Punks in the Gym - The first female ascent! / by Mayan Smith-Gobat

My first climbing trip ever was to Mt Arapiles - Many of my first memories and climbing lessons occurred and therefore this place will always have a special significance to me. I always used to walk past Punks in the Gym and stare up at the smooth orange bulges, wondering how Wolfgang Güllich managed to climb this face... It was the first 8b+ in the world and still known as a world-class test-piece. Sometimes referred to as the "ultimate examination in climbing" because of the intriguing mixture of power and delicate technique required to climb this route. Of course I always dreamed of climbing this route, but until a couple of years ago, I never actually dared to try... Now, I have been working on this route on and off for the last two years, over this time I have come to know the features on Punks in the Gym better than my own face. Without even thinking about it, I know the exact shape, feel and texture of every inch of this route, and it has become a major part of my life.

At first I tried to figure the moves out, without committing too much, knowing that it could all be a waste of time - potentially out of my league. Only when I discovered a more direct sequence to what people usually do, did I begin to feel like I might have a chance - It eliminated an, almost hands free, rest mid-way up the climb, turning Punks into a very sustained crimp-fest, rather than two boulder problems. However, it made every individual move feel achievable for me, and I began to think that maybe, just maybe I could climb this beautiful and historic route. At this point I started to invest some serious energy into the route... I was not just dabbling anymore, and I also began to care about climbing this piece of rock. The obsession began...

Since then I have dedicated a lot of time, energy and resources into Punks. I came extremely close to linking this sequence of moves together, countless times and then either ran out of time, had bad luck with weather or simply was not quite able to pull it off.

Like any other hard climb that I have worked on, Punks in the Gym put me through a full range of emotions. It caused me a huge amount of frustration, forced me to examine myself and my motivations for climbing. Before heading down to Australia on this last trip, I seriously debated the amount of effort I have invested, and whether it was really worth it... Eventually, I came to the realization that this route does hold a special importance to me. Therefore, I chose to sacrifice other goals and put a month into training specifically for this route. As a result, I felt much stronger this year. However, it was still a struggle... both mentally and physically.

The Send

I had given up for the day, it was warm, my finger tips were about to wear through from weeks of constant abuse on the unrelenting crimps. Two days previous I had fallen off the last hard move, not just once - several times... But since then had not been able to make it back to that point. My last attempt had failed miserably and I was feeling worn down, both physically and mentally.  Unsure whether to give it another shot at all that day, for fear of wearing through the dangerously thin layer of skin remaining on my finger tips.

But after belaying Ben on Punks for a while... Watching as he figured out the moves and progressively made better progress on the route. My psych slowly returned, and made me throw caution to the wind - I gathered my thoughts, struggled to pull on my brand new pair of Team 5.10’s (unfortunately my old pair had just blown out) and headed up. The moves now felt almost more ingrained and natural to me than walking does... My body felt far from fresh, and none of the moves felt as solid as they usually were However, slowly the distractions in my brain disappeared, and climbing took over. I fought through the set up moves and threw for the crux hold - a one pad, four finger crimp. My entire body was firing away form the wall as my hand latched the hold, yet somehow I held on. Unfortunately, this effort exhausted my left arm and the next move was still the hardest on the route (the right hand foot match that I had fallen on twice the previous day). I was much more tired, and did not think I even had a chance... But gave it everything and amazingly enough stuck the next move. Before I knew it I was past the crux - I just had to hold it together through the last technical sequence!

Clipping the chains on this route felt amazing - It meant more to me than I ever thought it would. I had almost expected this moment to be an anti-climax, because I had spent so much time on this route. But it was the opposite - I was in disbelief, totally ecstatic and could not sleep at all that night because I was still so excited...  I just kept staring at the full moon repeating to myself “I just climbed Punks! - Its done...”

Now, slowly the reality is starting to sink in, this journey has come to an end... It is time to move on. I feel incredibly relieved that it is over, yet at the same time, lost and a little unsure what the future holds... It is exciting though, and I am excited to begin again.

Thanks to all my sponsors, who have helped me achieve this dream of mine, and to my friends who held my rope for countless hours and put up with my frustrated rants...