Tristan leading Squeakeasy
The rock is rounded, with bubbles that resemble a dripping candle and the tiny holds on this climb allow only one or two digits.
I was thoroughly terrified and still on the ground. Tristan was leading Squeakeasy at Arapiles. Normally when he leads, he coolly waltzes up the route and I calmly sit, belaying. But normally we climb routes that I have a chance of getting up, so there’s little chance that he would fall.
Today that was not the case.
Soon after we arrived at Arapiles, Tristan met Elliot, a young American climber from Connecticut. Elliot, a very strong sport climber, was learning to lead on gear. He joined us to try climbing easier gear routes (easy for him, not for me) and the two of them decided to head to the Squeakeasy Wall on the left side of the Central Gully.
I first led Pedro, a pleasant warm-up rated “10” in Australia and #42 of Australia’s top 50 climbs. Elliot then practiced his newly acquired gear-placing technique on “Golden Fleece” rated 18 in difficulty and 16th in overall popularity.
Next, we headed to the eponymous Squeakeasy and Tristan started up the climb while I belayed sitting near the base. After watching Tristan’s struggles, I moved to the base of the route and tied in to an anchor. Mentz’s guidebook rated the climb “22”, which would translate to about 5.11b in US ratings. Since Tristan had led many climbs of this difficulty and harder in Squamish, I had not initially worried.
Until he calmly said “falling” and I was airborne. I was glad I’d tied in, since I was now suspended about two to three feet above the ground and Tristan, after flying 40’ through the air, hung suspended not far above me.
“Tristan, place more gear!” I screamed.
“Damn, I blew the onsight,” was his laconic comment.
Elliot, shocked, sputtered,
”I’m amazed you’re not hurt! That’s the longest fall I’ve ever seen!”
Tristan’s RP had pulled out, and the cam below that caught him. The RP had torn wires and was slightly squished.
Elliot next lead the climb and succeeded in placing several pieces between the place where Tristan fell, and below where his lower cam caught him.
This gives you a better idea of the steepness
Here Tristan stretches for another tiny finger hold.
The climb steepens - as you can see by the gear hanging from Tristan’s harness.