Climbing at the Blue Mountains / by Jessica Lee

You meet a nice guy at a pub, exchange phone numbers- then what happens next?

You trust him with your life on top of a cliff the following weekend obviously!

Or not so obviously...

It worked out in the end. Both of us are alive and well- and pumped from the adrenaline rush of scaling a 117 metre climb at the Blue Mountains, just outside of Sydney.

Instinct told me everything would be okay. Maybe it was the fact that he is also Canadian, and that he told me he is in medical school. (Doctors just seem more trustworthy!)

The day had a rough start. It started with me being literally carried out of bed because Dan thought I was taking too long to get up. We woke up at 5 am (because Dan was really keen- and also a maniac) to catch the 6:10 am train. The entire trip took around an hour and a half. After arriving at Leura station, we walked for 45 minutes to the hiking trail.

Here is a photo of Dan from the back. He looks really outdoorsy with a rope on his back and his hiking boots, carrying a bag of gear.

He has one of those purposeful walks, so I felt like I was on a mission just walking beside him to the climbing area.

Here is a photo of the suburban town of Leura. Lots of greenery, not a lot of people.

After a trek, we finally got there. Here is a picture of the famous Blue Mountains.

We lucked out because there was beautiful fog.

This is us doing the touristy photo.

At this point, it was around 10 am, but we decided to break for a picnic lunch.

Let me tell you, this was one of the most beautiful places I've ever eaten. Sure I was sitting on a rock, but the view was marvellous! We ate smoked salmon sandwiches and fruit.

After fuelling up, we were off to hike down to the actual rock climb.

This hike was not a particularly easy hike- though it was enjoyable for the novelty. We had to go down steep paths, duck under bushes, and climb through rock caves for about another 45 minutes.

Here is a photo of Dan using a rope to get down safely. The place was definitely not wheelchair friendly!

Luckily for me, Dan had done all of this before so I had an experienced guide leading me.

This is the part where you have to climb through a narrow cave. Good thing I decided not to have a second helping of ice cream the night before!

My turn!

I was pretty excited when we got there. We saw some other climbers working their way up, and met an old man (no joke, he was about 60 or 70) who was doing a solo climb- no belaying! I had so much respect for him- this old guy who was still keeping fit, doing an extremely dangerous sport in his old age.

This is near the bottom of the climb. Notice how narrow the walking path is! If you happen to be drowsy that day and happen to slip, you fall a few thousand metres down- it could definitely be the end of life as you know it!

We finally got there and started setting up. The climb was called Sweet Dreams and was rated a 5.9 in Canadian/U.S. ratings or 16-18 in Australian ratings, which is nice and easy- but not too easy. Since it was my first outdoor climb, Dan didn't want me to stress out.

Dan was the lead climber (obviously), which meant that basically he did the whole climb without falling. If he fell, it wouldn't be such a big deal since he was setting up quickdraws every two metres or so. Quickdraws are the things you put your rope through so that if and when you fall, you only fall a couple of metres. (see equipment above- they are the carabiners)

Starting from the bottom of the climb was new and exciting but not exhilarating- yet- that would come later. We climbed 20 metres up for the first pitch, then strapped ourselves to the rock so we wouldn't fall.

Here is a photo taken after finishing our first pitch climb. Look at how happy and excited and confident we are (this didn't last mind you).

We still had a whole lot more to scale before making it to the top.

As we kept going, the view kept getting better.

I felt like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3, where he climbs that mountain.

We spent the first couple of hours climbing in the shade but then as the afternoon came in, the sun shifted and we were feeling the heat.

Here is a photo of us camping out in an alcove as Dan checks out his guidebook. That is my foot you are staring at. Notice the red straps attached to the wall? Those keep us from falling down below.

Climbing outdoors is definitely one of my favourite experiences of Australia so far. It's so nice to be able to find a nice hold on the wall, and then turn around and look at the view and at everything around you. I wish I could have taken a panorama of everything I saw. It was just amazing. Nature is just so beautiful.

This view made it worth it to wake up at 5 am.

Here is another photo of Dan at one of our stops. You all know how snap-happy I am (or should know by now if you've been following my adventures), but since I had to belay Dan while he was climbing, I couldn't take photos at the same time, which is why at almost every stop, I took photos.

The view was spectacular. This is the part of my photography career where I wish I had bought a wide-angle lens!

A photo of how high we had climbed up.

Most of the climb was really easy. I didn't fall until the final climb, where I fell once, when I couldn't find a good foot hold at one point and the hand grips there weren't the easy cups where you can just hold on and pull yourself up. I was quite panicked because for the first time, even though I was strapped to a rope, I thought I would fall miles down below.

I worked it out in the end though, and felt really good about it.

This is a photo of my backpack clipped to the wall after finishing a pitch. I had to climb with a backpack, which was new to me, since lead climbing is definitely more dangerous than following behind, and Dan needed to be in tip-top shape so it made sense that I carried the heavy stuff that wasn't climbing gear.

Here is a photo of Dan barefoot and not strapped in! What a rebel.

We finished the climb at around 6 pm, then hitchhiked back to the station. Though I am normally cautious about hitchhiking, at that point, I was too tired to do anything else.

We settled down at the patio of a local pub just as the sun was setting and enjoyed a well-deserved glass of beer and some food.

Then we caught the train back home.