Grampians Bouldering Part II – The Usual Suspects

Grampians Bouldering Part II – The Usual Suspects

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Klem Loskot – The Revolutionary
Screams echo through Stapylton Amphitheatre, bouncing off the cirque of cliffs and disappearing out into the horizon of paddocks. A break. More screams. ‘Kommmm, Kommm, Kommmmmmm.’ Was someone being murdered?

Confused by echoes, I look around, searching. Eventually I work it out. The screams are coming from high above the left end of Taipan, from a series of wind-scooped caves. Amidst the blood-curdling screams I also hear the distinctive piping voice, in contrast to the screams, like a choir boy whose balls are yet to drop – my mate Jules.

I call up from the base of Taipan. Jules shouts down, and I solo up the photographer’s access at the left end of the wall. I reach the caves – what would become known as the Ground Control Caves – out of breath. Jules and I chat, and I check out the cave where they’d just climbed a few new lines. I also spot an unlikely series of holds, which almost seemed like it might make a problem, before Jules introduces me to ‘the Austrians’, foremost among them Klem Loskot.

I’d heard whisper about Klem and the Austrians down in Melbourne. I’d also read a short profile of Klem in Rock & Ice, so I knew something about this prodigy. Along with Fred Nicole, he was up there as the best boulderer in the world. Klem had done the first repeat of Nicole’s Radja (V13/14) in 1997, as well as climbing his own contender for the world’s first V14, Nanuk. In an era of short, whippet-thin sport climbers, the article had made special mention of his ‘massive’ size – six foot tall and weighing in at 190 pounds (86kg). Despite his weight, the article had also mentioned that those who saw Klem climb were struck by the lightness of his movement, his flow.

If only you could hear the associated screams as Klem makes the first ascent of Killer Dwarf (V11). Ross Taylor

If only you could hear the associated screams as Klem makes the first ascent of Killer Dwarf (V11). Ross Taylor

Klem didn’t seem that big to me, but perhaps that was only in comparison to the one of the other ‘Austrians’, the German Toni Lamprecht. Toni was fucking massive, maybe six foot four with biceps the size of your head, red hair and bright-blue berserker eyes.

Klem began brushing up the line of holds I’d spotted, then trying them. It involved a long move to a slope off good edges, then somehow he had to drop back into a massive gaston sloper. He tried it a few times, then rested briefly, chalked up and tried again. Klem made the big move to the slope, twisted slightly, then exploded, doing a double-dyno to the sloper. I remember as he swung he instinctively pulled his legs up to decrease his swing. A couple more moves to top out and Killer Dwarf (V11) was born. It was the hardest boulder I’d ever seen climbed and Klem had done it in five minutes.

Through the remainder of the trip I got to see more of Klem in action. He was an amazing dynamic climber, explosive and totally committed. It also opened my eyes to how much harder you can climb with the right motivation. Klem was famous for banshee screaming – the screaming I had heard – and he would scream right in your ear as you climbed. If you didn’t fall off with shock, you would literally climb three grades harder than you ever had before.

By the end of Klem’s trip, he and the Austrians had totally revolutionised Australian bouldering – his power scream continues to echo through the Grampians. He put the Grampians on the map and created the foundation of hard problems that would see the next generation of Australian boulderers climbing much, much harder than any that had come before.

Julian Saunders – The Frother
Was there ever a more unlikely boulderer than Jules? Back in the late ‘90s – when Jules still had an outrageous gravity- and hair-brush defying explosion of ginger hair – if you’d looked up the definition of ‘pumper’ you may well have come across a photo of Julian. In fact, his first attempt at bouldering was a disaster. Dave Jones recently told me a story about one of Jules’ first bouldering experiences. Jules had run out of steam at the top of American Dream at Andersens. The landing below American Dream is a horrible jumble of boulders and back then they didn’t have any pads, so rather than letting Jules fall, Dave managed to pin him against the rock and call for help. Others came running and pinned other limbs, until there were enough of them to all lift him bodily off the rock and back onto to solid earth.

Eventually Julian did get into bouldering, getting caught up in the excitement of Klem Loskot and the Austrians. And once he was motivated Jules had all the energy of the born again. He developed a particular obsession with Andersens, which at one point we jokingly started to call ‘Saundersens’, because it was literally impossible to get him to go elsewhere. It was only recently, when I was doing the guide and adding first ascent details, that I realised how much he’s done there – possibly as many as a quarter of the problems in the area, from the easy to the very hard – Jules is the Agent of Orange of climbing, he touches everything.

Julian was always Wet With Excitement (V6) at the thought of a new line. Ross Taylor

Julian was always Wet With Excitement (V6) at the thought of a new line. Ross Taylor

Two things always amazed me about Jules (apart from his spatula fingers, limitless optimism and love of avocados). One was his persistence. He might get shut down initially, but he would always keep working away, figuring out beta, getting stronger on the problem. He would also break down moves, getting me to take a ‘bottle or two’ – give him a gentle boost – so we could work out the feel of the move, get the movement engrained so that he could apply his strength more efficiently. The second thing was that Jules has an extra gear. I am not sure where the extra gear comes from, but I have a feeling it is desire. He often just wants it more than anyone else. He’s one of those relatively rare climbers for whom first ascents are their lifeblood, he is obsessed by them – and he can channel this desire into surprising moments of power for someone who is not very strong by modern standards.

Of course, you rarely see this raw desire, because it hides below the sociable, easy-going, pleasure-loving surface of his personality. But it’s there, waiting to explode at the first sign of new lines.
Ross Taylor

Read other pieces in our Grampians bouldering series:
Part I  Romanticising the Stone – Halls Gap

Wanna be the first to get the new Grampians Bouldering guide? Pre-order your copy of Grampians Bouldering now!

This piece is taken from issue seventeen of Vertical LifeDownload the magazine here.

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