Trip Notes: Trad Climbing Classic Aussie Routes (Part 1)

Climbing in Wolgan Valley

Adam and I left Brisbane in a rush two days earlier than intended to avoid any complications and punched it down to Wolgan Valley about an hour north of the Blue Mountains . We figured we could hang out here and do some exploring while we waited for the situation in Victoria to sort itself out, which thankfully it did. We had both set aside five weeks for this trip with the intention of climbing a long list of classics through Victoria and New South Wales.


The next day we headed off early to the Coke Ovens Crag starting on Organ Grinder at grade 14   which is historically the first route ever climbed at the Coke Ovens way back in 1968. My partner Adam led the first pitch which had a bit of a chimney and some easy climbing above and below. The second pitch was a wide chimney and a featured face with basically no gear. It was quite heady for my first lead of the trip. No fall climbing. We tied some tat to a tree at the top and rapped off.

After a couple of days of climbing some splitter sandstone cracks, we packed camp and got in the car aiming to be in Arapiles that night. We were both pretty delusional by the time we pulled up for the night and stopped next to a river down a back road of a random country town.


Heading to Arapiles

The next day we got up early and boosted to Arapiles, both feeling rather foggy at this point, but we got to Arapiles without too much hassle after stopping in Horsham for some groceries and supplies. That afternoon we went bouldering and the first thing I climbed at Arapiles was a highball V-something. We had some beers and bouldered for about an hour before it got dark. 


Climbing Mount Arapiles

With an early start, we sorted the rack out and boosted up to the base of Muldoon our first route at Arapiles, a two-pitch, grade 13. Adam was in a mad rush and was basically running to the cliff, he tied in and charged up the first pitch without even pausing. Muldoon remains some of the most enjoyable climbing I did there, steepish jug hauling with great gear.   Next, we went to Agamemnon and Adam charged up, such an amazing line. I then lead a nice route with some good hand jamming right next to it called Necrophiliac. We finished off the day taking Adam’s brother up Eskimo Nell, a fun grade 10.

After two days of climbing +200m of easy classics like Lamplighter grade 14, I told Adam that I was ready to start pushing the grades. The next day we got up with the intent to hit some 15, 16, 17 and see how it went. We started on a two-pitch, grade 15 with some nice movement and varied techniques, stemming, finger locks and jamming. I then lead Dirge a great 17, a proud line with good movement and a delicate, technical climbing style that went fairly easily. Adam then led Mari, another classic 17 with some epic moves through a small roof.


At camp I said g’day to our neighbour Madi, a super chill chick climbing at around grade 18. I asked her if she knew someone with some big trad climbing cams as we were planning on doing Watchtower the next day. The guy with her, Tim, offered to lend us his Number 5. We traded him a couple of beers in return and he even lent us his skyhooks for Mt. Buffalo.


The next morning Tim came over and asked if we wouldn’t mind taking his friend Rafa up Watchtower with us, we did and had a lot of fun with him being so stoked to be up there. The first two pitches are a stack of Jenga blocks but the second two were glorious. I got the last pitch, in my opinion, the money pitch and lead it in good style. After this we did Brolga, another classic 16 on the Watchtower face. This day was a turning point in the trip as we really started to get into the flow and feel confident after climbing so well.


On the last day of climbing at Araps, it was time to get after it, especially now that the confidence was up. We warmed up on a 15 then I flashed an 18 that Adam had whipped on a few days before, after which he onsighted another 18. We were climbing well and feeling confident. Time to try for Tannin; before sending the 18’s I had been fairly intimidated by it. It sits up high in a commanding position and is quite steep and sustained .


That afternoon I got on and got rained out just before the first crux and had to downclimb. We decided to jump back on it in the morning and I got the onsight. I climbed it in a controlled and confident way, got some good gear placed at the top of the second crux and ran it out to the top. It was epic and such a good feeling; I’m getting stoked as I type and remember it again. After we got the send, we went and packed up camp then drove six hours to Mount Buffalo, arriving at Lake Catani at night.

Read more of Mat’s trad climbing adventure in Part Two.


1 comment

christopher haikings

christopher haikings

Good read Mat, sounds like a rippa trip!

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