Why I love climbing pt 1

22 07 2009

…or “How I gave up my slothenly ways and learned to love bruised legs, rough hands and stinky feet.”

I’ve never really been much of a “sporty” kind of person. As a kid I played a few seasons of baseball, in the lower division, always outfield, at the bottom of the batting rank, or simply playing “left-right-out”. Played some footy, again in the lower divisions, couldn’t kick well, mark well, or tackle. Tried volleyball, athletics, soccer, hockey, played a couple of seasons of lacrosse, but I pretty much sucked at everything I tried. I was that kid who had a wardrobe full of the paraphernalia from a dozen sports, bundled away haphazardly, a graveyard of forgotten ambitions and half-assed commitment.

However I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, bushwalking, camping, fishing (I’m not very good at this either), and have done these things for most of my life. I was on skis at the age of 3, and remember skiing to school on more than one occasion when the snow was too deep to drive through. I’m not sure if any of this counts as being “sporty” though.

Federation Hut Panorama on Mount Feathertop

Federation Hut Panorama on Mount Feathertop - click for full size

So by the time I was in my mid-thirties, I had pretty much resigned myself to a life of not doing much of anything except the occasional camping trip, preferring to spend my time drinking beer with friends than do anything physical.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was a complete sloth. I have never been afraid of a little hard work, digging, chopping, whatever. I once spent 16 days straight, from 7am to sun-down stripping off the faux-brick cladding from the boards on the outside of my house. That was hard work! I had some furious tendonitis in my fore-arms after this (screaming barfies), and didn’t sleep properly for days!

But this sort of work is just stuff that simply needs to be done. There’s little “I choose” for these types of physical activity, more the fact that tasks need to be completed. So yeah, I guess wasn’t what you’d call athletic.

I’d heard at family gatherings, Hayley’s brother Luke talk of how cool climbing was, but had a bivvy of excuses as to why it wasn’t for me (“Ooh that sounds like hard work, and I think it might rain, I’m afraid of heights, and besides my knee is really sore right now, so thanks, but no thanks”). However, Hayley took up the challenge as I knew she would.

So off to Nunawadding we journeyed, a place with a 21m wall and a lot of overhang, a great place to learn to crank plastic. My knee was the size of a watermelon that day, and I had dislocated it the night previous, so there was no way I was getting on the wall (that and the wind direction just wasn’t right, and the moon was in Sagittarius).

Afterwards, Hayley announced she was going with her brother Luke and our mentor Rich on an outdoor climb in a couple of weeks time! For some reason I was unable to go, (probably sunspots, or bad hair?) but when she returned with all the awesome stories of climbing a multipitch on her first outing, I had made up my mind it was time for me to take the plunge. This was further reinforced after Hayley returned home one day with a spanking new pair of Red Chili shoes and a Mammut harness. Jealousy of her cool gear, and the fact that I really felt like I was missing out on something special, was what finally got me into the gym, bumbling my way up a Grade 9 (read 5.1 in the American scale), sweating profusely, huffing and puffing like a steamtrain, forearms burning, toes aching, and full of adrenaline.

After the first time, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. Climbing is hard! I was sore, beaten, bruised, blistered. I climbed like shit and I knew it. But only the next day, I was hanging out for another climb. I was hooked! In fact, I started researching shoes, and I bought my first climbing video shortly after this (it was “Pilgrimage”, thus began my extensive collection of #climbingporn).

The North Jawbone at Cathederal

The North Jawbone at Cathedral

The guys organised a trip up to Cathederal, The North Jawbone. They decided on “Spiegal’s Overhang” for my first outdoor climb,  a “very easy” and popular 4 pitch Grade 10 (5.2) with a slabby Grade 14 (5.7) finish. A one and a half hour drive led into a 45 minute walk/scramble up to the base of the Jawbone. Looking up at the climb ahead, I asked myself “What have I got myself into? This looks scary! AND HIGH! I’m going to fall! I’m going to die! Oh my god I really am going to die!”

My Ass on the way up Spiegal's Overhang

My Ass on the way up Spiegal's Overhang

It was difficult, and some of the moves were hard to pull, but I was up to the task. When we arrived at the top, I said to Rich “Seriously, thank you for taking me climbing. THAT was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life!”

I didn’t fall, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t die either. My knee didn’t explode. In fact, since climbing at the gym, my knee was stronger than ever. I had tried and conquered! I was the king of the world! And Hayley didn’t feel too shabby either! It was a brilliant day, and I had a real sense of achievement afterwards. The feeling of the rock, being out in the elements, pushing my body beyond what I thought possible, facing fears, learning, thinking, activating true excitement. This was it… at this moment, at the end of several hours of climbing, I was completely addicted. I fell in love that day, and that was just the beginning of my love affair with climbing! I’d like to thank Luke and Rich for getting us involved in the best thing I’ve ever done.

Luke and Hayley on Spiegal's Overhang

Luke and Hayley on Spiegal's Overhang

Stay tuned for “Why I love climbing pt 2” coming soon to a blog near you!


Soup-Off 2009 – Get your Soup-On!

19 07 2009

The day was clear and cool yesterday, a slight but cold breeze coming up from the north. Soup-off 2009 was set to be one to remember with 11 soups to be tasted, tested and ranked, with only one possible winning soup to REIGN SOUPREME!

The troops arrive!

The crowd started to file into SOUP STADIUM (our place) at 11:30 am, the trepidation and anxious hunger obvious on all faces. Bread, bread, bread, beer, wine and other accompaniments were placed alongside one another in the kitchen, as we readied ourselves for an afternoon of clattering spoons and distended bellies.

We kicked off the competition with a superb white bacalao soup with parsley oil, served with a butter fried crudette created by Andy. This was a brilliant way to start the afternoon,and the flavour of this creamy white delight stayed with us well into the evening. Andy certainly lived up to his reputation as a fine food maker with his entry this year!

Felix and dave washing dishes between courses

Freya came next with her pumpkin soup “with a twist”. A very solid entry though there is still debaste as to what actually the “twist” was. There was definitely bacon in there, which managed to sneak past the lips of a dedicated vegetarian (looking at you Dave) without any complaints.

The third soup was also a bouillabaisse, served over a garlic mayonaise crouton, resembling a consomme. This was a subtle and well crafted masterpiece by Pablo. Very good work son!

Next was Helen’s Zuchini Zipper! This zippy little number left us all wanting more, and more we got. After we’d had our fill of zuchini, Damon and Sassi went the full 9 yards and made handmade wonton soup, both vegetarian and meat versions! The inclusion of a very asian dish at this stage of the afternoon was an inspired choice, and was very popular among the attendees.

Hand made wontons

Following this was Felix & Amber’s chicken, coconut and corriander soup, which fared very well in the voting later in the night. This was a beautifully balanced piece, and I didn’t want it to end.

We all took a but of a breather at this stage, as the amount of food we had consumed was catching up with us. We all watched the sun go down and prepared our swelling bellies for the second half off the soups.

A bit of provincial Italy came next in the form of an Italian style clam and mussel soup served up by yours truly. As tasty as it sounds, filling us up with the flavour of the ocean. Next in line was a second zuchini soup, this time called “Zuchini Mash” by Maria. This was a delightful green, and had us all drooling and wanting more, more, MORE!  Next was the french portion of the evening, with the inclusion of a French onion soup, always a favourite with the punters, served up by Monsieur Mik. Following in the European vein, the next soup was the Peasant Soup by Tanya, which was a simple soup with amazing ingredients including ham hock and duck fat. This was a realt truimph of flavours, and was a real hit, although we were all struggling to fit in any more food by this stage.

The final soup was a dessert soup of chocolate and raspberries, very rich and a wonderful way to finish the evening.

We than sat back and digested, awaiting the voting portion of the evening. We all conversed, compared notes and made our choices. Then we voted.

At then end of the evening’s votes, it was the very first soup, Andy’s Bacolao Blitz which stole the show, he had to leave early so we had to phone the news in to him. He walks away as this year’s Soup-Off champion, taking the crown from last year’s winner Felix, and basking in the glory that is this title. Well done Andy, and enjoy the winner’s wooden spoon!

Helen, Pablo, Tanya and I pretending to be koalas

That’s then end of my Soup-off 2009 report, thanks to all who came, especially the competitors, because without these soups, it would simply be an “off”. At the end of the day, Soup was the real winner here! See you all at Soup-Off 2010!