Frog Buttress Trip Report - best crack climbing in Australia? July 20 2014
I went to Frog Buttress for my first visit last week and was very impressed with the crag. With Andrew Martin, our tick list included Carrion Comfort 25, Paranoia 25, Worrying Heights 24, Impulse 24, Insomnia 23, Deliverence 23, Child In Time 22, Black Light 22, Old Guard 22, Yankee Go Home 22, One That Got away 21, Conquistador 21, Short Order 20, Egotistical Pineapple 20, Ricketty Kate 20, Devils Diehedral 20, Termination 20, Bright Green Pleasure Machine 20, Infinity 19, Plume 19, Gladiator 18, Borderline 18, elastic Rurp 17, Chocolate wrist Band 17. The rock quality is superb, the lines were stunning and inspiring and the winter sun was lovely. Could be a regular winter pilgrimage to escape the tassie winter. It was also terrific to catch up with an old friend and legendary climber Ben Maddison, who pioneered many climbs n Ben Lomond, and with whom I did an epic first ascent on Cape Pillar in 2000.
Better than the Ben? There has been some debate about where the best crack climbing in Australia is to be found. It is nonsense to compare Ben Lomond with Frog as both are superb and world class in their style and context. The Ben is without doubt the premier multi-pitch crack venue, particularly Frews Flutes, but it is often forgotten that the parallel columns on the Flutes are only one crag on Ben Lomond and there are many other cliffs with an entirely different rock structure. Face climbing at the pavilion, Heathcliffe and Local Loser are a unique experience and the big faces at Stacks Bluff and Africa are very different - mainly cracks, but discontinuous ones connecting features such as slabs, corners, faces and roofs, and scary as hell. The pure cracks on the Flutes require a lot more endurance and continuous jamming, with hardly a foothold for a rest or a facehold. On the Ben, there is way more hands in, both feet in continuous sections, where Frog has short sections of pure jams then you get a stance to rest or place gear. The rock is much smoother at frog and I didn't tape up at all for the week. Frog was more reminiscent to me of the crags in the South and North Esk rivers, except double the height. The cataract Gorge and upstream past duck Reach have 900 climbs and the North esk 300 climbs, with a multitude of neat technical jam cracks - if the best ones were all collected at one big cliffline and doubled in height, then you would have Frog Buttress. Routes like Long Knife 13, Westham 14, Feltham 16, Lingham 18, No parking 19, Reculer 20, Expecting To Fly 20, Pelvic Thrust 21, Double dozen 22, Mac The Finger 22, No Standing 23, Northern Girls 24, Dammit 25, Seize the day 26, would be trade routes at Frog Buttress - equally as neat and classy - but at Frog they are all conveniently lined up side by side and of considerable height and stature, with very easy access, beautiful winter climate, great campsite and facilities. As a package, it is certainly the best one pitch crack climbing venue in the country.
My experience on the climbs. I was climbing pretty well and my best onsight was Insomnia 23, the first 23 in Australiua by Henry Barber - an outstanding line and varied and technical. I top-roped the 25s and 24's a couple of times and checked out the gear, then led them first attempt placing the gear. Impulse 24 was one of the best trad routes I've ever done and my favorite of the trip - great movement up a stunning and improbable line. Child In Time 22 ( my favorite Deep Purple song) was the only route I took a full on leader fall - the bottom section was very pumpy, technical and hard to placed gear. For pure delightful straightforward movement, Devils diehedrall 20 was superb. I was impressed by Paranoia 25 as the parallel thin crack was hard to protect and a ground fall is possible from about 8m, and the next bit of gear is not ideal. Amazng effort by the pioneers to lead this with old gear - ball nutz were perfect for this route and made it half sane - thank goodness I didn't have to test them out though. I did Carrion Comfort 25 in less than perfect style. I dogged the gear in, then led it on pre-placed gear. I had a nasty upside down fall when a blue alien ripped and I flipped and nearly hit a ledge with my head. I was able to bridge across to the route next door until the ledge at half height, which reduced the difficulty. Is this fair enough? From about half height, most stem across to get a rest, but I could do so from the start. Seems contrived to stick rigidly to the line when it is very easy to stem across, which spoilt it a bit for me.
It was pleasing to see Andrew Martin (ex Frog local and guidebook author, now Tassie resident), get regular compliments from dozens of climbers on the excellent guidebook he wrote to Frog Buttress. It is entertaining and humorous and very accurate, as Andrew is one of the few authors who determined to climb every single climb at the crag to research the guidebook. His knowledge of the cliff is encyclopedic, and he was able to spray beta to most routes which he did over 8 years ago.
Make sure you where a helmet at Frog - the cliff tops are treacherous and there is loose rock on the ledges. With dozens of climbers all rapping off, pulling ropes and often bringing rocks down, even passers-by and spectators need to wear a helmet.
I waited over 30years to finally get to frog and I was very impressed by the inspiring lines, quality of rock and movement and the overall aspect, weather and camping. My experience on Tassie cracks certainly helped. I'll certainly be back next winter for another brilliant holiday.