North Black Range Boulder Meet, 15-16 October 2016

Katariina Rahikainen reports on this year’s event at the North Black Range in Tallaganda National Park, NSW, near Canberra. All photos by Jogi.

When I flicked through my Facebook news feed and saw an invitation from North Black Range Boulder Meet, I hoorayed. I went to my first North Black Range Festival two years ago and had a lot of fun. Not often do you get to climb those mysterious granite boulders with zero friction (if the weather is even a bit warm) and grainy surface (unless, of course, you are in Finland). It feels like bouldering on granite requires even more body awareness and positioning than on sandstone. Although relentless, granite bouldering can also be quite rewarding. (I spent probably more than 1.5 hours on the first move of a boulder problem two years ago in North Black until I found a sneaky little toe-hook and sent it straight away). I didn’t need another excuse to go to North Black Range this year! North Black is a place that is often dormant (a brush is a must for some less popular licheny problems!), although it’s been on the bouldering map since the late ‘90s. Most, though maybe not all, of the main problems are more than ten years old.

The early bird crowd already in full swing on Friday evening climbing classic and having a blast.

The early bird crowd already in full swing on Friday evening climbing classic and having a blast.

Taking part in the North Black Range Festival doesn’t require much – other than your bouldering and camping gear. The best bet is to pack all the food and water you need for the weekend – unless you want to be driving back and forth on the dirt roads. To be honest, it is much nicer just to be in the bush for the whole weekend and not having to worry about driving to town (which is not super close by). You can also put your phone on flight mode to save battery whilst there – unless you happen to have a certain provider, your phone is only good for taking pictures. A four-wheel drive is good, but not a must. Low clearance, however, is not recommended. If you don’t own a four-wheel drive, hiking up the hill to the furthest boulders is also possible – though not necessarily recommended. It does give you a good warm-up – although the stereotypical lifestyle boulderers may faint halfway…

Granite boulders require solid mantling skills and sometimes some friendly encouragement from above.

Granite boulders require solid mantling skills and sometimes some friendly encouragement from above.

During the meet, the gist is to find the boulders you like and try them. There is no one telling you to ‘go there’ or ‘this is the competition boulder’, like some of the first timers were asking me. Simply: you rock up, set your tent up, grab your pads and off you go! After you shred most of the skin that you have in reserve for the weekend, you start to wander back towards the camp.

On Saturday a pad-stacking competition was organised for 4pm. Perhaps drawing on wisdom learnt from two years ago, the comp was pushed back a couple of hours – keen boulderers were wrestling pebbles at the time. I must admit I was a bit reluctant at first. Pad-stacking? That’s for kids, right? What are you supposed to do anyway? It turns out it is similar to crate stacking – but there are two of you, and you both have to stand on the ever-increasing stack of pads while they are being given to you. (And, apparently, even if you ‘accidentally’ decide to ‘go solo’ mid-comp and push your mate off the pad, you are still in…) Your landing is surrounded by pads – plus the higher you get, the more spotters surround you! The pad-stacking comp turned out to be soooo much fun. I bet that it gave some good laughs even for those few spectators who refused to take part (there were not many!).

The first instalment of Crashpad Cinema in full swing and showing the amazing new Australian short film "Before It Falls" starring TNF's own Lee Cossey.

The first instalment of Crashpad Cinema in full swing and showing the amazing new Australian short film “Before It Falls” starring TNF’s own Lee Cossey.

After the comp there was time to cook a quick feast – and get back to the ‘main site’ to watch a few cool climbing films that Duncan Brown had set up to show. Amongst others was the previewing of the new film Before it Falls (featuring Lee Cossey) by Matthew Farrell and Simon Bischoff – it was great to watch a rad film before the crowds had a chance to!

Arguably the best part of the weekend: The Pad Stacking Championships.

Arguably the best part of the weekend: The Pad Stacking Championships.

First, though, was the prize give-out. Nothing better than freebies at a free festival! Packages were put together for the pad-stacking masters (six pads on top of another – with a fair few triple layers!), best female and male boulder ascent of the day, and the most boulders done during the day. For those afraid that the festival may turn out to be too big of a party and get no sleep – at least this year it wasn’t. Most of the people seemed to go back to their tents pretty much straight after the movies. Good to save some gas for the next day anyway!

Having so many pads in one place means an opportunity for the strong folk to try and put some of the best and hardest unclimbed lines to the test. Pat Reynolds coming close to an ascent of the notorious rig, "The Riddle".

Having so many pads in one place means an opportunity for the strong folk to try and put some of the best and hardest unclimbed lines to the test. Pat Reynolds coming close to an ascent of the notorious rig, “The Riddle”.

Apparently, the boulder meet ‘didn’t require much organising at all.’ Still, from somewhere there miraculously happened to be portaloo on site (Parks must be happy!), a projector and a screen, and tons of good stuff from festival sponsors, arranged by Duncan. It is great that the meet is free, as probably more people are keen to join. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing a donation box somewhere, to throw in a few gold coins to cover the running costs. Even if it does only cost Duncan ‘a few hundred dollars’, to a lifestyle climber ever that amount of money is a lot.

To sum up, North Black Range Boulder Meet is a great, low-threshold community event that, amongst other things, keeps the boulders clean, and hopefully continues in the following years! Big hand to the organisers and anyone who helped in any way.

Katariina Rahikainen is a Sydney/Blue Mountains based climber from Finland. She puts responsibilities aside a bit too often to go out climbing. Kat is sponsored by Kailas and CAMU.

You can find out more about the festival here.

The event is sponsored by Athlete by Choice, Bloc Haus, The North Face, Climbing Anchors, Summit Warriors, Black Diamond, Awesome Woodies, Goal Zero and Evolv.

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