50 Classic Climbs of Australia – Impulse

Impulse, Frog Buttress
Ben Lane getting radical on Impulse (Photo by Scott Warner)

Climbing is a sport unlike most others, but it is indeed a sport. And just like those other sports, there are rules which define climbing. These rules are in a constant state of flux, and for better or worse, the games climbers play have changed over time.

When Kim Carrigan and Greg Child freed the coveted Impulse in 1978, it was in a style that many modern climbers would consider odd. The pair ascended the thin face crack in Yoyo style, a technique which largely came into vogue in the 1980’s. Perhaps only the history buffs and crusty veterans among us will know what the term means, so here’s the gist:

The principal aim, of course, is to free climb the pitch. Should the leader sustain a fall, they lower to the ground, leaving the gear (and potentially the rope) in situ. From here, the option exists to swap leads. Whosoever ties in then climbs to the established high point before carrying onward to complete the pitch.

The Yoyo technique has long since been abandoned, and to the modern climber, it seems a strange tactic. But it was, in fact, a fairly natural response to the staunch ground-up ethic which preceded it, a time when hangdogging was strictly taboo. Unlike today, climbers of the era did not rehearse moves ad infinitum before lowering for a redpoint burn. During his siege of Frog Buttress, Hot Henry Barber even went so far as to down climb the entire route in the event of a fall, removing gear as he went!

Impulse, Frog Buttress
Damien Krell in his trademark soft shell helmet (Photo by Scott Warner)

Old habits die hard, and climbers tend to bend rules gradually rather than break them outright. The Yoyo technique honoured the embargo on hangdogging, but pushed the ethical boundary by leaving the gear in place, and sometimes even by switching climbers. Later, with the spread of sport climbing tactics, hangdogging became accepted and the ethic evolved once again to that which we know today.

Today, Impulse is regularly projected. A conveniently placed anchor allows would-be ascensionists to run laps on this inspiring line, practicing the balancy moves and dialling in gear placements. In could be argued that this progression lacks the boldness and vision of the early days, but on the other hand, the purity of a clean ascent is hard to dispute. Either way, Impulse is a commanding line that has captured the attention of climbers across the decades, and the various oscillations of climbing ethics have done little to diminish its grandeur.

Route information for Impulse can be found in the Frog Buttress Guidebook by Matt Hutton and Simon Carter.

50 Classic Climbs of Australia
#1 – Logan’s Ridge, Mt Barney – Grade 3 – 1000m
#2 – Punks in the Gym, Mt Arapiles – Grade 32 – 35m
#3 – The Bard, Mt Arapiles – Grade 12 – 120m
#4 – Sunburnt Buttress, Mt Tibrogargan – Grade 19 – 185m
#5 – Infinity, Frog Buttress – Grade 19 – 40m
#6 – Cornerstone Rib, Warrumbungles – Grade 14 – 190m
#7 – Muldoon, Mt Arapiles – Grade 13 – 42m
#8 – Pole Dancer, Cape Raoul – Grade 22 – 55m
#9 – Blade Ridge, Federation Peak – Grade 17 – 420m
#10 – The Janicepts, Blue Mountains – Grade 21 – 27m
#11 – Ozymandias, Mt Buffalo – Grade 28 or M4 – 280m
#12 – Tiptoe Ridge, Mt Arapiles – Grade 5 – 120m
#13 – Groove Train, Grampians – Grade 33 – 45m
#14 – Devil’s Dihedral, Frog Buttress – Grade 20 – 45m
#15 – Eurydice, Mt Arapiles – Grade 18 – 70m
#16 – Bunny Bucket Buttress – Grade 18 – 270m
#17 – Kachoong, Mt Arapiles – Grade 21 – 25m
#18 – Passport to Insanity, Grampians – Grade 27 – 135m
#19 – Impulse, Frog Buttress – Grade 24 – 18m

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?

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