Grampians Bouldering Part IV – The Usual Suspects
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Simon Weill – The Punk
I think my first memory of Simon – or ‘Arnie’ as he is better known (so named for the little-known porn star, Arnold Schwarzenpecker) – was probably of him swaggering out of the bouldering cave at the now defunct Melbourne climbing gym, the Mill. He appeared from nowhere and yet was brutally strong, which was quite strange as, being the size and shape of a small tank, he didn’t have your classic lean climbers’ build.
Despite the fact he was pricklier than an ball cactus, it wasn’t long before we started climbing together. While Arnie could climb all over me in the gym, outdoors it was a different story. He mostly thought your feet were for kicking people (while they were down) and that ‘technique’ was some fancy French word for putting someone in a headlock. Sadly, his technique and footwork slowly caught up with his strength, and Arnie quickly left me in the dust. (Although I still like to remind him of the time he backed off halfway up Blimp (20) at Bundaleer and I had to take over.)
It was probably when the Tower was being developed that Arnie’s thirst for climbing new lines really took off. Julian Saunders began development of the area, but it was Simon who finished it off. However, it was with Arnie’s move to Moyston near the Grampians – to dedicate himself to teaching English and improving the lives of the disadvantaged young people of Ararat – that he stepped it up. His move coincided with the realisation amongst some Halls Gap locals that there was actually a lot of rock around town that had long been ignored. Someone made the mistake of showing Arnie, and so the Arnie Show began. At Venus Baths, the Bleachers, the Valley of the Giants and other still-secret areas, Arnie smashed out hundreds of classics over his weekends and long, luxurious, tax-payer-funded school holidays. Some of his best lines involve classic Weill burl, things like the fridge-hugging Red Mist (V12), while others are high and terrifying, like his recent addition, Korean Jesus (V5), where the hardest move is a last, long slap to the top, well above the ground. These days Arnie is a leaner, less-meaner version of the young punk I first met in the gym. But some things remain unchanged, the desire to crush stone into dust and his great love of smack talk.
Dave Jones – The Artist
Before there was Dave Jones, father, homeowner and Elder Statesman of Natimuk, there was Dave Jones, the dirt-bagger of the Pines, of barefeet, dreads and shoulders that would make an Olympic rower proud. But while he had the eye-catching physique, Dave has never been a show man (despite putting on actual shows these days).
In my mind, Dave’s always been the fossicker, always out there nutting away at things, climbing stuff well before anyone else climbs it – but you’d never know unless you ask him. Dave was one of the originators of Grampians bouldering, he’s probably climbed and forgotten more than most people have actually climbed.
I can remember one of the first times I bouldered with Dave. It was in Andersens on the Sydney Highrise and it was after several days of climbing in a row for both of us. He was trying what was to become French Toast (he climbed it that day), and was crimping up on desperate little dimples. I made a few desultory tries myself, but gave up quickly, complaining about the pain from my tips. It was then that I noticed Dave’s tips – they were bleeding. But I didn’t hear any complaints.
For a long time Dave was the best climber in Victoria – and for an even longer time the best climber from Victoria (most of the best being immigrants from elsewhere) – but you’d never know it from his manner. Funnily enough, even though he must be in his early 40s, he is still one of the best climbers in Victoria. The dreads are gone and he’s a little less V-shaped, but he’s still out there climbing hard routes and boulders, still finding news lines and climbing them, and still mostly going under the radar.