Recently while in Nowra I had the privilege of sitting down with NSW South Coast Climber – Sabine Pratt Hunziker to record this episode.
Sabine came to climbing from a background in surfing, and we talk about the crags and the climbing community on the south coast before getting into the main focus of the podcast – that is, the story of her recovery from a climbing accident that she had while Climbing in New Zealand a few years ago.
It’s the story of how Sabine suffers a total loss of control through injuries sustained from the accident. She shares her experience candidly and honestly, taking us to the depths of a Coma and the mental and physical struggle that she endures as she emerges from it. Over the months that follow through sheer grit and determination, Sabine takes back control of her mind, and her body, to return to her children, to her profession – teaching, and to her passion – climbing.
You can also read Sabine’s story by Dave Barnes in Common Climber.
It’s Brisbane based climber Alex Mougenot up in Episode 12 – an all-round climber who started climbing in South-East Queensland in 2013.
In the podcast we talk about how his climbing started and progressed, we go into his motivations and what gets him psyched – he’s very psyched! We talk about his head game on mentally challenging terrain and training that has more recently included a crack climbing dungeon under the house. After that we get into adventure climbing, and in particular the first adventure climb he aspired to – The Governor on Mount Barney, and an epic he got into on the same mountain climbing the East Face of Mount Barney route. We finish off on some of his aspirations for the near future.
I really enjoyed getting to know Alex through this recording and bouldering with him in Toohey forest – his psyche is infectious and has a really positive impact on the Queensland climbing scene.
Alex is an Athlete, and Maker for Awesome Woody’s and an ambassador for Pinnacle Sports.
Thanks to Ryan Siacci for his help in my research process for the podcast, as well as Kwan Goddard Lee. Ryan produces the Zen and the Art of Climbing blog and he is working on a great series on 50 classic climbs of Australia.
In Episode 11 I interview the team from theCrag – the global climbing information site that originated in Australia more than two decades ago. As many Australian climbers use theCrag I felt it was an important to capture not just the story of the Crag, but also the insights that theCrag team could bring to us about Australian climbers and Australian climbing culture. Joining me for this podcast is Simon Dale – CEO and Co-founder of the Crag, Nicky Hochmuth – Chief Data Officer, and Ulf Fuchslueger – Head of Business Development. You can read the team bios here on theCrag.
We go in depth on the history of theCrag from how it started in 1999 and developed over the past two decades. That takes the podcast up to the present where we talk about theCrag today and the mission and vision for the future. Woven into this we talk about how theCrag having it’s roots in Australia has influenced the site – which will give listeners some insights into Australian climbing culture. We delve into the data and what it can tell us about Australian climbing – in that we cover most popular route names and also the top rated, most popular climbs at each grade from 10-30 in Australia**. There is also some great discussion about artificial intelligence, how theCrag plans to use it and the potential it has to improve climbing grading.
You can find Ulf’s blog about his world travels here.
Grade Icons List
A list of the Grade Icons for Australia at each grade – a grade icon is a combination measure of popularity and rating.
4 – Caves Route – Mount Tibrogargan
5 – Tiptoe Ridge – Arapiles
9 – Siren – Arapiles
10 – Eskimo Nell – Arapiles
11 – Agamemnon – Arapiles
12 – Bard – Arapiles
13 – Muldoon – Arapiles
14 – Sweet Dreams – Blue Mountains
15 – Kaiser Resignation – Arapiles
16 – Watchtower Crack – Arapiles
17 – Flake Crack – Blue Mountains
18 – The Eternity – Blue Mountains
19 – Vanderholics – Nowra
20 – Eat My Spinning Blades of Steel – Nowra
21 – Kachoong – Arapiles
22 – Chip-a-holdaway – Kangaroo Point
23 – Split Wave – Blue Mountains
24 – Junket Pumper – Blue Mountains
25 – Rubber Lover – Blue Mountains
26 – Screaming Insanity – Coolum
27 – Passport to Insanity* – Grampians
28 – Spoonman – Coolum
29 – Eye of the Tiger – Grampians
30 – Evil Wears No Pants – Coolum
*Based on votes on LBP instagram – all others based on theCrag data.
The Crag Team
the Crag site GUI visual history
In Episode 10 I interview Christopher Glastonbury, a Queensland climber and mechanical engineer, that describes himself as a trad climber that likes to boulder between rests. He lived, worked and climbed in Norway for 5 years, and has spent the past 2 years travelling around Australia and the US with his partner, a previous Lay Back guest – Ashlee Hendy.
Chris spent his formative years in Townsville, climbing with his two close friends Steve Ioannou and Chris Beric. Together they form ‘The Three Monkeys’ and their combined psyche pushed climbing in Townsville through a burst of development. Over their school and university years they put up over 300 new lines in a range of styles, pushing the hardest grades of the area up in the process.
When Chris moved to Norway to study and work, his climbing didn’t slow down. We touch on the climbing scene there but mostly we dive into a story of an epic he got into climbing in the Lofoten Islands, where he describes himself as having ‘got away with murder’. It’s a tense experience that had a big impact on Chris, and the story had me on the edge of my seat.
We finish off the remainder of the podcast with a few anecdotes from Chris most recent travel around Australia and the US, including getting stuck in a hail storm on Freerider, and his knack for bumping into famous climbers.
Head over to Chris Beric’s vimeo page where you can watch a whole lot of footage of Townsville climbing and the adventures of The Three Monkeys.
Thanks goes out to Chris Beric, Lee Cujes and Ashlee Hendy for help in researching for this podcast. Further thanks to Chris Beric and also Steve Ioannou for use of their footage and images for the podcast and the above gallery.
In episode 9 of the Lay Back Podcast we feature Simon ‘Arnie’ Weill, a Victorian based climber known for his contributions to the development of bouldering in the Grampians. I had originally pegged Simon as a Boulderer that dabbles in a bit of Sport climbing, but Simon’s origins in climbing go back to early days climbing bluestone walls in Melbourne, followed by much time spent trad climbing in Arapiles. He has seen climbing change and evolve over the past two decades, and we discuss his origins in climbing, and the development of the bouldering scene in the Grampians over time.
In interviewing climbers, there is always the common thread of climbing, but I’m also interested in their lives around climbing. Simon tells us about running a restaurant, his other passion – Brazilian Ju Jitsu, and recently becoming a father.
You can find Simon Weill’s blog here. The video I referred to in the introduction with Simon on Middle Path at Muline is here. You can watch another interview here with Simon about the Man Hands cave put together by Side Trip Productions.
Vertical Life has also featured Simon a few times – check out an article here about his development in the Valley of the Giants, and here, an article featuring the Grampians bouldering regulars, with a bit about Simon.
In Episode 8 I sit down with Andy Pollitt, originally from Wales, Andy emigrated to Australia in the early 90s after numerous trips down here for long stints at Arapiles.
Andy grew up in North Wales and was the Rock Star of British climbing in the eighties, pushing standards with other climbers you may have heard of like Jerry Moffat and Martin ‘Basher’ Andersen. Andy’s climbing epitomised the bold British climbing ethic.
It would be impossible to cover all of Andy’s exploits in one podcast and we focus on a few in depth stories of him soloing the Great Wall, and his experience on the Bells, the Bells where his skin, as he puts it, emitted the ‘pungent smell of death’.
I wanted to understand what it was like coming to Australia as a foreign climber back in that time, and Andy drops us into his first experiences landing in Natimuk, competitive drinking with the locals and heading out to try Tapian routes with Malcolm Matheson. Andy went on to put up first ascents on Taipan including Rage – an alternate start to Serpentine, and that most popular route World Party – Andy gives us the inside as to why the bolts on that route might feel a little spacey.
Finally we get into Punks in the Gym, that iconic Australian route that Andy put 44 days of effort into in his pursuit for the first true redpoint ascent. Andy details his battle with the route, and why he restored the hold which is now possibly the most well known hold in Australian climbing – the Birdbath! Immediately after sending the route, Andy gave away his climbing gear and left climbing behind.
These days Andy lives not far from me in Melbourne, and has built out a career in rope access work. We caught up a few weeks ago on a Saturday morning – so you’ll notice a little bit of noise in the background at times as his neighbor get stuck into a bit of yard work.
The podcast picks up where Andy has hit the road with Jerry Moffat – for those of you who may not know, Jerry Moffat was a dominating force in climbing in the 80s and early 90s – when they both finished school, they hit the road for a crag called Tremadoc and ‘dossed’ or as we might call it, dirtbagged in a barn, living on 50 pence a day, and climbing as much as possible.
You can pick up a copy of Andy’s book from Pinnacle Sports online here. If you’re in Melbourne you can also pick up a copy at Northside Boulders.
The full interview from channel 9 with Andy can be watched here. You can read an interview with Andy here on UKC. Charlie Creese also interviewed Andy for his book launch and you can watch that here.
FFA: Wall of the Evening Light, The Diamond
FFA: Thormen’s Moth pic Phil Swainson
Andy took heat for this photo.
Andy at Arapiles in the early 90s.
Andy at Tremadoc
In Episode 7 of the Lay Back Podcast, I sit down with David Reeve – Long time climber and president of the Australian Climbing Association of Queensland. Outside Dave’s long history of climbing and mountaineering, he’s amassed an array of experience as a botanist, an academic, an engineer, an entrepreneur and in his role at the ACAQ. I was eager to pick his brain on a range of topics, and we ended up recording for 3 hours – This will be an epic – I’ve trimmed it back a bit and split the episode into two parts.
We start with Dave’s early climbing in the Queensland climbing scene in the 60s, and he shares some of his experiences in Alpinism and Mountaineering. We get into Dave’s professional career, which I think gives us a feel for how Dave approaches access issues.
The rest of the podcast we cover off on Access in climbing – We cover Dave’s contribution and experience as the head of ACAQ, and we get deep – the commodification of climbing and life in general, the rule of lord Makita – ethics around bolting, and Dave’s thoughts on how an access body should or should not get involved in those issues.
We talk ‘managing the stage’ and the power of legislation in ensuring outdoor recreation has a voice in the use of public land. We get into politics and Dave explains his thoughts on peacockery. We discuss cultural heritage, and the history and philosophy underpinning national parks and public land that forms the context of access issues today. It’s hard for me to summarise, because we cover a lot and it can get a bit free flowing at times.
Dave has shared many of his thoughts here at the ACAQ Facebook Page. You can join the ACA for Queensland here or the ACA for Victoria here.
You can get stuck into the YouTube rabbit whole that is archival footage and find the footage referenced at the end of the podcast here and here.
Thanks to Lee Cujes for use of his photos.
Dave in his home testing lab where he carries out work for the UIAA among other things
Dave at Kalymnos
Circa 60s, Brisbane Mountaineering Club with Dave seated second from the left
Dave in Kalymnos
Dave at Kalymnos
In episode 6 I sit down in Natimuk with Olivia Page – freelance photographer, climber, bootstrapping adventurer, and Arc’Teryx ambassador.
Olivia has been shooting adventure, travel and conservation for over a decade. We cover her stories from helicopter hunting in New Zealand, sailing around asia, dirtbagging in Arapiles, Federation peak in Tasmania, Yosemite, and an all-female expedition to attempt a first mountain peak traverse and first mountain ascent in the remote north of Fiordland in New Zealand.
Olivia is passionate about getting more Women outside and into trad, and she’s pushing many avenues to make it happen.
You can head over to Olivia’s website here to see more of her photography and find out about projects she is currently working on. Give her a like over here on Facebook, and follow Olivia on Instagram here.
You can rent or buy Winter on the Blade on demand on Vimeo here.
Thanks to Simon Bischoff for permission to use the tent guy rope masterpiece from WOTB.
Also, I may have called it ‘the Arapiles’ again – I’ll be at the pines next weekend and will take my lashings then.
In episode 5 I interview Dr Ashlee Hendy, a Melbourne based climber who has been climbing in the Victorian scene for almost 20 years. Ashlee has carved out an academic career in exercise science and neuroscience, and is currently on a career break and as I write this, climbing her way across North America with her partner Chris and dog Lulu.
Ashlee stopped through Melbourne en route to the US after a stint climbing in Tasmania this past summer, and I took the opportunity to sit down with Ashlee to record this episode at her family home.
We cover a lot of ground in this interview – Ashlee’s experiences climbing in Melbourne and Victoria throughout the years. Her academic career and the insights she can share where her research applies to climbing. She tells us how she attempts to manage the work life balance of that career around climbing and I ask her about her recent send of Serpentine, a route she had long dreamt about. We talk training the mental approach to climbing and the use of visualisation. Finally Ashlee tells us about her experiences climbing in the Grampians and Arapiles over the years, how that’s changed, and she gives us a peek into her climbing ambitions for the future.
You can follow Ashlee on instagram here, and check out the articles she wrote for Vertical Life magazine on Mind and Muscle Training.
Also, big thanks to Ashlee’s mother, who made a tasty lasagne for us to eat when we finished up the interview!
The Tokyo 2020 games are coming up fast, and in this episode I interview Olympic hopeful Lucy Stirling. She is one of Australia’s top competition climbers, and currently Oceania lead champion. Lucy is from Brisbane, Queensland, and has been climbing since age 13. She quickly found success in competition climbing, taking her to multiple Youth World Lead Championships. In 2014 Lucy became Australia Open Lead Champion and in 2017 Australian Bouldering Champion. On the international scene, Lucy represented Australia at the World Games in Poland in 2017 and has competed at Multiple Open World Cups!
Lucy was down in Victoria to train for speed climbing a month ago, and we sat down to talk about her climbing life, and the path ahead of her to get to Tokyo in 2020.
We cover Lucy’s progress through climbing, and the successive challenges she has faced throughout her competition climbing career. We get into how she trains, travelling for comps, outdoor climbing and those other non-climbing things in life.
You can find Lucy’s blog here, and follow her progress here on Instagram.
A selection of shots of Lucy competing and climbing outdoors throughout the years.
Going for the Dyno on Hairline (28) Photo: Slavik Titov
Grampians Photo: Patrik Banda
IFSC World Cup 2016 Photo: TeamAUS
World Games 2017 Photo: Polski Zwiazek Alipinzmu
2017 Bouldering World Cup Photo: Yanne Golev
2014 Australian Lead Titles