Climbing a crack wall and weekend shenanigans / by Jessica Lee

The afternoon sun was beating down on our backs. I was fifteen meters up a wall, deep in the forest of the Blue Mountains near Sydney- my fingers and toes jammed inside of a crack so that I wouldn't fall.

It was one of the most intense climbs of my life. In my head, Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" was playing. I was panting and breathing hard. Sweat was forming on my face. My muscles were straining.

I had never climbed a crack wall before and I was afraid that at any second, I would fall.

It's not such a bad thing to fall since I was attached to a rope, but I never liked the feeling of falling...

We took a weekend trip to the Blue Mountains to go camping and rock climbing.

The Blue Mountains is a prime tourist point for people who visit Sydney but want to experience nature. They usually just go on hikes or just take photos from the viewing points- which is why I loved being able to experience the Blue Mountains to its fullest by sleeping there overnight and by studying the rocks close-up while climbing.

It is a much different experience to be able to climb up a mountain, supported only by your fingers and toes, and to enjoy the view from there than to just drive on the outside roads of the mountains and glance at the view on the surface.

But since not everyone has the opportunity or resources to travel to the Blue Mountains, here are a few photos, so its like you're on the trip with me:

Day one: Driving up

This is a photo of Matt and I and a little bit of Josh in the back. It looks like I'm taking a picture while driving since in North America, the driver sits on the left. But in Australia, the driver's seat is actually on the right.

It was a nice hour-long drive with lots of trees. The amount of forest reminded me of driving up North to Barrie from Toronto.

As usual, we had to hike to our climbing spot.

One thing different was that Josh played his ukelele the whole way down, which was nice with the view.

The gorgeous view:

We did a bit of climbing at the first spot, then continued hiking.

This is a photo I took halfway up the wall.

A photo I took of Matt.

To get this photo, I had to climb beside him.

This is a photo of me reaching the top of the climb.

More of the view:

This is a photo of us hiking to another climbing spot, deep in the forest.

During the middle of the day, it got extremely hot so we found a pond to cool off in. It had a waterfall too, but you can't see it in the photo.

This is a photo of Matt tackling an extremely hard lead climb. We were all really proud of him when he made it to the top.

At sundown, we packed it up and headed to a campsite.

I was really glad someone knew how to make a fire because we were able to roast marshmallows.

Note to self: learn how to make a proper campfire.

A word of advice for camping: if you have the option of bringing more sweaters in your backpack, definitely do it. It was supposed to be summer camping, but I was still cold with a sleeping bag and sweatpants and a hoodie.

Day two: At 7 the next morning, we woke up and I made everyone a nutritious breakfast of oats and fruit over the fire. It was a hit!

Here is the recipe so you can make it too: (I learned how to make it when I was camping when I was 12)

1. Warm the frying pan
2. Throw in some butter
3. Throw in some brown sugar
4. Throw in some oats
5. Brown everything (but don't burn the butter!)
6. Cut up some fruit (granny smith apples work the best, but bananas will do too)
7. Add the fruit to the pan and warm it a bit.
8. At this point, you can throw in some cinnamon if you want. It's done if the oats look golden brown.

We packed up camp and drove to the mountain we would be climbing.

Here is a photo:

But first, we had to get to the bottom to climb up.

One of the guys had the idea that we should rappel to the bottom of the climb.

It was my first time rappelling and I was a nervous wreck. Basically when rappelling, you are controlling how quickly you go down the cliff through a rope you hold yourself. So if you had an itch somewhere you couldn't control or you suddenly sneeze and let go, you would fly down the side of the cliff to the bottom.

It really wasn't so bad, but for some reason, in my head, my mind kept replaying moments of climbing movies where ropes slip or a bolt falls out and the person plummets to the ground. Has anyone seen Vertical Limit (2000)? The main character had to cut off his father on a climb to save his sister and himself. The movie was made by a New Zealander. Figures.

In the end, everyone made it out alright and we proceeded to start our first climb for the day.

Here is a photo of Dan getting ready to lead climb the crack wall.

He doesn't usually wear sunglasses (or look this cool) when he climbs, but it was really sunny so the shades were needed.

For climbing a crack wall, you need to tape up your hands otherwise the back of your hands will be all scratched up since you literally stick your hands in the crack.

Here is a photo of me modelling how to tape up your hands. I look terrible, I know. But I really wanted to show everyone how your hands are supposed to be taped up.

Climbing the crack wall was new for me and I was really happy when I made it to the top without falling. I didn't think I would be able to do it, but I made it and it felt amazing to be able to sit at the top and look down at the view.

Here is a photo I took of Josh climbing the same crack.

After everyone had a go at climbing the crack and the other climbs we had set up, we packed it up and headed home. It was a great day of bonding and pushing ourselves to the limit. I was extremely satisfied I was able to experience two new things: rappelling and climbing a crack wall. Up next, overhangs!

Just kidding about that one.

You gotta move in baby steps!