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Southern Gothic Vol2: Acropolis & Geryon

February 1983 and Chris Baxter, Miles Martin (UK), Dave Moss, Russ Clune (USA) and I spent a couple of weeks climbing at Mt Geryon and the Acropolis in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. It was one of those rare trips where everything came together like clockwork. Even the weather – notoriously fickle in Tasmania – turned into two solid weeks of unrelenting sunshine with hardly a sparrow’s fart to blemish the sky. It was as if the weather Gods had gone on holiday and left the world in a fair-weather limbo. Every day we kept expecting rain and snow so we raced around, keen as cut snakes to get as much climbing done as possible.


Mt Gould

I took this photo from the top of the Acropolis looking south to Mt Gould and the Guardians. An amazing part of the world.

Black waters lap the towers of stone,
blood squeezed from forest and high moor.
For this is a place where giants roam,
The Acropolis, Geryon and the Minotaur.


Home Sweet Home

The bivvy cave at the foot of Mt Geryon. This wild spot has long been used as a climbing base for the big adventure routes on the 350 metre-high East Face of Mt Geryon. It is also conveniently situated not far from the Acropolis North Face, our main objective.


Things of Stone and Wood

The original wooden plaques inside the cave, apparently carved by climbing legend Roland Pauligk (inventor of the RP) in February 1967.


Man with a Mission

Chris Baxter, our intrepid leader. This photo was taken at the top of Old Wave Heroes (21), which Chris and I had climbed early in the trip.


Black Man’s Country

We did a handful of new routes on the Acropolis North Face, the best of which were two single-pitch climbs called Astro Boy (24) and Black Man’s Country (25). The top photo, taken by Chris Baxter, shows me approaching the final hard moves on Black Man’s Country (25) during the first ascent. Dave Moss looks on. It probably wouldn’t rate as grade 25 these days but Russ and I both agreed at the time that it would have been graded 5.12a in Yosemite Valley. These days small cams and improved shoe design really helps on these thin sustained crack problems.

The other two photos show Russ Clune repeating Black Man’s Country (25) immediately after I led it. I’m on the belay and Russ is powering through the technical final moves. The top of the corner crack really narrows down and the leader is confined to thin finger-jamming and tips lay-backing with feet on little more than smears.

Russ is wearing a pair of EBs (we called them bubble boots). These babies had all the stickyness of ice-cream lids and with more toe room than a pair of clown shoes. In one of the photos you can see a wooden wedge belonging to the Gates of Eden (18M1). The wild position on the upper reaches of this superb wall are absolutely breathtaking.


Astro Boy

Russ Clune seconding me up the first ascent of Astro Boy (24). This incredible long jamming corner was my personal highlight of the trip. The climbing was sustained, clean and technically perfect. It reminded me of some of those long crack pitches in Yosemite Valley and was named in recognition of the big stemming Enduro Corner on Astroman.


The Gates of Eden

Russ Clune seconding the last crack pitch of Gates of Eden (18M1). You can see a couple of wooden wedges that had probably been used as direct aid during its first ascent many years previously. I remember clipping the old tatty cord and keeping on jamming. I can’t remember the grade of this last pitch but I suspect it must have been fairly straightforward (maybe only 18 or so).


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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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The Tipperary Track: Trail Update

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Karen on the Tipperary Track
Winter on the Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

It was a miserable wet and cold mid-winter’s morning when Karen and I dragged ourselves out of the warmth of a Daylesford Cafe and started out along the Tipperary Track. For the first kilometre or so we debated as to whether this was such a good idea. Maybe we are getting soft but the thought of another round of tea and toast was almost too much to resist. Eventually the drizzle moved off elsewhere (probably to Trentham!) and small daubs of watery blue sky appeared between the low cloud. We had decided to brave the elements to GPS the Tipperary Track for our next Goldfields walking guidebook. I was also keen on updating some of the details, which have recently changed.

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Wombat Creek Foot-bridge still waiting to be built.

Since the floods in early 2011 some sections of the Tipperary Track have been closed. Almost all of the bridges had been damaged or washed away, which prevented walkers using the western side of Sailors Creek and therefore reducing any loop-walk opportunities. This has been a real shame as it’s one of the best and most popular walking areas within the Goldfields region. Recently Parks Victoria reopened The Blowhole area so that walkers can access the full length of the trail, which is also part of the now very popular Goldfields Track. Three foot-bridges are still to be either finished or built. The two foot-bridges spanning Wombat Creek and Sailors Creek at Twin Bridges have concrete foundations but still no steelwork. The third bridge is located at Tipperary Springs and although closed it looked very close to finished. Probably the most solid and flood-proof of all of the bridges is the massive new stepping stones across to Bryces Flat. To me this appears to be the best and cheapest way to build bridges, especially in country that regularly sees alternating periods of drought and flood.

The Blowhole
The Blowhole. The Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

According to Parks Victoria the foot-bridges will be ready by this spring. Let’s hope so. If you are intending to walk the Tipperary Track right now though, you should be aware that without the bridge over Wombat Creek you will need to continue walking down the water-race on its southern side to cross the Midland Highway before entering the picnic area at Twin Bridges. It’s not a real hassle but just watch out for the traffic when you cross the bridge.

We arrived at The Blowhole just as the day was warming up (it must have been all of 8 degrees) and were now enjoying ourselves. The Blowhole was gushing with water and made for a fairly impressive sight. We continued on through Breakneck Gorge, which for me is the best part of the walk. The creek tumbled over it’s stony bed and the gorge’s narrow walls glistened with green moss. Every now and then a ray of sunshine penetrated the cloud and slid over a tree or a rock.

Isn't it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?
Isn’t it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?

Finally we left Sailors Creek behind and walked up along Spring Creek, again following a wide water-race overlooking the willow-infested creek. Somewhere down there was Liberty Spring, now no longer maintained. Not far along we reached Golden Spring, which is unfortunately still capped, although there are plans to repair it it some point. By the time we reached Jacksons Lookout it was getting late in the day. The steel and timber tower was very rundown and because of the surrounding trees there are no real views to enjoy. Jacksons Tower was something of a disappointing climax. Half an hour later and we were at Hepburn Springs Reserve. We had covered almost 17km in just over 4 hours. The cafe was shut and it was almost dark. A quick phone call and the taxi arrived a few minutes later. Soon we were back at the car at Daylesford Lake. We pulled out of the carpark just as it started to rain again.