A place yonder, full of surprises and full of wonder.
The Red River George in Kentucky, oh yeah!
Let me start off this post by giving “thanks” to being healthy, fit and blessed with the opportunities at hand. Having support all the way, from friends to family & some of the best brands that drive this outrageous and so very happening sport!
Back to the Land down under, the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand, Aotearoa.
Being on the road again back in good old NZ with my comrades Luke & Matt. Six weeks ahead and a whole lotta adventure.
Starting in Christchurch we made our way south through some iconic and unique places, climbing, camping & exploring.
To our final destination at Milford Sound, which host some of the best rock, scenery and atmosphere anywhere on earth!!
This time mind you, I did not stay in my tent in the wild enduring many nights of the weathers rage and possum abuse.
Instead we camped in comfort at the Milford Lodge only a couple of kilometres from the crag.
And so, we climbed, hiked, hauled and screamed as we scaled, jumped and got air, on, in and around some of the best and most impressive sceneries imaginable.
This trip would not have been possible without the positive attitude from the team, to which morale was high and much was achieved.
Luke who had to leave the trip early due to starting his UNI life, most notably onsighted his first, second & third 26/7b+, some with pretty decent exposure!
Showing immense dedication he also got finger licking close so such classics as “Protoplasm” 29/8a & “No country for old Men” 29/8a.
Only to be frothing with motivation to return to these gems and much more!
Matt managed some ultra classics including “No country for Old Men” 29/8a, Second go send’s on both “She Devil” 28/7c+ & “Boss Combo” 28/7c+. On our departure from Milford we stopped at Homer Tunnel where he sneaked in a morning ascent of “The Dark Arena” 29/8a on his third attempt.
Working his body and mind to the limit, he got fiercely close to the majestic line “The Giving Tree” 31/8b. This climb, once in two parts, had an anchor before the final prow crux at grade 30/8a+, which he casually frolicked his way up. None the less it is and always will be, one of many unexplainably amazing routes to return to in this region.
I myself managed a couple of nice onsights of the routes “Let there be Bolts” 28/7c+ & “Boss Combo” 28/7c+.
On my long awaited return to Little Babylon, I learned a lesson or two on the incredible “Cyrus the Great” 30/8a+.
Another line which I had good progress on and that I tried on my previous trip to NZ in 2011, one of my main goals for this trip was “Blood Meridian” 32/8b+. A super amazing climb with much variety, for sure my favourite at the grade in NZ. Taking this psyche for this particular climb, my body and mind remembered the movements like I have not experienced before and pushed me to clip the chains on my third try this trip.
On my first ever visit that I approached the crag I witnessed the first ascent of Xena, by German young gun, Christian Muench.
The sheer epicness of this 30+ metre monster with its ever rising angle and smooth bulges has been etched in my mind since & I had hoped one day to be able to attempt it…
After competing Blood Meridian and having some time to spare, I started trying this beautiful line.
Noting that Xena is the extension from the half way anchor to Hercules 8a, here also three other routes end and carry on in a weave of awesomeness.
I tried Xena from a much easier start of ITP to get a feel for the moves and understanding of the line.
Pulling the Xena roof, you’re confronted by a sudden decrease of holds that get worse with each move, a right foot smear at hand height is followed by moving your right hand into a tiny undercling pinch above your head whilst grappling with a rather laughable left hand sloper. All this whilst maintaining tension and twisting upwards to try and get back into a standing stance on the final head wall.
Each time I attempted this sequence my body was screaming “NOOOOOO” and I could only have one attempt per session due to its intensity. A serious undertaking just to figure out these moves with still the rest of the crux to go.
“WOW”…. Now putting it all together I threw all my eggs into one basket & just to add my own touch to this majestic place I started Xena up its neighbour route “No Country for Old Men” at the same grade, as this is one of my all time favourite climbs in the world, perhaps this was a large contributor to finding success.
Having to put all my climbing strategies to good use for this line, rests, attempts, motivation, understanding and no expectations, just being thankful to be in such an incredible place and being able to try such a stunning route.
Second day on & feeling a little weary from the previous day.
First attempt in average conditions my heel almost popped mid crux followed by a hand slip, I somehow managed to hold on, re-adjust, squeeze just a little harder. Keeping my head cool for the final slab-alicious finish I clipped the chains on the 04/03/2014.
The first ascent-alternate start & to my knowledge the second ascent of Xena, calling it within the Little Babylon fashion I named this line “Spartacus” 33/8c.
I have been deeply humbled by my time here and I give thanks to all that I was able to experience throughout the highs and the lows.
A big thanks to all who where a part of this trip and made it happen.
Those who helped with accommodation, gear, psyche, filming and so much more.
Footage of all our climbs & more will be released in the coming months.