Choose your own adventure

I’m no stranger to the thrill of multi-pitch climbing, but I was in for a treat of a different kind when my buddy Ryan proposed a recent climbing outing.

“How’s your Sunday?” he asked, shortly before offering a range of intriguing choices.

Of these choices, the dulcet call of a long, old-school trad route got the better of me. “Multi!” was my exuberant reply. Mt Tibrogargan, one of the most famous (or perhaps infamous) peaks of the Glasshouse Mountains would be our venue.

Up to this point, my experience with trad climbing has been limited to say the least. I had followed the lead on a mere handful of single pitches, most of which had very few pieces for me to retrieve. This was to be my first ‘proper’ trad experience.

My enthusiasm bubbled, overflowed.

“I’m so excited I could throw up,” I mumbled, staring up at an imposing wall of rhyolite.

I was soon given a true lesson on route finding and how critical it is. Without a line of bolts to follow, one can easily find themselves off course, particularly on a face as vague as the Desperation Wall. Even following Ryan, it wasn’t always obvious which path he took, especially in sections where he was completely out of my sight and where the run outs were massive. I still don’t know if we were actually on the right path for The Whiteman, the chosen route of the morning… but we made it work!

Now this sort of ambiguity can create a few different scenarios… It either makes the experience a bit more fun and spicy on a lower grade climb, or alternatively scary as fuck! I experienced the latter on at least two clearly defined occasions… but as Sir Edmund Hillary once said, a climb is not really worthwhile unless you have been scared out of your wits at least twice!

Somehow I mustered my strength and pushed through moments of simmering panic. On trembling legs and pumped-out forearms, I made the moves without injury or disgrace. Eventually correcting my course, I retrieved the next piece of gear from the safety of a comfortable jug with whoops of delight.

It was during one of these moments of duress, crimping precariously and quaking in my harness, that I experienced a sudden realisation. My mind opened up like a flower at the true potential that trad represents.

You can go anywhere!

I looked out upon the vastness of the mountain with new eyes. Endless possibilities revealed themselves to me. My mind then cast itself to other places I had been, to routes previously considered unclimbable to my eye. Now, they seemed within reach.

I suddenly realised that adventure climbing could involve creating your very own routes. Free from the shackles of bolted lines, the options are limitless.

Traditional climbing… Choose your own adventure!!

Marisa Stewart
June 2017

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?