Beerwah Bolt Route Time Trials

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A few years ago, I had a few attempts at getting up the Beerwah Bolt Route (aka Stainless Anticlimb, 130m A1). Chaos ensued. Eventually, Bob and I got up it, in a deliberate overnight attempt. (We took brandy, croissants for breakfast, and cigars) Still, not something I'd recommend. Sleeping in a hammock up against the wall is not really my idea of a fun evening. Now, with a few more years of climbing behind me, and bit more of a clue, I was back in Australia again.

So with speed climbing all the rage, was it actually possible for a weekender such as myself to actually climb at a reasonable speed? I thought it might be fun to do the bolt route again, and see how fast it could be done. First, about the route. The Stainless Anticlimb is a good name for it. It is a plain simple bolt ladder (plus a couple of hooks moves), with most bolts being hangerless 6mm stainless. (that's about 1/4" for foreigners) Most of them protude/droop to varying lengths. Interspersed are a variety of newer/beefier pieces, often enough to make people happy.

There are two 30m pitches of reasonably straightforward, just under vertical, that traverse just enough to be annoying. This takes you to underneath the big roof. It's big. About 8m or so. This is where people often like to come and try out their fancy new portaledge. (or just stew in a hammock all night) The roof is busted straight out, with more interesting droopy bolts, with homebrew hangers on them, before turning the lip and a hook move taking you up to an actual stance! On less than vertical rock! Pitch 4 has traverses slightly as it ascends to another smaller roof (about 2m) but from here the line goes in a straight line up increasingly featured rock leading to the end of the vertical rock at a well bolted ledge. A short scramble and you rejoin the track just below the summit.

Time starts when you reach up to clip the first bolt off the ground, and ends when you have both members safely on the summit ledge. According to our rules. They seem quite reasonable.

And back to our trip. I posted on that I was interested in doing time trials on the bolt route, and was anybody interested. The target time was 4 hours. Experience preferable, but if they had free weekdays, then I was also interested. Glen replied, and seemed like a good choice. He'd done the route before, solo even, and seemed like a competent climber. The weather forecast looked refreshingly mild, (thank you cyclone kelly) so I had Glen pick me up at 8am. We're speed climbers! We don't need to start at dawn to make sure we finish! I also wanted to sleep in a bit, as I'd been out at dawn the day before bushwalking around booloumba falls area. Excuses excuses!

Glen demonstrated just how fit he was, and just how not really all that fit at all I was by scarpering up the slabs and into the jungle while I poured sweat and cursed the whole idea of carrying climbing gear uphill. I sat on the beach and sat some more and drank some more water. And it wasn't even all that hot. God knows why I even tried to keep up with him!

Now at the base of the route, and with me slowly cooling back down to operational levels, it was time to get down to the game plan. We'd sort of vaguely discussed tactics, we knew there were fast ways, but we'd never actually climbed with each other before, so we were going to keep things sort of traditional. Our plan was for me to lead the first two pitches as one long pitch, then Glen to lead the roof pitch, and me to reaid and clean, then me to lead the final pitch. No shortfixing, we'd simulaid the first pitch if we ran short of rope, (we didn't, a 60m is just enough to lead the first two pitches together and fix) but had no plans on simulaiding any other portions. Nothing fancy really.

We had both done the route before, and felt pretty comfortable that hero loops were in general a pain in the arse, and that small/medium nuts with the nut slid down was the way to go. We pre-racked these, one per quickdraw, and then had a few spare biners and boltplates for the bigger bolts. Took wayyy too many nuts. Took 16, probably only needed about 8-10. (We were backcleaning extensively, both for faster leading, faster cleaning, and so we could take less gear.) A few extra draws would have been nice. We only had 13. The fastest way, Glen's way, is a variety of the "skeleton key" approach to aid climbing fast. We both very quickly ended up with a wire on the end of each of our daisy's so we could just reach up and stand up. Gear would be left at intervals for protection, normally on the big bolts. (The skeleton key approach is to put an assortment of cams/hooks on the end of each daisy, and go back and forth between them as you go up, leaving extra pieces behind for pro at intervals)

So the stop watch was started and off I went. I'd never climbed to a watch before, so this was going to be interesting. Up, up and away. Felt myself slowing down as the energy levels started to droop partway through the second pitch, then a timeloss as I dicked around, out of slings, fixing the rope under the roof. We were at 1:45 when Glen came past the first belay. Ok, but 4hrs might be a bit close. Glen was jugging quickly though, and even took a nice swing while doing the muscleman's approach to cleaning a traverse. Pull right in, and as the swing peaks, unclip and swing back the otherway. This is strenuous, but MUCH faster than jumaring around pieces and unclipping from below. Glen's swing was greatly enhanced by a wire I'd left behind higher up popping off. It's all on video. :)

Glen muscled, reached and generally used all his overhanging sport climbing tricks to lead out the roof, much much faster than Bob and I had done it all those years ago. The rope was soon fixed, and it was time for me to get moving. No time for wishing I had more than just one pair of etriers, or that they were both full length, just get aiding! I did this section Chongo Style, not trying to jumar while reaiding, but instead using a grigri and tying off the rope behind it. After turning the lip, this turned into the chongo jumar style, which although I believe has the potential to be fast and energy efficient, I think it helps if you bring the right handed ascender, and have actually practised it first, not just realised that you don't actually have both ascenders, and damn, it's the left one.

3hr9min. Oh dear. Time to get cracking. We'd already decided at the last belay, that Glen would lead the last pitch. Not only would he only get one pitch otherwise, but I also wasn't sure if I'd be as fast at it, having already felt myself fading a bit earlier. Glen blasted off, he was going to backclean all the way to the roof, so I didn't have to clean the traversing section up to it. I was going to lower off the anchor, and then just jumar straight up skywards.

3hr45min. I've lowered out, and have started ascending, and am being wracked by horrible cramps in my forearms. Lost too much salt and water sweating it out up the track. Suck more water out of the camelback. We're too close to just cave in now. I slave away, almost locking an arm up unclipping the draw on the lip, but when I get onto the vertical again, and can use my knees a bit more, the cramps subside. Left, Right, Step, Step. Faster! Extensive backcleaning, (you're not going to hit anything if you fall from up here) made it wonderfully quick to jumar.

3hr52min. It all comes to a grinding halt. I'm stuck. I'm within sight of Glen, 3 bolts from the ledge. The rope is caught on something. Much swearing. I down jumar about 30cm, and flick and pull, and mercifully, it's free. Jug! Jug! and then I reach up for a hand from Glen, and pull up onto the ledge, pulling up the last bit of gear behind me. And we're done! 3hr54min. Only just, but we made it. Aid climbing the way it should be. All the good bits, the exposure, the inspiring lines, the big beautiful cliffs and settings, and none of the beastliness that is hauling pigs, and being up at the crack of dawn and doing a pitch or two a day. We got up at a civil hour and were back in time for afternoon beers.

Glen is now off to New Zealand to climb bigger mountains, and I'll be off to Iceland by the time he gets back, so we're going to have to stick with this time. We both reckon that 25mins would go automatically next time, even without any strategy changes and sub three hours should be very doable. We think shortfixing the 4th pitch would work really well too, as well as not bringing a second rope. All in all a wonderful day out. We'd love to hear what times people have done. (We know we're not even close to record holding, but I'd love to see how many people have done sub 3-4 hours before. Hell, I don't even know how often it get's climbed, let alone the other aid routes!

Not many pictures of this, I only took the little camera, and I only took pictures while I was belaying, no posing, we go for speed!

What happens when you don't have enough slings

Just hanging around waiting for Glen

Bolts into space

Already planning his moves

The mad team

Reach and clip

Glen the human starfish

Roof number 2