Two Hugh’s -Trip Report
15 Oct 2019
Two of our Instructor’s, both coincidently named Hugh, have been out to the back of the Wolgan recently on great adventure.
The line between recreational and work climbing is often difficult for us to tread, and so generally we leave a big separation between the two. In this instance though, we think the trip is educational, inspiring, and a hell of a good yarn! So we have decided to share Hugh’s trip report, unedited from it’s original FB format.
So I went climbing with Hugh Sutherland last week. We had been planning to head out for yonks, and had an eye on a corner system to the right of Big Glassy Corner. Hugh was having a chat with Adam, and it turned out that Adam has already climbed it. We were having a bit of a laugh at ourselves during the journey out to our new objective, Wonga Mountain, about how many of the lines that we look at turn out to have been climbed, and how frequently Adam Darragh is the man (or one of the men) who has climbed them.
We rode out to the junction of Rocky Ck and the Wolgan River on Tuesday afternoon. We got into the camp a bit after dark, ate, did some gear sorting for our start at sparrows the next morning, then hit the sack.
Wednesday morning we stashed our bikes in the scrub, filled out bottles and water bladders from Rocky ck, and slogged up to the base of Wonga Mountain. We had a bit off a view of the cliff line on the walk up and compared this to the route descriptions of the existing routes at the crag. At the same time we spotted our line: a crack system running the length of the cliff, not at the highest part of the cliff, but it topped out and looked perfect for the time we had. We made for this while hydrating on the diluted urine of a 1000 upstream canyoners on the way.
We got the base of our line and looked a beauty. I won the scissors paper rock and got myself into gear to start climbing. I had to fight my way through some desperate looking face holds and through a band of ferns to get established in one of the best looking cracks I have seen in quite some time. Alas, this took a couple of attempts and I was pretty wound up and covered in dirt by the time I got to to the base of the chimney above. Hugh go up to the belay and we decided we’d lead in blocks, so off I shot up another pitch of fantastic climbing. After the chimney there was a steep crack (how I would imagine The Knuckle on roids would be like) and I swore and shook my way through this to a broken up belay ledge where I handed the sharp end over to Hugh.
Off he goes, up an easy corner system with a couple of roofs. Fantastic climbing with a slightly desperate move onto the next belay ledge. His next pitch looked easy from the bottom, but turned out to be nails, one of the most awkward moves I’ve come across followed by a bottomed out ironstone seam with awkward gear and committing climbing got us to the 1/2 way ledge. Hugh cruised through in fine style.
Pitch 2. Clean corner crack climbing at it’s best.
We swapped leads again at the ledge, and it was my turn to keep us moving. Through some ordinary looking rock, past a chimney, and into yet another pitch of immaculate crack climbing. On a first ascent way out the back of nowhere, surely this is unheard of?
Last pitch, and HS is plugging his way up some more beautiful climbing in a broken corner to the sting in the tail of this little beauty.
The top pitch. Better than it looks, with a though move to end the climb.
We topped out in the last of the golden daylight, both pretty knackered, but frothing at the gills like hooked fish. Given the joke on the way in about Adam’s prolific climbing in the area, and our need to find a line he hadn’t done, we decided we’d call the route “Darragh’s Done It”, then turned our attention to the descent.
By this stage the light was fading rapidly and the wind was howling through the valley. It was a cold, empty and intimidating valley we were looking out on as we abseiled as efficiently as we could manage. It was too windy to hear each other, full dark and we were operating in the gloming of our head torches by the time the inevitable happened and the ropes got stuck. We still aren’t sure how. We were taking a lot of care and doing all the right things, maybe it was the wind, maybe it was the crag bunyips, I dunno, but stuck they were. Fortunately we had a plan b, and used our haul/tag line to rap the remaining distance to the ground and left the ropes to be dealt with in the morning. Once we were on the ground we poured down about a gallon of the Rocky Ck juice and cast around for a sheltered biv at the base of the cliff. We found one, cooked up a meal and discussed the climb.
That night was terrible. The wind howling along the cliff tops was dislodging little rocks the size of coffee beans from the half way ledge and they rained down on us throughout the night. Our sleeping bags were filled with them in the morning, and the thought kept running through our minds that these little rocks that keep falling into us are supporting big ones that could too…
We woke from a fitful sleep in the morning and over coffee made a plan to collect our ropes. HS ended up jugging up to retrieve the bottom rope, then we walked up to the 1/2 way ledge to find the top ropes and start again. En Route we passed a great looking corner, which Hugh climbed, I belayed while dodging a storm of falling rock. The cleaned up version that I climbed was great, about 22 in good rock. We called this “Consolation Prize” for reasons that are about to become apparent.
Consolation Prize *** 22
Ropes were found, fiddled with, abseiled down, then retrieved without hassle. We packed our gear and made for a little knoll where we planned to get some pics of the route and enjoy the sun. Once on the knoll we decided to work out exactly where the other routes were and it was during this in depth process that disaster reared her ugly head. We were trying to fit the description of Pardalote with the line that we had decided was it and couldn’t. After about 10 minutes though we discovered it’s description bore a remarkable similarity to the route we had just put up…
Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, I can tell you we experienced them all on that knoll of lost dreams and broken hearts, before we came to Accept that Darragh (and Tom Williams) had done it, it was called Pardalote, and the joke was well and truly on us…
Ultimately it really doesn’t matter that we weren’t the first climbers to climb it, it is a great climb, I’d recommend it to anyone who is into wilderness climbing in the low 20’s, and one hell of a good story.
Good job Hugh Sutherland, on your “Consolation Prize”!