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Airtime Over Pumicestone
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Feb 16, 2003, 9:47 PM
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Airtime Over Pumicestone
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Airtime Over Pumicestone

The pictures that accompany this report are available here.

'Twas about six months ago that Lee mentioned a project that he had in mind. Put up a new line on the Eastern face of Mt. Tibrogargan in The Glasshouse Mountains of South East Queensland.

These mountains were so named by Captain Cook in 1770 during his voyage of discovery of the East Coast of Australia. He named the mountains after the glasshouses that were back in jolly old England. Apparently he could see the sun glinting off the mountains after a rain storm. These mountains are a series of solitary volcanic spires and domes surrounded by pineapple farms and other tropical fruit orchards.

The attraction to the modern day climbers is the trivial access to the spectacular climbing that the tall faces offer. The rock is for the most part solid volcanic trachyte, but blocky with the occasional choss to make life interesting. Tibrogargan is one of the most impressive of the various peaks and even as a kid when we would drive past its imposing east face I would stare up at its skull-like Gorilla face and wonder what it would be like to sit in its great empty eye shaped caves. Imagine if you will The Phantoms skull cave and you'll get an idea of what this mountain looks like.

In recent times I have been doing quite a bit of work climbing the established lines and also establishing new lines with Cameron Fairbairn and Lee Skidmore so the rock is quite familiar to me now.

Lee and I decided to climb up the western side tourist track so that we could rap the route and establish the rap anchors working and cleaning the route as we went. Finding the top was easy as we both have done a lot of work on the mountain. Rap anchors installed, Lee proceeded down and after hitting the bottom of this pitch did the short walk around the trench that cleft the mountain and set up the next rap station thus leaving me to work the top pitch.

I joined Lee on his pitch and we both rapped to set the next station. We were now looking at a bulge which occluded our sight of all of the wall below us all the way to the ground some 100 metres below us. I quailed in trepidation as Lee announced that I should do this bulgy pitch. I hate the unknown, I don't mind admitting that I have a certain control freak tendency. More particularly I hate abseiling. Lee descended first and set the next rap station and tied off the rope. I hopped on and joined him, he descended once again to clean up the bottom two pitches.

With the sun edging toward the horizon and throwing the shadow of the mountain out into the Pumicestone Passage, we decided our time was up. We had installed al of the rap stations, but had three pitches remaining to inspect, clean and where necessary, install bolts.

Three months pass by and what is a man to do? We have an unfinished project up there begging us to complete it. After three months, the new routing juices are flowing in earnest so we head on up there for a weekend. We kept a really low profile and set up some new routes down low on a fantastic and neglected end of the cliff.

But back to the BIG route. We headed up an easy scramble climb called the Caves Route which is an Oz grade 2/US fourth class rambly fun route carrying all our bolting stuff and ropes. Traversing across the mountain was no mean feat in itself. We again established our lines and after working the bottom three pitches, installed enough fixed gear to keep things sane. We were one bolt short of finishing all the fixed gear. So that will have to wait until we head back for the first free ascent.

Last weekend is the time to finish our route. Lee heads up for the first time from the bottom and after establishing the final piece of fixed gear declares that the first pitch is grade 18, I agree as I arrive at the belay. The climbing is fun although a bit thought provoking in places.

The next, wandery pitch is also Lee's as we had previously agreed to climb the pitches that we had each worked on. This second pitch was also the same grade as the first. We had radios for the first time for our communications. Radios are of great benefit when climbing on particularly bulgy pitches and this would demonstrate itself to us on the third pitch.

I scored the crux third pitch. I had not had a chance to do any cleaning on this pitch as Lee was working below me whenever I was on this pitch. I was worried beyond belief for Lee's safety that I should pull off a block on him. Straight above the belay was a seemingly loose and drummy hanging flake the size of a small TV that was just begging to be yarded on, but I had to skirt around this and thus spoil the aesthetics of the crux roof. Lee subsequently yarded on this flake and was surprised that it was remarkably solid. This will give others a thrill and make the crux roof straight off the belay somewhat exciting. More goey sections on this pitch make for quite a sustained grade 21 crux pitch. I feel fortunate to have scored this pitch actually.

Lee's up for the fourth pitch and he has scoped out and put up a very fine line up the arÍte on the outside of a great gully. The gully closes off at the top and one has to step across the void to gain the opposite side of the gully. Fortunately there are some huge spalled flakes on the headwall above to lay off as one bridges across.

Now comes our grade 2 walk around. The final (sixth) pitch is mine and after arriving at the start Lee quizzically looks at me and asks where the climb goes. Aha I declare to his amusement if you look carefully all the holds and pockets and then the crack face away from the only possible belay stance. Pulling onto the wall off the end of the belay ledge provides an improbable start to another fantastic pitch. Hidden pockets and then jugs lead up to a very nice crack and treading around some balancy blocks one then has to creep around and through the obligatory Tibro spiky bushes to gain a ledge beneath the final slabby headwall. A reachy clip to then start, and then up the final slab. A few bolts and there's the belay.

Hand shakes all round and with no time to waste it's back down to the bottom. Four long raps and a short walk around and we're down - we've done it! The whole package when it's all put together offers a three star superb Glasshouse Mountains multipitch climb. Queensland cannot offer a route over 200m with climbing as sustained as found on our new route. Airtime Over Pumicestone 245m 21 is now one of the longest and hardest multipitch climbs in Queensland. It even makes it into Australia's top 40 routes greater than 200m high with difficulties of 21 or greater.

The next day Samantha, Lee's significant other and all round beaut girl, met up with us. We had planned to do a Tibro classic called Lancelot 90m 15. As it was we immediately got ourselves off route and ended up putting up another great line. There were signs of others having attempted to go this way and I scored two booty bail pieces. One of them was a badly spalling old aluminium hex. The old Chouinard 'biner was showing signs of corrosion fractures. I'll value this piece in my museum. This new route is called *Guenevere 90m 17. I am so surprised that there have not been more routes put up on Tibro as the rock is superb and the gear is good. We surmised that the reason for this was that the old route descriptions were so vague that nobody really knew what was and what was not unclimbed territory. This has been greatly remedied by the new guidebook.

Back down on the ground we set a top rope up on a couple of our previous new routes and gave Sammi a play on them. Lee then proceeded to do the second ascent of **Divergence 20m 19. He confirmed the quality of mine and Cameron Fairbairn's new route.

Even though it is high summer here now we only really had about an hour and a half of really hot burny sun as for most of the day clouds would gently waft over and provide shade and the cool sea breeze from the ever so close ocean would cool things down.

Loved every minute of the weekend except of course for the clouds of mosquitoes that plague the base of the wall. We kept the mossies at bay with liberal applications of tropical strength Aeroguard. This product is fundamental to enjoying a day out at Tibro.

-- Phil Box & Lee Skidmore

[ This Message was edited by: philbox on 2003-02-16 21:48 ]

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