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.

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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.

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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.

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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.