climbing

Photos: Toronto IFSC World Bouldering Cup by Jessica Lee


I shot the IFSC World Bouldering Cup in Toronto recently, the same event I shot last year in Hamilton. I think the key difference between this year's shoot and last year's is this year I wanted to document exactly what was happening in a photojournalism perspective, whereas last year, I focused on the event from a climber's point of view; shooting climbers in strange positions that I knew were hard to do.

As a result, I focused more on angles and thinking ahead to where climbers would be, rather than relying on "luck" aka being in the right place at the right time. Also, I trusted myself more on judgement. Previously, I would gather around where all the other photographers were because I thought maybe they knew something that I didn't, but honestly, everyone's shooting with a different lens, so they wouldn't be thinking the same way I would in terms of frames anyway.

I won't caption the photos because they are strong enough images where you can figure out what's going on, but I will explain a little about how the competition works: basically, the climbers get four minutes each to climb each "problem", which is from the bottom of the wall to the top, so it's an intense situation where the climber has to perform in an efficient manner, while under the gaze of two judges and the crowd. The winner of the competition is the one who climbs most of the problems in the final round. Many climbers don't even make it up to the top of most problems because the moves you need to make to get to the top are tough and require great skill, which is what separates the champions from just good climbers. But isn't that just like life? 




















Goat Rock and Highway #1, California, baby! by Jessica Lee


Ever since hearing the catchy Phantom Planet song "California" in middle school at the height of when the T.V. show The O.C. was popular, I've always wanted to drive down highway #1 while playing that song.

I finally got to do that when I visited Sonoma County and went climbing at Goat Rock, about an hour away from San Francisco. Highway #1 stretches all along the shore and makes you wonder why Californians are so lucky to witness this beauty regularly.


The drive reminded me of when I drove along Great Ocean Road in Australia. I realize I've been lucky to experience so many adventures already at my age and I've seen so much first-hand. But really, check out that link. It shows how my photography skills and my eye has only gotten better since these last three years. Go on, here is another one.


Nothing's ever absolutely perfect as you can always improve your craft, but over the years, I've definitely developed a greater personal style and the confidence to try new things, such as purposely shooting into the light, or experimenting with light flares, because who says there's only one way to do photography? And sometimes overexposure looks good. And maybe once in a while, I actually want my photos to look blurred or grainy. Check out one of my first travel photo essays...


Of course a lot of it is subjective. But here are photos from that day I went to Sonoma County and drove along the Pacific Coast highway. We stopped for food at a Mexican market, then continued on to Goat Hill, where allegedly the large rocks there are smooth from mammoths rubbing their itches on their backs against the surfaces. There, we went bouldering for a good couple of hours, until magic hour hit, then we took a few snaps, and watched a sun set from the rock; which by the way, sunsets will never get old for me. Neither will singing California obviously, which we did on the way back before hitting a favourite French restaurant, tucked into a corner of slanted street.










IFSC World Cup Bouldering in Hamilton by Jessica Lee


I had the opportunity to shoot photos this weekend for the World Bouldering Cup in Hamilton. Best part of the weekend? Definitely being part of the excitement. The crowd was WILD! Other than that, it was cool to watch so many top-level athletes working on the problems. There were so many different ways to climb a route, this was especially evident in men's problem #3 where Guillaume held the last hold facing the crowd, whereas everyone else faced the wall. Jan Hojer used his upper body strength to pull up from the problem, while others used their legs and hung upside down.

Anyway, without further ado, here are a few photos:






















































Cabin Weekend at Metcalfe Rock: Climbing in snow and other harsh realities by Jessica Lee


We drove up to Metcalfe Rock, in Northern Ontario this weekend for an early April climbing trip but of course, we underestimated Canadian weather.

While most of the snow in Toronto had melted already and weather was in the positives, it was a different story up North.

Along the way, I found out that the "cottage weekend" I had in mind was not what was available.

I had packed shampoo and body wash thinking that our cottage would have plumbing- which is a reasonable thing to assume, given we live in the 21st century.

But as we drove towards our destination, my friend Hunter casually mentioned to the car, "by the way, there is no water or electricity at the cabin".

WHAT?!

I took a deep breath and told myself I would get through it.

After two hours of driving through thick fog and an unlit road, we somehow managed to make our way to the cottage without proper GPS coordinates and no address. We came into a muddy road, then proceeded to hike up a steep trail in the snow towards the unknown. There were no surrounding lights so there was no way to gauge how far away the actual cottage was or if we were even heading in the right direction.

Thankfully, we arrived after 10 minutes of hiking.

The cabin smelled musty and we had to turn on the gas to light up the lamps- so very old school and "rustic".

Here are some photos I took of the cabin after we started a fire and lit the lamps:


It's a beautiful design when you can see where everything is.



We put some chicken in the oven and ate salad while we started a heated game of Cards Against Humanity.


We played until 1 am then settled in for the night. I slept beside the fire but since the building had no heating, I found I needed to wear my winter jacket inside my sleeping bag to keep warm. With no running water and having to run out to the outhouse (in the snow) for bathroom breaks, it wasn't exactly rough, but it reminded me of all the luxuries I had at home.

Throughout the trip, I would frequently pause before taking a drink to determine if I was really thirsty because the pain of running out to the cold in the dark to use the outhouse wasn't worth an extra cup of tea/juice.


In the morning, I woke up to seeing the air my breathing created in the cold air. I did not want to get out of my warm sleeping bag to make breakfast. But one of the guys volunteered to find the spring where we would get our water from and another said he would go with him. So I said I would make breakfast. We had bacon, mushroom tomato omelettes and potato hash.

After we cleaned up, I took some photos of the cottage. It was really cool to see what the cottage looked like when it was all lit up properly through natural lighting.












The guys decided since it was obviously too cold to go climbing (the original purpose of the trip), we would go cross-country skiing.

Here is Hunter trying to take a photo with his lens cap on:


It was my first time cross-country skiing, and the first time I was seeing huge amounts of snow in Canada this season, since I spent most of this Winter in Europe.


Cross-country skiing is different from downhill in that only the front part of your foot is attached to the ski so you have less control during slopes, but it's easier to glide forward.


It was a beautiful trek at 8 km. I don't normally go out for hikes in weather like this so I don't often get to see nature in the winter.





We finished the trip and by that time, the rest of our climbing companions had arrived at the cottage.


At 4 degrees, it was too cold to climb outdoors but we came up with some creative solutions, deciding to make up routes on the frame of our cabin.







Night rolled in again, and after some digging, we discovered a board game about climbing made in the 80s. It was a hilarious night.



On Sunday, it finally became warm enough to climb outdoors.


My fingers were freezing and I couldn't feel my tips for most of the climb, but life isn't perfect. After waiting for a whole weekend, I finally got to do what I came to do!

We climbed for a couple of hours, then packed it up and headed home.

More photos:






The cabin is owned by the University of Toronto Outings Club, but is available for private rental. UTOC offers very reasonable rates for private bookings of the cabin by both members and non-members. Many different groups have had great experiences at the UTOC cabin. Contact utoc@utoronto.ca for more details.

For more posts about climbing on this blog, click here.

Kicking back in Kentucky by Jessica Lee


This was my view today.

I spent my day lying in a hammock in Kentucky, USA, chewing beef jerky and watching the boys climb. Summer was cooking us with her humid heat and but I didn't have a care in the world.

We drove from Toronto through the night and arrived in Slade, Kentucky at Red River Gorge, which is  a popular destination for climbing.

We're actually staying at a climber's camp. Everyone is extremely fit and laid-back. It's like how I'd imagine base camp to be like at Mount Everest- athletic people with good stories to tell. If you notice, there is a chin-up bar and finger boards in the meeting area. It's pretty cool.


For those of you who are curious, here is what Kentucky looks like:


It was beautiful getting to the actual climb.


We stuck around an area called the Bruise Brothers (the place lived up to it's name) and headed back to camp after a full day's work.





For more climbing stories, visit:

Between a rock and Waterloo, Ontario by Jessica Lee


I spent my weekend in Waterloo, Ontario, which is known for:
a) A university town which houses Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo
b) the headquarters of phone company, Research in Motion
c) and for an abundant population of Canadian geese apparently.

I arrived by Greyhound just before midnight as the student night life was revving up. Young freshmen walked in swarms on the streets to house parties. It's strange thinking that I used to be one of them- the idea of going to a university house party would have excited me four years ago, but now as I'm on the verge of graduation, I realize I'm all past it.

Things that excite me now include:
1. Exploring the big, wild world
2. Trying new things
3. Graduating university and never having to pick up a textbook in my entire life again ever! (Unless I want to)

I stayed over at my friend, Kat's place. She lives in a party neighbourhood. When I woke up, and left the house at 10 am, there were already celebrations starting up again because it was homecoming weekend.



Waterloo isn't a bad town to live in.

The main street has lots of cute cafes and is pleasing-enough to the eye, but I know for sure I would want to kill myself if I were stuck here for four years of my life, finishing university. There is just nothing going on here!


It could be a nice place to settle down for a while, or a good place to "refocus" because there wouldn't be many distractions. If I were to write a book, I would choose a place like Waterloo to live in.

This was one of the cafes I walked by: I snapped a photo because the drinks "Vanilla Almond Steam" and "Cotton Candy Creme" intrigued me.


I never did get to try the drinks however as I had to make my way to Grand River Rocks climbing gym for The University Bouldering Series competition.

This is what it looked like as I got there:


It was an exhilarating atmosphere as I had never been in the presence of so many skilled climbers at once. At times, I felt like I was being judged for picking easier routes to climb.

How the bouldering competition worked was like this:

There were 50 routes you could climb and the six hardest climbs you picked and completed would be tallied-up to your final score.

This is a photo of a climber scaling climb #50 aka the most difficult climb in the competition. He had to leap for the hold and it wasn't even a good hold.



A crowd had gathered around to watch, and cheered when someone finally made the jump and stuck on to the hold.


It's moments like this that make me really like climbing.

I also like when I get to the top of a really hard climb.

Here is a photo of everyone crowding around the score results.



I placed 10th place out of 19 competitors in the girls beginners division, which is okay for my first competition, given that I had just gotten back into climbing several months ago. My goal was to not come in last place, which I achieved. My goal for the next competition happening in a month from now is to place in the top 5- which could have been totally achievable this round had I strategized for this competition. I had trained for a month prior, but on the day of, I missed breakfast because I was running late and I used up all my energy on the easy climbs. There were a few harder climbs which I was one step away from completing, but just couldn't push through at the end because I had lost my strength.

My goal is to eventually place in the intermediate category- sometime before I graduate- which is coming soon.

Picking up the slack in my climbing life by Jessica Lee


Greek philosopher Epictetus once said "tell me the company you keep and I'll tell you who you are".

Never before now have I believed in this statement more.

Since coming to University of Sydney, the group of people I hang out with the most besides my housemates are rock climbers. As a result, I've been going rock climbing quite frequently and I've been learning a lot about the sport. Also, my forearm muscles are now huge and my finger nails are never painted. I'm coming back to Toronto real buff.

We went bouldering in a park the other week.


Bouldering is climbing, not up, but sideways. Or just shorter, more intense routes.


This type of training is good for you because typically it is more difficult (harder to hold holds) than climbing up. It trains your muscles so you can climb better.


I don't usually like bouldering because it doesn't seem like I'm achieving a lot since you don't really cover a lot of distance compared to regular rock climbing. I originally got into rock climbing because my mom wanted me to stop climbing trees since it was dangerous (this was when I was very young). And I first got into climbing trees because the playground just started to get boring.

I was scaling 5.9s as a kid and was doing pretty well. I didn't stick with it though. And the inconvenience of going to the gym and too many other interests got in the way climbing frequently. I did meet someone else who rock climbed eventually in my teens but both of us did it more socially rather than trying to improve ourselves.


I have since lost my agility but it's nice to finally dive back into rock climbing and learn so many new things from seasoned climbers. Rock climbing is great because not only do you get to go places many people wouldn't be able to see, but the people are usually friendly.


I really like the rock climbing community. Everyone is just so supportive of each other.

At the bouldering event, people kept saying encouraging things like "you got this" while other people were climbing. Little things like that just makes things seem so much more do-able hearing that while gripping onto a terrible hold. People also were spotting each other in case someone would fall.


I was learning lead belaying at the gym from my friend Dan last week at the gym and I shared a laugh with a complete stranger over something specific to rock climbing. These kinds of connections are usually rare among strangers but I love them. 

Dan was climbing and practicing some falls while a rope was attached from him to me. If you are familiar with how a see-saw works, you can imagine what would happen if a heavy person fell while climbing when attached to a light person on the ground. Answer: the lighter person flies upwards.

This is not really supposed to happen because usually you're supposed to belay someone closer to your weight. The first time he "fell", it caught me by surprise because I was jerked upwards really quickly. This caused the belayer next to me to burst into laughter and we had a moment. I like this so much more than going to a regular gym to work-out. In a regular gym, everyone is just so focused on improving themselves they don't have time to share. It's hard to start a conversation in a regular gym!


In rock climbing however, everyone works together to solve a bouldering problem by making suggestions. It really is a nice community. Everyone is more intelligent than the usual people you would meet in a weight room too. This is because you have to use your problem solving skills to get to the top of the climb.

Here is a photo I took of the group at bouldering last week. I like this one since it's pretty candid.

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!

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.

Learning to pull a rope the Australian way by Jessica Lee

I think I've emphasized this point quite enough already throughout this blog but my goodness, things are SUPER EXPENSIVE in AUSTRALIA!

It probably has to do with the fact that Australia is like an island shoved in a corner on a world map. (Funny thing, when they were giving out Australian world maps on campus, Australia was drawn in the centre of the world and the other countries were surrounding it.) Google it.

I'm trying to buy a climbing harness because I really don't want to have to share sweaty, nasty smelling harnesses with everyone at the gym. Gross.

Fun fact, harnesses in retail stores in Australia are about $90AUD + while harnesses in Canada are about $40CAD+. And everyone knows CAD has less value than AUD... And if you wanted to ship to Australia, shipping a harness is about $94 CAD. Oh and if you try to buy something off of Amazon, it won't let you ship to Australia!

It really isn't fair.

So pretty much, I'm stuck with an overpriced harness that is in an ugly colour or I am stuck with a sweaty, smelly harness.

I sympathize with everyone in Australia who has tried to place a web order with a U.S. or Canadian company and couldn't because they just don't ship things over here.

In other news, yesterday was the first meeting for the rock climbing club at University of Sydney.

I loved it.

We have a rock climbing gym right here on campus (something I should have found out while I was still in Canada so I could have packed my harness and saved all of this hassle), so it is quite convenient for me to climb. I like it here because many of the members are quite advanced which means that most of the walls are at a harder level. There are only about two easy climbs out of 15. This is good because while I can only reach the top of maybe about 7 of these climbs, it pushes me to become a better climber.

I was paired with a sort of newbie, his name was Matt. At first I thought he was going to be a douche since he picked a hard climb and told me to climb first and then when I couldn't reach the top, he went to the top and showed me up and I thought this was going to be the pattern throughout the whole time we were climbing together. But it turns out he was quite supportive towards me getting to the top too. And at the end, I made it to the top of a particular climb that he couldn't get to the middle of. Not that I was trying really hard to prove myself...

I also found out that I have been belaying improperly for about the last 8 or so years I have been climbing. This was quite the shock. Apparently "the american" way of belaying is wrong. It was quite humbling for me as I was retaught by this guy who had been climbing for only about a year the "proper Australian way", which to be honest looks quite silly. They do a sort of pull upwards and then downwards, sort of like you're pulling a ship into shore kind of thing. But you know, I'm not going to argue with anyone because when you're in Australia, you should learn to do things the Australian way. I mean, that's the whole point of why I'm in Sydney anyway- I get to experience a new culture and a new way of pulling rope.

And besides the obvious shopping difficulties, it has been quite a fun experience so far.