The beautiful Quartzite of Arapiles is indeed a pleasure to climb on. The animals are exceptional with the wombat, kangaroo, stumpy, echidna and wallaby. The bird life is brilliantly abundant in color and population creating melodious bird symphonies daily. The weather is dry and warm making a great destination for avoiding a North American winter. The massive island in the southern hemisphere is really all about the nature, the animals, the friendly locals and world class sport climbing.
Having to escape another North American winter, I headed south for Australian summer, from November till April. With the daytime temperatures range from 15 to 35 degrees Celsius it was enough to for me to pull out the Visa card and book a flight. I arrived in Melbourne and spent the day packing for the climbing trip to Arapiles, eating, and bull shitting with my pal, Anthony. He kept saying shit like ‘just grouse, inna it’, ‘have a squiz’, ‘it’s in the tucker box mate’, ‘good on ya’, ‘do you want some goonbag’, and ‘put it in the boot’. We decided to leave early the next day for the drive up to Arapiles. Over our third morning cappuccino, Anthony assured me that, he now drove slower because he had way too many points on his license. I had been driving with many Ozzies before and the five minute trip to the corner store can be fifty kilometers but only fifteen minutes. We hopped into the car and zoomed along the hot highway, drinking copious amounts of water and cranking the air-conditioning on the drive north for the weeks climbing holiday. The plan was to sport climb, boulder and trad climb.
We pulled into The Pines campground and set up our tents and stored the massive 200 liter industrial eskie (cooler) under the shade of the massive pine trees. It was early afternoon by the time we were ready to climb so we decided on the short 5 minute approach to the Pharos. We arrived at the cliff and Anthony quickly flaked the rope and belayed Carole as she led up the first pitch of the 4 pitch Lamplighter (14). The climbs on the back of the Pharos are 15 to 150 meters long with grades ranging from 5.5 to 5.13b. It was great to do an adventurous yet cruisy multi-pitch to get up high and enjoy the views of the farm lands and Ozzie’s countryside. There are also fantastic sport routes on bombproof quartzite holds. Have a Nice Fight (23) and Pilot Error (21), on The Atridae is a classic and just within prime viewing of the camp ground, so when you fall off the rock and scream, the peanut gallery in the camp can have a good laugh. Walking back to the camping there was a funny looking reptile, a stumpy that has a triangle head and a similar triangular tail, so predators are confused. There was also the uniquely Australian echidna, an egg laying mammal that looked like a hedgehog on steroids.
Horsham is only 30 km away and easily reached by hitching, a daily bus or driving. One day we drove in for supplies and a well deserved rest day. After buying our groceries at the Coles, we hung around in the overheating afternoon sun in the parking, lot with the local farm boys. There were many of the very Australian cars, the Ute. The car-Ute is a very ugly two seated station wagon with a tiny truck box instead of the wagon bit. It usually has a massive engine 454, with shiny aluminum mags, low profile tires, bright highly polished paint, blasting music, an amplified exhaust system to dangerously high decibels, a black tarp over the rear truck box and driven at dangerous speeds by some sun burnt cigarette puffing bogan(redneck). After this shockingly surreal experience we went the local outdoor pool for some shade and swimming, followed by pizza.
The next day found us climbing at the Bard, an aptly named crag. The routes were 400 feet long and the cracks took loads of natural gear, meaning if the climber chose to place protection (nuts, cams, hexes) the falls would be small. There was a nice trail to the cliffs, which is 3 minutes from the campground, maybe you could run it in 30 seconds. We started on the classic 2 pitch Eurydice (grade 18) and then rappelled back to the base and decided to climb the four pitch Bard (grade 12 a beginners route with some ummph) This was stunning to get high up on the mount and look out over the yellow, hazy, flat countryside seeing the salt encrusted dried out billabongs was fantastic. Below layed a scattereing of boulders that needed some attention. The rock quality was super compact sandstone, with amazing friction, not so abrasive, a warm wind was blowing and I was glad we had slathered on sunscreen and had 2 liters of water with us.
After an hour of bullshitting at the Natimuck (only 7 km from Arapiles)climbing shop with Phil the owner about routes, we walked up the deserted street to the local fish and chip shop and general store to sit out in the evening breeze at the picnic tables and way our Takeaway dinner Natimuck and we decided the next day to go bouldering in the morning and for the afternoon session climbing some of the classic finger, hands and fist cracks that Araps has to offer.
Arapiles, just three hours north of Melbourne is absolutely world class with the climbers camp at 3 dollars a day, and bullet hard quartzite that climbs like it was created by the rock gods themselves. The surrounding Australian countryside makes for an exciting environment to climb in. The natural gear protection makes for an engaging thought process when climbing the more exposed routes. The locals are from an era long forgotten in the rest of the western world but it is a timeless haunting era to be enjoyed in the Australian outback. These things are why Arapiles has a place in every climber’s heart.