Oliver Miller – Safety Masterclass

Halls Gap local, Oliver Miller, will be returning to this year's festival to once again run his beginner masterclasses. If you've not done much (or any) bouldering outdoors before, then doing one of these classes – ideally on the Friday before the competition – is a must, not just so that you can compete safely on Saturday, but also so you can be a safer boulderer full stop. Oliver is a super experienced climber, who has bouldered up to V13, and has climbed many hard and high problems in the Grampians, including many first ascents. We spoke to Oliver to find out more.

Last year we were blown away by your beginner clinics, and even though we’re experienced boulderers we felt like we learnt some new things watching them. Can you give us a rundown on what you cover, and what you think are the most important elements?
I’m going to focus on safety, so I’ll cover how to deal with pads, landings and spotting – from the perspective of both spotter and climber.

What do you think is the most common mistake that beginners make when it comes to safety?
The most common mistake in terms of safety that I see is people using too many pads and don’t attend to the landing once the pads are on the ground. A big jumble of pads can be almost as dangerous as none at all if they're not placed carefully.

Oliver on the first ascent of Ways of Being (V11) at the Valley of the Giants. Matt Corbishley

Oliver on the first ascent of Ways of Being (V11) at the Valley of the Giants. Matt Corbishley

Do you have an tips for boulderers going into the competition on the Saturday of the Festival?
Pace yourself. Allow four to six minutes minimum between goes. Make your attempts count; work out all the beta before pulling on if possible! Warm up on your easy problems on the list then try the hardest one when you are warm and still fresh. Make sure you’ve got a good spotter! Be careful descending from the top of the boulders, this is actually often the most dangerous time when you aren't paying attention!

You’ve done a lot of bouldering in the Grampians, can you give us your top five problems?
The Departed V10
(Valley of the Giants) It’s just perfect! Long, consistent, variety of hold shapes, amazing rock and a joy to climb on.

Obelisk V6 (Halls Gap) Straight out of the Peak District. Relatively easy climbing on a stunning arete with a great view of Lake Bellfield.

Blackbeard’s Delight V8 (The Bleachers) Classic at the grade, interesting moves on varied holds and super popular.

On the Beach V13 (Stapylton) Incredible movement, glassy-hard rock, Taipan in the background… hard but approachable unlike some others at the grade.

The Wave Swoop V14 (Mt Fox) I haven’t climbed it but just look at the thing. An iconic line displaying the veins that are so special to the Vic Range.

You’ve also done a lot of first ascents, what are a few your favourite children?
Ways of Being V11
(Valley of the Giants) It climbs beautifully, has a unique undercling crux and was a big challenge for me when I first climbed it.

Juggernaut V10 (Halls Gap) A very cool dyno just done this year. It’s a relatively rare type of move on great rock, just behind Obelisk.

The Last Resort V13 (Mt Fox) By far the hardest thing I’ve climbed. Powerful, crimpy, very pure and intricate on ridiculously good rock.

The first ascent on a new highball called Deathproof (V8) in Stapylton amphitheatre. Music: 'Hunterslice' by Wagawaga Footage: Blake Wardell

Immersions V8 (Venus Baths) Had a lot of fun cleaning this and figuring it out. It’s popular, right by the track and beautiful sitting right by the river.

Blockhead V10 (Venus Baths) Obscure, rarely climbed on and the movement is utterly bizarre. One of the most satisfying first ascents as it was a real puzzle with only one solution (so far)…

Pretty much every redhead we know is strong, is there something about being a ginger that makes you better at climbing?
Definitely. Being irresistibly gorgeous gets you places in life.

Given you’re a Kiwi, we’re going to test your loyalties – which is better, the Grampians or Castle Hill?
Yin and Yang situation innit? The Grampians does all the things Castle Hill doesn’t and vice versa… There’s a reason I live in the Grampians though :)