Climbing upwards. Blue skies above and green fields below. Out beyond the vista lies Bass Strait, a ribbon of azure water on the horizon. Although attached by rope to this 350m near vertical ridgeline, I feel an overwhelming sense of freedom. This is what I live for. This is what brings me the memories that I know I will be telling my bored grandchildren when I am ninety-nine. “I remember…”
Mount Roland is a picturesque mountain range in northern Tasmania. Overlooking the lush agricultural plains of Sheffield and Mole Creek, this mountain creates the epic backdrop we envisage when we think of Tasmania. Rysavy ridge is merely one finger of rock extending from the base to the near the top of this mountain. And yet it is famous. A grade twelve, 350m multi-pitch rock climb that ends in a knife-life, narrow ridgeline at the top.
Whilst I love climbing, I do not yet identify with ‘a climber’. What I have loved about the sport is the sense of quietness it brings me. When I am focused on climbing a wall or belaying a friend, I am totally involved in the moment. I feel like I am fostering a great tranquility in my mind, a narrowing of my focus that allows only the important decisions to be made. I love to climb by feel, sense where I can place my feet and learning to trust in their ability to stick to the walls. I have been eager to begin adventuring into the bigger mountains of Tasmania too. When the Reel Rock Film Tour visits Hobart, I sit enwrapped in the possibilities. If a friend posts a photo on social media, I am immediately wondering, ‘How can I get one step closer to trying that too?’ However, up until three days ago I only owned a pair of hand-me-down climbing shoes, a pair so unusually comfortable they were more akin to a pair of slippers. My harness had been a freebie too. A ‘it can just get you started’ gift from a friend.
The idea of climbing Rysavy Ridge sprouted from the acquisition of my new Arcteryx AR-385 A Climbing Harness and Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes. One climb at our local Waterworks Wall and I knew that the accuracy of the shoes and the comfort of the harness definitely opened up greater possibilities for me. I suddenly went from wondering if my toes could balance on an exposed sliver of rock, to suddenly knowing they would. I went from fidgeting with my harness, to putting it on and forgetting about it. I experienced a massive jump in my belief that I could acquire the skills to climber longer and higher. And so to welcome the presence of my new shoes and harness into my toy cupboard, Graham and I decided to take them wilder… to Rysavy Ridge.
At times I confronted my nerves on the climb. New to multi-pitch climbing and placing gear, fumbling with frozen fingers in the early hours of dawn, learning to abseil independently into massive chasms in the gully on the way back down… I conquered a number of firsts on the mountain. However, what I have learnt about fear is that you just need to listen to what it is asking you to acknowledge, then look for a safe way through it to the other side. On Rysavy Ridge, this often meant checking my knots, checking the gear, believing in my climbing ability and wholeheartedly trusting my climbing partner, my husband Graham. Furthermore, I really felt there was a transition of my knowledge from ultra-distance running into my climbing, such as the understanding of how to fuel myself for optimal mental & physical performance. I really did love every bit of the day, starting with dawn after a night in our tent near the base, and returning to a cuppa early in the afternoon.
My new Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Shoes were phenomenal. Their grip is exceptional and I was able to unfailing trust my feet, something that became even more essential when I lost the precision of my finger’s dexterity due to the cold. Even though we were climbing for around 5 hours, I didn’t once need to take the off. The upper mesh allowed my feet to breath and not get too sweaty, whilst the shoe slowly felt like it molded to my warm feet. I was able to use the quick Velcro fasteners to adjust their fit as the day wore on, releasing the pressure when belaying before quickly tightening them to climb. Did I mention they look awesome too?
Similarly, I cannot rave enough about my pretty, feminine Arcteryx AR-385 A Climbing Harness. This is apparently one of the lightest weight harnesses on the market, and yet it feels super comfortable. Whilst not an expert in climbing equipment, I believe what makes this harness so unique is that is uses Warp Technology coupled with an ultra-thin but very wide (4 inch) waistbelt. This allows the load to be distributed evenly around your waist. You really do not notice the lack of padding and the adjustable leg straps mean that you can get the fit spot on.
In summary, I am just so stoked to finally realise a dream of beginning to climb ‘properly’ in the mountains of Tasmania. Rysavy Ridge was the perfect starting place. I cannot wait to continue developing the skills and to also lay the maps out on the kitchen table and begin scheming adventures further afield!