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Windjana Gorge NP (WA)

Last week Karen and I dropped into Windjana Gorge National Park. We put up our tent in the nearby campground and then set off on a 9km return walk through the gorge. I’ve got to say, I wasn’t prepared for what we found. The gorge is carved through a 100m-high limestone ridge which forms the bulk of the Napier Range. A sandy path hugs the banks of the Lennard River, which at this time of year is fairly slow moving and not very deep. Freshwater crocodiles can be seen all along the riverbank and in places were only a few metres from us. Pretty cool creatures. What really struck me about the walk was how spectacular it is.  The limestone walls tower above the walkers and the place is alive with birds and animals.

From a climbing point of view Windjana Gorge is something else. I’ve only ever seen a handful of similar high-quality compact climbing locations around the world. These would have to include Victoria’s Arapiles, Verdon Gorge (France) and the limestone cliffs of Phra Nang (Thailand). The walls inside the gorge (and outside it for that matter) stretch for many kilometres and as far as I could tell most of the rock is comprised of perfect limestone of up to three pitches. The rock architecture is also really impressive and there are possibilities for literally thousands of climbs. I’m not sure how Western Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation would view rockclimbing in the gorge (especially if it led to an influx of hundreds of climbers visiting from all over the world). Of course Windjana Gorge is a bloody long way away from anywhere. The small town of Derby is about 150km to the west and Broome is about double that. The gorge is easily accessible from the Leopold Downs Road in the Southern Kimberley. As a walker I really recommend that you check out this amazing place and definitely do the Gorge Walk. As a climber I was blown away at the potential for this to become a world-class climbing area. It’s unlikely that it will ever happen but at least I can dream.

Walking trail leading you into the gorge. Looks a bit like Mt Arapiles.
limestone cliffs inside Windjana Gorge.
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Keep River NP (NT)

Steep problem on the Trackside Cave at Keep River National Park.

Called into Keep River National Park today. This small park is in the Northern Territory and lies against the Western Australian border. Keep River National Park is geographically the start of the Kimberley which stretches off to the west. The spectacular rock formations in this park are made up of a fairly weird sandstone quartzite pebble-dash mix which means that longer multi-pitch routes are pretty unappealing. There are some good sections of shorter overhanging stuff which provides for a bit of good bouldering if you are in the area. All the problems I did were just a few minutes walk from the scenic Gurrandalng camping area. There are also some short red walls (under 20m-high) that would offer some good climbing if you can be bothered.

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South Jawbone, Post Fires

The recessed slabs of South Jawbone, (Pulp Friction is route no.7)

Tracey and I wandered up to South Jawbones the other day to check out some of the routes for the new Rockclimbs Around Melbourne guidebook that we are all working on at Open Spaces at the present. Joining us was Michael Hampton who really knows this crag well. I haven’t climbed on South Jawbone since when I freed Saknussum (17) back in 1975, so it was really interested in seeing the place. Tracey has never visited the crag and as the Victorian Climbing Club (VCC) Access Officer she felt it was her responsibility to check out the access to the base of the routes (and of course do a bit of climbing!). The fires have completely transformed this place. All of the trees have now vanished from around its base to be replaced with lush green grass (and fast growing prickle bushes). The cliff is now very clean with very little moss on the slabs (it was all burned away). It really is a great cliff and easily compares with nearby North Jawbone for long good-quality routes. I checked out the start of the each climb for the new guide and took some photos. We also repeated one of Michael’s old creations, Pulp Friction. We straightened out the first 25m pitch (placing a single bolt) at grade 17 and placed an important bolt anchor on first belay. The second 37m pitch was then also straightened out at grade 17 and a better belay ledge sorted out. The whole three pitch, 107m-long route is now worth two stars and climbs really well. In fact it is easily one of the best long routes in the valley. Anyway, all the details will appear in the guide which is due out this spring

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Ben Lomond Guide update

Memory Of A Journey, the climbing guide to Ben Lomond, was published in November 2008. For those of you who already own the guide and have climbed at Ben Lomond, you will know that it is the premier crack climbing venue in Australia. For those having a look at this update out of curiosity or have never been to Ben Lomond, buy the guide, book yourself a trip for next summer and experience crack climbs of singularity and purity not found elsewhere in Australia. The guidebook was comprehensive up until 2008, giving route descriptions and topo photographs to over 350 routes. The book is unique in that it also has 100 pages of memoirs by Robert McMahon, the main pioneer of new routes on the mountain. Copies are available online from Open Spaces Publishing or from the author: for $44.95.

Here is the update PDF which should be very popular indeed.


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Lost City (NT)

lost city

lost city
Lost City bouldering

Next stop on our Top End road trip was Litchfield National Park. We spent a couple of days here mainly swimming and bouldering. One of the most interesting places we visited was the Lost City, a weirdly-shaped assortment of sandstone pillars dotted about the open sandy bushland. This place was a real gem and the bouldering was excellent. The rock is as good as the best you’ll find in the Grampians and reminded me a little of Stapylton Ampitheatre (although nowhere near as extensive!). The Lost City doesn’t have much in the way of overhanging caves but there is plenty to keep you occupied for a day or two at least. There are also possibilities for maybe 20 or so short climbs (15-20m max) and I’m sure the Darwin locals have picked over the place. To reach the Lost City you will need a 4WD and there is no camping in the immediate area. One of the highlights of climbing here is that Florence Falls, Buley Rockholes and Wangi Falls are all nearby and offer good camping as well as some of the best swimming holes you are ever likely to experience. Litchfield National Park is situated 120km southwest of Darwin.

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Devils Marbles

devils crack

devils crack
Glenn on the perfect jamming problem, Devils Crack.

Last Wednesday, on our long drive up to Darwin, Karen and I dropped in to the Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles) Conservation Reserve. It was much more interesting than I expected so we decided to spend the rest of the day (and the following morning) exploring and bouldering in this remarkable area. First impressions upon driving into the reserve was that it looked like a geologically interesting place but the rock appeared to be crap for climbing. Rounded granite boulders shedding exfoliation flakes like onion skins didn’t give me much confidence that we would find any worthwhile bouldering. Surprisingly I was wrong. The rock is pretty coarse (a bit coarser than Mt Buffalo) but is remarkably solid. Even the flakes were much more solid than they looked. In the end I did a bunch of really enjoyable problems, none of them were particularly difficult but all were full value (and often pretty high!). There are literally hundreds of boulders in the area. Face climbing on flake edges is pretty much what is on the menu but there are also a few excellent cracks and aretes to play on. There are a few fun short climbs as well (15m-high) but nothing to get too excited over. There is a good campground in the reserve (situated right in the middle of the boulders). A small fee is charged ($3.30 per person) but you will need to get in early as it packs out with grey nomads and their caravans. The Devils Marbles are on the Stuart Highway, 105km south of Tennant Creek.

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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’.

Continue reading The Fortress

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Pioneers of Adventure

The current issue (March/April 2010) of Australian Geographic Outdoor has an article on Australian Pioneers. One of those pioneers featured was our very own Glenn Tempest. Australian photojournalist James McCormack (  interviewed him here at our Melbourne office late last spring. In the interview Glenn recounts his first ascent of Kachoong at Mt Arapiles with his then climbing partner Kevin Lindorff. Glenn had just turned 19 at the time and led it without much of the modern equipment most climbers today rely upon. Today Kachoong is regarded as one of Australia’s most famous and iconic rockclimbs. You can grab a copy of the mag at the newsagent or order it from

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Arapiles Selected Climbs Corrections (2008 Edition)

These corrections have been listed by page number. They have been provided mainly by Simon Mentz and Glenn Tempest as well as various other users of the guide. If you have any corrections that you believe are relevant please send them to us at Please note that these corrections have been taken care of in the new 2017 edition of the Arapiles Selected Climbs guide.

p47.  Sunny Gully (grade 3) is more like grade 2 and shouldn’t have a star.
p57.  Sausage of the Century is more like grade 19 instead of 21 and has quite reasonable protection to start.
p66.  That Man Again (grade 21). The line is drawn incorrectly on the topo.

Continue reading Arapiles Selected Climbs Corrections (2008 Edition)