This was the day I learned how to say "rappel" in Australian, or in the more extreme sense, it's called Rap jumping. This place had been baffling me all week; the seasons were reversed, they drive on the wrong side of the road, and now I find that the climb is nothing, while the abseil is everything. That's not to say that they don't climb in Australia, but the group we came here to meet specializes in Abseiling. While I had never tried the Australian abseil before, I just assumed that after a few years of climbing, I would be able to show some level of composure as I gave it a go. Wrong! I fell over after the first step drawing a little blood and causing myself total embarrassment.
Caution: Don't do this at home with your dynamic climbing rope; you'll burn the sheath right off of it. We were using static ropes, which aren't burn proof, but they are more resistant to friction burns.
First I'd like to introduce you to a few of the great group of people that did everything they could to make this the trip of a lifetime crammed into one week. From Left to right, there's Chook, my son Steve, Josh, Mark, Genene, and Irene.
We were at the Monkeyface Cliffs this day, located in the Watagan State Forrest, about 30 or 40 minutes from Newcastle, NSW. This was a good area for climbing and abseiling, and surprisingly enough, didn't seem to be very well known. We saw no one else there that day, even though there is a small guidebook for the area, and I can't find a trace of it on the Internet to use as a hotlink for this page.
As you can see, after a few trial runs, I didn't look half bad with my feet in contact with the rock, but as the picture on the right shows, I looked like a limp, uh...noodle, on a free abseil.
Towards the end of the day, I set up a toprope on the Big Banana Buttress, on a climb called R.S. (don't know what that stands for) rated 17 Aussie (5.9 or 5.9-). Since I was feeling out of shape and was unfamiliar with climbing here, I used the excuse of not having anyone with a lot of lead belaying experience to justify the toprope. I'm glad I did too; after climbing through huge spider webs, which I carefully examined for active residents, I pulled up to a ledge and found myself nose to nose a large reptile. Knowing how deadly Australian snakes are, I nearly jumped completely off the rock. Just as I was pushing off, I noticed legs and realized my new friend was a lizard. It wasn't nearly as intimidated by me though, and it took some persuasion to get it out of the way.
The start, left, was a great dihedral handcrack, and the finish, right - just below the lizard, was the end of a beautiful 100 ft + climb.