Muldoon in center with Agamemnon chimney to right
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