Dan Fisher has just climbed a long-standing project at Cheesedale in Nowra to produce the Big Cheese (34), which is, along with White Ladder, now Nowra’s equal hardest route. According to our sources, Tony Barton was the first climber to check out the line, beginning bolting the line from the top down, a process finished by Al Pryce, who managed to do all the moves. Matt Adams also had a crack at doing the route, managing to do all the moves and link sections, before abandoning the route (and his ‘draws). We spoke to Dan to find out more about his ascent.
You recently climbed the first ascent of Nowra’s equal hardest route, the Big Cheese at Cheesedale, can you tell us a little bit about how you came across the route?
So the climb is the extension of an existing route – Metamorphosis (29) – at Cheesedale. As long as I can remember there has always been ‘draws on the extension (Matt Adams’, I think). The line of ‘draws has always been so enticing: hanging silhouettes drawing the eye of every climber in the area. I think I first jumped on it about three years ago, I couldn’t figure out the crux section that’s right after the anchors of Metamorphosis. From after the crux to the end was okay, it felt about 29 with a cheeky crux guarding the chains. Then about two months ago I jumped back on it and figured out the crux section, since then I have been training non-stop and been down the just about every weekend – to the slight dismay of my partner.
What is the style of the route and its main difficulties?
The route is so steep, so much steepness. The 29 has a hard section at the bottom, then about 10m of really easy climbing, then you punch into 12 hard moves before clipping the anchors of the 29. There is no shake at the anchors and you step right into the route’s crux: about ten hard moves in which you flip backwards and toe hook on a really rounded ledge, before dropping onto your toes and flipping back around towards your hands. So in simple terms a 360-degree spin through a roof at around V11 or V12. It took me a good two days fiddling and refining beta to come up with that sequence. Every single time I got on the climb I tried different beta, but as far as I could figure out that was the only way to get through the section. From there this crux it’s then a 15m roof to the end at about grade 29.
Is it the biggest roof route in Nowra?
The Big Cheese is your second 34 after White Ladder, they look to be very different styles, did one suit you more that the other?
I think that The Big Cheese probably suited me better, I am really good at recovering, which is what it is all about. As well I think the upside-down toe-hooks are what you expect to be doing in bouldering comps, which I have spent so long training for over the years.
Did you have train specifically for the route?
Haha, I did a lot of really weird exercises actually. So I fell off on the move where you drop your feet before rotating around for the toe-hooks. So to train for this I was clamping a 6kg ball between my legs and replicating the swing over and over. I was also hanging from my toes on just about everything I could find. Also plenty of 4x4s.
Are there any more projects at Nowra that you have you eye on that are at a similar difficulty or harder? Surely it must be time for Nowra to get a grade 35?
Haha, both Simon (Carter) and Rob (LeBreton) were trying to get me to grade The Big Cheese 35. Look, there are definitely a few more hard lines ready to go down at Nowra, if there is a 35 hidden in there that’s a different story. There is another line that I have had my eye on for a while now down at Cheesedale that I remember being harder that The Big Cheese, but that’s not to say that is a full grade harder – only time will tell.
Now that you’ve climbed a couple of 34s, do you have your eye on one Australia’s two grade 35s?
I think there are three 35s? Alex Megos has two and Tom one. Short answer is no, from Canberra it’s 3.5 hours to the mountains, and projecting at your limit requires a lot of time and energy. At the moment I am just happy climbing, I am getting married in less than a month so climbing is going to take a back seat over the next few weeks. But after that I have a line in Canberra that I have been working towards for the last few years that I am hoping to put to rest. It’s not quite 35 but it’s definitely taken a lot of work.