Sunday, April 20, 2014

Robbie Phillips - Call of Duty

Robbie's Climbing Visa application asked "what is your intended purpose for this visit to Australia?"
he ticked the box:

Shred in every State and Territory, fill every page of my climbing passport with coveted hard ascent stamps, and charm the pants off the little Aussie battlers I find in the caves and cafes along the way.

Punks in the Gym 32/8b+
Evil Wears No Pants 30/8a+
The Don 31/8b
Lord of the Rings 31/8b
Flying Duck 32/8b+

I got off the plane from China and fought off the drowsiness of a night in economy class, robbed of access to chocolate for my sin of ticking the "vegetarian meal" box, and drove straight up the hi-way to my local crag, Coolum Cave, to meet Scotsman Robbie Phillips and share a lap on an old fav of mine.
Call of Duty 28/7c+
I've done 50 laps on this route. Robbie hadn't touched it.
To be fair, he got the beta. Rob Saunders worked it first.
I did a lap and hung at the anchors, peeled off my kneepads and shoved them in my leg loops to stop my legs going numb, pulled up the camera and captured some moves in the presence of greatness.
Here's what I saw as Robbie flashed "Call of Duty"

Not a great deal of contact at this point.

 Rob Saunders of belay.

I'm not alone. Everyone loves it when some traveling crusher comes to their local crag and sends their favourite route in rock star style. It's like we get to show our familiar holds and footers to the world. The details of texture and shape and sequence so intimate and local to us, get to be carried around the world in the mind and enthusiasm of another. And no better vessel than Robbie Phillips.

That's the crux right there. Study it. Try it. Then show your respect for this flash.

 I think Robbie is taller than me. I didn't mean to take the higher ground.

Follow Robbie: 
Instagram: robbiephillips_

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Into the Sunshine - jjobrien, the movie

A rather special thing happened.
A professional Director/Videographer tracked me down and made an interesting proposal.
I hadn't heard of Matt Raimondo, I have to admit to being dubious when he emailed me.
We spoke on the phone and he gained my confidence.
Queensland Tourism had commissioned him to make a series of short films. In their words:

"Into the Sunshine is a series of short films that takes viewers into the lives of some remarkable Queenslanders and showcases their powerful connection to the environment.

In this episode, renowned rock climber John O'Brien recalls his childhood fascination with the Glass House Mountains and how a poster once pinned on his bedroom wall grew into a dream to conquer the craggy volcanic remnants that rise from Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland (70 kilometres from Brisbane)".
It goes on....I daren't repeat. Blush.

We forgive QT for the "conquering" thing. It's what people like to dream into climbing.
So pull up a bouldering mat and settle down for 2:14 minutes of stock post rock soundtrack and glorious coastal views.
Hit Play

Or open the link 

Matt Raimondo shoots on a special camera with a thing attached to the back that you look through.
It costs a lot. I tried to understand.
 Photo - iPhone: jjobrien

Matt Fingleton (in all honesty, probably the better climber of the two of us, and easily more handsom) assited M1 on all three shoots, and was my dependable belayer.
In these iphone shots he follows me up Pitch 4 of "The Ricoh Destruction Test" Tinbeerwah, the first route I ever put up. (Home of climbings' biggest U-Bolt)
Thank you M2.
 Photo - iPhone: jjobrien

Can you see the pain in my eyes? I could barely walk that day.

I have to say I'm feeling very spoilt. Having such a craftsman create a flattering portrait of oneself feels a little bit rewarding. Thank you very much Matt for the kind angles.

Matt Raimondo        
Brisbane, Australia.
Matt is an Australian, Brisbane based director with a diverse range of skills including film making, photography and motion graphics. Inspired by the outdoors Matt is focused on producing compelling adventure, travel, and lifestyle content.

Thanks also goes to:
Red Chili
Sterling Rope

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I lost my head for choss.

Lee sent the new big project this weekend. That picture is from last weekend.
He didn't think he would. I wasn't convinced.

 That's about where I got to. The cave rest at 3/4 height. But that's not me. It is my T-shirt though.

So last weekend the alarm caught me dreaming at 4:45am, I snuck out without waking the grand daughter. I stayed at their place in Brisbane.
Arriving some hours later at the walk-in to the new Crossroads Crag out in nowhere NSW, I shoulder the lightest pack I can get away with.
Industrial harness (for back support), camera, and shoes, just in case. It's a photo trip.
Walking is difficult, not too painful if I don't have to re-balance suddenly. Back injury again, not as bad as last time, or the time before, but bad enough. Steep rocky bush walking ahead. I squeal and whimper consistently, annoyingly.
On the Monday before I never thought I'd climb again. On Tuesday I committed to going to Crossroads.
Anyway, back to the proj, it's a 40 meter monstrosity of stinking, decaying choss.
"An over-hanging freshly ploughed field" I've always remembered those words, by Silvo Caro  about something, somewhere.

It would be a despicable pile of pus if it wasn't capped with a few meters of the most perfect, steep, impeccably featured stone.
But back to my head for choss.
First shot, second weekend. I went first and beat my previous high point by a mile. I was going to give this rig a good shake.
Lee went next and sent it. I should make that the headline. But it's my blog.
Second shot I took a hang down low on the route. It took the fight outta me. By the time I hit the steep choss I could not convince myself the cliff could handle my weight on it. I seriously could not believe the whole thing wouldn't come down on top of me if I hung on it. I thought the bolts would rip great truck loads of rubbish from the wall if I loaded them. I lost my head for choss. It happens.
Third shot was a bit better. Choss brain heals itself with time, and sandwiches.

Duncan sent that:
Duncan Steel on the first ascent of his route - un named. 
ps. He called it Giant. He gave it 19. In human grades that's a round 28.

 I reckon we should get crag jackets. Black satin frat jackets with that on the back. Your thoughts?

All the while my Facebook wife, Sandra, has been in Hong Kong for a couple of weeks, so she won't find out. I've hardly been home.
Why would I?
In my absence, and hers, the real estate agents have been doing their best to make my lovely home look like an abandoned crack den, there's piles of their brochures and sponsored newspapers around my letterbox.

Without Sandras' clerical support at work this week, I have faced, alone, the Food Safety Program auditors, the council compliance officer, over the lagging operational works progress, the building certifier, the hydraulics engineer, the pest controllers, the business owners, and QFRS breathing fire down my neck.

Without her at home I've organised:
*The tiler.
*The waste water engineers - apparently I have to submit a report to council once a year. It's been fourteen.  So sue me.
*The electrician - Of course I tried the electrics myself first. Mistakes were made.
Hey, how long can a goldfish live without food? Never mind. Rhetorical.

The tanks are full despite currently suffering through what could turn out to be the second worst drought in almost two and a half years across the Sunshine Coast.

The letter box was stuffed full.
A gold envelope arrived for me. Ooo, what could it be?
St. Leonards 100 years school reunion, it turns out.
I'm not that old.

The Urbenville pub is open again, maybe permanently, if Big Dazza's ex-wife will sign over the lease. Live right Dazza. So it was a Vesuvio Pizza on the way home again, to cap off a high carb - high peanut butter day at the crag.

Slept in till 6:30 on Sunday, play with the grand kids, make brekky, drive up to Eumundi in time to help my brother battle a wave of customers at the cafe. Cook, buss tables, pull coffee, wash dishes.
Drop in sometime.
104 Memorial Drive Eumundi. Look for the blue Merlo umbrellas at the North end of the main street.
3:00pm I'm in the car heading for home, I really should vacuum the house and sweep the drifts of dry leaves off the roof, when suddenly it occurs to me, I'm not done with this weekend yet.
I throw the tiller leeward and set a course for the low-ethic safe-haven of Coolum Cave.
The Atmosphere was high on  arrival, the send train had been running, notably, Shannon Keys got Gasoline Rainbow.
I stretched my back on lap 160 of the cave trade route Wholly Calamity.
Home, vac, sweep, cook, blog. Midnight.

Time for Soundcloud.    
Track me johnjobrien. I'll be there all night.

But I'm rambling.  jj

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Vesuvio. You can't fuckin' eat all of that!

Vesuvius - the crag so tasty they named it after a pizza that was so fiery they named it after a mountain.

The first weekend I went to Vesuvius wasn't that hot, it wasn't called Vesuvius either. 34 maybe. Maybe less.
The next time it was off the records, stupidly hot.
Everyone lies about that day. "It was 45 degrees at my house", " It was 43 the dog died", "the radio said it was 46, the road was melting".
It was fucking hot. I'd never felt anything like it.

But anyway, back on that first weekend, Lee, Nathan and I were camping at the grounds in town. Late back from the crag, we went to the Urbenville pub for dinner.
Licensee - Big Dazza
They call him that cause his name is Dazza.
Big Dazza also features on the hotel photo board as a prominent member of the local dirt bike gang.

I ordered the Vesuvio Pizza. Twenny bucks.
So did Lee.
It arrived, it was big.
Lee picked up a piece, it was covered in cheese and chill.
His hands were covered in chalk and glue.
It was very, very hot.

A gentleman who had previously been enjoying a drink at the bar managed to stay upright as he approached our table.

Photo disclaimer: Dramatisation, may not have actually happened.

It seems he had a proposition.
He was willing to wager a fiver that a whole Vesuvio pizza could not be consumed by a man of Mr Cujes' slight physique in a single sitting.
He was wrong.
Lee earned five dollars, paid by Big Dazza who regularly covers our new gambling friends debts, bringing the dividend-adjusted outlay to $15.
By this time our gambler had gone for a little lie down I think.
Don't feel bad for Big Dazza, I think he comes out in front every time.

Nathan proposed the new crag be named after the pizza. There weren't enough negative reasons to mount a solid case against his proposal.

I had the Vesuvio again the next night. Lee had the chicken.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Blowing Smoke

The very first time I ever saw Lee Cujes he handed me an Orange Alien.
I was procrastinating at the crux of a bolted sport route.
Desperation Prow 22. Redcliffs, Queensland Australia.
He was working an unthinkably hard trad project parallel to me.
I called for gear to plug a break, he provided, I pulled the move, I pulled the cam, I handed it right back, without weighting the rope and flashed the route.
An enduring trad partnership was never born.

 Lee Cujes - Blowing Smoke 23  Vesuvius Crag. NSW Australia.

Lee has a trad history. I don't know it.
In the ten years that we have been climbing together I don't think I've seen him lead trad.
So this was different.
Lee had been instrumental in developing Vesuvius crag. Accessing, cleaning, bolting, sending.
He left this one striking crack system for last. So after a can of WD was emptied onto his rack, and I got into position with my iPhone camera he took off.
At about half height he had bugger all protection of any use. He kept calmer than me.

The pre-cleaning wasn't as thorough as a usual Cujes route.

Up to his elbows in it.
The top half got a bit saner and an awesome new route was added to an otherwise sport crag.
Blowing Smoke 30M 23 trad.

That's a sight you don't see every day.

Climbers, you already know my thoughts on trad.
But I'll reiterate.
I don't trust it.
Call me half a climber, but it's a discipline that I have never pursued.
Trad climbers, I salute you.

All photos: jjobrien - iPhone shoot and process.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Suddenly Bali

Lying in bed making weekend plans via Facebook Messenger.
Lee: Do you want to go to the new crag this weekend?
Me: I don't know, I've got work stuff and family stuff.
Lee: Do you want go to Bali?
Me: Yes.
Half hour later we were booked and packing.
Club - Ku De Ta  Photo: Sam Cujes.
I sent him this photo.
Dress like this. Exactly like this.
That's me on the left on top of the Mt. Agung circa 1995 in peacock and puce Gortex by Lowe Alpine. 
Bali, why Gortex?
It's not all palm trees and cocktails.
Gunung Agung is a massive 10,300ft volcano lying at the geographical and spiritual centre of Bali.
I estimate this is my 13th Agung ascent, stretching back over 25 years, amongst other volcano treks in other parts of Indonesia.
I can't help it, I keep going back.
First ascent for Lee.

Photo: Selfie
We huddled for an hour at the summit waiting for dawn.
It was too long.
The ascent had been quite difficult. Dark, slippery, wet, very cold, very windy, misty, doubtful and almost no visibility.
Route finding was hit or miss.
By the time dawn arrived we were running out of heat and options.
My hands were useless and unfeeling. I couldn't work my jacket zipper.
I didn't have a jacket zipper. Broken years ago. I only sort of had a bit of Velcro left on my vintage Lowe.

Can anyone else see a ghost in those clouds?
Sunrise. Within half an hour the world was a beautiful place again.

Warming up and drying out. Photo op time.

iPhone photo: Lee Cujes
We smashed my previous ascent times.
Under 3 & 1/2 hours from Pasar Pura Agung Temple to the top.

iphone photo: Lee Cujes

iPhone photo: Lee Cujes

The accom was bearable I spose.

canon photo: Lee Cujes
It wasn't all rugged.

Sandra is never more at peace than with a rose petal cocktail in hand at the uber cool "Ku De Ta" in Seminyak.
New tassel necklaces. She ninja shops, negotiating at 20 paces, past the iron ring of post Bali bombing security, with the beach hawkers via commando hand signals. Without missing a sip.

Sandra, Sam and Lee.
Equatorial sunset in progress. House beats oozing from the big rig. Pretty happy.

Here's to sudden weekend getaways.
Good work team.