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Times Up episode 7

Posted: Mon Mar 25, 2019 6:30 pm
“Times Up" aka Running out of Time or Up Time was conceived as a route in 2008 when I with Ged Desforges from the UK rapped down Yellowwood Amphitheatre after climbing Prime Time. A year or so later when Robert Breyer and I bolted stances, this rap route morphed into a very exciting Down Time; a very exposed and airy excursion down the wall over some of the steepest most overhanging sections of Yellowwood. Down Time started off with only 4 anchors but now sports 6 anchors as extra-long 65m ropes are otherwise needed. In fact, the final point about 20m above ground level that is still being improved was only made a week ago.

Over the last 11 years I have scoped out the "UP" route on several occasions starting with Dave Vallet around 2010 when we climbed one pitch from the halfway ledge. Then with Clinton Martinengo some years ago we fashioned a few pitches starting at the bottom but some less than satisfactory and scary pitches spat us off and into the grotty Time Warp Gulley crack.

I then returned with Jimbo Smith and scouted out the top 70m of climbing that for the most involved a stunning left facing corner crack at grade 24 or so but the first 10m was brick hard at grade 30 or so and no pro.

With Willem Le Roux in early March 2019 we climbed to the left of where Clinton and I climbed and fashioned 3 decent pitches to stance at bolted rap point that is 80m off the ground below the overhang that obstructed the way onto the 45m high fantastic grey headwall just below the halfway ledge.

From there we were forced round the left of the overhang again into the Time Warp gulley crack.

A week later ably assisted by my astonishingly able and willing best friend, partner of 35 years and hard core adventurer extra-ordinaire, Margaret Milne, we slogged up to the Halfway ledge via the first two pitches of Smalblaar ridge and I scoped out the first 20m of the headwall and cleaned off the odd loose flake and vegetation. It was blazing hot and one of the hardest days I ever experienced at Yellowwood and regretfully did not manage to examine the lower 20m but I could see that one could gain the headwall by traversing in quite low from Time Warp once having bypassed the overhang.

On 24 March with Teodor Iliev we returned to finesse the first 3 pitches which we did by straightening the second pitch and doing some gardening and loose rock removal. I then set off onto the headwall and over a two hour period inched my way up the wall and I rued the fact that I did not scope out the bottom part as it was very tricky and quite a few holds and gear placements needed some cleaning. It was also hot and sunny the whole time and I was soon cramping in my neck, toes and arms. The worst was when my thumbs cramped into my palms and this really affected my psych and confidence. The climbing was energy sapping and after each series of moves and gear placements I had to take several minutes to compose myself on the tiny foot and hand holds and de-pump. Every move I did was fraught with fear of cramping and my thumbs getting stuck in the palm of my hand and getting in the way.

I knew Teo was going to doze off (and he admitted he did) but I reconciled myself to the fact that even if he lost control of the rope I would not deck as I was around 100m off the ground and it was overhanging. Nevertheless, a 40m or more fall was not something to savour or think about much. On the other hand this route at toyed with me for some 11 years already and I was not going to give up again. Time was Up for that. I was now on the most challenging and best bit of rock at Yellowwood and for that matter anywhere in the world. And I was going to finish this pitch one way or another!

Once you step out right from the Time Warp crack and around the arete onto the face you are alone and space walking. It is dead vertical and all the holds are small or tiny. Where the holds get tiny stemming moves are needed and there is even a thin vertical crack. One move required a boulder heal hook and rock-on. The crux move is a very long crank off a spike that I attempted several times. I was pumped to the max and time was running out so for that move I succumbed to resting on a sling before cranking through. Even Teo who is tall thought it was a really long and hard move.

But the difficulty continued un-relentlessly all the way to the top which is run out by about 6m and involves climbing onto a large detached flake and then past another very scary flake which one fortunately can avoid using.

I got to the halfway ledge more exhausted than exhilarated but the key pitch was done and a new route was, to all intents and purposes born.

And it is the best pitch at Yellowwood.

Of course the day would not have been complete if our haul bag did not get stuck denying us from drinking any water for around 4 hours of the hottest part of the day.

Once Teo came up we celebrated the pitch and then messed around trying to do the next pitch. Exhaustion, dehydration and cramping drove us down and I managed to retrieve the haul bag.

I worked a bit more on hand drilling the bolt hole for the lowest rappel point and a “solid” peg I have placed simply fell out. This very same peg had been retrieved from a higher point where it also fell out. Seems like the temperature changes at Yellowwood cause so much expansion and contraction of the rock and metal that pegs cannot be deemed safe at all.

Meanwhile there is a decent thread point in place.

Now it is just a matter of time before I can perform the finishing touches to the route, hopefully without the run-out grade 30 bit near the top.

I invited Ged for the occasion. And anyone who is more or less capable of climbing this kind of thing at Yellowwood is welcome to join the party.