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Southern Gothic Vol1: Acropolis & Geryon

In February 1983, Chris Baxter, Miles Martin, Dave Moss, Russ Clune and I spent a couple of weeks climbing at Mt Geryon and the Acropolis in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. I was 24 years-old at the time and the campaign to save the Franklin blockade was at its height. Upon arrival in Hobart, and with my rucksack on my back, I walked out of the airport terminal to be immediately approached by tall heavy-set man. He placed his hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear “You wouldn’t be headin’ to the dam would ya?” I blinked. “I mean”, he continued, “you could get hurt down there and we wouldn’t want to see a young lad like you getting hurt now, would we?” It seemed that everyone arriving at the airport (and who vaguely looked like commo greenies) were getting a gentle reminder about what was best for their health when it came to fighting for the Franklin River. I concluded that a bunch of Hydro Electric Commission workers were earning a little overtime. Welcome to Tasmania.

 

Settling in

The bivvy cave at the foot of the East Face of Mt Geryon. Chris Baxter was the only one of our group who had visited this spot previously and made sure he arrived first to score the best spot. Unfortunately he was greeted by a wombat that had the audacity to have chosen his proposed bunk as its final resting place. Chris spent the next two hours tossing rotten wombat down the slopes while we did all the real work like collect drinking water and make dinner. Here Chris is firmly ensconced in his sleeping bag, the peace sign his way of forgiving us all for daring to covet his prized location. Russ Clune and Dave Moss look relaxed in the knowledge that despite the rough ground they at least had a roof of sorts over their heads. As for Miles and myself, well we didn’t fare so well, having to bivvy outside of the bivvy cave, directly below the 350m East Face of Mt Geryon and exposed to the constant threat of falling rocks.

 

Southern Gothic

The Acropolis North Face as seen from near the bivvy cave below the East Face of Geryon. It’s strange but over the years I always had, for some reason, thought of the Acropolis as much steeper and more impressive than it really was. Looking back now I realize that much of the central section of the wall is quite broken. Over the eight days we were at the bivvy cave I think we only managed five or six new climbs in the area. Two of them (Miles From Nowhere, 21 and Old Wave Heroes, 21) took full-length lines up the North Face.

 

Old Wave Heroes

Chris took this image of me leading one of the pitches about halfway up Old Wave Heroes (21). I remember getting a bit frustrated because Chris kept wanting to traverse out of the main line to easier ground. All I could see were these splitter cracks shooting skyward and nothing was going to tempt me away from them. Luckily I led most if not all of the pitches (my memory is a bit hazy). Overall the climbing was really good and much more interesting than I’d expected, especially the final few pitches which took a great line through the upper walls.

 

New Country For Old Men

I took this photo of Chris seconding one of the excellent middle pitches on Old Wave Heroes (21). It’s strange that Chris is not wearing his helmet as he normally wouldn’t climb without one. Considering the fairly serious nature of the Acropolis and its almost alpine nature I’m sure Chris must have forgotten it back at the bivvy cave.

 

Darkness Beckons

Just below the steep upper head-wall we reached a large belay ledge. I took this pic of Chris with the shadowed East Face of Mt Geryon lurking menacingly in the background. The whole place reminded me of the Dolomites in Italy, which I’d visited a couple of years earlier. By this stage Chris was climbing really well, the route was coming together nicely, the weather was perfect and we only had a single long pitch to go. One of the things I always loved about Chris was the enduring enthusiasm and excitement he had for climbing new routes. By the time we reached the top of the Acropolis the sun was low in the sky but Chris was a happy man indeed. But then again, he was going to be sleeping safely in the bivvy cave and I was going to be outside, wondering if I was going to live through the night.

 

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