Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Wheel Of Life

"Are you going to try The Wheel?"
"Na, it's probably too hard and I don't want to spend my whole trip projecting in a cave."

I had similar conversations to that with a number of people before coming to Australia. In many ways The Wheel Of Life was an obvious target, being both the world classic of its genre and one of Australia's hard 'must-dos' for any aspiring wannabe (the other obvious ones being Punks, Groove Train and Ammagamma). It's also about as 'me' as you can get - a long, endurance orientated boulder-route in a cave known to contain plenty of 3D trickery like kneebars and toe hooks. 

Working on The Wheel (Photo: Ella Russell)

Even a week ago I didn't plan on trying it, although the seed had no doubt been sown in the back of my mind by doing other linkups like Pretty Hate Machine. The Wheel links together 4 problems* to climb the entire length of Hollow Mountain Cave from the small window at its lowest point all the way out through around 70 moves on lovely sculpted rails and edges. Ella and I had already found ourselves spending quite a bit of time up there: partly because it's a good place in showery weather, which seems fairly common here; partly as I'd been keen on trying a few of the sections of The Wheel on their own, as well of some other problems in there; and partly because Ella picked up a pulley injury whilst climbing on Serpentine which meant that steep stuff was the order of the day. 

Working on The Wheel (Photo: Ella Russell)

Heading up to the cave earlier in the week I'd reached the point where I felt like I was getting done with the place and keen to head elsewhere more, but Ella was close to a problem she'd been trying there so I figured I'd play around on things or head along to another sector close by. Having spent half an hour scrambling around on sketchy rock pinnacles trying in vain to find Ground Control Caves, I returned to Hollow Mountain figuring I might as well try the earlier sections of The Wheel which I'd previously been less keen on. At least then I wouldn't fall off a cliff whilst scrambling around a ridge line with pads on (I realise that might have pleased some people, sorry about that).

Quickly enough I managed to find a way around a heel hook which had put me off initially as it felt tweaky for my leg, and by the end of the day I'd unexpectedly climbed from the end of the 7B+ up which The Wheel starts to falling off the final crux at the exit to the cave. From here it was on and now I certainly wasn't done with the place! Sections were dialled and rests were tweaked with some funky upside down kneebar plus toe hook combos together with an awesome rest just before the final crux where you shake out by using the sole of your foot as a hand hold whilst it's toe hooking.

Novelty resting (Photo: Damo Taylor)

Four days after not even really considering the problem, I found myself nervously pulling through the last few moves of the world famous Wheel of Life...

In some ways it was strangely anticlimactic. Not having been planning on trying it there was minimal build up and minimal mental stress; having done so many links on it already there was no last-move-itis or realising that my beta didn't work on redpoint; unlike on big projects from past years like Era Vella or Rollito Sharma Extension there was no dream-like surrealism in climbing through the last few easier moves having not fallen. Don't get me wrong though, I'm fucking psyched, and the deep down contentment of doing a problem which I'd heard of for a decade but never dreamed I could ever climb until the last few years, and never expected to climb until the last few days, seems likely to stay around a little while... at least until I find the next project anyway :)

Out of the darkness and into the light... Sending The Wheel. (Photo: Damo Taylor)
For now it's onto a rope and some more bouldery boulders...

*For anyone interested, The Wheel links Extreme Cool (7B+) into Sleepy Hollow (8A) into Cave Man (7C) into Dead Can't Dance (8A). I used beta for the last section similar to the vid of Ian Dory on The Wheel, which some purists won't like, and you're god damn right i gaffa taped knee pads on and rinsed the fuck out of all the rests I could find.

Riding the Giant Emu on the way to The Citadel

Golum gets prepared... (Photo: Ella Russell)

Real bouldering, American Dream (7B+) (Photo: Ella Russell)

Toe hooking out of the cave on Pretty Hate Machine (8B) (Photo: Ella Russell)

It's not my fault, the guidebook told me to use my knees... So You Think You Can Dance (8A) (Photo: Ella Russell)