The Fortress

Climbers on Passport to Insanity on the Fortress.

We took advantage of the very last day of daylight saving and got up early and drove over to the Victoria Range in the Grampians National Park. Even though it was Easter I was surprised that at least a dozen cars were parked at Deep Creek, the start of the trail. The walk is one of the more remote in the Grampians even though it isn’t particularly long. The Victoria Range is very different to the much busier Central Grampians. There is a lot of sand about, the vegetation is shrubbier and there is a drier, almost semi-arid feel to the place. Like many Grampians trails the walk isn’t particularly well signposted nor is it well maintained. There is an old sign, however, warning that ‘strenuous walking is involved’.

After an initial 1km of level trail the path suddenly starts climbing and within another kilometre climbs some 250m vertical metres into the range. Karen and I were researching the details of this walk for our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guidebook and I spent quite a bit of time looking for vantage points and taking GPS readings. Eventually we reached the first camping cave. Parks Victoria have renamed this as the Oasis Bush Campsite (rockclimbers originally called this the Western Camping Cave). It’s a pleasant spot and has lots of shade and a nearby creek. My idea was to write up the walk to the large second camping cave about 1.4km further on. Conveniently we got there at lunchtime. Parks Victoria have also renamed this as the Fortress Bush Campsite (it was previously called the Eastern Camping Cave). There is enough space here for at least half a dozen tents although most walkers and climbers just bivy as even in the pouring rain it would stay largely dry. I was pretty keen on climbing up to the summit of the Fortress. I’d climbed it on a number of occasions in the past but had forgotten just how complex the ascent was. There is no marked trail and it involves quite a bit of bush-bashing and scrambling. The incredible views (arguably among the best in the Grampians) are well worth the blood, sweat and fear involved. This is another one of these amazing Grampians summits where a marked trail to the top would be welcomed by many experienced walkers. I wouldn’t hold my breath that Parks Victoria will get around to it any time soon as they barely acknowledge the existence of the walk up to the camping caves let alone to the summit. Still, it’s a great place for an adventure and perhaps there are not enough adventures left in the world.

On the way back down I shot some images of climbers on Passport to Insanity, the massive north face of the Fortress. Passport is one of Australia’s most famous climbs as it negotiates an enormous exposed ceiling about 50m off the ground. The climb is 135 metres high and graded 27. The majority of climbers don’t worry about trying to free climb the roof and instead aid it to experience the amazing surroundings.

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