Just over 12 months ago I successfully completed The Wheel of Life in the Grampians (Read my blog about it here to get up to speed). I was obviously happy with my send but my personal true line was still to be completed… Unfortunately whilst I was feeling strong, psyched and fit enough to attempt to complete the direct finish I unfortunately tore my internal oblique only days after my send of the wheel which prevented me from doing any climbing for 8 weeks that followed and meant that the Direct finish was going to have to wait…
So what is the Direct finish??? Well as I have said before, my aim wasn’t to just start at the bottom of the cave and climb to the top the easiest possible way (Not saying that there is anything wrong with that for those who choose to do it and its still far from an easy option). There are four established problems that originally made up the wheel of life and whilst some of the crux moves can be traversed around to make the line easier I wanted to start at the lowest part of the cave, then follow the established problems; X-treme Cool, Sleepy Hollow, Cave Man and Dead Cant Dance and rather than taking the early exit out right I wanted to complete Dead Cant Dance up and slightly left which is the highest point of the cave and in my opinion the grandest line of the cave! So I started at the lowest point… Followed the established line of classic problems and finished at the highest point.
So… 12 months after sending the original WOL, I returned to the Hollow Mountain Cave after a nice morning of bouldering with friends. Not feeling particularly fit, or strong… I decided to jump on X-treme Cool and just climb as far as I could before falling off (just as I had many times before). I climbed through X-treme Cool, Sleepy Hollow, struggled my way through Cave Man and hung around trying to get some feeling back into my hands before tackling the link up crux of Dead Cant Dance… Feeling pumped, I then kept moving… Made the very shouldery move with my right hand, moved my foot, reached up with my left hand (The move which I have fallen off many a times) and much to my surprise I was still on the wall… Oh F*&k I thought to myself… I’m still on which means it really is game on time! Knowing that my mate William had my back and was moving pads I just went for it! From that point it is a further 10 moves to make it to the lip and it took everything that I had to keep going. Fortunately being the stubborn person that I am, letting go was not an option so I just kept moving, fighting all the way and before I knew it I was sitting on top of the cave and at the time what felt like the top of the world!
Whilst the finish moves dont feel that hard in isolation… No one can say that they are easy after climbing all that way and I sure had to put in everything that I had just to remain on!
A question that lots of people have been asking is obviously about the grade… To be honest I dont know! Maybe it does deserve a route grade… But I dont climb routes so wouldn’t know where to start to give it a number. Others think that a boulder can only be as hard as the hardest move… Is that in isolation or does it count how hard it is after climbing all that way? All I know is that for me, it felt a hell of a lot harder than the original. I climbed a specific line and welcome anyone to repeat it and give me their opinion of it.
So… Another question people have asked (Obviously people who don’t know me)… Did I use knee pads? Whilst I don’t mind if other people decide to climb it that way, I personally didn’t use them (It’s a personal choice). I feel that wearing knee pads changes the line completely as there are rests that can be used that in my opinion are not possible without them. The first accent of the WOL was done without them, I climbed the original line without them and wanted to do the Direct without them… So I did.
For travelling tourists who don’t have the time to commit to the cave that I have and just want to start at the bottom and climb to the top then I think they are a great option and I still respect the people who have done it that way! It just wasn’t the way I was going to do it.
Before you ask… Yes, there is footage and it will be released when the time is right!
Whats next on the hit list? Who knows… I still work full time and only manage weekend trips away to the grampians so for the time being its just going to be fun sessions on the rock with great people. Training starts in the new year so we will see what that brings as it gets closer!