New Nowra – Sport climbing in NSW Australia


Australia has lots to offer the, rock climber, adventure seeker, naturalist, kitsch culture seeker, and bird lover.  Nowra is just three hours south of Sydney is one of these places. I had to escape another North American winter and headed south for Australian summer November till April. Daytime temperatures range from 15 to 30 degrees and shade can be found everywhere.

I spent the day packing for a climbing trip, eating, and bull shitting with my pal, Joe. 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 a climbing road trip. Before leaving Joe 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 klicks 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 to Nowra for a sport climbing holiday.


Joes Facebook friends said to camp at the Shoalhaven Zoo. The emu enclosure was in the parking lot of the Zoo entrance and the camp ground had a massive green lawn. The campground is beside the Shoalhaven River and a cool breeze blew over us, which is a rarity in Australia, but was welcomed after a long day on the road. The resident peacocks roamed the camp site and in the early evening-dusk, wombats roamed the area loudly crunching and munching the grass. There were kookaburra squealing and flapping around in the trees alongside the river.

Kookaburra, Nowra. Photo James Cruikshank

The first day of climbing was at one of the New Nowra crags, Tianjara falls. It was a horseshoe shaped canyon with tiny waterfalls, possibly bigger after heavy rains. The rock is sandstone with some quartzite pebbles mixed in. There were ten sections of cliff within a two mile area, relinquishing 150 routes. The approach to the crag was a 20 minute walk past bright red bottle brush bushes and fragrant eucalyptus trees. Arriving at the first   cliff, Joe quickly flaked the rope and sprinted up the bolted routes. The climbs were 80 to 140 feet long with grades ranging from 5.5 to 5.13b. After a few warm up climbs there was some fun grabbing bombproof sandstone holds, doing dynamic moves for holds just out of reach and then falling into space. It was a great day with no other people at the crags but when we got back to the parking there was another car. The Ute, the Australian car-Ute is a very ugly two seater 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).

James on Cover Boy (23), goldmine. Photo Carole Lunny at Nowra Nsw.

Day number two found us climbing at Goldmine, an aptly named crag. The routes were 120 feet long and supremely bolted, meaning close bolts so the climbers falls would be small. There was a nice trail to the cliffs, with insitu hand lines and even a painter’s ladder bolted to a small section of cliff. The rock quality was a super compact sandstone with amazing friction and not so abrasive. The area was quite with no planes or helicopters buzzing overhead, although there was a lot of bird chatter. The whip bird made a Star Wars blaster sound and the cackling Kookaburra was eerily disturbing. We began at the Sandpaper Sally crag with the classic Hung out to Dry (5.7) a 120 foot bolted with shiny new ring bolts. We then moved on to the roof like, After Dinner Sex Games (5.9) an athletic 110 feet long. Some of the other routes had laybacks, pockets, crimps, jugs, roofs, and technical foot jobbies. Wasp in the willows was another memorable 120 foot (5.11b). All the routes we climbed that day were super classic long sport routes. Walking out to the parking lot there was a funny looking reptile, a stumpy which 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.dscn0362-small

The well bolted routes on steep overhung Nowra sandstone 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. G’Day Mate, can be heard all day long and is as infectious as it is snickeringly cute. The massive island in the southern hemisphere is really all about the nature, the animals, the friendly locals and world class sport climbing.

%d bloggers like this: