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Monday, June 23, 2014

Boars Head with Shandy

Shandy is a Blue Mountains classic climb, described in the climbing guide as 'once every boy scout's rite of passage'. It is a multi-pitch Grade 8 sport climb back up the other side of the equally classic Boars Head abseil route. It requires a competent lead climber, who has to establish a hanging belay between the first two pitches. An offer by two climbing friends from Canberra to come and lead enabled us to take it on, and the misty Sunday morning after the Winter Solstice found three very inexperienced climbers at Boars Head at around 10.00, together with these two intrepid leaders:

Just as we arrived the cloud rolled in, but we abseiled down into the gully in the fog anyway hoping that it would clear and stop drizzling, as climbing wet rock did not seem advisable.

We soon had a safety line rigged up to traverse the slot between Boars Head and the outer buttress, and Geoff was first to abseil down the slot.

From the platform in the slot we watched the clouds continued to roll through, occasionally enveloping us in mist.

Undaunted, we did the third abseil down the second half of the slot.

Finally, as we reached the bottom of the fourth abseil the mist cleared and we walked out into brilliant sunshine. Good to go!

A short stroll around the corner and a scramble of a few metres up a gully and we were staring up at Shandy.

Geoff led the first pitch of 33m to the belay ledge, trailing two ropes for Paul and Elena to follow on belay. The route up is mostly on carrots, as is the anchor, so bolt plates are needed.

After that it was a long period of 'take on Green' and 'breaking anchor, more slack on blue' as the two beginners followed him up simultaneously. No photos from this, unfortunately, as they had the cameras. Paul and Elena tied in on the ledge and Elena belayed Geoff as he led the second, 14 metre diagonal pitch, and then followed him up, leaving the ledge empty for the next group.

Meanwhile, Chris was leading the first pitch, trailing a single rope for Tom. This is Chris reaching the belay ledge.

Tom joining Chris and setting up to belay him up the second pitch.

Elena hanging out at the top of the second pitch.

Paul belaying Geoff as he put in a safety line on the exit ledge from the top of the second pitch. The whole of the scrambling route out is bolted for safety lines, but this first bit really calls for some protection.

Chris reaching the top of the second pitch and setting up to belay Tom.

Tom was left standing on the belay ledge for quite a long time. It is lonely out there...

Finally, he was on belay and could start climbing again.

This stitched together shot (thanks David) gives a good overview of the whole face of the outer buttress.  The cracks above where we are sitting is Shandy Direct Finish  (Trad 14 and well beyond our abilities) and above that is the abseil slot. In the left foreground is the exit ledge.

And here, finally, is Boars Head Rock in the early winter sunset. From this side it really lives up to its name. We could not find the optional, third pitch, although there were several plausible options (perhaps it is not bolted?) so we took the scrambling route - which turned out to be good fun in itself. With a lot of hanging around, congratulating ourselves, and taking photos like this it was 5.00 and nearly dark when we reached the cars. It was a truly memorable day. Many thanks to Chris and Geoff for their coaching and patience.

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