Last weekend we went climbing at Bulahdelah in the Hunter region of NSW and had a scary encounter! I am getting used to the almost ever-present spider webs, the nasty ants and other Australian creatures that do not exist anywhere else on earth; but the encounter we faced last weekend was quite unexpected and scary!
Mister A was belaying while Mister B was on the wall leading a sport route with 7 bolts, about 20 meters high. I was sitting on a rock taking pictures and enjoying nature when Mister A (the belayer) suddenly shouted with a sense of urgency, “OK Mister B your gonna have to anchor yourself in now I gotta go!” On the spot I have to say first thought was what the hell is he talking about! But than the conversation proceded like this “There is a f*****g snake coming at me just clip yourself to the wall quick!!!”
Then it became quite obvious that it was a good reason to move as the 1.5 metre poisonous red-bellied black snake was coming right at the belayer. We both stopped moving and looked at the thing curiously sneaking its way around our spot and slowly hide behind a rock. We all instinctively knew that you don’t want to get too close to that creature. Every snake encounter freaks me out in Australia but I am slowly getting used to it (or so I tell myself).
They are usually pretty shy and just go away as soon as they hear vibrations on the ground, but this thing was not shy at all. It was looking at us curiously. I read afterword that spring is the mating season and red-bellies can be seen quite far from their original habitat during that period. Well, I guess this is just another of the millions of scary things you should not think too much about when climbing!
It was scary but no one got bitten which, although rare, is one of the things you immediately think about when you are belaying and can’t run away quickly without taking the climber off belay.
I have to admit, they are beautiful creatures – just look at the pictures and you can clearly see the red belly on that shiny black skin….