Arapiles - balloon over Muldoon
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Thursday May 28, 2009 at 9:28 am)

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Muldoon in center with Agamemnon chimney to right

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Muldoon on left and the Organ Pipes on far right

I woke early one morning to a sound like a distant jet plane, but it seemed closer. Curious, I unzipped the tent door and stuck out my head. There, directly above me, was a hot-air balloon. After quickly springing into my clothes, I jumped out the tent door and ran up the hill to snap photos of the gorgeous yellow balloon passing over Mount Arapiles. What fun that would be, to ride over the mount in a balloon!

We’d climbed beneath where the balloon soared only a few days earlier. With over 2,000 climbs in the guidebook, on a cliff over a mile long, we opted to begin our exploration of Arapiles close by. The Organ Pipes, directly behind the campground and only five minute’s walk distant, presented themselves as an obvious choice. Not only were they closest, but the climbs were short, generally one to two pitches, and the lower-angle rock resulted in many easy routes.

Our first climb, D-Minor, followed a crack up to a ledge and then on over a small overhang. I led the first pitch; rated Australian 10 which the guidebook says is equivalent to 5.5. I quickly decided that I must be very out of shape, and would need to train a lot, since this “10-rated” pitch seemed very insecure. In the US, I’d soloed (without a rope) harder routes and felt more comfortable and secure.

The rock at Arapiles is completely different from any rock I’ve ever climbed on anywhere else. Granite tends to be lower angle, monolithic, and climbs follow cracks. Limestone tends to have lots of sharp edges and pockets. This rock had rounded, smooth bulges, many of which resembled drips from a candle. It didn’t appear to offer much to hold on to, nor much in the way of secure footholds.

I set up a belay directly below the overhang and Tristan climbed the next pitch, an Australian 14 (US 5.7). To my dismay, I had difficulties surmounting the bulge and required a little assistance from Tristan and the rope above. I’d led 5.10s the previous summer and fall (Australian 18 – 21) and we expected to start on 15, 16 and 17s, and quickly work our way up. Feeling awkward on the smooth, overhanging, downward bulging rock, I re-evaluated my abilities, and we opted for a few more easy warm-up climbs on the Organ Pipes.

To our delight, even the so-called easy climbs have solid rock and very enjoyable climbing. Only my ego was bruised by my inability to ascend the harder climbs.


Muldoon on left, Organ Pipes in center and right

Tuolumne, Memorial Day 2009
Posted by sibylle in Yosemite, California (Wednesday May 27, 2009 at 9:34 am)

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Tenaya Lake reflection

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Tenaya Peak

Arapiles and the Wimmera
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Tuesday May 26, 2009 at 9:41 am)


Looking at the curved Earth from the top of Mt. Arapiles

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The Wimmera from above

The horizon is not flat, but a curve – which can lead us to believe we live on a flat disc, as in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, on a round plate, or on a ball.

After over 40 years of climbing rocks and mountains, I’d never before seen the Earth’s curve as clearly as from the lookout near the summit of Mt. Arapiles. Usually, when I look down, or out, from a climb, I see ranges upon ranges of mountains, like from the North Ridge of Everest – a spectacular view, but not one that demonstrates the curved Earth. One reason for this unusual sight is that Australia is the flattest continent. It also has the oldest and least fertile soils, and is the driest inhabited continent. The view from Arapiles emphasizes the sere, flat landscape.

The lake in the top left of the picture contains not water, but salt.

We marveled at the Wimmera, the land surrounding Horsham that contains both Arapiles and the Grampians.

Its annual rainfall, ranging from 15 inches in the north to 23 inches in the south, wouldn’t be so bad if the land were not so flat. Colorado averages 15 inches of rain annually, but much falls a snow in the winter, onto 14,000-foot tall mountains, which then let the snow melt slowly in spring and summer.

We next descended by a different trail, down the Pharos gully, to maximize our view of Arapiles climbs.

Arapiles - from the Pines to Yellow gum
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Sunday May 24, 2009 at 10:25 am)

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Our first tent spot in the Pines

When we arrived on Monday night, we hurried to set up our tent before dark, and then cooked in the dark using our headlamps. We set up in Arapiles’ main campground, the Pines, a large sloping camping area scattered between several imported pine trees. Not many other climbers were here, on Monday March 16. We had a log propped on two stumps as a seat and another stump as a table.

After a quick breakfast of cereal and powdered milk (no fridge, and no ice chest) we decided to hike up Central gully to the top of Mt. Arapiles for an aerial look at our home for the next six weeks. Hiking up Central gully, we startled a jumping creature that I at first thought was a kangaroo, but we later decided was a rock wallaby. The rock wallabies are darker, smaller, and have a different shape of tail and rear legs from the kangaroos – plus they’re a lot more skittish. I got close to lots of kangaroos, but never to a rock wallaby.

Our view from the summit amazed me. Mt. Arapiles sits in the middle of a large, flat plain – an isolated summit sticking up out of nowhere. From the summit, I looked around at 360 degrees of flat Earth – something I’d never before seen. Not only was it flatter than anything I’d seen, but I could see the Earth’s curvature. No wonder the ancients thought the earth was a round flat disc – a la Pratchett’s Disc World. It looks like one.

We hiked down the Pharos Gully, a mile or two further along the cliff, to complete our circuit.

That night, the sound of many cars arriving, loud shouts, and vigorous hammering woke us. Between midnight and some later time, numerous tents went up directly next to ours. I woke to see 20 new tents, the closest only 10 feet away, and lots of teenage kids. It was a school group. We were to see at least one, or sometimes 3 or 4, of these: the private schools rented a few trucks and buses, loaded up a group of students, and drove them to Arapiles for a week’s climbing and outdoors ed instruction.
We soon moved to the other campground – Yellow Gum (Gum trees are eucalypts). Here we had a much larger log as a table, much larger stumps on each end for more storage, and a large tree overhead for shade.


Yellow Gum

Australia’s marsupials and birds
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Friday May 22, 2009 at 10:17 am)

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Koalas are the zoo’s most expensive animals due to their diet of only the freshest, choicest, eucalyptus (or as they say down under) “gum tree” leaves. We never saw any in the wild and heard that many were killed in this spring’s big fires.

The little penguins

We thought about visiting Phillip Island to see the Little Penguins, but I would have had to learn to drive on the other side of the road right away - and I wasn’t sure I was ready to brave driving on the wrong side in Melbourne traffic.
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Melbourne, australia
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Thursday May 21, 2009 at 4:51 pm)


A  Superb Lyrebird

When we first arrived in Melbourne, we had no place to stay and all lodging in town was full because of the Grand Prix, an event that annually fills town. We have a knack for arriving in foreign countries during unique holidays and celebrations to find everything shut down.


Tristan and Lyrebird

I once arrived in Germany on May 1, which is a national holiday; and Tristan and I arrived in Barcelona on St. Jordi’s Day (sometime in April or May).

Luckily we found a spot in the Big 4 Caravan Park.

Australia teems with caravan parks – like a combination of KOA, campground, and trailer park. Every town we visited seems to have one, even big cities like Melbourne, with a population of 3,806,000 and the second largest city in Australia.

Even smaller cities in the US don’t have campgrounds, so finding this refuge proved a pleasant surprise. Except it was pouring buckets and lightning caused the airport officials to stop unloading our baggage from the airplane.
A taxi dropped us under the entry portico, where we booked our campsite. During a lull in the thundershowers, we erected our tent and put our packs inside. Our tent sat on soft grass, backed against the fence overlooking a raging creek, which gave us both privacy and noise control.

Hungry after our flight, we walked 15 minutes to town and ate some “pasties”, a filled hot pie. We then took the tram to town to look at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Unfortunately, the downpour persisted – which also happened to ruin a few outdoor weddings. We saw no less than seven weddings from the tram and at the Botanic Gardens – which might present a great venue for weddings on a dry, sunny day.

On Sunday we visited the Melbourne Zoo, eager for our first look at koalas, kangaroos, and other strange marsupials.

Big 4 sold us tram tickets, which was helpful. Melbourne’s public transport gives special cheap Sunday rates, but you have to buy the tickets ahead of time – ticket sellers are generally closed on Sunday. It was still raining and luckily the information lady at the airport had given us an umbrella upon our arrival. The umbrella proved one of our more useful possessions, despite what we’d heard about a drought.


Big 4 Caravan Park in Melbourne

Yosemite’s Mist Trail toward Nevada Falls
Posted by sibylle in Yosemite (Wednesday May 20, 2009 at 7:07 pm)


Nevada Falls with Liberty Cap



I finally made it to Yosemite and hiked the trail to Nevada Falls and them on towards Half Dome.  The trail starts at Happy Isles, skirts  Vernal Falls, and after four miles reaches Nevada Falls. I crossed the falls via the shaking footbridge, with torrents rushing down below me.

From here, the trail meanders towards, and through, Little Yosemite Valley to end on the summit of Half Dome. I followed the trail as far as the shoulder of Half Dome - about 7.5 miles, and judging by the creaky knees during the descent, farther than I should have gone on my second hike of the season.

But the falls were irresistible, and I wanted to peek over Half Dome’s shoulder to admire the Valley below.  Also, I hope to climb a few routes this summer with very long approach and descent hikes, so I figured a little training would benefit me in the long run.

Plus I brought back these beautiful photos to share!

Parrots in Arapiles
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Friday May 15, 2009 at 6:35 pm)


Eastern Rosellas investigate my cereal bowl

After waking to one bird’s beautiful warbling, I marveled at the many other parrots nearby. Pink Galahs dug for roots and bulbs near our tent, Crimson Rosellas sat on the tree overhead, and when I left my cereal bowl, Eastern Rosellas flew to sit on it looking for food.

From our first day here, I loved the bird song and watching the gorgeous birds surrounding our camp site.

I read that “The Eastern Rosella uses one of its feet (usually the right foot) to hold food when eating on the ground or perched on a tree” (or cereal bowl), just as the ones here are doing!


Beautiful camp robbers looking for food!

Arapiles - all the climbs!
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Monday May 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm)


The Mount (Arapiles) is well over a mile long (wide?).  I think it was 3 km (1.8 miles) from one end to the other by road. The photos I posted earlier of Central Gully  show only the far left end / side of the photo above.

Scorpion Corner, on this post, is on Block Major, which is the small block sitting on top of the wall just left of the notch at the left end of the Mount. This perhaps gives you an idea of the scale of Mt. Arapiles. While over 3,000 climbs exist in the area, Mentz’s select guidebook describes only (!!!) 2,000 of the climbs.

When we told people we were climbing in Australia, they inevitably asked us where else we’d been, or where else we were going. With 2,000 climbs right here, on excellent rock, and an awesome campground, very few temptations existed to drag us elsewhere. I admit, we spent almost 6 of our 7 weeks right here, climbing as much as we could.

Sunrise and sunsets over Arapiles
Posted by sibylle in Australia (Friday May 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm)

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One more beautiful sunrise from Arapiles!

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