The very first time I ever saw Lee Cujes he handed me an Orange Alien.
I was procrastinating at the crux of a bolted sport route.
Desperation Prow 22. Redcliffs, Queensland Australia.
He was working an unthinkably hard trad project parallel to me.
I called for gear to plug a break, he provided, I pulled the move, I pulled the cam, I handed it right back, without weighting the rope and flashed the route.
An enduring trad partnership was never born.
Lee Cujes - Blowing Smoke 23 Vesuvius Crag. NSW Australia.
Lee has a trad history. I don't know it.
In the ten years that we have been climbing together I don't think I've seen him lead trad.
So this was different.
Lee had been instrumental in developing Vesuvius crag. Accessing, cleaning, bolting, sending.
He left this one striking crack system for last. So after a can of WD was emptied onto his rack, and I got into position with my iPhone camera he took off.
At about half height he had bugger all protection of any use. He kept calmer than me.
The pre-cleaning wasn't as thorough as a usual Cujes route.
Up to his elbows in it.
The top half got a bit saner and an awesome new route was added to an otherwise sport crag.
Blowing Smoke 30M 23 trad.
That's a sight you don't see every day.
Climbers, you already know my thoughts on trad.
But I'll reiterate.
I don't trust it.
Call me half a climber, but it's a discipline that I have never pursued.
Trad climbers, I salute you.
All photos: jjobrien - iPhone shoot and process.