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Indoor Skills to Outdoor Thrills
27 Feb 2015

Simon and Monique are back with stories from their Indoor to Outdoor Conversion course with instructor Marty Doolan. . . 

Our climbing weekend started with an early wake up and a road trip from our home in Wollongong up to the Blue Mountains. Our first stop was in Blackheath, our designated meeting point. Here, in a small Blackheath café, we put a face to the familiar voice of our instructor Marty. He had called us a couple days earlier to grab some information about our level of climbing so the climbing spots for the weekend could be chosen to match our ability.

As climbers we weren’t alone – the café was clearly a local climbers hub, with groups grabbing their caffeine fix and filling their bellies for their day of climbing ahead. Over coffee, Marty gave us the briefing for the two days ahead of us. As neither Simon nor I had any experience lead climbing, Marty had whipped up a custom schedule for us for a seamless transition between our indoor top rope belay skills to leading outdoors.

After a 10 minute drive, day 1 of our adventure started at the top of Mt York, mastering the rope. We learned how to tie the all-important figure-8 knot and all the particulars for setting up a solid anchor system for top rope climbing. With our new rope-tying abilities courtesy of Marty we were able to set up our own anchors for a couple of routes.

Once our anchors were set up we were pretty keen to get down and climb. We hiked to the base of the climbs, which had route names reminiscent of childhood breakfast time; Snap, Crackle and Pop. The Crackle route was a couple of grades outta reach for us outdoor novices, but Snap and Pop were fair game.

Climbing on natural rock for the first time was amazing.  In our post-course reflections we decided what made it so much fun was the freedom, with open-ended choices to use any surface of the rock to get to the top and no worries about navigating up the coloured blocks on the wall. Having the mountains as a backdrop was an added bonus.  Every time we got to the top of a climb we were rewarded twice; firstly by the accomplishment of completing the route and secondly by the incredible views.

We really couldn’t have wished for a better weekend of weather; like Saturday, Sunday arrived with an open blue sky full of sunshine. Our second day of climbing was in the Mt Victoria area. Marty was awesome, teaching us how to lead climb and sport climb safely. He taught us little tricks along the way about technique and climbing gear to make our climbing more efficient.

Our inquisitive nature was definitely around that weekend, especially with the lead climbing, hitting Marty with millions of hypotheticals- ‘but what if..?’, which Marty was always able to help out with. His responses were always calculated – you could tell they came from a memory bank of his past climbing experience. Years of climbing experience that went beyond the walls.

On Day 2 we not ONLY learnt how to lead climb (which was ridiculously fun and rewarding), but also learned an important little gem of information you don’t find in most guide books.  At the end of your climb when you’re back on the ground, if you can catch the very tail end of the rope as it comes hurtling down from the top bolts as you pack up, then your climbing partner is indebted to buying you a beer.  All of our future pack downs just became a little more interesting!

When the weekend came to a close we left the Blue Mountains with a promise to practice our knots, feelings of privilege having gained so much knowledge from Marty and the Blue Mountains Climbing School, and a plan to save up for outdoor equipment so we can get straight back out into the outdoors!

Simon & Monique

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