Happy New Year from Downunder! / by Mayan Smith-Gobat

Hope you all had a great Christmas and wish you all the best for 2014! Can believe another year has past already... Sorry I have kind of dropped off the radar for the last while... Internet access  and time to use it do seem to be super easy to come by down here! Ben and I have spent the last 6 weeks in Australia, Tasmania and most recently a whirlwind tour of NZ. Before heading out of the USA, I spent a couple weeks in Colorado training and trying to get my body to remember how to hold onto small edges and pull again... This took a little while, after weeks of jamming my hands kind of forget how to hold downward pulling holds. My focus was on keeping on going for hours at a time, not doing hard individual movements. But our bodies are amazing, it always surprises me how little strength I actually loose and how quickly everything comes back!

However, two weeks sped by, and soon Ben and I found ourselves driving over Vail Pass in a heavy snow storm, with cars and trucks sliding all over the road - terrifying! But, we made it to Denver airport in time to catch our flight to LA... Then after a couple days, a sales meeting, some fun times with the US Adidas crew and an afternoon on Manhattan beach with my dear friend Ronny, we found ourselves back on a plane with a ridiculous amount of gear - Headed back down under...

Ben and Ronny... Need I say more?!

Manhattan Beach

Australia is a strange, flat land of Kangaroos, every possible poisonous creature and yet amidst the barren plains there is incredible climbing to be found. I had previously spent very little time in the Grampians, so Ben and I spent most of our time there... generally getting crushed on the spectacular, yet very unforgiving Taipan wall! It took a while to get used to the climbing down here - At best, the bolts are spaced, at worst ridiculously runout - It took some adjustment before being able to relax enough while a long way above a bolt to climb anywhere near our potential...

The incredible Taipan Wall!

I focused on the classics of the wall - The Invisible Fist, Snake Flake and Serpentine, then moved onto the crazy cool weirdness of Tourniquet 30 (5.13c) - Powerful climbing on sideways slopers up the side of a huge runnel. My initial idea for coming down here was to attempt something harder on Taipan wall, however on arriving here I realized that I wanted to just climb and enjoy without constantly focusing on one goal... It has been a lot of fun, there is some amazing climbing down here!

Roo's in the regrowth

After a couple weeks on Taipan wall, Ben and I decided it was time to go on an adventure... Our goal was to find HB's epic roof route - Welcome to Barbados, 50 meters of near horizontal climbing through a cave, grade 29 and all on traditional protection! After an hour of bush-bashing through a crazy burnt out forest we arrived at the cave, and it really was everything people said... EPIC!!!

The first half of "Welcome to Barbados"...

I was super intimidated - Heading up a hard trad route is nothing new for me, but heading up a horizontal roof with only pockets, where you never have any idea where the next piece might be, let alone where the actual route goes, was a whole new experience... I was terrified! The climbing was super committing, with big runout sections between most of the pieces of protection and no prior information about the route. However, I finally made it to the end and experienced an amazing sense of satisfaction and achievement when I struggled out through the hole at the end of the route!

Ben emerging from the  epic roof of "Welcome to Barbados"

I rested for a bit then desperately managed to fight my way through the entire cave - Sending it second attempt! The day was then topped off by Ben's successful send - first go! Thanks Malcom for establishing an amazing visionary route... Keep cranking!

Ben and the Stumpy!

That's enough for this year... Stay posted for more updates on our Australian adventures! Happy New year!