- jump to the Rack
- jump to Topo of Ozymandias Direct (or there), Access via the South Track (GPS coordinates up to WAFTT, then follow the cairns)
- jump to Day1, Day2, Day3, Day4
- jump to Picth1, Pitch2, Pitch3, Pitch4, Pitch5, Pitch6, Pitch7, Pitch8, Pitch9, Pitch10
zymandias… this route has been into our mind since we saw it for the first time from the hang-glider ramp. Far from our Singaporean summer, the winter was kicking in; the sky was crystal blue, the wind was blowing some fresh air, and here we were facing with admiration the She/Ozymandias buttress. That was almost one year ago.
Funny to think that, one year ago, I hardly knew anything about trad climbing. Dave took me on my first initiation “trip” (a weekend) to Arapiles and Grampians in the beginning of May 2013. That was a real blast. I was scared on climbs such as the Bard grade 12 or on the Watchtower Crack grade 16 when I could send 22 on sports. My gears were not flying all over the place but I was not confident falling on small pieces of metal and taking long runout above my last placement. But I was hooked; trad climbing was my new thing. I fall in love with the purity of it! As ridiculous as it sounds (and as I like to see things in big), I later told Dave: “Ok, I want to do the Nose, in Yosemite. That will be my rock climbing life achievement”. Instead of laughing, he considered this proposition very seriously. That marked the beginning of a big adventure: a lot of suffering, some screaming and a steep learning curve were waiting for me.
By late May 2013, we paid a “visit” (another weekend) to Mont Buffalo and try to do “Where Angels Fear To Tread”. I was not very psyched at first … I’ve never been to Mont Buffalo before and going to the Australian Alps in the beginning of winter to take on a 280m trad route did not look a good idea at all… unless you wanted to have an epic. The access via the South track looked miserable, being snowed while climbing did not look comfortable and trashing my hands/foot did not look appealing. I could not have been more wrong than that. We had a perfect weather and that was love at the first sight when we parked the car at the hut. Not only did we do Angels and had a great time, but we went to take a look at Ozymandias too. I jumped on the first pitch that felt quite easy, and Dave tried the second one, aiding it and finishing it in style. That was it! Ozymandias was our new project, the first step that will bring us closer to the Nose
Time has passed and I dedicated most of this year to trad, learning about the gears, placements, route reading, rope management, anchors, aiding, hauling, self rescuing. Dave as a teacher/mentor was putting a tremendous effort on sharing his knowledge and his experience. Digesting this flow of information as quick as I can was not an easy task.
The 2014 Easter weekend appeared to be the last window frame of the year for us to jump on Ozymandias Direct. As usual, trying to save on leave, we would switch our mind to the weekend warrior mode, take only one day off, “commute” from Singapore to Melbourne, drive immediately to the Alps and begin the climb on Ozy. As Dave was recovering from a surgery he did not want to push it too hard (although by Dave’s standard, having a quiet day of climbing only means avoiding a 24h epic on a face). I was really motivated to take on this challenge. I read every trip report I could find on Chockstone, looked for every pictures, every videos on the web. I spent countless night studying the topo, the tactics, looking from cheat betas to what was a pin scar and how to protect it. I was dreaming of myself sleeping on Big Grassy, pushing through the roof and topping out at the Wilkinson’s lookout. I wanted to destroy that monster and prove to myself I could do this big wall and manage both the mental and physical aspect of it.
Our initial plan was the following:
- Day 1 (Thursday/Friday): Take the flight from Singapore to Melbourne leaving on Thursday night 9pm, arriving Friday morning at 6.30am. Drive to Wangaratta, buy food for the next 2 days. Park the car at the hut around 1pm, move all the gears to Ozy, fix the first two pitches, sleep at Crystal Brook
- Day 2 (Saturday): Jummar the fix line, climb until the Gledhill bivy, try to fix the pitch above, sleep at GledHill
- Day 3 (Sunday): Jummar the fix line, top out for lunch and beers!
- Day 4 (Monday/Tuesday): “chill” on Mt Buffalo, go to the Cathedral, do Sultan or Maharajah and then try Peroxide Blonde on the Horn Area. Drive back to Melbourne and catch the plane that leaves at midnight to Singapore. Arrive at 5.30am, get yourself a shower, go to the office and cry
Preparation: We started our packing and a massive gear sort on the Tuesday night preceding our trip to Australia. Our aim was to waste no time and have a designed rack ready to climb for pitch 1 and 2. Our final equipment list for the trip would be the following:
- 1 x 60m lead line (dynamic)
- 1 x 60m haul/tag line (dynamic as well cause our static rope died during our previous trip)
- 2 x set of camelot from #.5 to #3
- 1 x #.3.5 camelot, 1x #4 Camelot, 1x #4.5 camelot, and 1x #5 camelot (Old camelot sizes. Note that only 2 x #4.5 could have done the job)
- 1 x set of Aliens (excluding the grey one)
- 1x set of Aliens offset
- 1 x set of TCU
- Extra Cam: 1 x blue Totem Cam + 1 x BD X4 #.1 (red)
- 1 x set of RP’s and 2 x set of HB Offset
- 2 x set of nuts from #1 to #7 (one should be enough, double size #5 – #6)
- 1 x set of nuts from #8 to #12
- 12 x regular quickdraws + 4 x alpine quickdraws
- 4 x bolt plates + 4 x rivet hangers + 4 x hero loops
- 2 x small cam hooks + 2 x large cam hooks + 1 x cliffhanger hook
- 1 x haul kit: 1 x Petzl Pro Traction + 2 x locking biners + 2 x swivels + 1 x pair of gloves
- 1 x cordelette to fix the pig + 1 x tubular tape as a backup
- 2 x anchor kits (per kit): 1 x 10m cordelette and 3 x big locking biners
- 10 x spare locking biners / 10-15 x spare gates (to clip everything on the portalegde and for general purposes)
- 4 x medium slings and 2 x large ones
- 1 x portaledge
- 1 x boson chair (to look after your poor belayer)
- 2 x yates ladders – 1 x BD etrier – 1 x BD Zodiac
- 1 x poop disposal
Personal gears (each):
- 1 x harness, 1 x helmet, 1 x head torch, 1 x pair of climbing shoes, etc.
- 1 x cinch + 1 x ATC
- 1 x set of ascender and 1 x speed stirrup
- 1 x fifi hooks
- 2 x daisy chains (for the ladders)
The trip could have ended as soon as Thursday night as we almost failed to pass the “Airport Crux”. We did not factor in that all Singaporean were leaving the country for Easter and each single road leading to the airport was badly jammed. It took 1h30 to do a 20 km trip that usually takes me 15 minutes on the motorbike. We checked our 60kg bags just 5 minutes short of the official closing time…
The rest of the journey went accordingly to the plan. By 8am, we were hitting the road and cruising to Wangaratta. We reached there around 10.30am and headed directly to Coles to make our food supplies. Turned out we almost failed the “Food Crux” as well since all the supermarkets in the area were closed for Easter. Except for one! We also wanted to have a quick bite just before leaving the town and ask by the same occasion a coffee shop to fill our thermos flask with some boiling water.
We went to the Pitari’s Café… After ordering what will turn out to be an atrocious 30$ shrimp risotto, I asked the waitress if she could pour some hot water in the flask. The owner shouted at her and at me, arguing that “his” café won’t allow this and just fired the poor waitress on the spot … Everyone was standing wordless… Our worst experiment on this trip so far. We left Wangaratta pissed for wasting one extra hour of our time.
We finally made it to the hut around 1.30pm. As a precaution measure, we first paid a visit to the rangers to inform them of our plans. That proved to be useful as we learnt that, next to the hut, there is a dedicated intention book. People could monitor our progress. After a last gear sort, we headed to the South track to gain the access to Ozy. We chosed this option rather than using the “Defender of the Faith” rap and the comet ramp as 1 – we already knew the way from our previous Angels experience and 2 – a lot of people suggested that it was an easier solution than rappelling. I must say that the journey was far from being pleasant. It started to rain and there were at least 3 tricky sections that proved to be challenging with a haul bag. The first fixed rope section (after the mushroom rock) followed by the bush/rivulet path was difficult to handle as it was quite slippery. Then, past the beginning of Angels, another fixed rope section that is just impossible to down climb with a load, unless you really want to maximize the probability of breaking an ankle. We opted to drop the bag over this ledge and continue walking.
By 4pm, we hit Crystal Brook, quickly found a spot to establish our first camp and grabbed the first pitch’s rack. Crossing Crystal Brook put a definitive end to our plan to stay dry and, after more bush/loose rock scrambling, we were finally at the base of Ozymandias. The light was now quickly fading and it was time to turn the headlamps on… Pitch 2 will obviously have to wait the next day.
Pitch 1: From what I remembered, the first pitch should have been a formality, and I was ready to free it in a record time. I quickly realized after aiding the first two bolts that I would have to revisit my plans. The slab leading to the ramp was drenched, covered in mud and my “now wet” climbing shoes were not sticking to the face. Each attempt to smear would result in slipping. The next move to the carrot below the horizontal crack was just a promising one way ticket to a ground fall and an inevitable injury if I failed. Dave was ready to jump in order to take out as much slack as possible in the system should I fall. I took a big breath, commit to the move and rushed myself to safety. Done, I could relax. Then again, it was too complicated to free the rest of the pitch. Each single hole was filled with water; I could barely anticipate the next move with my lamp reflecting on the rock. I just decided to shamefully aid the end of the crack and finally fixed the rope for the next morning. We called it a day, walked back to Crystal Brook, took another shower at the crossing and crashed in our sleeping bags, shivering as the cold night was kicking in.
We woke up around 6am this morning, still shivering and contemplating our wet climbing pants and shoes, not really thrilled at the idea on putting them back on. We got ourselves ready, packed everything and began the day with a repeat of the previous evening. Cross Crystal Brook, get our morning bath, scramble with bags and get to the base of Ozy. By 8.30am, I was jummaring the fixed line and got myself ready for the first hauling while Dave was cleaning the pitch.
Pitch 2: The famous thin corner was waiting for me and I could not wait to experiment my first A2 climb. The time of truth had come, and I made my first move. So, this is what a pin scar looks like! Interesting…. As I placed my first micro cam/RP and slowly body weighted the ladder, my heart was pounding hard. A move, followed by another one and I was already a few meters away from the belay and rocking! Then came the revelation… We took in our rack some cam hooks. From his previous experience on that pitch, Dave told me they were awesome. I quickly realized that this perfect thin corner would just swallow the whole thing and provide a bomber placement for my ladder. Even “hard bouncing” would not dislodge them, provided that you took time to correctly insert them. I felt like I had discovered fire. That was the beginning of what would become my main climbing strategy for the next 4 pitches… Hook, hook, hook, place an offset cam/wire, repeat… I was having the time of my life. I was not even scared, I had plenty of time to think of my placements and I felt safe. 2 hours later, I was at the anchor, ready to haul and waited for Dave to clean the pitch.
Pitch 3/4: Having succeeded on the second pitch, I was feeling really confident for the next one. I still wasn’t very sure on how to access Big Grassy as some guys recommended to split this pitch at the tree ledge in order to avoid ridiculous rope drag. I was also prepared for another session of thin climbing and gardening as this has been mentioned many times in other’s trip report. Surprisingly, after a few hook moves, I noticed that this pitch was generously furnished with old carrots and pegs. I was not complaining and was genuinely happy to see them here, but it somehow broke my flow as I wondered if I was going the correct way. That also felt strange to think that a 40 year old piece of rusty metal would provide a bomber protection. Looking at my last #1 RP, it was anyway. But I was moving slower now. I reached the section just before the tree ledge leading to Big Grassy. Inspecting the route, I figured out that the rope drag should not be that bad. I extended my quickdraws, did one free move to access the ledge (for future parties, be careful, there is a loose flake there, don’t pull on it) and quickly climbed the remaining 8m to Big Grassy. I just left on my way one “decorative” cam in the crack in order to avoid a direct fall on the ledge below. It took me 3 hours to climb these 48m and I was thrilled to hit some “solid ground”. I set up the anchor, started hauling and Dave joined me for what will finally be our first bivy. I was now 4pm and with one hour and a half of day light remaining, I was unrealistic to climb up to the Gledhill bivy. Our plan became to fix the next pitch for the following morning.
Pitch 5: Since I knew we will spend the night on Big Grassy, I kind of lost my focus. Even if we still needed the job to be done, I was beginning to feel some fatigue from our long day. I was not expecting the pitch above Big Grassy to be that thin. Anyway, my hook strategy was now dialed and I jumped on it. We also had another concern; we did not have a look at the topo which was in the haul bag but we knew that somewhere on this pitch we had to find our way on the right side to get on Ozy Direct rather than Ozy Original. We remembered that we should be able to find an obvious bolted anchor. After 20m or so of climbing, I made my move on the right side where the first crack split into two parts; one nice looking A1 crack going on the left, another dirty thin one going on the right along a left facing corner. Already in low luminosity, I was trying to find the anchor but could not spot anything. I finally decided to down climb a bit, put 3 cams where the crack splits, fixed the line and abseiled back to Big Grassy.
We set up the portaledge, had a nice diner under an amazing clear sky full of stars. Looking at the topo, we thought that we should not be too far from the real anchor. It was also written that to get on Ozy Direct we were offered two possibilities: either follow the nice A1 crack on the left and then traverse back on the right using a bolt ladder or follow the ugly thin A2 crack on the right leading to the same roof. We decided that we would take the first option to speed up the process. Only one problem was remaining; a cheater stick was mentioned to access to the bolt ladder and we did not have one. However, we agreed that it was still worth giving it a try and that, worst case scenario, we would make a tension pendulum to get back onto the right side. Time to switch off the headlamps and have a good night sleep.
We woke at 5.45am. I was feeling fresh, relaxed and warm. We had a quick breakfast, packed everything and were ready to blast.
Pitch 5 end: I jummared to my anchor and went back on lead to finish the pitch. I was quite pissed to see that the bolted anchor was really a mere 5 meters away and blame myself for not having been focus enough to notice it the previous evening. I hauled the bag and Dave joined me.
Pitch 6: What an amazing corner! Compared to the 4 last pitches, this one felt like a breeze. I was throwing gears at it and everything went; cams, wires, hook… I reached in no time the expected bolt ladder that would allow us to go back on Ozy Direct. To my relief, I would not need a cheater stick to get into that bolts. I set my fifi hook, top stepped in my etrier and clipped the first bolt without any problem. The second bolt was a repeat of the first one. Reaching the anchors proved to be a bit more challenging though… The distance won’t allow me to clip it, even if I was stepping as high as possible (and I have a good ape index as well). After a few tries, I decided that it was time for another magical hook move and grab a cliffhanger. I carefully transferred my weight on the right side, closed my eyes as I was removing my previous ladder, hoping that the hook won’t blow on me. Good! It held! I was at the anchor. Another session of hauling for me and cleaning for Dave and we were facing the famous roof!
Pitch 7: My expectations for the roof were very high. I could remember all the pictures I’ve seen of people hanging into space, struggling to move past it and reach for the corner. I was prepared for some airy times. But the first thing I noticed from the anchor was the incredible amount of fixed gears already placed into the roof. I wasn’t even questioning for how long they’ve been here or how reliable they were. I was not complaining as well; that would make my job easier. But I was a bit disappointed I guess; I thought I would have loved to scare myself, finding desperate placements and hoping for them to hold. I could have added to this collection a part of our rack and skipped the one already in place, but I made up my mind… Let’s just climb this thing, enjoy it and if it’s necessary, I would add my own gears. Off I was on the first bolt ladder. As expected, the roof went in no time and I was now on a mind blowing corner, back in action with hook moves. That was my favorite part of the climb; exposed, quiet, sustained and facing an amazing view over the gorge. People from the hang-glider lookout were shouting at us. Judging by the amount of bolts at the end of the pitch, I figured out that I was at the Gledhill bivy. I became a little bit worried about the haul bag and expected it to be caught under the roof, but overall, everything went smoothly. Cleaning the pitch proved to be the most difficult part as Dave was swinging in the void each time he was removing a draw. By 1.30pm, we were both at the anchor! Our pace was good, yes, we can do this thing. We were in a stunning state of mind and ready to top out by night! We decided to have lunch and enjoy the scenery for a brief moment.
Pitch 8: or how to change your plans in the blink of an eye… I’m not sure if having lunch was a good idea for me. I was cooling down and my excitement stepped down as well. I got ready for this pitch having no idea of what was waiting for me. All I knew was I could remove my dear hooks from the ladders as, apparently, this section of the climb would take mostly big gears. I began following the bolts on the right side to gain an access to the corner. I was now facing the remaining part of the climb. The Fang… Oh my god, what was that? The “Pontooth” was looking at me; a wide, awkward, deep crack was going on the left side before joining the face that was above me. This had the taste of what we faced on Angels last year. The kind of granite that eats everything, your skin, your shoes, your clothes; it breaks you. Technically, and objectively speaking, there was nothing to worry about; the placements looked obvious and bombers. But I knew that some bad time was lying ahead… I never aided a wide crack. And freeing this section was definitely not an option as I was feeling like a Christmas tree with all these big cams on my belt. The painful process began… First, moving on the left side above the “Pontooth” was a nightmare. I was uncomfortably stepping into my ladders, throwing a #3.5 and a #4 camelot at the crack, desperately trying to drag myself above into the next system. I then learnt that putting a cam deep inside a crack would also result into having my ladders stuck inside the same crack. It would crush my hands each time I was steeping further. I was climbing badly and really slowly… Clipping an old peg, I had to face the sad reality. I should have been awarded an Oscar for the ugliest climb of the year. Over the last 5m, I had thrown 1 x #3 camelot, 1 x #3.5, 1 x #4, and a big nut. What the hell was I thinking? I was running out of big gears and still had another 5-10m to go. My body and my mind were shutting down. I asked Dave to lower me in order to back-clean some pieces and aided back to my last point. More cam jugging and I finally reached the anchor. I was exhausted. It took me 3h to lead a 30m A1 pitch and it was now 4.30pm. I was in no shape to haul… my hands were destroyed… not to mention that I was just done with climbing today. I fixed the rope and told Dave that I was going to abseil back to Gledhill. Communicating over the roof was quite hard and we could barely understand each other. We later named this pitch “The Horror Crack”. It was definitely the crux for me.
Dave took the lead from there and has been a model of efficiency. Even if he felt a bit frustrated that we would not be topping out today, he let me rest on the left side corner of Gledhill and took care of everything. As the light was fading fast, he organized the neatest base camp I had ever seen. The portaledge was deployed, the main haul bag easily accessible on the left side (2 bolts there), the small one on the right (2 carrots there). The Ipod was blasting some Aerosmith and we had our dinner facing the gorge. The following night was just amazing. Sleeping at Gledhill is so out of this world. It was worth the entire climb. I slept like a baby that night, just waking up at times to admire the moon and the shining stars. The morning welcomed us with a beautiful sunrise. I would not trade this moment for all the money in the world.
As usual, we woke up around 5.45am in the morning. In a record time, we ate breakfast and packed everything, ready to go and top out. My spirit was back but I was just a bit anxious of what I would be facing next. Gledhill is below a roof, meaning that jummaring to the anchor will be done hanging into space, some 200m above the gorge. As I was lowering myself from the comfortable bivy to avoid a big swing, I could feel my heart accelerating. One more meter and I would be in the middle of nowhere.
I felt relieved to regain contact with the rock after 20m. I reached the anchor, started to haul the pig, sorted out a mess with the tag line and waited for Dave to join me. 2 more pitches to go. We were not really sure how the route was going from there. Some topo said that we should stop before the chimney and belay from here; others said belay above the chimney. We opted for the first solution.
Pitch 9: The beginning of pitch 9 was a repeat of the previous ending crack, although less painful. I came back into a cam jugging mode until reaching a carrot just below a ledge leading to a thin ramp. Getting onto the ledge was a formality. Walking the ramp was not… Under normal circumstances, it would have been a piece of cake to do the 5m or so linking to the anchor below the chimney. With 15 kg of gears, 2 ladders and my approach shoes, it was another promising fall and the opportunity to say Hi to Dave. I went gardening to find one of my specialties: “the psychological cam placement”. I put an Alien into a flaring muddy crack on the ramp, conscientiously knowing that it would not even hold my empty camelback. I switched my brain off, and desperately launch my move grabbing everything that came under my hands: tinny tree roots, herbs, mud. I was literally crawling and begging to reach the main tree on the ledge below the chimney. It took me some times to get back to a normal breathing. Looking at the narrow chimney, I thought we made the correct decision to belay from there. Other parties will have to explain to me how the hell you haul a bag through this thing. It was now 10.30am, Dave and the bags were with me at the belay. We were happy and contemplating the last pitch.
Pitch 10: From below, the chimney did not look that bad. Oh dear, wrong! It was narrower than expected and I struggled to squeeze into this nasty section. But a nice surprise was waiting for me. I felt privileged to stand next to the Gledhill commemorative plate. After this long journey on Ozy, it was like sharing a piece of history, paying respect to local heroes, and the route was thanking us for being there. I just needed to stay focus a bit more and began to scan the last large crack. Time to use the big guys! On the right side, I was leap-frogging the #4 and #4.5 camelot while protecting myself using the thin crack on the left. One last runout to some old carrots as the crack disappeared and I could finally see the lookout. I could not believe it, that was the end. I rushed through the last meters, jumped over the fence and that was it. The first thing I did was to remove all the gears I had on my harness. I set up the anchor and Dave cleaned the pitch. We still had to haul the bag though. We moved the anchor to the big tree on the left side of the lookout. Dave abseiled to the bag and redirected the haul line so we had a clean way to go. We could now celebrate! It was time to pack and get a quick bite. ACDC’s TNT was screaming though the Ipod’s speakers.
Epilogue: What can I say? For some, Ozy is just another big wall. To me, it is my biggest achievement to date. I can’t emphasize too much how good this route was and how much I’ve learnt during this journey. It blows my mind to know that some people can free this monster. Just jump on Ozy, it is worth every single effort. We started the walk back to the parking lot at the hut and enjoyed our first hot coffee in days. We then went to the hang-glider lookout to have a last glimpse at Ozy. Dave wanted to jump on Peroxide Blonde but we finally drove back to Melbourne to catch our plane. My mind was still filled with loads of nice memories from Ozymandias.
A final word to say that big walling is also about sharing friendship. It’s a team achievement and none of this would have happened if Dave did not have a lot of patience with me. Thanks Mate, I felt honored to do this climb with you and I’m looking forward to our next adventure.
Some other inspiring stories on Ozymandias:
Chockstone, Trip Report on Ozymandias Direct Solo
Chockstone, Trip Report Ozymandias Direct May 2011
Chockstone, Trip Report Ozymandias bailed
Max’s Blog: Ozymandias Direct Cheat Beta
2 thoughts on “The Gorge, Mount Buffalo, Australia: Trip Report, Ozymandias Direct 28/M4 on Easter 2014”
Excellente aventure les gars!
Merci Thomas ! Vraiment un super weekend. Cette region en Australie est fabuleuse. Next, la Nouvelle Zelande, j’ai hate de decouvrir ca.