Ryan Siacci outlines the beauty and the (tips) carnage of the upcoming Passchendaele V2 Bouldering Festival, which is happening the weekend of 20 October.
Exactly a century ago, the Allies and the Germans were engaged in a terrible and titanic struggle as they fought for control of the land around Ypres, Belgium. Some of the bloodiest battles of the Great War took place in the apocalyptic hellscape near Passchendaele, a small village reduced to a smouldering ruin by years of trench warfare.
Half a world away, a few localities in South East Queensland’s Granite Belt pay homage to the sacrifices made on the Western Front. With the Passchendaele V2 Bouldering Festival soon to kick off in the eponymous State Forest, war is upon us once again. This time, it’s not for King and Empire, but rather a gruelling war of attrition – tender skin versus unyielding granite. Thankfully, the battles to come will not be as grim or tragic as those which have gone before, but they may prove just as bloody and contain an equal or greater number of curse words.
A relative latecomer on the SEQ bouldering scene, Passchendaele didn’t see much action until 2013. A guide was released by Peter Crane in 2015, but P’daele (as it’s often called in order to avoid the encumbrance of such an unwieldy and, frankly, unspellable title) didn’t truly come into the spotlight until the inaugural V1 festival was held in October 2016. Even now, untouched areas and new problems are being unearthed with each and every visit, all admirably encapsulated within a beautiful online guide (www.peter-crane.com)
Now, with the fog of war lifted and the battlelines redrawn, 200 pebble-wrestlin’ warriors are poised to fight the good fight once again. V2 promises to be an even bigger and bolder (no pun intended) festival than last year, wherein Brisbane-based climbing company Pinnacle Sports hopes to build on the successes of V1.
‘The birth of the festival really came from three mates who saw the potential for this beautiful area to host something special,’ explains Adam West, who is the General Manager at Pinnacle and who may or may not also be Batman. ‘All three are local legends who have had a huge impact on the Queensland climbing community over the years.’
These three wise men are AJ Amies (Pinnacle Sports), Scott Camps (Scotty Dog Resoles) and the aforementioned Peter Crane. Together, they explored the area and laid the foundations regarding the ethos by which the festival would stand. Apart from the obvious celebration of the sport of bouldering, they hoped to promote environmentally sustainable practices and bolster the strength of the climbing community. It’s the combined passion of the participants that gives the event its magic.
‘It’s awesome to see all these people gathered to share their love of bouldering,’ Adam says. ‘Many connections get made over the weekend, connections that continue on throughout the year and beyond. We also have a phenomenal crew of volunteers, all of whom are dedicated to making this festival an all-out, cracking experience for everyone.’
One of the returning volunteers (or perhaps ‘repeat offender’ is a more accurate term) is local crusher Alex Mougenot, who began frothing about the event as soon as I caught up with him. I put the hard word on him, demanding concrete reasons for which folks should part with a few hard-earned clams for a golden ticket to P’daele V2.
‘You’ll never get that experience anywhere else,’ he explains. ‘A bouldering weekend with your mates is great, but it’s not the same. Everyone at the festival is psyched and they’re all driven by the same goals. There’ll be ten people spotting you, 20 people cheering you on. The motivation, the hype… it’s unreal.’
It also helps somewhat that it’s the best bouldering to be found in at least a 500km radius, he tells me. Deep amongst the pines, a bounty of granite monoliths lies hidden. Given that these obstacles pose no small amount of difficulty for loggers, the boulders have protected small enclaves of native bush, providing stark contrast to the rank and file of the forestry plantation. From one move wonders to heady highballs, the cracks and slabs of
Passchendaele are some of the best that the Granite Belt has to offer.
The festival campsite is now sited within walking distance of these boulders, meaning the logistical wizardry needed to shuttle punters around at V1 is a thing of the past. This, in addition to the streamlined format of V2, ensures the best bang for your buck in a limited timeframe. A delicate balance of structure and freedom has been fine-tuned by the folks at Pinnacle, and the local knowledge from volunteers will help you locate the best problems for your skill level with a minimum of faff.
And they must be on to something, as several big-name sponsors have come on board to support these two days and nights of epic boulder warfare. Four major sponsors (Black Diamond, Edelrid, Evolv and Marmot) and an additional six supporting sponsors have each contributed something special to a swag of booty totalling in excess of $8k. In the interest of equity, anyone has a shot at taking home the spoils of war – a green recruit has just as much chance of winning a boulder mat as a seasoned V12 gladiator.
Add to the mix some morning yoga sessions, a handful of technique clinics, a screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival: Radical Reels program, a sumptuous post-send feast, and, perhaps most important of all, coffee, and you’ve got yourself a bit of a cracker.
With early bird tickets entirely sold out, the initial demand for P’daele V2 seems to have outstripped expectations. Undoubtedly, some of these are the erstwhile participants of V1. These grizzled granite veterans will know what to expect when they return to the fray, but what of newcomers? How should they prepare?
‘Brush up on your spotting skills,’ says Alex. ‘And your falling skills for that matter. If you’re more comfortable bouldering in the gym, going outside can be a bit of a mental shift.’
Training is great, of course, but don’t forget to rest up before the event. You’ll need all the strength you can muster to take down incumbent super-classics like Wild Honey, a V10 fridge-huggin’ masterpiece, or The Explorer’s Club, a technical and slabby V4.
And one last pearl of wisdom… tucked neatly inside each V2 Goodie Bag, participants will find an indispensable item – a roll of tape. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t bring more.
Remember, folks – the road to victory is paved with athletic tape.
Ryan is one of the friends of Passchendaele, read more from him at his website here.