This is Why You Need a Trip to the Grampians by Billy Ridal September 23 2017, 0 Comments


Easter down under – A Grampians Climbing Destination guide

The Grampians is a national park 3 hours’ drive west of Melbourne, hailed as the mecca of Australian bouldering and with generations of development by world class climbers of the likes of: Klem Loskot, Dave Graham, and Nalle Hukkataival, it is truly cemented as a world-renowned bouldering destination. It offers the unique bright orange, bullet hard sandstone reminiscent of Rocklands, but without the hordes of climbers making an annual pilgrimage. This makes it a more than worthy alternative for those seeking a slightly less crowded experience. Though much of the climbing, such as the Hollow Mountain Cave, is well documented, there many areas are less well trodden that provide an adventurous feel to a day out at the crag, all the while still providing incredible quality of boulders. All of this with the consistently beautiful backdrop of the Australian Outback. The Grampians is, of course, also a fantastic destination for sport climbing. The famous Taipan wall is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing sport venue I have ever seen. However, the short duration of my trip meant I was unable to sample the sport, and as a result the focus of this guide will be the bouldering The Grampians has to offer.

The Bouldering

The Bouldering is split in to three main areas: Hollow Mountain & Mt Stapylton, Halls Gap, and the Victoria Range.

Hollow Mountain & Mt Stapylton

Hollow Mountain & Mt Stapylton in the northern Grampians is the original and most iconic area hosting climbs such as: The Wheel of Life, Ammagamma, and the breath-taking Taipan Wall. It’s 40 minutes drive North of Halls Gap, and predominantly on dirt tracks, so get used to having rattled bones!

Ammagamma 8b/V13
Ammagamma 8b, Citadel, Mt. Stayplton


Epilson Crack 6c, Epilson Wall, Mt Stayplton

The style here is incredibly varied. Sectors like Andersens & Trackside offer Font-esque clusters of boulders with slopey topouts and sandy landings. Steep physical climbing is available in abundance in the Ground Control caves, Cave’s club, and the world famous Hollow Mountain cave.
Or for the hardcore boulderer seeking truly inspiring lines, the Project Wall or the enormous boulders of The Citadel are sure to leave you in awe. The area caters incredibly well to all levels, I went seeking the hard classics that I have poured over in videos, but most of my favourite climbs ended up being in the V5 – V7 range.

The approaches range from ‘manageable’ to ‘pretty damn unpleasant.’ Andersens & Trackside will take you a reasonable 15 minutes, whilst the Citadel, which sits right at the top of Mt Stayplton, is a solid 45 minutes uphill hike. Hike being quite literal as most of the approaches punch straight up a steeply inclined exposed sheet of rock. It’s worth it once you get up there though, I promise!


Snooky Badlands 7c+, Spurt Wall, Mt. Stayplton


Cock Toe Arete 6b+, Citadel, Mt. Stayplton

Halls Gap

Halls Gap is certainly the most convenient area. It is made up of 3 sectors: The Bleachers, Valley of the Giants and Venus Baths, all within a 10 minute drive from the town centre. Venus Baths is about a 5-minute walk from town centre. The rock here is very different to that of Mt Stapylton - bulbous pods of rock cover the faces, making slopey edges the dominant theme. Unlike the barren wasteland that is the backdrop to Mt Stapylton, the surroundings of Halls Gap are densely wooded, making for a more intimate atmosphere. Again, there is plenty to be found at all grades, though I think the area is at its best at V7 and above. The area is not well travelled, and coupled with the tree cover, means the rock tends be a bit dirty in places, so be ready to do a little scrubbing.


The Departed 7c+, Valley of the Giants, Halls Gap

100 Pound Club 7c+, Epilson Wall, Mt Stayplton

The Victoria Range

Finally, there is the Victoria range, made up of Buandik, Mt Fox and 2 smaller areas, Cave of man hands & The Tower. The Victoria Range is in the west of the Grampians and though it is not very far away geographically, the only option is to go the long way around on dirt roads, making it a 1-hour and 20-minute journey from Halls Gap. In the end, I didn’t get chance to visit Mt Fox, it is not in the guidebook so it requires a bit of detective work to figure out where it is and what it has to offer. That is part of the fun though so I won’t give it away, just watch a video of ‘The Outsider’ - that should be enough to tempt you!

Buandik, however, is documented thanks to the efforts of Nalle Hukkataival and Dave Graham’s annual trips to develop the place. Despite this development, it seems the area has not yet hit the mainstream, so it still feels wild! The 40-minute walk in is not much short of bushwhacking and even when you’ve found the place, navigating between each boulder is a challenge. Don’t let that deter you though, the rock here is the prettiest I have ever seen and forms some beautiful imposing features.

The likelihood of bumping in to another party here is doubtful, meaning you will have an entire boulder field all to yourself. However, as you might expect being developed by the strongest climbers in the world, this is a very high-level sector. There are quality lower grades, but they’re not in abundance. The problems really hit their stride at V8 and up. I can’t think of many better places to demonstrate what cutting-edge looks like. So if you like feeling awfully small holds and ogling stuff way above your grade (I realise I may be in a minority here) then this is the place for you.

Roobiks Cude 8a+, Buandik

 Gripmaster 7c+, Kindergarten, Mt. Stayplton.

Must do’s

I arrived with a vast ticklist. The beautiful pictures and vivid descriptions in the 2016 edition of ‘Grampians Bouldering’ made it hard not to write down half of the book.
This is my list of essential ticks:

Hollow Mountain:

  • Bleasard (V5)
  • Out of the Bleau (V5)
  • Peter Parker (V5)
  • Wimmel Friedhoff (V5)
  • Rave Heart (V8)
  • Annagramma (V9)
  • Dead can’t Dance (V11)
  • Parallel lines (V11)   
                                                         

Mt Stapylton:

  • Innocence (V3)
  • Gripmaster (V10)
  • The Nevin Rule (V7)
  • Epsilon Crack (V5)
  • 100-pound club (V10)
  • Sick Nutter (V5)
  • Cardigan Street Massacre (V7)
  • Butchers choice (V10)
  • Ammagamma (V13)

Halls Gap:

  • Blackbeard’s Delight (V8)
  • The Departed (V10)
  • Copperhead (V7)

Victoria:

  • Hillary Step (V9)
  • Hanson’s Disease (V6)
  • Music to my fears (V8)
  • Roobiks cube (V12)

Logistics

Flights, Gear & Transport

The best place to fly in to is Melbourne. If you do a whole lot of shopping around you can stumble across some really good deals if you check sky scanner every day for a month, flights can be under £600. Make sure you have a good baggage allowance - 30kg got me 2 pads strapped together and a good size hold bag. It’s worth checking the airlines restrictions on luggage dimensions for the pads. Once you’ve made it, It’s pretty much essential to hire a car, first to get there and then to get to the crag every day.

When to Go

I went at Easter; the weather was fairly stable. The majority of days brought a mix of sun and cloud, with only a little rain here and there. It was warm by UK standards but entirely manageable, and not unpleasant considering you’re on holiday! Cooler temps are possible over summer (their winter) but they come at the risk of more rain. Spring or Autumn is what I recommend.

Where to Stay

I stayed in Halls Gap, the only town within the Grampians. It has a bit of a holiday park feel to it. Basically everyone there is a tourist, which isn’t for everyone, but it has an undeniably friendly vibe and offers an abundance of quality ice-cream, coffee shops and bakeries making a very pleasant start and finish to your day.

There lots of options for accommodation available. Camping or hostels are on the cheaper end of the spectrum, or there are cosy log cabins and holiday homes if you want a little more comfort.

Unfortunately, the fact that it is the only town in the National Park means it has a bit of a monopoly, making the prices a little on the steep side. I’d recommend doing a big food shop in Melbourne when you first arrive and then just topping up supplies once you’re in Halls Gap to keep costs down.

Alternatively, there are a few towns on the outskirts of The Grampians, such as Horsham or Stawell with more reasonable prices and more accommodation options. Book well in advance if you are travelling at a busy time. We ended up staying in 3 different places in just 2 weeks because the town was so booked up.

A Few Words of Advice

  • All kangaroos are suicidal and will take any opportunity to throw themselves in front of your car.
  • There are far less petrol stations in the Grampians than you think, don’t go to Buandik with a quarter of a tank unless running out of petrol sounds like fun to you.
  • The approaches are fairly long, invariably steep and if the guide says a path is vague or overgrown, it isn’t joking! Walking 45 minutes up a mountain in the blazing heat is hard work, even if it is to get to the boulder of your dreams.
  • Don’t base your goals for a trip solely in ticking climbs, you’ll be destined to fail. Aim to enjoy yourself, a simplistic objective but easy to lose sight of!
  • The Grampians is not like Font, or Magic Wood, or even the Peak District. It is a different kind of climbing area, it is more remote, more spread out, and far far far away! It requires a different, more measured approach to make the most out of it, something that it took most of my trip to appreciate. So don’t be disheartened if you aren’t smashing through boulders at your usual rate when you first arrive.

Because of other commitments, I was only able to go for 2 weeks to the Grampians. When travelling so far, that felt an unacceptably short amount of time. It takes a week just to get over the jet lag… I felt like I needed at least a month to try everything I wanted to try, so I’d recommend going for a longer trip. Although, I’ll be back at some point, Australia!