Fingal Bare Rock Guide Update May 01 2016

Here is a complete guide to the 28 new climbs added to Bare Rock since the guidebook came out in 2013. A comprehensive guide to the cliff up to 2013 is found in Climb Tasmania. It has become a major sport climbing destination with 91 pitches of new bolted climbing added to the cliff since 2010. Visitors are asked to ring or text the landowner, Andrew Martin, before every visit on 0418 883 418. People are also asked to drive very slowly on the access road to minimize damage, as this road is paid for by private property owners.

Salathe Wall El Cap Video February 23 2016

Check out this rough video recording of our ascent of El Cap via the Salathe..20 minutes long..thanks to John Fischer for the edit. We hauled to Heart Ledge on the first day at about 250m, rapped the second day then climbed Free Blast back to heart Ledge, slept the night and fixed to Lung Ledge (one pitch), then realized we didn't have enough water; rapped to the ground and a rest for a few hours, fetched water then jumared back up to Lung ledge, then it was 3 more nights and four days climbing to the top..a slow effort..some 20 hour days..but we made it nonetheless. Hardest thing physically and mentally I've ever done..we didn't free climb anything harder than about grade was 30 degrees, exhausted from hauling, dehydrated etc. Only a couple of pitches up to that grade level (22) would rate 3 stars if they were one pitch climbs.. The best quality pitches are grade 27+, and the headwall (31) is the greatest crack pitch I've ever seen (took us 5 hours to aid). In hindsight, the way to go would be light and as free as a 24 hour push with a few hours rest if needed, just a few snacks and a few litres water, and just yard on the gear when its too hard. Id never do a big wall again,,a grueling epic, but some of the best positions in climbing I've ever been.

Africa Guide Update January 13 2016

Here is an update to six superb routes done at Africa on the western escarpment of Ben Lomond recently. I spent 21 days camped there in the last 2 months and together with Andrew Martin, Nick Hancock, Squib and Simon Bischoff, some of the best routes in the history of the crag were established.

Ben Lomond Guide Update November 17 2015

A few people have been asking what routes have been done on Ben Lomond since Memory of a Journey came out in 2008. There have been 55 new routes, 54 of them in this update from 2 years ago, all linked and formatted to Memory of a Journey.

The only new route in the last 2 years since the update is called `Falling off the Edge of the World 22 at Stacks Bluff; see topo via this link.

Paschendale Video - Grade 25 trad at Fingal August 27 2015

Thanks to Crazy John for putting together this video of me repeating my route Paschendale (25) at Bare Rock, Fingal. Paschendale was a WW1 battle field..Iron Maiden do a song about it which is the music for the video.

Order the new selected best climbs guide to Tassie for your summer trip.

Bare Rock More New Routes - Bouldering Frenzy May 27 2015

The updated guide that came out a week ago is now outdated. This new update shows topos to 4 new routes done last weekend. There has been a mini-renaissance at Bare Rock in the last few months with routes contstantly being bolted and projected on different sections of the cliff. Of interest is a bouldering frenzy begun by James Scarborough and crew. There are about 8 good boulders in the forest below the cliff and last weekend resembled a construction site with stone platforms being built and lots of scrubbing and cleaning. James says there is potential for about 50 problems in the area. With quality sport, trad and now bouldering, Bare Rock deserves to become a major destination in Tasmania

Bare Rock Fingal Guide Update May 20 2015

Here is an update to 14 new routes done on Bare Rock at Fingal since the Climb Tasmania guidebook in 2013. It has some nice photos by Simon Carter. Bare Rock has become a major sport climbing venue in Tasmania with 54 new routes established in the last 5 years. Another 10 projects are on the go. For the full guide, see the Climb Tasmania guide to the 25 best crags in Tasmania.


Township Creek Guide to 22 New Routes March 31 2015

Since September last year, Andrew Martin, Ingvar Lidman, and myself have been developing new routes at Township Creek in the Fingal Valley. First climbed in 1984 by Bob McMahon and I, the cliff was revisited for sport climbing potential and 22 excellent new routes have been done. Other climbers such as Jemimah Narkowicz, Steve Greig and Nick Hancock have pitched in with a few new ones as well. Access is a 15 minute flat walk after a 55 minute drive on pretty good forestry roads from Avoca. Check it out.

El Chorro Spain Trip report January 18 2015



At Siurana, I asked legendary Spanish climber Tony Arbones, what he thought of El Chorro. He said; `Eeez nice but eeez bit polish.’ He was right. Amazing scenery and some excellent climbs, but many of the climbs were so polished you could add a grade. And yet, some of the routes were the best ones we did in Spain.

El Chorro is a small hydro village in a very rugged mountainous area of southern Spain. The focal point is an incredible 100m high gash in the mountain forming a gorge with just a 15m wide opening to the dammed lake. The most famous feature is the Camino del rey, a pathway fastened to the sheer cliff designed for the workers on the hydro-electric scheme about 100 years ago. But over the years the path had disintegrated to the point where only rockclimbers could access the gorge with a via ferrata type arrangement. Unfortunately for us, the camino was closed because they are rebuilding it for tourists, which meant many of the best cliffs were inaccessible. Strict policing of the railway tunnels also prevents access to several of the best cliffs. The Makindromo, El Chorro’s most famous and world class sector, is now a 90 minute steep walk approach. So we didn’t bother, but there is still plenty of fabulous climbing to be had on the surrounding mountains.

The Frontales above the village of el chorro

We spent 3 days climbing on various sectors of the Frontales, a 200m high and 2km wide rock face which you can drive to the base of. There are many multi-pitch routes, but we did 9 superb one pitch routes on excellent rock (eeez bit polish though), with expansive and wonderful views of the astonishing landscape. A highlight for me was onsighting a 7a+ (supposed 25), but it was no harder than some of the 6c+ (23) I tried. Which brings me to the point of inconsistent grading at El Chorro. Some routes are total sandbags, depending on what era they were established – old school grades from the 80’s and early 90’s. There were some 6c’s and 6c+ which were as hard as some 7a’s at El chorro and Siurana, and yet others were soft touch (I’ll still claim a 25 onsight though).

A terrific 7a (24)  I led 3rd shot on sector Albercones on the Frontales

A failed attempt on the same 7a


There is some dodgy bolting going on here; bolts and even anchors fastened to detached blocks, which reminds me of a guy who died in Sicily recently when the entire block the anchors were on, fell off the cliff. Another worrying thing for pussys like me was high first bolts. On my routes, I always put a bolt in reach from the ground, but there are many potential ankle and back breakers here.

A terrific area was Desplomolandia, about 20 minutes drive from El Chorro with 6 crags of immaculate limestone. We did 5 steep routes in the 19-24 range, laybacking off weird tufas and the common technique on most Spanish climbs of inserting various numbers of fingers in miraculous pockets. Las Encantadas was also a first class crag, with a 2 minute roadside access, and very close to the village. A couple of 6c+ routes (about 23), were probably the best routes I did on the trip. It’s that elusive feeling you get from a climb where you lower off and say; `climbs like that are the reason we go rockclimbing.’

The crag at Desplomolanidia

We stayed at Finca La Campagna, which was nice but only until we upgraded from the backpackers to our own apartment. The bunk house and kitchen area was crowded, filthy and chaos. Head of chaos was Azog the defiler, a Czechoslovakian version of Crazy John who spoke like Azog, the monstrous orc on the Hobbit movie. At the crag he was bouncing around yelling beta in Czech to everyone and stoned out of his mind. It pissed me how such a party animal could onsight 7c. I was also amazed at the Bavarian boob job. She was a lady in her mid 50’s with a substantial rack (of quickdraws I mean) with a backside to match, who was onsighting 6c+ (about 23). My daughter reckons Ms Bavaria has had a boob job. She was obviously a very good experienced climber, despite the extra padding. But I thought to myself, if that old duck can climb harder than me, what does that tell you? Two things: there's hope for me yet! My man boobs are bigger than hers. But most probably that I need to lose weight. How could I quickly lose 5kg? Cut the mullet? Stop drinking 3 beers a night and start training? Live like Ingvar Lidman on broccoli and become a 60kg stick insect? Or keep sinking piss, eating whatever I want, keep growing the mullet, and keep dragging my 95kg fat arse up climbs and having fun. Depends what you want out of climbing I suppose.

Dejected fat old prick deciding whether to lose the weight or keep falling off 7a's

So after 5 weeks, we have done 53 routes at various crags at Siurana, Chulilla, Costa Blanca and El Chorro. On our rest days we have gone sightseeing in Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida, Valencia, Cartagena, Malaga, Granada and Madrid; all the boring stuff like 1st century Roman amphitheatres, medieval cathedrals, architectural wonders like the Alhambra palace in Granada, and the Picasso museum. Honestly, there is a painting in my office at school by a kinder child of the hungry caterpillar, which is as good as any of Picasso’s stuff. But as Picasso once said, `It took me 4 years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’ Which sums it up really.

The Australian summer, European winter, was a perfect time to visit. In 5 weeks we had one day of rain, and every day was cloudless blue sky, about 12-15 degrees, and great friction. As far as the climbing goes, the truly world class sector we climbed on was El Falco at Arboli, about 20 minutes from Siurana. We only did one route at Monsant, but I could tell that was another world class crag. As is the case for most crags, the best rock is usually the steepest and the hardest, and anything above 7a+ was out of our league. So some of the sectors at Siurana such as El Pati (La Rambla etc), the steep stuff at Chulilla and the Wild Side at Sella, were very impressive. Climbing at our level in the 6a (18) to 7a+ (25) range at most crags involved lots of pockets on slabs with the occasional bulge or short section of steep rock, hardly any crimps, and the occasional tufa to pinch and even handjam or fingerlock between tufas. All the one pitch cracks were bolted which was very convenient, but a bit of a shame.

Superb 6c+ (23) at Las encantadas

Maybe the mainstream popularity of rockclimbing in Europe, and especially Spain, is due to the fact that there are tens of thousands of bolted sport climbs with easy access. They have bolted many climbs of grade 3 and 4 (Aussie grades 8-12). The transition from the gym to outside climbing is straightforward and anyone with a rack of quickdraws can enjoy some great climbs and progress quickly through the grades. In Australia, generally only the harder stuff gets bolted and people learning to climb in Tassie, Arapiles, the Grampians, Frog Buttress etc have to learn trad climbing skills right from the start.

Speaking of trad, I’ve got one more week of holidays so a dash out to Africa on Ben Lomond is on the cards, plus my projects at Township Creek, which are as good as anything I’ve climbed in Spain…fingertips are sweating now… can’t wait to get home… Adios.


Cruising Costa Blanca Classics - Spain Trip Report and Photos January 10 2015

 Cruising Costa Blanca Classics: Spain Trip Report.

Gerry leading Tai Chi (6b+ - 21) at Olta, with the Penon and city of Calpe in the background

The Costa Blanca area of south-east Spain is one of the best destinations for a climbing holiday I’ve seen. Day after day of winter sunshine and over 40 major crags ranging from roadside buttresses, multi-pitch sport and trad routes on 200m faces, super steep sport climbing, dramatic sea cliffs, and all generally on excellent rock. So where would I rather be? Back home in Tassie or cruising classics in the Costa Blanca? It’s a silly hypothetical because I’ve chosen to be here and I’m very happy with that choice, but this is the first summer in 34 years of climbing that I haven’t climbed in Tasmania, so it’s a big departure from the norm.

So if I was climbing at home, what would my summer have looked like in comparison? For a start, I wouldn’t be scaring myself on new trad routes on Ben Lomond, something I’ve done most summer holidays for as long as I remember. Summer does not feel complete without a new route at Africa or Stacks Bluff, those scary dark faces 150m high with sketchy gear and imaginary lines. Instead I’m clipping bolted slabs on perfect pocketed grey limestone at Sella. Just when you think the face has blanked out, a one finger pocket materializes and the dots are connected. Sometimes the pockets seem so perfect, one wonders if they were manufactured by a not so subtle drilled hole, but some Spanish new routers don’t seem to be fussed about chipping, and chipped climbs are often mentioned and recommended in the guidebook. The steep pocketed crack of Kashba (6c+ -23) was a highlight.

The Divino, in the Sella valley

In Tassie I might have gone to the sea cliffs of Mt Brown for some new routes with that inspirational fanatic Garry Phillips. Instead, we went to the sea cliffs of Sierra de Toix with a 5 minute approach through a luxury estate of seaside villas, and did a fabulous 70m grade 19 sport route called El Dorado, then from the cliff top watched the sunset over the skyscrapers of Benidorm.

We climbed El Dorado (6b - 20) at the Sierra Toix sea cliffs, the central crack line.

Sunset over Benidorm


Sierra de Toix sea cliffs. The route we did is on the shaded face, the central crack, bolted 70m pitch

I usually spend the summer camping and sleeping in the back of the Subaru at the base of Stacks Bluff, Bare Rock at Fingal or wherever the latest new routes are. At Costa Blanca, we are at the Orange House, an excellent accommodation place for climbers, run by Rich and Sam Mayfield from the U.K. We have a double room for 30 euros a night, shared bathrooms, big kitchen facility, swimming pool, bar with an honor system tab, huge TV with climbing movies and lots of climbers from around the world to talk to. Rich is an old climbing mate of Nick Hancock and while his wife manages the Orange House, he’s off guiding or putting up new routes. Lucky bastard. In fact, this is one place in the world I could be tempted to move to – comfortable lifestyle and an endless supply of new routes. The Spanish won’t walk an hour to develop a crag, and yet there are literally hundreds of undeveloped cliffs here; Garry would be frothing.

Road tripping with my 16 year old daughter Jemimah is fun and a great relationship building, memory making time. But when she is DJ on the car radio, it’s hard to bear the musical diarrhoea that dribbles forth. Back home I usually rock along to the crag to some Black Sabbath, ACDC, or Iron Maiden. Instead I’m listening to some screeching haggis named Sia swinging from the chandelier. Then Pharrel Williams tells us to clap along if you feel like a room without a roof, cause I’m happy…clap along if you feel like that’s want you want to do. What I want to do is smack that happy little prick, because that stupid song gets stuck in my head for the day. Thank goodness for Rock FM which plays all the family favorites such as TNT, Paranoid, some Status Quo, Jimmy Hendrix, or Deep Purple. Echo Smith wishes she could be like the cool kids, but when Sweet comes on Rock FM singing Ballroom Blitz, I explain to Jemimah that in 1976, songs like Ballroom Blitz and Fox on The Run were number one in Australia, and all the cool kids listened to Sweet…or ACDC, or Status Quo. But Ballroom Blitz gave her a headache.


Jemimah leading a 5+ (16) at Sella, perfect limestone pockets all the way.

It’s a crazy mix of urbanization and crags on the Costa Blanca. Within 15 minutes of the ultra-touristy hotel skyscrapers, amusement parks, Pommie tourists and crassness of Benidorm, you can be at a beautiful crag with huge and serious looking mountains all around. In Tassie, we’d have the crag to ourselves, but at Sella, Gandia, Olta or Guadalest, it’s a circus of people queued up for routes and the obligatory party of Spaniards with their pooing dogs in tow. It is a revelation to see how popular and mainstream rockclimbing is in Europe. But with that you get the accompanying crowds of bumblies, unsafe practices and lack of cliff etiquette. At Sella, there was a helicopter rescue when a German guy unclipped his safety from the anchors and fell 5m to the last bolt, and smashed his head and ankle. It’s disappointing to see the rubbish, cigarette butts and uncovered human waste right next to the cliffs. I’m not sure whether the popularity of climbing and the balance of looking after the environment is sustainable at most of the crags I’ve been to in Spain.

On a route called Perestroika (6b - 20), steep Tufa climbing at Gandia, probably the best small crag we went to on the Costa Blanca

I’m surprised at the star rating of some of the routes here. When I get home, I’m going to upgrade all Andrew Martin’s zero star new routes to immortal 3 stars in comparison. We did a 3 star 6a+, top 50 in the guidebook, route at Guadalest. Honestly, the rock looked so terrible I thought some pre-historic Spanish dogs with super powered sphincters had spray painted the crag with their turds to create the cliff. And yet the climbs were terrific. It was literally a roadside crag with a 20 second approach, an 11th century castle on the summit and the most kitch tourist trap of a village right beside the cliff.


Roadside cragging at Guadalest

At Olta, we climbed the 3 star routes of Tufa Groove (21) and Tai Chi (21), with glorious views out to the Penon, a prominent mountain and major crag beside the skyscrapers of Calpe. Tai Chi is the front cover photo of the guidebook. They were both fantastic routes, but nevertheless, 10 bolt climbs on a 25m buttress. I think that many sport routes in Tassie are of the same quality; Ghost Rider (19) at Hillwood, Antimatter (23) at the Star Factory, After Midnight or Inflagrante Delicto (24) on the Organ Pipes, Cluedo (23) at the Cluan Tiers, most of our new climbs at Fingal, not to mention truly world class climbs such as the Totem Pole or Pole Dancer at Cape Raoul.


Jemimah enjoying pocketed perfection on a 6b+ - 21 at Gandia.

So would I rather be climbing in Tassie or the Costa Blanca this summer? Obviously I’d rather be in Spain because I’ve chosen to be here. Fabulous place for a holiday; terrific, safe, fun, quality climbing and great for a change. But add the crowds, queues for routes, polished rock, dog turds, skyscrapers, traffic, approach via freeways and toll roads, then maybe I’ll reconsider my thought of moving here for the new routes, and stay in the paradise which is Tasmania. Stay tune for my next installment on El Chorro, our destination for the next 10 days…if that’s what you want to do, cause I’m happy…clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth, cause I’m happy…