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Parks Victoria Halts New Grampians And Arapiles Guidebooks

To all of our loyal wholesale and retail customers it is with a great deal of regret that Open Spaces Publishing has made the decision to halt work on all of our planned rock climbing and bushwalking titles for the Grampians National Park and at nearby Mt Arapiles.

Our business moved to Natimuk in the Wimmera almost 7 years ago to concentrate on climbing and bushwalking publications and I would like to think that our guides have been of some importance to the tourism industry. Over the years we are proud to have printed and sold well over 110,000 of our own Open Spaces titles, generating over 5 million dollars in retail sales and helping to support numerous authors and small businesses. We had a number of climbing guides to the Grampians in various stages of production and had started work on the fourth edition of our very popular Arapiles Selected Climbs guide which was scheduled for release in about 18 months.

There is no doubt that the massive Grampians climbing bans (on an unprecedented global scale and which have come into force over the last 18 months) combined with the recent Bundaleer and Taipan Wall climbing and bushwalking bans, have forced Open Spaces to re-evaluate our position. In these uncertain times and given the likelihood of further climbing and bushwalking bans in both the Grampians and at Mt Arapiles we have decided to cease all of our planned publications to these areas. A business like ours cannot be expected to operate where there is no certainty. We are especially disappointed that Parks Victoria and the Traditional Owners have decided not to engage with the climbing and bushwalking communities and instead continue to foster this uncertainty. Our own recent discussions with senior Parks Victoria staff regarding our forthcoming Grampians bushwalking guidebook have also given us further cause for concern.

Open Spaces would like to offer our full support to all of the various rock climbing, bushwalking and reconciliation groups working towards a mutually beneficial outcome. We understand and are upset that this decision will directly effect the flow of tourism dollars into our Wimmera and Grampians regions but we feel we have no choice. This decision does not affect our existing publications and we will continue to act as a wholesale and retail distributor to titles on our current stock list.

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Open Spaces Tree Change

Open Spaces and it's new home in Natimuk, with the Natimuk Cafe.
Open Spaces and it’s new home in Natimuk, with the Natimuk Cafe.

It’s been a tough ten years in print publishing as the internet revolution continues to change the way we create and distribute information. Traditional printers across Australia have been putting off large numbers of staff or closing their doors for good. Wholesale distributors and book shops have been similarly affected. The introduction of smart-phones and tablets using e-books cut further and further into the traditional book market.

It’s no secret that we at Open Spaces have not been immune to the tsunami which has raged around us. At times it felt that we were shoeing horses in a blacksmith’s shop, all the while watching automobiles speeding past on the road outside. We changed tack accordingly and provided our newest walking titles with comprehensive GPS coordinates, which were able to be downloaded directly from our website. As far as we know this was a world first. Open Spaces also joined up with iCrag to create Australia’s first interactive climbing apps for both Apple and Android. We were very proud of how our Arapiles Selected Climbs and Rockclimbs Around Melbourne turned out as apps. We even changed the concept of our books, creating smaller print runs of slimmer, less expensive editions (such as our Western Gorges and Victoria’s Goldfields), which gave us the ability to update quickly and regularly. These innovations helped us to stay in business but despite this we at Open Spaces are under no illusions as to what the future holds for many ‘less adaptable’ publishers in the traditional print industry. We don’t believe that the end of traditional books will occur any time soon but we feel that there will be a fundamental shift in how books will be printed. High-quality, fast, digitally printed books that will have very short print runs (usually under 500 copies) will start to make more business sense. Our latest book, Law Unto Himself is a good example of this print on demand style of publishing. In the end though we have to face up to certain truths. More and more people will use the internet as a prime source for much of their information and they will have less need to purchase traditional forms of print media.

Which is why we have made some rather large changes here at Open Spaces. One of our biggest decisions was to drop the publishing and distribution of all our cycling titles. Of all of our books it was our cycling titles which suffered the most. With few book shops able to sell our product (to the general public) and with almost no support from cycling shops we had no choice but to drop them. We have sold the remaining stock of our excellent Bike Rides Around Melbourne to a leading distributor (Woodslane) and we will no longer be stocking it ourselves. We have also dropped many of the smaller less popular titles in our range, simply because we couldn’t justify holding so much stock.

Perhaps the biggest change for Open Spaces was that we have sold our premises in Melbourne and moved ourselves to Natimuk, a small town in the Wimmera region of Western Victoria. Natimuk is within spitting distance of the famous Mt Arapiles and the rugged Grampians mountains are nearby. This change in lifestyle will allow us to do more of the things we love. Tracey Skinner, our office administrator, has followed suit and moved up to near Natimuk with us. In fact, she and my partner, Karen, are now owners of the popular Natimuk Cafe, which is open on weekends for locals and visiting climbers and walkers.

Finally, Open Spaces would like to apologise to any of our customers that may have been inconvenienced by the inevitable chaos involving our move. Things should now be running smoothly again and we look forward to a bright future where we will continue selling and distributing walking and climbing books for many years to come.


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Arapiles Pocket Companion: Out Soon


It’s been five years since Simon Mentz and I released our Arapiles Selected Climbs guide. Although well-received by the climbing community, the guide did have one major problem. Weighing in at a hefty 715g meant that this was not something you could easily carry up The Bard or Skink. Great for bench-pressing but not really practicable for hauling up multi-pitch climbs. So, about three years ago, Simon and I started work on a pocket-sized version. The idea was to create a guide covering all of the Mount’s multi-pitch classics, yet would slide easily into your Prana pants back pocket. As the guide took form we also decided to include a good selection of popular single-pitch cliffs. Suddenly we had a guide that would appeal not only to the Mount’s regulars, but also to visiting dirt-bag climbers on flying visits and tight budgets.

Initially we made quick progress, but unfortunately other projects got in the way. Simon was giving birth to the Natimuk Cafe and I was having to finish off a couple of ‘real’ projects to keep the wolf from the door (not easy as the GFC descended and, coincidentally, the world of printed media began to crash and burn). Recently, however, we managed to find some time to revisit our pocket companion concept and it’s with a certain amount of pride (and relief) that I can announce that we are now nearing completion.

The Arapiles Pocket Companion will be published in an A6, full-colour format and weigh a very svelte 115g. Its 96 pages will describe over 750 routes and have around 50 detailed topos. The Pocket Companion will also be stitch-bound for strength and have a clear plastic cover for durability. There will be NO advertising in this guide as we figured that pages dedicated to advertising could better be used for cramming in more routes and topos.

The Arapiles Pocket Companion will retail for $19.95 and be available in the shops (and on our online bookstore) before the end of June.

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Mike Graham; a Day at Arapiles (1980)

California-based climber Mike Graham first visited Arapiles in 1980. He and his partner, Wendy, flew into Melbourne and stayed at my parents house in Lilydale. I think it was a relief for my parents to see that I actually had some ‘normal’ friends rather than the weird riff-raff that usually crashed on our lounge room floor.

Mike was a member of the legendary Stonemasters, a group of talented southern Californian climbers that included the likes of John Yablonski, Tobin Sorenson, John Long, Rick Accomazzo and John Bachar. At Arapiles Mike and Wendy immediately fitted in really well with the locals, who, in the fashion of the Stonemasters, were busy rewriting the history of Australian climbing.

I shot these photographs of Mike leading an early ascent (in 1980) of No Exit (25, 5.12a). I remember that day really well because both Kevin Lindorff and I also led the pitch. Mike, Kevin and I took turns in belaying each other. Peter von Gaza, another visiting US climber was also with us. Kevin and I had both previously led No Exit and Kevin had also seconded Kim Carrigan when he added the superb second pitch.

No Exit was put up by Chris Peisker in May 1979 and it quickly became a classic test-piece. The first clip is a really crappy dowel thingy, a style of bolt that was quite popular in the US at the time. Some thin bouldery moves lead into a flaring bottomless crack, which quickly relents. At the top of the crack, and just when you figured No Exit was in the bag, a desperate mantel does its best to ruin your day. This final awkward move has seen more than a few climbers come unstuck. Interestingly, it’s the grade 23 second pitch which I reckon is the real standout. Unfortunately it doesn’t get done all that often, which is a shame.

Notice the cool harness that Mike is wearing. It was made by Chouinard Equipment and is constructed out of a single length of white webbing. I can’t remember its official name but it was actually a great bit of kit. I went through at least three of these units. It was one of the first real harnesses developed for rockclimbers (as opposed to the Troll Whillans Harness which was used by rockclimbers but was in fact designed for high altitude mountaineering.

We spent the afternoon bouldering in Central Gully. I took a few pics of Mike doing Guillotine (V3) on the block right of Pebble Wall. I think Mike really enjoyed the technical nature of Arapiles and it seemed to suit his strong ethical nature, which formed the basis for much of his climbing.

Mike later teamed up with Mark Moorhead and in May 1980 he led the first ascent of Ride Like the Wind (25, 5.12b), one of Araples’ now classic bold wall-climbs. Mike returned the following year to lead the first ascent of Breezin’ (24, 5.11d) another bold on-sight effort.

In 1982 Mike created Gramicci Products, a climbing, surfing and lifestyle apparel brand set in Southern California. He is also credited with designing the first collapsible portaledge, which he sold under the Gramicci label in the early 1980’s.

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Yesterday Gully and Memories Lost

Arapiles, 1980. It was early summer and the days were growing hotter. A group of us headed into Yesterday Gully to search out some fingers of shade. We climbed Snow Blind (23, 5.11b), In Lemon Butter (22, 5.11a) and No Quarter (23, 5.11b). I still have a few blurry pics, but these are best left to the creeping fungus that is slowly destroying my old b/w negative collection. Later on we scrambled into the upper reaches of the gully. Jeff Lamb jumped onto Black Spasm (22, 5.11a) on the left side of Fever Pitch Wall. Mike Law put up this intimidating overhang in 1977 and it had probably not seen a second ascent until that day. Jon Muir and Mark Moorhead were repeating Grand Central (22, 5.11a) on the same wall and there was a party atmosphere.

This great photograph (top) by US climber Peter von Gaza shows Jeff Lamb having pulled over the overhang on Black Spasm (on the left) and Jon Muir on the crux of Grand Central (on the right). Mark Moorhead is belaying Jon but I can’t remember who it was belaying Jeff. I’m in the middle, perched on the ledge and shooting images with my Olympus OM1n. I must have been fairly comfortable as I’m not even tied in. This is an interesting photograph for a variety of reasons. Most of us are wearing home-made harnesses, mine having been made by Mike Law on his sewing machine. I think Jon is wearing a Whillans Harness, the only commercially available model available in Australia at the time. I also love the fact that while Mark is belaying with a Selewa sticht plate (which were becoming increasingly common by then), the guy belaying Jeff is using a waist belay. All of us are wearing EBs. The EB Super Gratton was the best climbing shoe of its era but within a few years of this photograph they would vanish forever and the Boreal Fire would become the shoe of choice. It’s interesting to compare the angle of Peter’s image with the following photographs that I took at the same time.

Jeff Lamb had recently emigrated from England having already pioneered a bunch of respected test-pieces in his beloved Lake District where he was fondly known as ‘The Jackal’.


Here’s Jeff monkeying around for the camera. In 1984 Jeff died tragically when he fell while soloing at Frog Buttress. It was a very sad loss to both the UK and Australian climbing community.



I love this image of Mark Moorhead. I feel it captures something of his whimsical nature but also the underlying seriousness with which he approached his climbing. Mark was one of the most impressive climbers of his generation and now something of a climbing legend. His premature death on Makalu in 1984 was a shock to us all. I’ve always believed that Australian climbing had been robbed of its greatest future talent.


Interestingly, I found two more images taken on the same day as all of the above photographs. When I looked closely I saw it was me leading a route called Yesterdays Rooster (21, 5.10d). This climb is just a few metres uphill of Fever Pitch Wall and according to the current Mt Arapiles guide Yesterdays Rooster was first climbed in January 1999 after two bolts were placed for protection. Looking at the photograph above it’s obvious that I lead it in 1980 (without the bolts), although I have absolutely no memory of doing the climb, who seconded me or who took the photographs. I suspect the images were taken by Peter von Gaza and it was probably him who seconded me but I really can’t be sure. Perhaps wearing a headband affected my long-term memory.



Most of these images appear in my Climbers Portraits collection on my SmugMug site here. These images cover Victorian climbing from 1975 to the present and is an ongoing project.

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CliffCare – the lowdown

While much of my working week takes place at Open Spaces (I work here 3 days a week) I also work part-time for the Victorian Climbing Club and CliffCare as the Access & Environment Officer. Some of you may be familiar with what my role entails and what CliffCare is about but there is a pretty fair chance that many of you may have no idea what I am talking about. I did briefly touch on this in an earlier blog

CliffCare is a Trust – The Victorian CliffCare Trust. This is administered by the VCC and in simple terms is the environmental arm of the club.
In short CliffCare’s aims:
Education – promoting ‘low impact’ climbing
Advocacy – negotiating with land managers to maintain access and re-open popular cliffs.
Protection – organizing work parties and raising money to preserve the cliff environment.

CliffCare aims to take a proactive position when it comes to these aims rather than a reactive one which tended to occur in the past. With a strong partnership developing with various Parks Victoria offices, our hope is to be able to look after the areas in which we climb in a way which is more conducive with climbers as well as taking into account other park users and the environmental interests of the parks themselves. Constant budget cuts to Parks Victoria which noticeably affect their resources, including staff, mean that more and more often, these kind of partnerships with usergroups will be required if we want areas to stay open and managed well. Many of the areas in which we climb are often off track as in PV managed tracks. What this means is that as they are not official tracks etc, PV are not required to maintain them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be maintained nor that PV will just turn a blind eye. Considering the fact that for the most part, climbers are the ones that predominantly use these tracks and areas, well – it should be that climbers are the ones to maintain them. All of this though, requires volunteers and that dreaded word… While the VCC might administer the funds and some percentage of membership fees do cover some aspects, the costs associated with having an Access & Environment Officer, materials, tools etc are all dependant on the Annual CliffCare Raffle and enough donations coming in. Some projects have been lucky enough to be funded by a grant but these are getting fewer and far between and it does seem that with the current Victorian government, that anything that has the word ‘environment’ in it, is first for the chop. So now more than ever, donations are a vital component of the continuing success of CliffCare and for the climbing community, the safeguarding of the cliffs access and care.

This year has been a bumper year for works going on at a variety of areas and cliffs.I’ve made a list of workdays so far, some pictures to see some of the work, links to more pictures and if you’re feeling so inclined, the link to the donation site. And if you would like to help out on one of the many working bees we have lined up, please drop me a line and I’ll send you the details

Next workday coming up this weekend!

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos Gully project) 10th March,2012

Mt Rosea climbers track repair 14th April,2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 28 Apr 2012

Climb & Repair You Yangs 12 May 2012

The Gallery Track Repair, Grampians 26 May 2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 9 Jun 2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 18 Aug 2012

Mt Rosea landslide gully before

Mt Rosea landslide gully after

Pharos Gully summit staircase

Bundaleer, Grampians. Protecting the Manic Depressive area for cultural heritage


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Arapiles iPhone App Released

It’s been a long time in the planning but it’s finally here. Arapiles Selected Climbs is now available as an app through Apple’s iPhone App Store. Open Spaces have been working with the guys at iCrag for almost a year to help create what we believe is the world’s best climbing guide app. Arapiles Selected Climbs combines text and images with innovative live navigating tools and is a big step forward in usability and design. For Open Spaces this app also marks an exciting new chapter in our publishing future.

App features include:                                                                                
Over 1100 selected routes
Over 150 cliff images
Text descriptions and first ascent details
Advanced search facilities
Zoom functions
Climb grade index
Climb name index

The app sells for $29.99. Those purchasing the app will be entitled to a 25% discount (from Open Spaces) on the print version of Arapiles Selected Climbs.

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. File size is 228MB.

Visit iCrag or the App Store.

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Mt Arapiles – Taking care of the magic

As many of our readers will have noted, the staff at Open Spaces are involved in various aspects of the outdoor industry.  Whilst OSP is a big part of our lives, the reason why we are here in the first place is because of our  interest and experiences in that area.  Besides climbing, one of my other jobs feeds very well into my OSP role.  Working as the VCC Access and Environment Officer for the climbing community allows me to get involved not only in helping to maintain access for climbers at the many parks but also to work on projects at the cliff environment.  One such project that I am working on currently has been ongoing for about 4 years now.  The Pharos Gully Repair project is a labour intensive one – to dry stonework the entire Pharos Gully Track from bottom to summit.  The track is used by climbers and walkers alike and due to its steep nature, the erosion is quite severe with further loss of vegetation creeping out wider and wider. So with the help of some funding from Parks Victoria, CliffCare and Friends of Arapiles have rounded up regular volunteers to help out at the working bees to move  rock up and down the track so that the stonemason can work his magic. We employed Walter Braun, who is a climber himself and an experienced stonemason to dry stonework the track. At about 2/3rds completed, the track is looking great and some of the sections completed a few years ago are now ageing well with vegetation growing in and around the stonework.  And this is exactly what we want and why dry stonework is the way to go.

Arapiles has had a great last year and a half.  Of course we are heading into winter now and at this time of the year, everything usually is starting to look green.  What was amazing to see though was the greenness that continued throughout summer this year.  Granted the floods brought a huge amount of water to the area but before that Arapiles and its surrounds were still getting a regular fall.  In previous years, throughout the drought, the mount had lost a lot of older trees. They held on for as long as they could, but there were many that were stressed to the point of no return.  With the rains, came the opportunity for new vegetation to get a good watering in.  CliffCare and Friends of Mt Arapiles revegetated a number of areas with plants supplied by Iestyn Hocking and Heather Phillips who collect seed and grow indigenous plants and grasses from the area.  Many of these plants are now thriving and can be seen along the lower part of the Pharos Tourist track.  As the old pines are dying in the Pines campground at Mt Arapiles, they are being removed. Rather than replant with the original Radiata pines, native callitris pine seedlings were planted in 2008.  These are all healthy young plants now.  To protect them further as they grow, stakes and chicken wire were placed around them to ensure that they can stand up to the many campers that the campground sees.
Even if you don’t climb, Arapiles really is a magical place to visit.  From its birds of prey to the small robins and bee eaters.  Shinglebacks and frilled neck lizards and occasionally a goanna or two.  Wallabies, cockatoos, lorikeets.  And with 500 native species in the park, you could certainly tick off a few sightings in your flora book.  It has them all really.  It really is a special place and one that needs to be carefully preserved.

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Mt Arapiles Climb and Repair Weekend

As the VCC Access and Environment Officer, many of my climbing jaunts will often include a working bee. While the Arapiles Climb and Repair Weekend has been an ongoing feature of the Victorian Climbing Clubs trip calendar for a number of years, the Queen’s Birthday weekend up at Arapiles was a particularly productive one. Working with Community Group grants from Parks Victoria and collaborating with the Friends of Arapiles, CliffCare is ensuring that the Pharos Gully Track will be able to handle the heavy traffic it receives not only from climbers, but also the walkers. On the Queens Birthday weekend we finally managed to move all the rocks from the top section down to the areas where our stonemason, Walter Braun is working on building up the track using dry stonework. No matter how many working bees I have organized, there always seems to be a huge pile of rocks that seems little diminished. Finally, it’s gone. Many of the rocks still need to be moved into place, but at least the transportation has been done. Now for the lower section….

But the weekend was only dedicated to a small percentage of work. The rest of the time was taken up with climbing. Perfect weather blessed us and we all managed to get a few more ticks under our belt. I had a great weekend, teaming up with Norma and Mike. To be honest, it’s pretty difficult not to have a good weekend at Araps. Has to be one of my favourite places to climb.

If you want to have a look at more of the work that has been going on at Mt Arapiles, visit the VCC smugmug site here for more pics and info and the VCC website

Stay tuned for the new CliffCare website which will have all the up to date access info for all Victorian Cliffs. Coming soon.

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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