This weekend was the Australian Climbing Festival and one of the main reasons we came back to New South Wales early this week. The venue was located in a town called Katoomba right in the heart of the Blue Mountains. Since late this week, we have been meeting new climbers from all over Australia, every day.
First, we are staying in a town called Blackheath that is about 10km (~6mi) from Katoomba. A local of the climbing community, Amanda Watts, is renting a room to us. Her home has an amazing view of the Blue Mountains. I’ll post a picture or two once I get more time to upload the photos. She’s also quite conveniently located at the top of the Centennial Glen cliffs. For the last 2 weeks, she has been hosting an Austrian named Martina. Martina has just left the junior circuit and is traveling in Australia for two months of climbing. I watched her on a route called Tsunami down at Centennial Glenn and Wow! Tsunami is a 29, so like 13b and looks just amazing. The crux is super bouldery and powerful. Martina made a good run on it and is within inches of linking to the top!
Aside from meeting Martina (and Amanda and some other locals), at the festival, I had a chance to meet up with folks from Natimuk. Cate couldn’t make it, but I did see the familiar faces of Simey, Louise and Malcom (and his daughter Alisha). These were welcomed to the masses of new faces and names I am regularly meeting. I also had a surprise to run into Olivia Hsu from the states! I met her in Rifle the one day I was there the summer before I left for this trip and then again at the Red where she was climbing with Monique Forrestier (also where I first met Monique). Well, it was great to see another familiar face at the festival and to find out that she was leading the morning yoga sessions. Fun!
Speaking of Monique, the new Blue Mountains Climbing guide has just come out. She and Simon Carter et al. spent loong hours to get this book to print in time for the festival. Since Mike and I didn’t have a copy of the Blue Mountains guide, we figured we would just wait to buy one until the new one came out. They were selling them at the festival so I picked up my festival discounted copy. It looks really good. Very much like the Red River Gorge guide with the inside flap, terrain maps with cliff locations designated, sun/shade information, and all in color!
The Australian climbing festival was the first of it’s kind that I have participated in or attended. There were speakers like Peter Croft, Malcom Matheson, John Muir, Louise Sheppard and more that have come to share something with the rest of us. Saturday, I went to Peter’s talk, which was also the opening presentation for the weekend. Peter is a great story teller and someone I highly hearing if you have the chance. Peter’s presentations are sometimes winding with the stories that he shares, but they are always entertaining. If you ever run into him and he doesn’t share the story about his delayed flight in Heathrow, living 3 days off of bags of peanuts in the airport and the friendly priest who offered to help him, then you must bring it up. It’s a classic Peter tale.
I wanted to hear Malcom’s presentation, today, but got caught up with the climbing competition and missed the whole thing. 😦 We thought we would catch him at dinner, but the timing didn’t pan out and we ended up trying chinese in blackheath before retiring back to Amanda’s.
The festival boasts some competitions that were to take place throughout the weekend. I was under the impression that the comp was invite only until only a few days ago. I just assumed I wasn’t able to compete since I wasn’t invited. Just a few days ago, I was asked if I was competing and when I mentioned that I thought you had to be invited to compete, I was told you only needed to send in the registration and that was the ‘invitation.’ hmph. Since I learned so late that I could have signed up, I got scared to actually embrace this opportunity and decided to opt out of competing. I really wish I had learned this earlier so I could have been mentally prepared for the up coming weekend. As it was, by choosing not to compete, I learned later, I missed out on a good learning experience. I thought I would have fun just watching the difficulty category but realized this was a mistake.
The women are strong, afterall, Martina is competing! But, the strongest Aussie women weren’t represented: Samantha, Monique, and Christina to name a few. After watching some of the women compete on the qualifiers, I went to listen to Peter Croft speak. After hearing about the women’s qualifiers after the talk, I quickly realized the best way for me to meet people and get to know the climbers of the area was to get in there with them. I should have competed. I don’t know if I would have qualified for finals, but it would have been fun trying! To make up for my lack of courage by not signing up for the difficulty competition (I’ve never even done a comp like that before), I signed up to do the dyno and speed comps (as if i had done any of these types of comps, either!) 🙂 Well, I may not be that strong of a climber compared to some, but I know that I don’t dyno and I don’t speed climb! Difficulty would have been the sanest category for me to enter into so this was going to be a very interesting experience for me!
I met a few girls who were competing in all categories: difficulty, speed and dyno. They were very encouraging and the without their support, I would never have seriously thought to enter. I’d never seen a dyno comp nor had I ever seen a speed comp. I may have seen a speed competition on tv at some stage, but i vaguely remember it.
the dyno comp was set with a series of foot holds out on the low, far right and two good holds, one for each of your hands to start. the dyno hold was a jug set at 1.6m height some distance to the left of the start. i could barely touch the hold while keeping one hand on the start. fortunately, this distance was not as far as i thought because i made the dyno on the first attempt. whew! after everyone had their shot at this height, the dyno hold was moved up and left even further, typically in regular increments. in this case it was 20cm higher: 1.8m. i used 3 of my 4 falls to make this dyno, but i was happy that i made it. next: 1.95 (a t-nut problem at 1.9 so it went 25cm higher instead of 20cm). well, i gave it my one go and was out. despite that i didn’t even place for this height, the woman who won successfully stuck the hold at 2.0m, i felt that i learned something. i learned something about dynamics, which made the comp worth it, IMO.
next was the speed comp. well, anyone who has seen me climb knows that i am not a fast climber. even at the best of times, i still climb slow. i really have tried to speed up my climbing, but it hasn’t really gotten ‘fast’. although i had a quick coaching session by mike, i placed dead last in speed. i wasn’t dissappointed about my poor times because i learned something about my climbing. i learned that i don’t tap into my fast twitch muscles and this gave me food for thought for the weekend.
Mike competed and did well in qualifiers despite having his foot pop low on the problem. Finals did not go as well for him, though he looked solid, his foot popped and he fell to 5th place.
Today I took a workshop with Arno Ilgnor of The Rock Warrior’s Way. It was a good workshop. I didn’t feel like I learned a whole lot new, but I did think I got some insight into my climbing. on my challenge climb, using Arno’s techniques, I onsighted a 25 here. this was a big deal to me because up until this point, i had not been able to onsight this grade. i kept getting them 2nd go. maybe i broke a barrier, maybe it was the route; i don’t know what really helped, but i have a feeling i will know well when i go to apply his techniques on future climbs. He has a traveling workshop that if you are interested in you can learn more about on his website: http://www.warriorsway.com/.