In the photo, Dan was holding a Tiger snake by the tail. I read in the local news that venom from one of these snakes killed a man the month before not far from the famous sea stacks we were about to climb. He looked at me and said “Good you’re wearing trousers. It’s harder for the venom to get through”. Dan was wearing shorts.
Officially, Dan was assisting Gary, my climbing guide for the day. These two guys have been friends and climbing partners for many years. The three of us were heading to the iconic Moai in Tasmania, a fascinating column of rock set off from the cliffs on the sea coast.
I met Gary at my hotel in Hobart before we picked up Dan along the way. As their pre-climb banter picked up in the car, lips were moving, words were coming out, and I had absolutely no idea what they were saying.
The English language has about 100,000 words and Australians have managed to shorten about half of them. For example, spellcheck will diligently highlight ‘arvo’ if you write it out, because, well, it’s not a word. This is an outrage in Australia where it means ‘afternoon’. Of course. Dan and Gary were experts with this linguistic diet. They even managed to shorten their own names to ‘Gaz’ and ‘D’.
After a 90 minute trek across pristine white sand beaches and coastal forest we reached the point where you rappel down the cliffs to reach the climb. Hitting bottom in three pitches, you stand on a rock bridge that connects the Moai to the cliffs. My eyes scanned the raging waves, soaring cliff face, and the sea stacks dotting the coastline. It was pure theatre.
The Moai resembles an Egyptian obelisk. Only taller and not as pointy. The easier of two routes to the top has a nice crux where the route leads you around onto the cliffside face of the sea stack. It’s a tricky move to get past a thin flake with a smooth rock face above without any good holds. It’s officially classified as a 5.9 – intermediate difficulty.
Reaching the top was exhilarating. The sensation of standing on this column of rock surrounded by crashing seas is one I will cherish for a very long time. It would also be the last important climb prior to the world shutting down as the global pandemic took hold.