First Ascent of Australia's Hardest Multipitch for Wiz Fineron

© Wiz Fineron

Former Llanberis resident Wiz Fineron recently moved to Australia and has been making the most of the fantastic rock on offer. The 20 year-old has just made first ascent of Australia's hardest multipitch sport route with BAM! (Boron Aluminum Magnesium - a material that is harder than Teflon, apparently...) - a 4 pitch extension to an existing route Teflon graded at 31/8b, situated in one of Australia's only limestone climbing destinations known as Bungonia Gorge.

Wiz on the first ascent of BAM!
© Zac Vertrees

Impressively, Wiz and climbing partner Zac managed a team free ascent of the route, each managing to lead every pitch successfully. We got in touch with Wiz to find out more about the route and his plans now that he is living Down Under...

What's the story of the route and how did you get to know about it?

The route was first bolted by Zac Vertrees (local Australian strongman responsible for equipping and climbing a lot of hard routes in Australia) known for his joy in sandbagging and sparsely bolted routes. e.g Groove Train. The route was equipped some 8 or so years ago but has not been tried too much as he has struggled to find consistent partners to join him on his quest to climb a hard multi pitch. "I didnt have much money at the time" was his reasoning for his conservative bolting method resulting in some mentally challenging but great mandatory climbing between sections. I heard about the route from Zac as climbing is always high up on the conversation topic list and since arriving in Australia I had been keen for an adventure other than just single pitch sport climbing, so when this came up I showed massive enthusiasm for it and that was it. A couple of weeks later we headed down together to see if we could finally put the jigsaw pieces together. 

What is the climbing like? 

Pitch 1 31/8b 22m - A steep barrel of slopey limestone known for its unique texture (A fine layer of dust that you just have to learn how to use to your advantage) A combination of powerful yet very pumpy climbing all on open handed slopers with the exception of the 'nipple hold' which you make a tricky jump off to a jug. 

Pitch 2 24/7a+ 20m - An interesting lip encounter (could be difficult if short) followed by some great technical moves up a slab. Some questionable rock. 

Pitch 3 28/7c+ 50m - Originally split into two pitches with the second being a short grade 16/5c with a total of zero bolts for about 15 metres. We chose to link this in with the previous pitch for efficiency reasons creating the longest pitch of the route with the crux right at the beginning, pulling through a steep bulge on amazing fluted limestone pockets. The climbing eases off for the remaining two thirds of the pitch with delicate slab climbing requiring a steady head from bolt to bolt. 

Pitch 4 29/8a 40m - Another proud steep barreling bulge in a great position high up on the wall. The route works its way through some beautiful water-polished crimps trending left with the steep wall dropping away beneath. Sustained pumpy climbing split by 3 major tufa blobs splitting the pitch into 4 sections finishing with a heart-breaking final move pulling over the last bulge to the belay. 

Pitch 5 27/7c 15m - Short but punchy pitch on great water-carved rock with hard moves directly from the belay. It's not over till it's over. 

How long did it take you to work the pitches?

The pitches individually were not too bad. We spent two weekends in a row working the route. The first weekend was spent working and dialing in the first pitch (the crux pitch), which I climbed on my second go and Zac just had to reacquaint himself with it having done it years before. We also checked out the rest of the pitches but were not too stressed about redpointing them individually as the main focus was to get the sequences dialled to return the following weekend with more time to go for it in one push. It soon became obvious that it was going to be more difficult than we anticipated for everything to come together at the same time for us to both free every pitch (the first being the main obstacle). It took a couple of days for Zac to redpoint the first pitch again but on Sunday he clipped the chains and suddenly the pressure was on.

Zac enjoying BAM! - Australia's hardest multipitch sport route  © Zac Vertrees
Zac enjoying BAM! - Australia's hardest multipitch sport route
© Zac Vertrees

From experience, I knew that seconding hard pitches is often harder than leading them so I knew it was going to be a challenge. On the first attempt I fell, lowered back down clipping the rope back into the quickdraws, rested and tried again - this time with success. Both of us were surprised at how hard it was to repeat the first pitch again, now worried that we may have 'blown our load'. It was smooth-sailing from here to the 4th pitch and it was my turn to lead. Still with a deep pump I set off putting the draws in as I went, climbing well all the way to the last move where I then punted off. What a rookie!

I lowered back down and during my rest time Zac took the opportunity to give it a go, climbing like a boss he took it to the chains. Again with the fear that I may have blown my load on my last attempt, we knew that seconding such a pitch would have been harder so we pulled the rope and I tied into the sharp end again. The pressure was on once again but with a refined final sequence I pulled through the final bulge and clipped the belay. Now all we had left was the final punchy 27/7c pitch, but first Zac had to jumar and strip the pitch (legend). From there I lead on and a little while later Zac joined me at the top and that was it, the route was done. 

You're no stranger to hard multipitches - having made the first British ascent of Silbergeier 8b+. What is it that you enjoy about tackling a hard multi pitch climb?

I guess you could say I am no longer a stranger to the multipitch scene but I still feel pretty fresh with it all. I really enjoy figuring out the logistics behind it - testing my rope skills etc - and with this there are always some unforeseen epics that make for good stories later down the line. For example, our first time on this route together saw us dealing with some major rope clusterF*#@s, plummeting shoes and much more general multipitch shenanigans. All the more exciting when it's not just a clip-up and the mental side of climbing really has to kick in.

Wiz Fineron - feet in the haul bag to keep warm on Silbergeier.  © Calum Muskett
Wiz Fineron - feet in the haul bag to keep warm on Silbergeier.
© Calum Muskett

What makes it more of a challenge than simply redpointing a hard single pitch? (other than the volume of climbing!)

With this route, right from the beginning we wanted to do it together and for us both to free every pitch from the ground up. Despite knowing we were both capable of climbing the individual pitches, the challenge was making sure everything all came together for both of us at the same time. For example, look at Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson (obviously on a much bigger scale) on the Dawn Wall. A team free ascent requires two climbers at similar abilities to both come together. There is no room for one person to have a bad day. This is harder to achieve than you think. 

What's next, now you are living in Australia?

The climbing here is amazing and the Blue Mountains especially has always been somewhere special to me. Therefore after a long time on the road I've decided to make this my base and combine my love for training with climbing as well as work. The weather is great and the climbing is even better. The Blue Mountains is a place that's hard to beat.

Wiz battling cold and damp on the 7a+ pitch of Silbergeier  © Calum Muskett
Wiz battling cold and damp on the 7a+ pitch of Silbergeier
© Calum Muskett

Have you got your eye on any other multipitch routes anywhere else in the world?

Of course! Ever since climbing in the high mountains with Calum Muskett back in 2014 I have dreamt about returning. Hopefully one day I can make this dream come true as there are many amazing long routes out there that I would love to test myself on. 

Read Wiz's Desert Island Climbs article.

Wiz is sponsored by: Climb Skin, DMM, Five Ten, Rab and V12

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4 Apr, 2016
Wiz and Zak do BAM? Yay
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