a few centimeters away, and naked wires on the top of the wall. We will for sure remember it !
Climbing in Sicevo and Jelasnica
For discovering the place and getting some video content, we climbed a few days in the Jelasnica Gorge, which is probably the oldest and biggest climbing area in Serbia. It’s a narrow pretty gorge surrounded with short cliff bands and cliff towers, made of mostly a nice compact grey limestone. There, Charlotte sent “Future Land” 8b which is, as for today, the hardest route in the gorge.
However there are few projects sprinkled along the gorge, and judging by their difficulty when we tried a few of them, Future Land will not remain the hardest route for a long time.
We played in two other sectors: in the obvious little H2O cave, where Josh re-sent “H2O”; and in a beautiful slabby pillar where Cha climbed “Zilet”.
To the North of Jelasnica is the Sicevo gorge, which is also known for climbing in the area, but it’s much bigger than Jelasnica and has much more potential and diversity. We spent a nice day climbing here with Jonathan, Djuk, Velko and Alex, and Josh went up to film a beautiful 8a+ we sent last year : Eagle’s Milk.
Developping a new area
Actually on the first day we drove down in Nis area, Djuk and Veljko gave us a tour of the Sicevo gorge, so we can put an eye on some potential to develop. Our eyes were caught by so many untouched cliffs and pillars of all forms, but our heart was instantly trapped on a massive cave that we could see for only a tiny part of the day. It was decided : that would be our mission for the rest of the trip.
The first difficulty to start developing the cave was simply to reach it. The road is across the river from it, and the river is not just a “jump across” type of river. Our first try was to drive on a tiny old road to reach the top of the hill. We arrived on a very old village where we asked for some kind of directions towards the cave, but they actually had no idea about it. So we parked and meandered our way through. When we got close enough to the top of it, we realized it would be too steep and too long to go down, especially to go back up.
So we turned around and decided to go back on the main road, and try to cross the river anyway. Josh sacrificed and we were then able to set up a tyrolean with a fixed rope. We then made our way through the bushes and up the steep hill, crossed a rail track (pretty cool) and kept walking up the steep hill side, up to the cave. Our first word was WOW ! It was much bigger than we thought from the ground, and you could already here us saying the many obvious lines we were thinking to bolt!
In the next few days, which Daniel (a local climber/bolter) we created the trail, which required some serious switchbacks, we put up few fixed ropes to help going up, and we installed a real cable tyrolean to replace our rope. It was a fun challenge as neither Josh nor I had ever done that before. Good thing we could find all the gear and tools necessary at a hardware store down in Nis.
8th route : it is not done yet, but it’s gonna be a nice team work between us and Daniel, as we put the first few bolts, and he promises to finish the bolting when he comes back.
We’d have to say, the cave is hard ! We only sent 1 route out of the 5 we bolted.
Our stay in Nis and in Serbia in general was totally highlighted by the people we got to spend time with: Climbing with the Belgrade crew, working at the cave with Daniel, hanging out with the Casettas, barbecues at Nesa’s and Gaga’s, diners at Burka and most importantly , spending a lot of time with Djuk and Velko… Thank you all for these times!
First rule of fight club, 7a+, C and J
Zilet, 7b+, C
H2O, 8a, J
Future land, 8b, C
Cheese bread (don't know the name)
Our 18 Months World Tour started in Greece, on August 31st of 2017. To be honest, Greece was not supposed to be part of the plan when we were looking at places and dates. Indeed, Charlotte’s PhD was planned to finish in June 2017, so when we started planning in September 2016, we preferred having a “safety period” just in case she got delayed in her work. So we actually defined a trip start on November 2017, with Australia. Back then we didn’t have any European destination in our calendar, because we had a good tour over the last few years already. When Charlotte finished writing her manuscript at the beginning of May (with the Trip as motivation) we knew we could start the trip sooner than November, and this is why we added Greece as our first stop, more specifically the climbing area called Kyparissi.
Why Kyparissi? Charlotte visited this place in October during a bolting/climbing trip with the French Alpine Club and came back amazed by the bolting potential, this beautiful remote place and charmed by their host in Cavo Kortia. It was a place to return, for both of us.
Our journey started in France, at Charlotte’s place, from where her dad drove us to the airport in Lyon for an afternoon flight. We checked-in 55kg of luggage, and carried our carry-ons (for sure heavier than the allowance) through customs after a last hug to Charlotte’s dad. Between excitement and a bit a premature nostalgia, this was the beginning of our long adventure together.
We arrived in Athens late afternoon, and Alexandra, our Airbnb, picked us up to bring us to our studio for a quick night of sleep. In the morning, she dropped us back at the airport, we picked up our rental car and hit the road for a 3h-ish drive south to Kyparissi.
Kyparissi is a little village and the east sea side on Peloponnese, the peninsula south of Athens. To reach it, you have to wander a good hour on windy roads, in the middle of hills and lemon tree fields. The access gives a upper view on the white houses covered with their red roofs. On the background, the infinite Mediterranean sea, doted with a couple islands, is outlined by plenty of pebble beaches and clear blue water.
When we arrived, mid afternoon, we went straight to the hotel Cavo Kortia, where we had exchange emails to book for our entire stay. We were delighted that the owner, Nectaria, recognize Charlotte from her previous visit. But due to miss-understanding in the email, we had to spend our first three nights in the hotel Alkyoni down the road. A little disappointment passed away, we couldn’t have been more satisfied with this intermediate apartment fully furnished a cute little patio with view on the sea, and a 5 min walk down to the water.
To get used to the travel, the area and the temperature (35°C in the shade), we first climbed in the sector of Watermill, which is probably the most obvious sector because you see it easily when driving and it’s only a 5min approach. This wide orange wall is made of thousands of tufas and stalactites, just like the Grande Grotta in Kalymnos. After few warm-ups and both sending a cool 8a called “Zarax”, we tried the 8a+ “ Ya Kyparissi Ksésec” and the 8b “Medusa’s blood” . Those routes were neat but we felt incapable on them, kinda suffering from the heat and the travel fatigue, at least that’s what we hopped!
On the following rest day we moved out from Alkyoni and moved in in Cavo Kortia, where we spread our stuff everywhere to feel like home, and that’s how we felt the all way in this place. No direct view on the sea from our room (we only had to walk 5m away… not a big deal), but a quiet place, very beautiful because all made of rocks and neat white walls. With the people here welcoming us like their family -Helena the maid, Nectaria the co-owner, Sarado (alias Forty) the waiter, and all the other faces we saw everyday- we felt at our ease here. At the end of this first rest day, partly spent on the dreamy beach, we already knew we were in an idyllic environment here in Kyparissi.
BABALA – CLIMBING AND BOLTING
When coming to Kyparissi, our main motivation was to bolt in the sector of Babala. So on our first hike up, we carried most of the bolting gear. We still wanted to climb first so we went all the way to the right of the cliff, where we enjoyed climbing the cool 8a+ “Octoplus”. Then, Charlotte really wanted to head back to “Partage de l’adage” a 8b that she bolted but didn’t get to send last year. So we crossed the all cliff on the other direction, our eyes up in the walls to find attractive lines to bolt. After a first go to remember everything, Charlotte happily sent “Partage…” and Josh gave some promising goes too. On the next following days, we couldn’t resist but start bolting a line we spotted.
To start bolting, Josh first went to the top of the cliff from “Partage…” anchor, and dropped a rope down in the chosen lane, about 300m to the left. The Babala sector is very convenient for bolting, because it has a ledge located about 50m up, reachable by foot from the extreme right, allowing a convenient top-down bolting. We spent a few days on this line, bolting and cleaning it, and even saw a see-through white scorpion on the wall behind a broken flake. Once this line cleaned, Charlotte went on top of the cliff again and moved the static line 10m to the right to start bolting a second route. These two routes start from a common and convenient ledge, where we left our gear in a tree every night. While flipping a rock to make this ledge more comfortable, Josh found a bigger and black scorpion, ready to attack (but no drama). Considering the two scorpions we saw few days apart, we decided to call our ledge the “Scorpion ledge”, the first route “Tarsus Manus” (for the name of their claws) and the second route “Scorpio”.
We spent two days bolting the line, the lower overhang taking the most time. Due to the tufas, the cleaning took us two full days as well. For the following two weeks we spent different sessions trying it - between more cleaning, bolting and climbing. We figured out every move at the first session, and started doing some good links up on the second part. The first part remained pretty intense, and we always had to stop once or twice on the crux. We had to wait the last day of the trip, when the temperatures actually dropped down quite a bit, to finally imagine going through the first crux from the ground. Charlotte broke the spell and sent it on September 24th. For the grade, we both agreed on a solid 8c.
This beautiful line got us busy for three days : One day bolting it, one day cleaning it and one day sending it, back to back, calling it a 8a.
More climbing in Babala
After a lot of time getting distracted by the routes on our Scorpion ledge, we decided to head back to where we were the first day, in the 8b “Partage de l’Adage”, so Josh could go for the send. A first try to put the quickdraws and remember the moves were enough for Josh, who clipped the chains on his second try after an epic and rewarded battle. He started the send train, a common theme during this trip in Greece. Indeed, Charlotte tried “Watt Didier doux” 8b+, a beautiful slabby single tufa that two of her mates bolted during the French Alpine Club she attended the year before. Back then, the conditions where damp, leaving not much chance for the send of this low textured flat tufa. But during our trip, conditions where much better, which allowed Charlotte to grab the first ascend of the route, confirming it at 8b+.
TOP REST DAY ACTIVITIES AROUNG KYPARISSI
We want to say that there is not much rest day activities, but it would be hard to complain about it : picking a beach, laying ones towels down and going for a swim in the Mediterranean. There are many beaches along the coast of Kyparissi, and if you drive a bit further away, you kind find some really unique ones too. Beta to our favorite one : hit the road like if you were going to the Babala parking lot, and just after the last turn before it, take the dirt road that goes down for about 25min. Park where you can’t drive down anymore, under an olive tree and walk for 3min until this perfect little secret cove. Good luck with us : we had masks and snorkels that we bought at the little supermarket, and we were able to do some cool snorkeling.
This is absolutely a must-go if you are in Kyparissi. We heard about that place quite randomly at a restaurant terrace in Kyparissi during a rest day We started the conversation with a German lady (whose 2-year old daughter was coming to our table to play) and were exchanging some good beta about the surroundings when she strongly recommended Monemvasia, describing it as “an old fort on a peninsula”. So we went on one of the following rest days, first starting with a 1h 15m drive. From the road we picked, we reached the peninsula its eastside. We were first impressed by the very big shape that we observed form far on the road, a peninsula outlined by very steep and tall cliffs, on top of which we could guess the old fort shape. When we approach by car, crossing the bridge to the peninsula, we were ready to hike for a while to the top, and even find a gondola that would bring us up there. Instead, we bumped into a long wall with a small vaulted door. We passed the door, and what we found on the other side was not what we expected at all! We found beautiful old little village made of narrow little streets and beautiful decoration everywhere. We couldn’t help ourselves but wander for hours in these streets, going from well maintained streets to trails in the middle of ruins. We finally decided to sit down at a little terrace and eat some yummy food. We spied a few people coming wet from a street lower, so after lunch we decided to adventure ourselves in the direction of the sea, which was hardly reachable due to the fortress wall all along the coastline. Although another little vaulted door brought us on the sea level, on a nice platform made in the middle of the rough rocks, with a pool ladder (yes yes) going into the sea. We both jumb in the perfect water, swam away from the coast and turned around to realize how much of a crazy unique place we were in, lucky to be able to inhale these experience. We finished our visit all the way to the top of the peninsula, where an archeological site was left open, giving us a beautiful view on the town and on the horizon.
MEETING THE LOCAL GREEK COMMUNITY
Movie-making days in Kyparissi
Leading up to the trip, we were in contact with Aris Theodoropoulos, probably the most famous and most active greek climber and bolter. We arrange few days together in Kyparissi, in order to film some kind of promotional movie for Kyparissi. Aris arrived with his sweet wife Katie and there friend George (at least it’s the English way to say its name). Andreas Markou, a professional photographer and climber from Athens also joined us to be the cameraman of the trip. For the film, we pretty much went to film routes in all the main sectors around Kyparissi. We discover two new cliffs: Kastraki, just above the town; and Kapsala, 15min north along the coast, actually just above the sea. We also went back to the first sector we went to, Watermill, where we had the opportunity to try again the 8b Medusa’s blood. With about 10°C less and a lot more endurance than our first visit, the route felt much easier, and we both sent it during this day. Our favorite day was probably when we took a small boat to go to Vlychada, a little sector on the beach, about 30min (boat ride) south of Kyparissi. In Vlychada we climbed some classics, like "Tuffa tango", and explore the surroundings!
Coaching and talk in Athens
Between a ferry and plane, we spent an evening in Athens, and it was a super opportunity for us to meet the local youth team at EOS Acharnon, led by Anastasio. We spent few hours climbing with them and were very impressed by their motivation! Then, we did a little talk, accompagnied with a slide show and some videos to a larger audience. It was nice to see people coming to hear us sharing our experience! EOS Acharnon also let us sleep on the climbing mats in the gym, which was pretty convenient to pack all our things.
When planning our trip, we really wanted to follow “a plan”, so we don’t miss the good periods for some places. But we always told ourselves: “let’s keep it open",just in case we get some cool opportunities along the way, which would be unfortunate to miss. Our first one didn’t waste time! When talking with our friends Katie and Aris about the never-ending route climbing potential in Greece, we asked if there was any bouldering and they mentioned some little spots around Athens. And then Katie opened her eyes very wide, like if she had a big idea, and said “Tinos, the island of Tinos”. She described it as big hills covered with boulders, in a little Island in the Cyclades, east of Athens… So we changed our plans in Greece a little bit, and booked a ferry to spend our last 2 days there, and it indeed was a big idea!
We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement. We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement.We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement.We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement.
We were facing thousands and thousands of boulders, all spread up in big hills as far as we can see. Neither of us honestly ever saw such a big concentration of boulders, the only comparison we could have is pictures of Rocklands in South Africa. We unfortunately didn’t get the guidebook, which was apparently made by Germans about 10 years back, because we couldn’t find it there. However, less than a hundred meters from us, there was a big flat opening with obvious boulders, so we threw the crashpads under and climbed to get a feel of the rock. A friend of Manthos, Antoni, joined us for the occasion just before he had to go to work.
We each grabbed a pad, stuffed with our cameras and climbing gears, and started hiking around up and down the closest hills to find boulders. But at the end we were so overwhelmed by the possibilities that we just went back to the first area where we spotted a nice sharp cut arete. We cleaned it and climbed it just before sunset.
We decided to drive more North, to check out another area the day after, and after a 30min drive including a steep downhill dirt road, we parked next to a beach, set up the tent and made diner. In the morning, we had another beautiful view on the sea and beautiful white boulders just next to it.
We went for a morning walk in the middle of the boulders and found a nice line to develop, so we went back there with our crashpads and cleaned that line which came out very pretty, a few away from the sea.
We wanted to reach some boulders higher in the hills, so we took the car for a 10min drive and started walking around on the hill side again. We found a crazy amount of potential, and also a few lines that has already been climbed. This area is very pretty, because a little stream makes it look like a oasis, with a lot of greens and some ponds.
Once again we got overwhelmed by the amount of blocs around, so we just packed and went for some sightseeing. Sightseeing was well worth it, because we went to few typical villages, which looks just like postcards with their clean white walls outlined with blue windows and doors.
Overall we spent two great days on this island, with a deep will to come back, for a much longer period!
SEE YOU SOON GREECE
To put in a nutshell: we loved Greece! We actually loved everything about our stay, the people we met, the places we climbed and visited and the vibe we felt the all time. This was a wonderful way to start the big trip… but in the same time it set the bar very high for the next destination, so we decided that it would be the “holidays before the trip” destination and we will not compare it to the future ones!
Considering this experience and the plenty of climbing places that we have to visit or return in Greece, one thing is sure: we will be back!
This trip is the biggest for us in many ways like -
The list continues to grow as the days pass by until departure.... September 1st!