Kiwi Spot v, n:

In the spiritual home of the Kiwi climbing, Castle Hill, our good friend Gomez practices the infamous art of the Kiwi spot.

 Gomez is an expert proponent of the Kiwi version of 'I Got You'.  John Palmer

Gomez is an expert proponent of the Kiwi version of 'I Got You'. John Palmer

Fortunately for Rach the Mus, the Force is strong in Gomez and even from a distance he can guide a falling boulderer safely onto a mat. Sadly, the Force is not strong in most boulderers, so we encourage all Festival goers to avoid practising the Kiwi spot.

Instead, we suggest a good, attentive spot. Watch the hips especially, keep the hands raised, move pads quickly if they need to be shuffled and always communicate with your climber clearly. Guide falling climbers onto the mat rather than try to catch them, and always protect their heads from the ground.

Spotting is a serious business, stay attentive, it only takes a second for disaster to strike and the fate of the falling boulderer is literally in your hands.

And the most mangled tips win!

On Saturday night we will award the inaugural Nathan Manning Memorial Bleeding Tips Award.

Bitch Tips.jpg

Everybody loves looking at fingers that are worn through till they are translucent, bleeding for being rubbed raw, weeping like they themselves are crying, rent with gouges and flappers. Tips that have been destroyed by a will to continue climbing, falling, failing and scaling long after your biggest organ has failed, right there at the pads, the bit that connects us to the stone.

The Award itself is very uncomplicated – during dinner on Saturday night show us your tips, the most mangled win.

The only thing that we can think of that comes close in terms of prestige is the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

A few words with James Kassay

The owner of Bayside Rock needs little introduction. Since his early days as a teen prodigy (with shoulders several sizes too big for his age), James has been crushing small holds into dust indoors and out. A multiple time state and national champion, he’s competed regularly on the big stage – the World Cup circuit – with numerous impressive results. But for Australians, James is probably synonymous with the Hollow Mountain Cave. As a teenager he was famous for his laps of Dead Can’t Dance (V11) in his runners, while his obsession with the Wheel of Life and climbing it all the way to what he saw as the true lip resulted in The Wheel of Life Direct (instead of exiting via Rave Heart, he finished up Amniotic World, a longer and more aesthetic finish out the highest part of the cave). Which is why it made perfect sense for us to ask James to run a HMC Masterclass – who better to learn how to polish your roof skills from than the master of the cave?

 James drinking in that sweet Mana (V13).

James drinking in that sweet Mana (V13).

You’re running a Cave Climbing Masterclass – without giving too much away, what can people expect from the class?
Think of it as a great excuse to climb on some amazing rock and hopefully make some progress on some old projects with some extra beta and great psych. Otherwise, it’s a great time for people to find a project if they don’t already have one.

What do you most love about the HMC?
What isn’t there to love about HMC? Sitting up there on a sunny day with great friends, food and the view… The boulders are pretty cool too!

What’s your favourite line in the Cave?
I can’t go past Wimmelfriedhof (V5) actually. I rate that as one of my all time boulders. It doesn’t matter how many times I climb it, I always want to go back for it again!

What advice do you have for boulderers preparing for their first outdoor comp?
Like most comps, the main thing is to not take it too seriously! If you go out there to have a bit of fun with friends then you can’t go wrong. Obviously it’s worth trying hard so you can have bragging rights around the fire though.

You’re married to a former national bouldering champion (Claire Kassay), and now have a son, Harvey – is Harvey part of a secret program to breed a super boulderer?
I am going to have to keep you posted on that one… Harvey is a rather big boy for his age so knowing our luck he will probably be into a mainstream sport that neither of us knows anything about. Maybe we will have more luck with Mark II. (No, Claire is not pregnant).

Dress up, look the part

Sure, you might be desperate to win the comp on Saturday, and you might be sitting there thinking that dressing up in some kind costume will hold you back because you are Serious with a capital S but have you asked yourself how if it is good enough for Toni Lamprecht then how is it good enough for you?!?

 Surfing's the source, it'll change your life. Udo Neumann collection

Surfing's the source, it'll change your life. Udo Neumann collection

This photo of Toni riding the wave of psych that crashed upon the Grampians when he and the other 'Austrians' descended in 1999 to signal the start of the Modern Era is the spiritual beacon of the Grampians Bouldering Festival's competition. 

Be like the 'Austrians' – scream louder than a banshee, dress like it's all for shits and giggles but send boulders like an absolute crusher. 

A few words with Amy Fenton

Amy Fenton is a Sydney boulderer who works in a gym and boulders really hard. Having just sent her first V12 – shortly after knocking off her first two V10s – she is bringing a rich vein of form into The Festival where she will be both competing on Saturday and taking one of our Women's Clinics on Sunday. Clearly blessed with strength the equal of the Power of Greyskull and Ginger Rogers-esque fancy footwork, she is also hilarious and has a keen eye for spotting the technique flaws in climbers so we are psyched that she is coming South.

 Amy on the Kindy classiqué – The Nevin rule (V7).

Amy on the Kindy classiqué – The Nevin rule (V7).

Do you believe in our mantra ‘Gramps are the best, chuck out the rest’? Why or why not? (Clearly the ‘why not’ option is to give the illusion of balance.)
As much as I enjoy a good Sydney boulder I’ve got to agree with you on this one, we just can’t compete with your proximity to Australian national gem and 2001 Tidy Town winner Horsham. Bondi is a farce*.

Do you have any advice for boulderers preparing for their first outdoor comp?
Ask me in 2 weeks! I don’t compete indoors and this will be my first competition outdoors so it will certainly be a learning experience.

Aside from a good attitude I can only recommend trying to hoard skin and energy by being picky about what you jump on - avoid slaving on problems that don’t agree with you.

What are your top five Grampians boulder problems?

  1. Mind Over Matter (V8)
  2. Sick Nutter (V5000)
  3. To Hate To Love (V8)
  4. The Nevin Rule (V7)
  5. and, of course, Wimmel Friedhoff (V5)
 Amy ticking her first V5000, Sick Nutter.

Amy ticking her first V5000, Sick Nutter.

If there was one Grampians boulder problem that you could climb what would it be and why? 
Aside from the obvious Wheel of Life/Ammagamma dream lines, I think a slightly more realistic pick would be Dave Kellermann’s V11 A Puzzle About Belief, it looks unbelievably good. I absolutely love Mt Fox (walk in excluded) so doing something hard and classic there would be ultra satisfying.

What is the most common mistake you see beginner climbers making at 9 Degrees?
Leaving their feet at home.

A lot of newbies tense up on the wall and their legs very quickly become a cumbersome afterthought; it’s an easy mistake to make and one that more advanced climbers commonly fall back into when they’re trying hard.

You’re running a women’s climbing clinic, what are some of the things you’re hoping to cover?
The importance of warming up, directional footwork, a healthy climbing attitude and power! Power in all forms. It is such an important part of bouldering and too often one that is shied away from. I’m sure we’ll all be pooped after the comp so theory and the how’s and why’s of technique will be the name of the game, I think.

*Editor's note; we agree about Bondi being blahhhh.

Read more about what Amy thinks about why bouldering is better than route climbing, diets for success and sending V12 here.

Julian Saunders, sick with the FA fever

 Jules surviving the Lonely Hearts Club (V7). Saunders collection

Jules surviving the Lonely Hearts Club (V7). Saunders collection

First Ascent Fever (FAF) is a relatively rare disease. Most climbers go through their entire lives without experiencing it. But amidst the small number of climbers who are struck down by this debilitating disease a few get it so severely it can have lifelong effects – Jules is one of those few. Symptoms can include all of the following: a monomaniacal obsession with projects, losing touch with the grading system, the refusal to climb anywhere but where your projects are and urinating at the bottom of any half decent piece of stone.

Jules’ career as a boulderer did not start well. More of your weak pumper than strong boulderer, on his first day of bouldering he had to be rescued off the top of a boulder in Andersens after stalling midway through a move above a pile of stacked blocks. Luckily Dave Jones and a few others were on hand to rescue him.

Jules retreated back to the rope, but it wasn’t long before the siren song of the FA lured him once again onto the blocs, with full blown obsession striking after ‘the Austrians’ – Klem Loskot and co (most of whom were Germans) – arrived and took Grampians bouldering into the modern era. During this time Andersens was better known as Saundersons due to Jules’ inability to climb anywhere else, and he climbed numerous great (and often high) problems in there. He also further developed Legoland, putting up what is probably his finest hour on the boulders, Orca (V9). A terrifying 9m-high arête with a horrible landing. Further south, Jules kicked off bouldering at the Tower.

Jules is coming down for the festival, and along with Dave Jones, he will be joining us to talk about the early day of bouldering, back when he was (relatively) young, before he ruined his life by having children and moving to the Blue Mountains.

 Jules climbing the second ascent of highball Bad Moon Rising (V5) at Legoland.  Ross Taylor

Jules climbing the second ascent of highball Bad Moon Rising (V5) at Legoland. Ross Taylor

How did a horribly weak, feeble, barely able to pull the dick off a chocolate mouse pumper become one of the Grampians’ most prolific boulderers?
I know, it's ridiculous what can be achieved when you're not bright enough to recognise the immovable hurdles between you and success. That particular skill, if you could loosely call it that, when combined with a smidgeon of OCD has served myself and Donald Trump extremely well time and time again, though I'd like to think I have put it to better use.

You bouldered with Klem Loskot and ‘the Austrians’ when they were in the Grampians in 1999, basically putting the place on the bouldering map – what was it like?
In the memorable words of Ford Fairlane, Private Detective, ‘Un-fucking-believable!’ They went about their mission like a well disciplined hurricane, happy to absorb any like-minded whirly wind or two along its path.

Success was a mutual commodity. You really felt like they wanted, desperately, for you to succeed. The Austrians screamed at you with such ferocious purpose that success was the only possible outcome; as if it were inflicted like a sharpening steel upon a dull knife blade. I am sure at times I benefited from the unremitting force of sound waves. That they were gluttons for fun, measured by the cubic metres of  dopamine secreted in the waking hours, meant that there was very little mental baggage between them pulling on and topping out. We were simply dragged along like tin cans behind a 'Just Married' car.

Klem, in particular, owned his skin and everything in it; he was the master of his own kingdom. I liked that. You knew exactly who you were sitting next to at the fire, no masquerading, no schadenfreude as so often happens when you get a bunch of wannabe alphas within pissing distance of each other. He was chuckling to himself while staring at the fire one night and I asked him what was so funny; ‘You’, he said, ‘My throat hurts from screaming you up Amnionic World. Every move, almost from da first grip I thought you vould fall, so I just yelling louder. I don't think I have screamed this much ever. So much fun!’

 Klem Loskot on the first ascent of Sweet Sensation (V8) at Wildsides.  Julian Saunders

Klem Loskot on the first ascent of Sweet Sensation (V8) at Wildsides. Julian Saunders

What’s your favourite (short) story from that time?
We were at Between The Sheeps, and Dave Jones popped in for a look, having heard about the Euro storm making it's way around Stapylton. I was about to try a problem and it was all hands on deck, so Dave shuffled into a helpful position. I guess he thought he was standing far enough back – albeit on the edge of a large drop that sits beneath the exit of several problems – that he would be a fairly safe distance from the action. Posited straight-legged and flat-footed, he had his hands up in kind of a token fashion, undoubtedly wondering why so many spotters were required for a problem barely higher than a couple of metres at its zenith. The last move is where the problem get its name, Kamikaze. I launched toward the lip jug, caught it with one hand, and as I swung out to stare down the drop, lodged a foot square in Dave's chest with sufficient force to push him well beyond the point of balance. Dave's a quick thinker. He grabbed my foot.

Also, [Chris] Jonesy telling a group of religious nutters walking to Summer Day Valley that the pads we were carrying around were portable sex platforms for a naturalist porn movie we were shooting produced some priceless expressions.

Is it true that when you first started bouldering you had a lot more hair, and also, that there were no bouldering mats?
Yes. The Amazing Boulder was where it all started. It seemed silly at the time, stopping at a blob of rock beneath the almighty Taipan, and going no further. Who would do that?? In the days before crash mats and Kiwis, when you had a spotter, they were CLOSE because the ground was hard, treacherous, and to be generally avoided. Dave Jones dragged around a bit of skanky mattress form that doubled as his bed – pointless, except for the fact that it hid the typically uncomfortable-looking landing from view that was otherwise an ongoing distraction. When, several years later, someone had the bright idea of wrapping it in gaffa tape the first Aussie bouldering pad was born.

 Klem and 'the Austrians' (who were mostly German) spotting and lounging at the Hollow Mountain Cave; Toni Lamprecht (possibly the best spotter ever) is spotting and Klem is lounging directly behind him.  Julian Saunders

Klem and 'the Austrians' (who were mostly German) spotting and lounging at the Hollow Mountain Cave; Toni Lamprecht (possibly the best spotter ever) is spotting and Klem is lounging directly behind him. Julian Saunders

What are your top five Grampians boulder FAs (and why)?

  1. Orca (V9): Probably the proudest line around. I was getting my head around highballs, but this was quite hard, rather tenuous, and oh-so-very-tall. Jonesy, as he is oft to do, bestowed upon me his sage advice, ‘Julsy, as soon as you do it clean on top rope, pull the rope, take ten minutes, and launch straight up it. Don't wait.’ The first time I broke through the crux section, still with a few moves to do, these words echoed in my head and I knew that the time had come. And then I slipped off pulling for the top. THEFUCKINGTOP!! No warning. I was on the rope. It was a palm meets forehead moment. I packed up my shizzle and scurried home, shell shocked, to have a good long think. The following weekend I topped out first go on the rope, scratched out the claustraphobic 'bomb-hole' landing (basically a pit with stone walls) and placed our pitiful two pads in the middle. Unwilling to stand beneath the inescapable impact zone, my mate Tim Faye propped on the edge of the back wall. Two moves from the top I started to Elvis. Last week's slip was the pink elephant trumpeting like Miles Davis. Tim, who had said not a peep, pipes up with ‘Julsy, just relax.’ Of course, why didn't I think of that!!!
  2. Peter Parker (V5): I didn't snake this from Jonesy in so much as he generously invited me to partake in the first ascent proceedings, kinda like a friendly pistol shootout. Given that he has way more talent than I and a real head for a highball, his slip and my success could be seen as my Steven Bradbury moment.
  3. Zinc (V9): I was having some serious amounts of frustration with this one-mover. I took a fifteen minute rest and Corinne calmed my storm!!! Did it next go. Whoo-hoo!
  4. Amnionic World (V9): Probably the first time I ever completely and utterly redlined, head back, no reserve, well beyond my weight division. That success birthed an epiphany that completely reset the notion of trying as hard as you can.
  5. Crisco Love Party (V8): A beautiful sweep of hell-steep sandstone, dominated by a singular pocket in its midst. Did I mention that the landing is a little intimidating?

There are a lot to choose from, but what's your worst FA?
All the ones that I didn't do. If I did them then they are awesome by definition and everyone should do them. If I tried to do them and someone snaked me then those are beneath the barrel that we speak of – nasty pieces of skank that should be erased from the guide for fear someone might enjoy them. Actually, I am not sure I have understood your question. Would you mind repeating it please?

A few words with Dave Jones

There are many things we love about the below photo. For one, Gordy (Poultney; climbing) and Dave (Jones; spotting), look like characters out of Stig of the Dump – like they’ve escaped from another earlier, more primitive time (possibly even before the invention of boulders). And it’s true to a certain extent, they’re bouldering in the PM (pre-mat) Era, a time that must seem almost inconceivable to modern climbers. This may even possibly be before Dave carried around the pseudo-mat: a cut down piece of dirty, ragged bed foam that he’d scrounged out of his tent/humpy at Arapiles. This piece of mattress was so soft it was close to useless, not to mention the hygiene risk it posed due to the many and varied surfaces and substances it had come into contact with during its long and abused existence. In fact, not only were Dave and Gordy bouldering before bouldering was a thing but they were also buildering before buildering was a thing. (It is worth noting that it is entirely possible that buildering never was and never will be ‘a thing’.)

 Image by  Nick Sutter .

Image by Nick Sutter.

While there are a few scattered examples of people bouldering earlier in the Grampians, Dave and Gordy and their extended crew were really the first to seriously develop bouldering areas around the Grampians. Which is why we are psyched that Dave is making the long journey over from Natimuk to join us on the Saturday to talk about the Good Ole Days, that halcyon time PM, the Golden Age before the Fall of Man, before the invention of soap and shoes and other such flipperies of civilisation, when every ascent was a first ascent, and when Dave and Gordy (and nameless others) still had long and lustrous locks.

The Amazing Boulder was apparently the first boulder that you guys developed in the early days. It is a pretty amazing boulder still – did you guys imagine that every boulder was going to be similarly awesome?
Not on that day… We'd walked past that boulder so many times on the way into Taipan, maybe copping a feel on the way past, but always with the Taipan new route blinkers on.

Then we decided to warm up there one time… then to dedicate a day to the activity… then another to checking out the neighbouring boulders (the Love Boulder and environs). A few weeks later I did a walk around from Sandanista to Clicke Wall, not climbing, just looking. That was the single most eye-opening day for me on the Grampians bouldering front. I still haven't gotten myself up all the things I saw that day.

You must have been pretty excited?
I still am.

There was a long tradition of bouldering at Arapiles, why do you think it took so long to become a ‘thing’ in the Grampians?
Bouldering at wraps wasn't the same ‘thing’ that it is in the Grampians now. Often it was something you did at the end of the day just to completely thrash yourself. It was much more traverse-centric (I think that was mostly to do with the relationship between no pads and ankles). There was a handful of classic problems (which are for the most part still the classic problems and except for Golden Streak & 3 Moves to Glory they are all traverses), there were maybe 20 problems with names and once you'd done them you did eliminates. Sit starts weren't really a thing.

A few boulders – Mike Myers, Edwin Irvine, James Falla? – had been out [to the Grampians] on a reconnaissance mission some years earlier, and done a few things (like the traverse underneath Mr J and a weird figure-8 thing on Flying Blind Buttress) and came back declaring that the potential was limited. We took their word for it. I just think people were looking for different qualities in a boulder problem back then.

At that point, too, Taipan was having a renaissance with a bit of a gold rush on new routes… the choice for me was going and potentially putting up a new three star route on Taipan or bouldering along the base of the crag. It’s a big call.

 Doug Hockly spotted by an earlier-model Dave Jones during an early ascent of Bleausard (V5).  Image Doug Hockly collection

Doug Hockly spotted by an earlier-model Dave Jones during an early ascent of Bleausard (V5). Image Doug Hockly collection

Give us your top five Grampians boulder problems and what you love about them?

  1. Gripmaster: Perfect rock, perfect line. It's like a little, boulder-sized splash of Taipan wall.
  2. Nevin Rule: The last thing we did the first day we found the Kindergarten. We'd worked our way from left to right so it was the end of the day before we even laid eyes on it but it looked so good we didn't want to leave without getting up it. Without pads it was high enough we were worried about coming off the top and I remember getting a long stick to try and feel if the last break was decent or just a horror sloper we had sandbagged ourselves into leaping for.
  3. Bleausard: I love it, and try and do it every time or go there. I’ve always had a soft spot for aretés and the round slopey top holds were all a bit Fontainbleau and sexy. Fairly compelling in the pre-pad era as well. I even did the shitty sit-start one time just so nobody ever had to do it ever again.
  4. On the Beach: I haven't done this but I remember dabbling on it back in the late ‘90s. Such an obvious line overhanging the track up to Taipan. So obviously a climb but a pretty daunting thing (especially without pads or spotters). I had a few bad falls on it and sacked it off. Was surprised how long it took for this to get an ascent given the amount of talent that walks right by it. I'd love to again get fit enough to do that one.
  5. Wheel of Life: Also on the ‘haven't done it but still... phwoar!’ front. I mean it’s amazing isn't it? A pretty unique feature. I remember years ago walking out from the bottom of the cave checking holds all the way thinking ‘all this will go…’, but it was so obviously out of my league I never really put any time into it. It never occurred to me that being low to the ground you could start or stop anywhere you liked. Those little chunks are all good problems in their own right and I did most of them at the time but seeing it all gradually evolve into the full climb. I think it undersells the line to call it a link up.

What’s your favourite first ascent (and why)?
I’m going to say Gripmaster. Although I think Klem (Loskot) might have pipped me to the FA by a day or two, I didn't find out till after I'd done it, so the process was an FA for me.

I'd done it from a move in years before but there was a winter when I got fixated on adding in the sit start. I love that you can see it from the carpark and walk straight up to it seeing it almost all the way in. From Nati you drive out along Rifle Butt Road, staring down Taipan all the way in and when you get to the car park you can see the Gripmaster line from the car and then you just make another beeline for that. And then you're sitting at the bottom of it and it’s all too obvious what you have to do. It was one of the first problems I spent more than a few of days on and I just remember one winter driving out through blue skies and ice covered fields really, really focussed.That one was a change for me to just going out somewhere and wandering around to see what I could find.

What’s your favourite area for bouldering in the Grampians?
My favourite thing about the Grampians is going to spots I've not been before and exploring. That you can still wander into the bush and find whole new areas is what is special to me about the Grampians. In terms of actually getting up boulders though, rather than just finding them, the strip from Andersens around to the Kindergarten probably holds the most fond memories for me.

I'm a noob, can I play too?!?

‘Is the Festival suitable for beginners?’, is a question we are getting asked a lot.

Yes. Is the short answer.

Transitioning from indoor to outdoor bouldering can feel pretty intimidating. For a start, the Grampians is a long way away (Where do you stay? Where do you boulder?), you’re moving from the very controlled environment of indoor walls and massive gym mats to one that is wild with rugged, boulder-filled landings, relatively small, thin mats and sometimes very high boulders. That’s a big change.

 There is nothing like the close attention of a great spotter to give you the confidence to throw yourself at a problem. Under the watchful Reuben Bennet-Daly, Stefan Niedermeyer latches a crimper on Far Left el Westwood (V9).  Simon Madden

There is nothing like the close attention of a great spotter to give you the confidence to throw yourself at a problem. Under the watchful Reuben Bennet-Daly, Stefan Niedermeyer latches a crimper on Far Left el Westwood (V9). Simon Madden

But it’s a change that the festival has been in part designed to help you with. We’ve specifically got a bunch of experienced boulderers on hand to show you the ropes (or more accurately, the not-ropes). Whether you’re taking part in the competition on the Saturday or doing a beginner’s clinic on the Friday or Sunday, our climbers will be there to show you some of the best places to get started in the Grampians, and provide the basic skills you will need to become a boulderer – how to spot correctly (one of the most important skills), place your mats, assess risk, as well as teach you some basic technique and bouldering tactics. They will also fill you in on bouldering ethics, like How Not to be a Dickhead 101, the terror of the Kiwi spot and minimal impact bouldering.

And if you’re worried about the competition, don’t. This year we're running beginner classes on the Friday to educate first timers, while the format of the competition is designed to be super relaxed and encouraging, with everyone able to choose problems that match their skills and experience. Plus, many of Black Diamond’s best sponsored athletes will be on hand to provide pro tips or a spot. If you want it to be it will be a fun, relaxed day.

Rulz of the Comp

The Black Diamond Grampians Bouldering Festival includes the only outdoor bouldering competition in Australia (insert froth here). 

We call it a 'Casual Bouldering comp' not because the competition is casual but because there are no official judges nor set problems that you have to climb. You just head out to the blocs and crush whatever you can. When you send, get another competitor to sign off on your ascent to validate that no one is telling any porkies. The better the send, the bigger the score, the biggest scores win.

 The JS Memorial Slab (V4), about as much fun as you can have on a slab eliminate.  Simon Madden

The JS Memorial Slab (V4), about as much fun as you can have on a slab eliminate. Simon Madden

Scoring: A problem gets 100 points for each V-grade, ie V1 is worth 100, V8 is worth 800, V12 is worth 1200. You get a bonus 10% if you flash a problem, you lose 10% if you have done the problem before (be honest!). A person's top six ascents combine for their over all score, highest score wins. In the event of a tie, a person's seventh, eighth etc problems will come into play. (Note that a V0 is worth 50 points.)

 Available areas: All problems must be at Andersens, Echidna Wall (a brand-new area! We will provide a topo with your entry sheet), Hollow Mountain Cave, Loopeys and the Kindergarten. This provides a wide grade and style range with enough footprint to spread the competition out whilst remaining compact enough that you will always hear your fellow competitors power screams of joy and the bellows of anguish.

Gold coin donation entry: Entry to the competition for Festival attendees is via a gold coin donation to CliffCare. We support CliffCare for the work they do to ensure we can keep bouldering in the Gramps.

If you want more info about bouldering in the Grampians here.

Amanda Watts – Eat Food, Crush Boulders

Vertical Life’s favourite nutritionist and master of all food-related subjects, Amanda Watts, is not only the Queen of Healthy Cuisine, she’s also stood atop the podium at Boulder Nationals and represented Oz on the big stage of the World Cups. For 23 years, Amanda has climbed all around the world putting together a life well lived dedicated to moving over rock. Nowadays she is super motivated to help women figure out what their goals are and then shot them how to train their bodies and minds to achieve those goals.

What advice do you have for boulderers preparing for their first outdoor comp?
Don’t go too hard too early. Warm up well or you burn out fast. Be prepared for sore skin (bring tape and Panadol). Stick to your own plan for problems. You’ll probably be too psyched to think about eating and drinking but both are key to crushing hard for a long time as you'll need in the comp, so make sure you fuel up. Have fun!

 Amanda 'Killer' Watts on Passion (V5), Loopeys, the Grampians.  Lee Cossey

Amanda 'Killer' Watts on Passion (V5), Loopeys, the Grampians. Lee Cossey

What’s the breakfast of champions?
Something yummy, that makes you feel like a crusher, that has carbs and a bit of protein. Could be muesli and yoghurt or porridge with a bit of honey or a yoghurt, milk, fruit, LSA smoothie or some good old eggs on toast.

What’s the breakfast you’d advise people to get their competitors to eat if they wanted to make sure they really suck?
A bacon and raw egg smoothie with kale and coconut water.

What are you top five Grampians boulder problems?

  1. Butt Hole Surfer (V9) is super fun
  2. Wimmel Friedhoff (V5) is so fun and classic
  3. Riding Shot Gun (V6) for a mid grade tricky, technical classic established by an absolute crusher – Corrine Gwyther. On my first trip to the Gramps I remember meeting a fierce looking six pack as I made a rest day cup of tea in the camp ground. I looked up and found it belonged to Corrine... thoroughly intimidating :-)
  4. Right El Westwood (V4) because it's a classic looking line, climbs super fun and fluidly and I got to see Big Dave crush it!
  5. When we were Kings (V11), a problem that I have spent one day trying and to which I would love to dedicate a few more days so as to get done

Can I give you my dream tick list instead!! I remember my first boulder trip to the Gramps, I had a double A4 tick list for the two week trip ranging from V1-V10!! My boulder trip team thought it was a little ambitious…. by the time I was five days in with no skin left I understood why :-)

You’re running one of the women’s clinics, what is some of the wisdom you are hoping to impart?
How to dream big and put a plan into practice to make those dreams happen. I think I have an experienced eye for seeing what people can improve on from approach, technical and strength points of view.

A few words with Claire Kassay

Claire Kassay was crowned Australian National Bouldering Champion in 2014 and has represented Oz on the biggest competitive stage, the World Cup circuit. Yep, though she was born in South Africa, Oz has claimed Claire in the same way we’ve claimed all best things from New Zealand: Crowded House, Russell Crow and Barnaby Joyce*.

One half of a not-so-terrible twin twosome, Claire comes from a long line of climbers but it's not just nature that is responsible for Claire's climbing ability. She gets plenty of strong nurturing in running Bayside Rock with her husband, James Kassay, with whom she is raising future heir and wunderbergsteiger Harvey, who – rumour has it – can at seven months oldalready run laps of Dead Can’t Dance.


You’re an expert competitor, what advice do you have for boulderers preparing for their first outdoor comp?
I wouldn’t say I am an expert competitor, but I do enjoy the competition side of climbing. My advice would be to make sure you are;

  • well rested, at least one to two days of rest before a comp
  • your skin is in good order, as you don’t want to be slipping off holds due to lack of skin
  • you have all your kit ready (e.g shoes, chalk bag, tape, an energy snack)
  • only worry about yourself on comp day. It doesn’t matter how anyone else is going, you just need to climb your best.
  • Most importantly, have fun! As then you will climb your best!

Even though the comp is a ‘casual comp’, we expect that you’d have some great advice as to how to psych out competitors?
Flashing a problem could psych people out or at least put the pressure on. In all seriousness I don’t try and psych out any competitors. I like the comps to be fun and social… and if you happen to win that is an extra bonus.

What are you top five Grampians boulder problems?
In no particular order my favourite Grampians boulders would be; Gourmet Cats (V8) and Butthole Surfer (V9) at the Campground Boulders, Wimmel Friedhoff (V5) at Hollow Mountain, Bismarck (V8) and Mr Fox (V5) at Andersons… the list could quite easily continue, too many classics in the Grampians!

What is the most common mistake you see beginner climbers making at Bayside Rock?
Leaving their feet behind as they get higher and higher up the wall, making them too stretched and harder for them to move on.

You’re running a women’s climbing clinic, what are some of the things you’re hoping to cover?
Some ideas for what I will be covering are technique, beta, footwork, training.

*the last two are a joke, obviously.

Tom O'Halloran – Pouncy Like a Tiger

While he might be more famous these days for his role as a nicest, nimblest ninja on Australian Ninja Warrior than for his climbing, Tom OH will always be a straight-up crusher to us. The first ‘Strayan to climb the coveted grade of 35, he is also quite good at climbing small rocks. Describing his style as ‘pouncy like a tiger’, Tom OH has sent a bunch of hard boulders, from the Nick Cave inspired When the Ass Saw the Angel (V13) in the Ukulore Valley to the committing toe-hooks of J1 (V13) in Sydney-Town and the questionably named Fairy Hole (V12) in the Grampians.

One thing that is beyond argument is that Tom OH is a master of getting the job done, which is why he is running a masterclass based on the theme of Don’t Just be Strong, Be Smart (which is even more impressive given that Tom is from Queensland). We suggest that anyone lucky enough to see Tom OH climbing during the Festival pay particular attention to how he uses his feet and how he uses his hips – in fact his patented ‘Elvis Pelvis’ thrust has to be one of the more powerful sights in climbing.

Tom OH.jpg

What are your Top Five Gramps boulder problems?
My Top 5, in no particular order. (Though The Wheel may be at the top.)

  1. Wheel of Life (V15) – though I haven't done it yet
  2. Volume 1000 (V4)
  3. Bleausard (V5)
  4. Dead Can’t Dance (V11)
  5. Fairy Hole (V12) – my first ascent at campground boulders, fun and exciting climbing, terrible name!

It does feel like a bit of a lame list really. I need to do more down there. I want to put much more stuff on the Life List but it just keeps getting bigger! Will there ever be enough skin to be able to do everything!?!?!?!

What advice do you have for boulderers preparing for their first outdoor comp?
Get your skin prepared! Sand those tips down and build up their toughness. Pack lots of tape and plenty of food and water. It’s going to be a full day of pullin!! Oh, don’t forget your COFFEE!!!

What are some of the lessons you are hoping to impart in your masterclass?
A more strategic and purposeful approach to climbing. I really believe there is a lot to be gained by just changing a couple of easy things before you pull on. And I’m not talking about adding more weight to your fingerboard program!

We know you were recently down south trying the much-coveted Wheel of Life. How did it go and will you be trying to send it on comp day?
Yeah I did an express two day trip from Blackheath with some friends. It was ace! First day I felt like junk (I’d been sick for the previous six weeks! Day two was great though. I redid all the individual problems, did the Cave Rave link, then nearly did Sleepy Man, just a little dab at the end of Cave Man flake. I tried finishing out DCD on the Sleepy Man link and fell getting established on the bread loaf rib. I’m frothing to get it done as soon as possible!! It’s the best! If it works to get up there and give it a lash I’ll definitely be on it!

What Ninja skills transfer to bouldering? Or the other way?
Haha hmmm I’m not sure. I think I mainly relied on my bouldering skills for the Ninja stuff. I don’t know if I possess any ninja skills. But maybe the skills are so ninja I don’t even know they are there!! The ninja course did require being super decisive with your movement and commit 100% to each obstacle. Definitely that’s a skill you need in bouldering! Try really hard and throw the kitchen sink at it!

Simon 'Arnie' Weill – Señor Bleachers

Self described as the Grampians’ most prolific and handsome boulderer and almost certainly the strongest man on Earth, Simon ‘Arnie’ Weill, will be running a tour of The Bleachers on the Sunday of the Festival weekend, an area he almost single-handedly developed. Take in the beauty and majesty of the man and his boulders, who put up such classics as Red Mist (V12), the Quickening (V9) and Korean Jesus (V5). Simon can give you the best (foot free) beta, plus, best of all, show you around a the more than a few new gems he’s added to the Bleachers in his attempts to make the Grampians Bouldering guidebook as out of date as possible.

 Arnie on one of his brilliant Bleachers blocs, Red Mist (V12).

Arnie on one of his brilliant Bleachers blocs, Red Mist (V12).

What’s your favourite first ascent at The Bleachers?
Probably The Siberian Candidate, it took me longer to do than Red Mist and was a real battle.

What’s the best easy problem at The Bleachers?
Art of Elsewhere (V4) or Anonymous Arete (V5).

What’s the scariest?
Definitely White Shadow (V8/26), it's high and sketchy and was a real throw back to the grit days.

What do you think will be the best thing that people will get out of The Arnold’s tour of the Bleachers?
Getting to spend a day with me should be enough, right?!? And being allowed to spot me for a day... Probably an understanding of how much fun doing new problems can be, as well as how much effort it takes to keep putting time into new problems time and again. People will also be blown away by how much rock there is at The Bleachers, so many more problems than when the guide first came out.

Tell us your top five FAs?
Red Mist (V12), The Bleachers
The Bakelite Concept (V11), Venus Baths
The Proud Highway (V5), The Tower
White Shadow (V8/26), The Bleachers
The Siberian Candidate (V11), The Bleachers

A few words about Nalle Hukkataival

Festival headliner Nalle Hukkataival is no stranger to the Grampians, having spent four consecutive seasons amidst the gums and sandstone blocs of the Gramps developing some of Australia’s – and the world’s – hardest and highest boulders. Think Stepping Stone (V15), The World is Not Flat (V14), Occam’s Razor (V14), Massive Dynamic (V14), Cherry Picking (V13), Knowing is Half the Battle (V12)  – we could go on. More recently, he climbed the world’s hardest bouldering problem, Burden of Dreams (V17), while just recently he cleaned up one of Rocklands’ most aesthetic lines with his ascent of The Finnish Line (V16).

 The World is Not Flat (V14).  Yannick Godfrin

The World is Not Flat (V14). Yannick Godfrin

We’re fortunate that Black Diamond has brought him (and his excellent hair) out especially for the festival. Nalle will be out touring the blocs during the casual comp on Saturday, dispensing tips (and no doubt a few classics), while we will get to sit down with him on the Saturday night, along with a few other Grampians’ developers, for a Q&A. On the Sunday, a lucky few will get to do a Masterclass session with him. Mahtava*!

Nalle’s Top Five Boulders**

Peter Parker (V5) – I always liked this boulder for its unique start where you jump from a rock across the gap onto the wall. I also opened the start from the ground a few years ago, which might still be unrepeated?

Kate Upton (V12) – Incredible crimper boulder at Mt. Fox. One of the Top Five boulders in the world if you ask me.

Birthday Dyno (V11/12) – On the Point Break boulder at Mt Fox. All-points-off triple-dyno at a stunning spot on top a hill.

The Golden Rule (V12/13) – Amazing bright-golden block with big moves of decent slopy crimps and a shouldery crux up high.

Massive Dynamic (V13) – One of the most striking lines in Buandik.

Road Sweet Home (V15) – a proud highball in the Amusement Park side of Buandik. Opening this was definitely what I call big wall bouldering; trying to find a way to navigate up a wall on one of the biggest blocs I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Cherry Picking (V13) – Maybe the best known boulder in Buandik has pretty much reached classic status already.

On The Beach (V13) – Sweet boulder on slopey holds right below the mighty Taipan wall.

* Finnish for 'awesome'.
**Nalle gave us eight, we didn't argue 🙌.

A Comp with no Genders

On the Saturday of the Festival we are having a competition. The comp is outdoors, which is pretty novel in itself.

It's a bit different to other comps. Firstly, you seed yourself according to how hard you boulder then on the day you head out to our designated areas and climb whatever you want. You're the boss of you! 

Ascents are scored based on their V-grade, the total of your top six boulders equals your score. Easy as.


One thing that is really different is that we are not having gender categories. We are all competing together. Our thinking is that a woman climbing V5 is the same as a man climbing V5. Furthermore, in that you can climb whatever you want, there is no way the setting can be too morpho and favour one body type over another.

When we were thinking about how to structure the comp we consulted some people whose opinions we valued, we asked some of our near-and-dears and the idea of running the comp genderless was well received. We reckon that no-gender is a top idea. That said, this is the first time we are holding the comp and our no. 1 goal is to make sure that everyone feels welcome to participate. If you have any comment or concerns about the structure please get in touch.

Whilst the emphasis of the comp is on participation and everyone having a go, there is definitely nothing wrong with wanting to compete hard. Remember kids, it's okay to want to win! Even if you're not out for victory the comp format can be super productive for you. There is something about the scent of competition to give you added impetus to tick your hardest problem ever! Add to that the supercharge that you get from co-operating with a flock psyched boulderers and we reckon the comp will generate a perfect sending storm.

If you were really smart, and prepared and want to max your chances of scoring high and maybe even taking out a gong, you would consult the Grampians Guidebook and plan your day carefully. (Hint! Hint!)

Tell me more: You can read more about the comp here. Or email us if you have any questions.

Gold coin donation entry: Entry to the competition for Festival attendees is via a gold coin donation to CliffCare. We support CliffCare for the work they do to ensure we can keep bouldering in the Gramps.