Perfecto Bloc Cage Match


Cherry Picking or On the Beach – which is the Grampians’ best V13? We asked our panel of bouldering experts, David Mason, Adam Watson and Niky Ceria, all of whom have done both, to give us their reasoned opinion.

WORDS & IMAGES: As credited

We humans are weighers and assessors. We see contrast and difference and our minds are calibrated to compare. This with that, one with the other, Granny Smith vs Pink Lady, Aliens or C3s, was Stalin worse than Hitler? Climbs are also subject to our need to sit in judgement, so we thought we’d look at two of the Grampians’ best boulders. Want to start working a V13, but just not sure which one? Don’t worry our Perfecto Bloc Cage Match will settle it for you.

Round 1 – David Mason

Upstanding Brit who recently crashed through the colonies, training sage, Official Team GB Bouldering Team manager, lover of underdogs.

Tough question; like comparing Pelé with Michael Jordan, Malcolm X with Martin Luther King Jnr, or a Cherry Ripe with a Tim Tam!

I’m going to look at three aspects: situation, movement and line. Whilst both problems wipe the floor with most other climbs in each aspect, only one can take glory!

OTB sits in pride of place amongst the Trackside Boulders and below the mighty Taipan Wall. Ogled for years by passing climbers who wondered if the pockmarked, barrelled wall was even possible, finally in 2011 Dave Graham unlocked the sequence.

The walk to Buandik is a killer but just wait till you see CP; it’s bigger and better than you imagine and the view is breathtaking. The stillness and quiet of Buandik is very special; a waterfall cascades down the opposite hillside, the orange and pink glow as the sun begins to set is a sight to behold. CP just pips OTB to the post on situation.

In terms of movement, it’s another close call. The climbing on OTB is like being at a buffet where you can only have one plate of food and you just want to sample everything! From toe-hooks and knee-scums, to cut looses and campusing, a climb has never been so varied and yet demanded so much subtlety for success.

In comparison CP is simple, but that is not a pejorative. Upon doing each move a smile spreads across your face wider than the Cheshire Cats. The moves are like soul food, they just feel so damn good.

Dave Mason slots in the knee-scum and prepares for the ecstatic finish of On the Beach. Image by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk

Dave Mason slots in the knee-scum and prepares for the ecstatic finish of On the Beach. Image by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk

Variety, though, is the spice of life so OTB takes the win here.

Line is then the decider, the final count down, the grand finale! Both of these problems are awe-inspiring hunks of rock and even before visiting the Grampians I knew I wanted to, no, scratch that, had to climb them. OTB is the king of the northern Grampians and CP its counterpart in the southern Grampians, they wage war for the power to rule the entire kingdom.

OTB is in your face as you walk up the hill, it’s there for all to see, CP is hidden away and if you didn’t know it was there you might miss it. Both are a good height and have glory jugs to finish, allowing you to deeply savour success. Both have a perfect jug to start and both boast incredible quality of rock. The landings are pretty perfect on each although OTB has a drop off that feels a little close for comfort and CP has an awkward rock slab that bruises the heels when being spat off the last move.

It’s a tight call but I give the ‘line’, by the narrowest of margins, to CP – it’s just utter class! Based on my scores then the win then goes to CP. But I’m going to reverse the decision and – judge’s decision is final – give OTB the win!!

Although I loved (nearly) every minute of climbing on CP I just didn’t find it quite as rewarding. I quickly got to the last move and getting there from the ground every time was almost a formality, and it was frustrating dropping the same move over and over. That’s climbing, right? But I just didn’t enjoy the process, or have as much fun climbing CP as I did OTB. OTB was varied and intricate, I thrived on and loved the time spent working out the subtleties, how to cut loose with just the right arm and finger position, the tension required to catch the toe hooks and body position to make the knee-scum and deep-lock move feel just right.

Standing atop both was a pleasure, leaving Australia without both in my bag would have been disappointing, but if I had to choose only one to have taken home it would be On The Beach. I also think nine out of ten cats would choose Cherry Picking and Brits love an underdog!


Round 2 – Adam Watson

Visiting Brit, strong frother with very long arms and an infectious positive attitude of loving everything.

Both are in amazing locations on super pretty rock, with nice holds and fun moves, an extra positive being they’re in the shade for most of the day.

On the Beach is beautiful, the holds arc through the centre of the steep boulder with great colours and features. Sitting proudly underneath the famous Taipan wall, to me the boulder looks like a giant flying saucer atop a pedestal. I tried it first because it’s easier to get to and also because it looked more complicated. With tricky toe-hooks low down and a knee-bar through the crux, it took me a while to figure out the little subtleties within each move that would work for my body type. It really takes it out of your core and my abs were destroyed after my first session. This showed on my second session, I repeatedly fell out of the knee-bar as I didn’t do the moves leading into it efficiently. It was frustrating. I couldn’t just pull a bit harder on it, I had to learn the movement, to execute the sequence perfectly to have a chance of doing the last hard moves. Part of the problem was I had difficulty resting for long enough between goes because I was too excited to get back on. The attempt I finally topped out didn’t feel amazing, my body felt tired and I never felt secure, but I managed to hit every move right and flowed through. Working out my sequence, succeeding and yet never quite feeling comfortable is what made On the Beach so enjoyable.

The walk up to Buandik is long, but that only makes Cherry Picking more satisfying – it feels like an adventure. The boulder is beautiful, all the holds are on the perfect angle to complement each other and it has great presence, if a little intimidating. Big and steep and with only one feasible sequence – either I was going to be strong enough to climb it or I wasn’t, and that added to the pressure. On my first session I got completely shut down. It’s powerful and very crimp-strength dependant, so I couldn’t have many goes before I was too tired. After two rest days I went back and made good progress falling off the last move four times, but I was so worked I had to have a lie down before I could walk out! The last hold is a really good slot that’s difficult to hit, it’s hard to feel you’re progressing when you fall repeatedly from the same move. Then in my final session I managed to hit the last hold for the first time. I cut loose and readjusted, it was the driving determination of knowing this was my last chance that made me hold on and march to glory at the top. The incredible views and the long, steep walk in add to Cherry Picking’s intensity, but it’s the climb that makes it one of my all time favourites. Each move gets more difficult until that final, precise big move. Holding it was by far one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve had in 20 years of climbing.

Mike Wickwire in the thick of Cherry Picking. Image by Ross Taylor

Mike Wickwire in the thick of Cherry Picking. Image by Ross Taylor

So both are world class. If you like a bit of tension and technique, On the Beach is for you. With its many different sequences it was a real joy to work. Cherry Picking is a try-hard-big-move climb where you feel like a beast when you’re strong, but a kitten when you’re not. It’s a full on fight to the death and the joy comes from the whole process. But there can be only one, and Cherry Picking felt more satisfying. It was the climb I was desperate to try before I came to Australia and the one I wasn’t completely confident about – it’s the Grampians best V13.


Round 3 – Niky Ceria

Italian Stallion who’s made a couple of trips to the Grampians, strong and thoughtful, honest to a fault.

Comparing two boulders and choosing which one is the best is never simple. Never.

Tons of factors can make a line great and most of these points would never pass through the mind of many climbers. Evaluating quality is always a charming topic to me and I get excited talking about this. Some of the parameters I look for are rock quality, texture, colours, aesthetic, climbing style, kind of holds, environment, starting position, logic, pureness, but there are also many others, making this list extremely long and complex so that that it’s impossible to find a perfect pure piece of stone. However, it’s nice having all of these features because you can always find something better by travelling and exploring.

What makes this comparison tough is that they are both very cool to climb, they both sit on a hill with an outstanding view and they have a very similar kind of rock and type of holds.

Let’s start from looking at them while we are approaching. Let’s look at the boulder ten metres far. In this case, Cherry Picking looks gorgeous and better than On the beach. You can see it’s huge, with only one possible line to climb and with a decent ‘egg shape’. On the Beach looks a bit worse on this item. It’s somehow less fascinating, the left side of the cave looks like a bit broken and chossy and your focus could also be confused by the majestic Taipan wall looming over the back.

There's no such thing as too much Dave Mason; another angle of Dave on On the Beach (V13). Image by Ed Giles

There’s no such thing as too much Dave Mason; another angle of Dave on On the Beach (V13). Image by Ed Giles

Now let’s come closer. Let’s say 3m from the wall. Our field of view is now reduced and we can get more into the details. You can see the line in a more evident way, recognising the actions, the holds and the height. The starting position is always crucial; it deals with logic and pureness, so it’s an important point to take care while evaluating quality. Looking at Cherry Picking’s start position, a question comes easily: can a line start in a better way than that? I think rarely. On the Beach starts from two logical jugs, but the position is a bit more annoying than Cherry Picking (don’t mistake me, the difference is not that big). If you lean out the cave you can reach other holds from the stand and so start higher. Something you cannot do on Cherry Picking.

The lines are both brilliant, they climb straight to the top of the block so I like them both. The movements are hard to compare. Both are amazing. Probably On the Beach has more funny climbing involving some knee-bars, toe hooking and elegant body positions. But Cherry Picking’s style is somehow rare to find. It’s not easy to find such a big line with such athletic and gymnastic movements.

Coming still closer, you can touch the holds and climb the problem. So at this stage we can talk about rock, texture and kind of holds. The holds on On the Beach are very peculiar. They are sculpted into some cannonball circles with a bright orange, yellow and beige shades. Those crimps are a bit nicer than the ones you find on Cherry Picking. Cherry Picking has, by the way, a horrible top out with a chossy rock. This is one of the points which can drop it down a bit.

It’s hard to say which is best. They are some of the top lines in the Grampians and might be in my top 20 problems of 2015. But, if someone proposes that I have only one of these blocks in my backyard, I would go for Cherry Picking!



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