the adventure continues:- Mini Multi’s, mental toughness and the Megalong Valley……

As you may remember (or not), when were in Croatia we went out into the wilderness and did a nice cruisy multi-pitch route up this incredible feature in the Prezid Pass. Well, today I took Karine out into the Australian Bush on the edge of the Northern rim of the Megalong Valley. This sounds extreme but it’s not really. It’s an easy to medium hike down a well trodden track to what is known as “The Sunbath”.

The Sunbath in a place that time has forgotten. It was the swimming area back in the heyday of the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath. Woman only followed by men only. Flags were used to indicate which sex was using the bath and an armed guard was on sight to make sure this process was adhered to. There you go, a little bit of history about the area of Mellow Bath.

We walked down to the base of the cliff below where the Sunbath is located and dropped our gear. It was so incredibly cold this morning. I will remember Monday 31st October 2016 as the first day I have ever shivered uncontrollably in an Aussie spring. Racking up and talking through our process, it was difficult to concentrate with the cold and the wind chilling us.

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High Fashion in High Places.

Tying in and checking knots, we were ready to go. We were about embark on another mini multi-pitch route. This time in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales in Australia. I feel a real sense of connection here and I was so happy to be taking Karine out to see this incredible place. We checked each others gear and kissed and I headed up the wall.

Clipping the first bolt gave me a sense of relief that was like the first taste of coffee in the morning. It warmed my heart more than my hands and I continued up, moving slowly and confidently through this beautiful red and orange landscape. By the fifth bolt my hands were stinging and beginning to feel quite cold. I rested and shook them profusely to try to get some blood flow back in them and moved on.

As I clipped into the belay station the southerly wind picked up and lashed and swirled up from the valley below bringing with it an icy chill that cut through my clothes. I was wearing three layers and I was feeling this wind at my core. Beginning to shiver I was thinking… “You have to be kidding me! This is not spring in the Blue Mountains. Its ridiculous! I called safe to let Karine know I was all sorted and rubbed my hands together and stuck them under my armpits to try and warm them again.

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Tidying up with the Megalong as my backyard……..STOKED!

Pulling the rope through and moving a little created what little warmth was available to me and it reduced the shivering a little. Karine yelled as loud as she could and I heard a faint “Thats Me!” I was now ready for her to climb and very happy to know that I would not be hanging on the side of a cliff in the cold for too much longer.

Karine headed up the wall as I had done a half hour previously and the wind had dropped considerably. Communication is key in these situations and I was happy to be able to hear her voice. She was however not enjoying herself as much as I had hoped. The cold rock, the icy wind and the stiffness of the grade of difficulty all began to take their toll on my sweet and lovely lady.

Battling to stay warm she soldiered on and worked hard to reach the small roof-let that was the most difficult part of the route. She was cold and she was pumped. The lactic acid build up in her forearms along with the cold was hurting like crazy and she was about to let go of the rock and be hanging in space many metres above the ground………….She was tired and scared.

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Happy campers after topping out on the route……..cold and content.

Gathering her thoughts and calming down took a minute or two, but this very tough and stubborn lady pulled through the roof-let and traversed along the ledge to join me at the belay station. She was more concerned about me shivering than she was about herself. I tired her in, kissed her and thanked her for her concern and we got sorted for the next pitch.

Heading off from the belay station I smiled and said see you at the top. I was again leaving this lovely lady alone on a cliff face. She looked comfortable I thought, in her new down jacket and borrowed beanie in matching colours. It was high fashion high on a wall overlooking the valley. I had taken the backpack to reduce any climbing issues for K on the last pitch as it was a little different to the first one, more old school and a little sandbagged for 15 (4c).

We cruised up the wall easily this time and at the top we were welcomed by the sun and an incredible view of the valley below us. The wind had subsided a lot and we warmed ourselves in the sun. Sitting a top the cliff we cuddled each other and smiled as another adventure drew to a close. I felt very proud of Karine. She had to battle for this one and it was not kind to her, but she had done it and was smiling in the end.

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Happy to be home in the hills.

We both know how very good our lives are and we appreciate every adventure we get to go on. This one taught both of us a lot about ourselves and each other.

We not only have a very deep and loving relationship………We are a very good team and can work through things well together.

PS……Thanks for the photos K……love you babe 🙂

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the adventure continues:- Empress Falls, epic walls and an Echidna hiding in front of us all……..

Today was an “Us day”! That’s what we call them and have done for over a year now. It’s the days we don’t climb and the days we do cultural things, hiking tracks and visit cafes with Wifi. Wifi is something that a lot of the smaller village cafes in the Blue Mountains definitely lack. Let it be said that it is not necessarily the cafes fault. It’s an ongoing issue for a lot of country Australia.

Anyway, I took Karine to one of my favourite places today. We did the walk down to Empress Falls. This is about a one hour round trip. It is approximately 2500 stairs down and back and about 260 vertical metres straight down into the valley. I have heard it described as “hard but worth it!”

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The ever changing and vast Blue Mountains National Park

As we wandered slowly down the track we approached queen Victoria Lookout. This platform allows you to look straight out into the wilderness that is the Blue Mountains National Park. It is hard to describe the grandeur that is on display without waffling on about wide open spaces and the shear size of Australia in general. The vista is nothing short of spectacular.

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Karine was busily photographing flowers of all shapes and sizes while I was on the look out for fauna that may be of interest to us. There are Bellbirds singing, cockatoos and Gaan Gaan’s flying over head. For the unsuspecting tourist, the sounds of the Australia bush cannot only be beautiful but also very intimidating, as I have often thought that some of our bird life sound like dinosaurs. The loud and nearby screeching can be seriously frightening for some.

As we descended further into the valley the environment changed and the sound of raging water filled the air. There are several mini cascades to pass by on the way down to the beautiful and raging torrent that is Empress Falls. I took Karine as close to the falls as humanly possible for a photo that she could post online for her friends and family to see. Its wonderful to be able to show her around this incredible place.

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The ever lovely Miss K enjoying the Aussie Bush…….
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Empress Falls Cascades

We spent a little time down in the valley until the mosquitos got a little too much and began our ascent. It was a beautiful day and the sun was not to harsh until we reached the final 150 metres of the return. Just as we went to step up onto the last real steep section of the walk I heard a noise and there is was. One of Australia’s cheeky silent (mostly) critters, we were standing staring at an Echidna about 3 metres off the track and it was foraging through the ground cover feeding on ants and also trying to hide from us.

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It is when you least expect it, that the world reveals its most wonderful creations……..

the adventure continues:- Upper Shipley and Centennial Glen…….new foes and old friends.

Returning to Upper Shipley today was such a wonderful experience. Climbing at this crag for me was always until recently very intimidating. I used to get in my own head and mess up my chances of enjoying this place all the time. I often avoided going here because I knew it psyched me out. Today was different, today I was feeling free of this past demon and feeling like I was going to enjoy my time here.

Warming up on the easiest routes at the crag was so much fun. The style of climbing is something that I have not necessarily missed, but climbing here again is super fun and its very much what I started climbing on just ten short years ago. I enjoy the routes, the area and the friendships that have developed here.

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Dave looking super comfy tucked under the boulder problem on “Nev Herrod” 23 (7a).

Today I am with my wonderful lady Karine and one of my great mates and the first man who taught me how to climb. Rob is possibly the most obsessed climbers I have ever met. He is also one of the most methodical people I know. He spent hours teaching me how to place my feet and move. I am forever grateful for these great lessons. Another mate who happened to be up here on holidays has also come to play and Dave will no doubt have some serious fun on the routes we are doing.

Karine has had very minimal experience on sandstone and is really loving the feel of the rock. She is becoming more comfortable everyday climbing here and I feel she will no doubt really start to push herself while in Australia. We warmed up on a couple of 13’s (5a’s) and a route called “Hold on to Your Hats” 18 (6a) Miss K decided to top rope the latter route just to get her crimping head in and gain a little more confidence on this grippy and sometimes very thin geologic.

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Rob cruising the bottom section of “Rat Cat” 24 (7a+).

We decide to walk around to Centennial Glen to try and get some shade as the sun was beaming down and the wind had definitely picked up. The routes are harder there than what we had done and I knew K would be very intimidated by the area. Walking through the trail is a beautiful experience and the final approach to the crag is walking under a stunning little waterfall. You can look down to a beautiful little freshwater rock pool and into a sub tropical forest.

Rob had his eye on a route called “Rat Cat” 24 (7a+) and I was really keen to get on “Nev Herrod” 23 (7a). We had both been on these routes many years ago and had no success. It was cooler at “The Glen” and the friction was going to be good. Rob wanted to warm up a bit more, but I was keen to get on my nemesis. Tying in and slipping on my shoes I scrambled up to the base of the route. This is a steep and bouldery line consisting of 16 moves over approx. 13 metres. Unforgiving and powerful.

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Yours truly pulling through the bouldery crux on “Nev Herrod” 23 (7a).

I pulled on and up clipped the first bolt and felt immediately impacted. I down climbed, sorted out my head and pulled up through the first five moves. Clipping the second bolt I eyed the crux move and got my feet right. I hit the crux holds and pulled up, hesitated and then went for it. Oh my god! I held it, I held it! I clipped and continued through to the anchors. Stoked to tick the route, I had a little celebration in my head.

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After I forgot the drop knee beta for tall people and a nice whipper on “Ruddy Norry” 22 (6c+).

Dave decided to do a lap and very easily cruised through the route. Dave is super strong and has been bouldering regularly, so this type of route is not really a push for him. He repeated the route easily and we went around and did a few laps on “Ruddy Norry” 22 (6c+). Its a great route and its also the warm up at The Glen. Rob sent “Rat Cat” 24 (7a+) after working it for about 45 minutes.

All in all and excellent day out………..As are all days in the mountains.

the adventure continues:- This place is not better or worse……..but it’s just so so different in every way.

Well I never thought I would say this but we are settled in, in the Blue Moutnains. We have a nice house to spend time in for a few weeks here and there while in Oz and it feels wonderful. I have wanted to experience this for about ten years now instead of travelling up from Sydney every weekend after work. Funnily enough I had to become a tourist in my own country to do it.

Our first day up here we shopped and tidied up the house a little and basically organised the creature comforts. As it is still cool up here I figured out how the gas heater works. This is super important since it has been down to two degrees up here recently. I left the continent with a level of confidence that it would be warm at this time of year in Australia, being a local.

We headed out for our first afternoon walk with a small pack and a little water. I had a little plan to take Karine down to Wall’s Ledge, also known to the climbing community as Upper Shipley. This amazing cliff line faces directly west and has some of the best sports routes in the mountains. Most importantly it also has an incredible array of Australian wildlife very close at hand.

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Walking down through the bush towards Centennial Glen the spring flowers were beautiful and it is always amazing to see the stunning contrast of colours that the Aussie bush presents. As we reached a small clearing on the edge of the cliff line I heard…..”Woooooowww!!! Karine was having another “Wow” moment in the Blue Mountains. She stood there staring down into the beautiful valley below.

Off in the distance I could faintly hear the sound of a bustling frog colony. There is a small wetlands alcove where we are going. Its tucked into a little corner that seeps water runoff on a permanent basis. I am always happy when I hear this. It means that they are thriving and there are not too many Tiger snakes around yet, as the Tiger’s eat the frogs.

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Its nice that this roof has remained unbolted….its stunning and rather large.

Karine and I moved on down to the left and wandered towards the frogs and as we arrived they fell slowly silent. It was a beautiful sound to hear. A few steps later a beautiful big King Parrot landed in a tree in front of us and chattered away for a minute or so. I pointed it out to K and she was enthralled. Karine was just taking it all in and being her first real walk through the bush, she was seeing plants and wildlife that she had never knew existed.

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This stunning and large Blue Tongue Lizard was hanging out on the track…..on the way in.
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These Saw Back Grubs were a real surprise for miss K.
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This beautiful creation is only 3cms in diameter……

Approaching the beautiful orange sandstone that glowed in the afternoon sun brought back many wonderful memories of climbing with “Good humans” on my weekends and trying to improve ourselves as not only climbers but also as humans. This place is truly inspiring and I am looking forward to climbing here with Karine whilst we are up here. As I look up at these wonderful lines I actually feel less intimidated than I ever have before. I feel motivated and confident.

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The beautiful orange walls of Upper Shipley. The tree trunk gets you to the base of the route and is also included in the grade.

Heading out of the far end of Wall’s Ledge and backup onto the Shipley Plateau to walk back to the car, we stand on the cliff edge and stare out at it’s overwhelming beauty. It is hard to express in words at time just how you feel about a certain place in your world. I can only say that I am always inspired and completely amazed when I stand in this place. There are other incredible places on the planet I have been that have reduced me to tears and overwhelmed me. This place is not better or worse……..but it’s just so so different in every way. 🙂

the adventure continues:- walls of infinite beauty……love the Bluey’s.

Well, its been a long time coming, but today we got to go climbing in the wonderful and extraordinary Blue Mountains. Rob and Ruth picked us up at about 7:40am from our place in Sydney and we headed West. The traffic was horrendous initially and we were feeling a little tired as we hadn’t slept well. It was great to be hanging with Ruth and Rob.

We stopped along the way for a coffee at Altitude Cafe for a quick caffeine fix and grabbed some of their renowned banana bread and superb Vietnamese Chicken Rolls. They are just divine. A must for travelling climbers.

We decided to climb at Mount York. It is a very old school crag however quite varied in its style. We started on the West side in the shade and holy hell it was like being in an icebox. The wind was high and the temps low for the morning. Karine had to borrow a thermal base layer off Rob as she was rattling in the cold weather. Miss K’s first experience of the cold in the Bluies. Not a great way to start the day when you are sleep deprived and in need of warmth.

We walked into the crag known as Mezzaluna, a beautiful platform high above the valley where the town of Hartley Vale is dwarfed by the surrounding cliffs. We tried to get warm as quickly as possible and struggled with the wind as it picked up a lashed the cliff face and us.

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Love the view from the top.

We warmed up on”My Grandmothers Dinky” 15 (5b) and our hands froze and went numb very rapidly. All of this climbing around the globe business had not prepared us for the cold and brazen sandstone of the Blue Mountains. Next was “Salubrious” 17 (5c). This route was one of the first I ever climbed and it used to be in the grade, it is now further from the grade than any other route on the wall. It’s closer to 21 (6c), holds have broken off and been polished up and truthfully it is nails.

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Karine cruising “Community Service” and loving the runouts.

Rob and Ruth had put the draws on “Community Service” 15 (5b) and left them for us, so Karine and I decided to try and continue to warm up. This route was good for that and great for Karine to get a feel for the verticalness that is Mount York. I am pretty sure she fell in love with the sandstone instantly. The friction was incredible and the rock is truly stunning.

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Rob cruising up “Mezzaluna” with Hartley Vale deep down in the valley.

We then wandered down to the right a little and located this lonely pitch on brand new rings. I checked the glue was dry and there was no tat on it so I thought give it a go. It was short pumpy little 19 (6a+). It was 10 metres of fun and K top-roped it without too much effort. It was great to see her enjoying the day as the sun drifted onto her back as she danced her way up the wall.

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Ruth leading “Mezzaluna” and doing it well.

As it was a day of just hanging out and climbing routes we went across to the Deep Freeze Sector and did three of the routes there. “Damn These Electric Sex Pants” 19 (6a+), Last Call for Fame and Glory” 18 (6a) and Uncle Amy 18 (6a). All super fun routes on beautiful rock. The girls did really well and Rob and I had a great time doing some laps and enjoying the afternoon.

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Yours truly on “Uncle Amy” 18 (6a)

A great day in the mountains with more “Good Humans” 🙂

the adventure continues:- a small glimpse of things to come…….welcome to Oz Dorothy……

After seven days back in Sydney, there have been a few things to celebrate. Catching up with mum was fantastic and it was a real thrill to be welcomed by her at the airport upon our arrival. There is no doubt there was a lot of excitement for me about this as she’s a very spritely 73 and had to get up at some ungodly hour to be there.

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Mum and I in the Megalong Valley:- photo Miss K.

Another thing was being able to show Miss K where I was from. This was a wonderful thing to do. Last Friday mum and the two of us headed up to the Blue Mountains to have lunch and pick up my car. On the way to doing this we stopped at the Katoomba and stood at the lookout over-looking the Jamison Valley, Mount Solitary and the very famous Three Sisters. Miss K was having a real WOW moment and in awe of this spectacular vista.

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The Jamison Valley and Blue Mountains……Mount Solitary on the right. Katoomba NSW.
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Miss K, me and Mum……Scenic Lookout Katoomba NSW.

With a little time on our hands before lunch we headed to Govett’s Leap and experienced another WOW moment. The Grose Valley is one of the most spectacular vistas in the mountains. Truly inspiring and it made me well up inside. I love these little hills we call the Blue Mountains. They are one of my happy places.

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The incredible Grose Vally from Govett’s Leap Blackheath NSW.

The next day Karine and I just simply went out for lunch. We headed to the North side and K got her first real glimpse of how truly beautiful Sydney really is and also saw the Harbour Bridge up close and personal. She was completely blown away by its style and grandeur. It was a stunning day in the my home town and I will never grow tired of staring at this incredible harbour.

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The stunning city of Sydney.
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Miss K sizing up the nuts and bolts on the Harbour Bridge…….to show her dad how big it all is.

I also managed to turn 50 this week and I am happy to be home to be able to celebrate this milestone with my family and friends. I have missed everyone and am truly looking forward to catching up with them over the course of our stay here. I feel relatively good and am pretty fit to say the least for my years…….its truly a blessing.

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So that’ll do for now, as there will be many more adventures to come over the next few months down under. 🙂

the adventure continues:- being thankful for what a place has given me……Thailand is wonderful.

Arriving in Bangkok was a pleasant relief. After approximately 17 hours of flying and transfers I was happy to get off the plane. It’s not often I feel like this, however I was really tired and a bit over the whole flying thing for some reason. It was exciting heading back to this bustling city. The noise, smells both good and bad, the total contradiction that is Thai life and being able to catch up with friends: new friends that is.

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This for me is what makes Bangkok so “sort of crazy”…….the cables display the town and its craziness.

Thailand has given me a lot over the past twelve months and I am in need of appreciating it a whole lot more than I think I have done. It is where Karine brought me when we decided to make a “good go” of us! It is where we met Tiffany and Colby who took us in when we visited Portland, Oregon. It is where we met Yeo and Su May and climbed together for a week. Mario and Kaew who we visited at their farm in Quebec. Remi, Evelyn and Aussie mate Joe and of course Canadian Gordon.

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Hanging out with the Green Climbing Crew at Tha Farlang

My dear friends Mike and Robyn came and visited Karine and I for a week and spent New Years with us on a little island in the south, which also gave Thailand the feeling of a real connection to home.

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(L to R) Robyn, Mike, Craig and Karine.

The list is long but most importantly, these people have become close to us. The common ground is Thailand. We have kept in touch through Fartbook, touching base semi-regularly to try and organise other get together’s. With all this in mind I really don’t think I have paid enough respect to what this place has truly given me.

This week Bangkok is a stop-over really. We are catching up with friends as I said previously and also recovering from the jet lag that occurs on long haul flights. I feel very lazy just bumming around and not doing much at all, but I don’t feel that I have the energy right now. Sleep is irregular and it is super humid. It is also wet a lot of the time as it is the monsoon season and when it rains here……..Holy shit does it rain.

Doing a bit of bouldering at the Urban Playground Climbing Gym at The Racquet Club has been sensational and the locals have been very good fun to hangout with, making our experience complete. Karine and I are indeed very fortunate to have the people in our lives that we have. They make our experience all the more pleasurable and for this we are truly thankful.

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A very happy little boulderer……..
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Keep that core locked mate!

As we wrap up in this busy and bustling city, we relaxed by the pool at a friends yesterday and today we are headed for a massage to help prepare for the short flight back to “Terror Oz Tralia”. I am very much looking forward to showing my beautiful lady around the country of my birth. I am also looking forward to seeing my friends and family who have so faithfully followed my journey since the beginning back in March 2015.

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What can you say really………….just stunning.

Get ready for some more incredible places, wonderful faces and wide open spaces…….as “the adventure continues” 🙂

Note* Some of these photos have been published here in previous blogs.