The land of milk and honey. I arrived there my first time in mid-December 2020 after the recommendation from Jacki’s parents. Due to the closed borders the campsite at The Pines was sparsely populated. So my first day I was walking around to find some people who would be willing to climb with me. I found a group who was ok to introduce me to Trad climbing, and one of the guys among them was Will (He’s currently the butcher in Beachport). So we wnt out to Mitre rock and I did two routes. One in top rope and one in pink point. And I realised quickly that most routes in Arapiles graded in Australian teens are heavily sandbagged. So forget about the grading table. The typical grade conversion only applies to the Blue Mountains climbing. Listen to the guide book, and try to climb some easier grades first. The hardest I ever seconded in Arapiles was a 20 (and I struggeled heavily), and the hardest I lead/red-pointed was a 15.
So this bloke Will said he was going to Tassie, and I said alright, I’m also on my way down there. So he gave me his second helmet and said I’m most welcome to use it and give it back to him once I’m in Tassie (at this point in time I didn’t realise, what this would actually mean). So the next days I looked for some other climbing partners. One of them was Lachlan from Queensland. With whom I went to the Bushrangers Crag and did my first lead climbs on trad gear. In total I spent about 10 days there. I even gave one belay next to “Lord of the Rings” which was free climbed by Stefan Glowacz in the 1980’s. Nothing for me. My last multipitch I red-pointed was Arachnus, and easy grade 9 (it’s not just a 3 or IV 😏).
End of February 2022, when I was just back in Sydney in order to get the inspection done for my car, my dear friend Will called me, and said he’ll be back in Arapiles for the weekend…and only stay until Sunday. Well alright, so I packed my car to get ready to drive off, and then went for a coffee to say goodbye. I started driving off Sydney at 6 o’clock in the morning in heavy rain and was in Natimuk at 23:00. It was only less than 10km to drive, me totally tired and just looking forward to open a beer after 17h of driving (incl. 2 longer stops and a nap). Then a car followed me…and turned on his signal lights…coppers. During the interrogation my friend Will tried to call me, how I’m doing? Well not so good at that moment, as Seargant F. (I recognised him later, during a rescue from another climber, with is name patch on. He’s not the local copper, but the big ugly guy from Horsham) decided to checkin on me, as he onviously not had anything else to do. So, as the alcohol and drug test was negative, and I just entered Victoria that day, and yes I didn’t know how long I will stay, I was free to go. But he followed me with his car all the way into The Pines and made sure I was really going there to camp that night. So after almost 10 months, I finally could say hello again to Will, and I also got to meet Emma this evening. We had a great night, lots of laughter and beer.
The next day Bert turned up. I met him about 1 year earlier in Hobart, and it turned out that he now also knew Will. So Will put me on Necrophiliac (bloody 15 crack climb – how I love cracks) the next day. Lucky me, I got it clean as second, but that’s nothing I would enjoy for leading. That’s the only climb we did, as he needed to drive off and so I thought I’ll stay a few more days. In the end I stayed about 7 weeks. All the time just a few days before the Easter weekend. That time was the best episode in Arapiles for me, as there was always a good chat guaranteed in the community tent, and new inspiration was generated which routes could be climbed next, while watching Titus painting his acid landscapes while totally stoned. I met Zorbas, Pat, Tom, John, Andrew, Natalie, Mandy, Karina, Robin, Felix, Bert, just to name a few. With Bert, the Belgium dirtbike traveller, I seconded Tannin (was a hard 19) on my second day, but I got it clean, after redpointing Conifer Crack (9). Funilly I also climbed with Mandy, as she was looking for a climbing partner. And she put me on Pedro (it’s a classic Arapiles 11 – so forget about the grading table). Nevertheless, nice climb, but I struggled on Moby Dick afterwards, but Mandy went through quite steadily. It turns out that she’s the partner of Jacki, which I haven’t met so far. I did a lot of climbing with Zorbas. And my masterpiece at the end of this trip was Lamplighter on lead (thanks to Pat I was leading all three pitches), a typical must do in Arapiles. A few days later I even did Watchtower Crack (another classic) with Robin, but I only led the first two pitches, while Robin did the crux cracks.
In October 2022 I returned a final time to Arapiles, but somehow I crossed the zenith. In total I stayed for about 3 weeks, but I didn’t had any motivation left to really climb something. The same goes for Will. He just visited for one day or so, and we basically drunk coffee the whole day and got distracted (in particular him) – nothing unusal. So we did one climb, then it started to drizzle and we decided to stop. He left me with all his gear. I belayed one of my neighbours up Viagra (15), also a crack/chimney climb. The climb itself didn’t get me excited. But the party infront of us was actually Mandy and Jacki. So after almost 2 years and 3 visits, we finally managed to meet each other. By surprise Emma arrived a few days later. We had some nice chats, and she told me about her travel experience in Nepal. Then we did some “easy” 11s up to Pillars of Hercules. I also didn’t like the vibe of The Pines. The community tent was in bad shape after the winter and only Andrew (the weird Scotsman who was actually born near Essex) and Felix was left from the original crew. The rest of the climbers were quite cliquey. In particular there was a bunch of (super-cool) slackliners. I mean I don’t have anything against slackliners, but seeing all of them lining up in their vans to enjoy their van lifestyle, just makes me sick. This kind of hedonistic lifestyle is nothing different to the vanlifestyle along the east cost with all the super cool surfers. I mean it’s not that our plant is a bit heated up currently, and their CO2 emissions from their so-called freedom will contribute for each litre of fuel 3kg of CO2. I’m sorry, I’m not so cool to have a van and enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle, while we only have a budget of 440 Gt CO2 left to reach the 1.5°C target.
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed my time in Arapiles. It has definitetly something special. And each time when I drove off from Horsham into the sunset and see Mount Arapiles in the 30km distance, I get goosebumps. It always feels like coming home.