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Australian Climbs with great Mythology

5:08:54 PM
One of the things I love about climbing is finally getting up the nerve to do a route you've read stories about, daydreamed about doing whilst at work, listened to other people describe their epics on, or simply spied in a guidebook and been somehow drawn to by the pictures and descriptions there-in.

The climbing route that best represents this would have to be the original route up the north wall of the Eiger. It would be an amazing experience to climb that route after reading all the stories of the epic early ascents, and finally getting a look at the 'spider', 'difficult crack', 'flatiron' and other features that ive visualised from their descriptions. Unfortunately I lack the balls / skills / commitment required to pursue climbing such a route.

Luckily however there are routes in this country that have mythologies of their own, that whilst not up to that of the Eiger still serve to fire the imagination.

I'm interested in routes that have something distinctive about them that fires the imagination, be it an epic story of the first ascent, a distinctive piece of rock architecture on the route that you just have to experience first hand, or something more mundane like remnant pieces of unusual fixed protection from the first ascent.

There are two routes in Tasmania that I think have substantial mythology associated with them. One is the free route on the Totem Pole, and the other is:

McDonough 17, at Fingal offers 220 odd metres of varied climbing up a brooding darkly menacing face. Whilst doing work experience at Launceston Council I started climbing with a guy who the year before had pulled a loose block onto himself whilst leading the crux pitch, resulting in a nasty concussion, lots of blood, a epic retreat, and a great story told with great gusto to young climbers like myself 'under his wing'. Not long after I stumbled on a copy of Joe Friends book 'Classic Climbs of Australia' which featured excerpts from Bob McMahon's article on Fingal in Peaks Magazine. The Peaks article described the epic attempt on the 1st ascent by Bob McMahon, Mick McHugh and Peter Jackson in 1969, which turned into a serious retreat after McHugh had his head caved in by a falling rock during the ascent. A nightmare of difficult abseils and jammed ropes followed.

These stories fired my imagination, and although several years passed before I climbed the route (which meant the route became relatively straightforward for me difficulty wise), doing the route was still a great source of personal satisfaction. I was able to check my mental image of the route against the reality.

Those of you that have read through to the bottom of this post will probably be wondering what the point of all this rambling is.....

What Australian routes out there have a great mythology associated with them? What routes are you inspired to do by the stories you have heard about other peoples ascents of them? Are there routes out there that you know technically that you would be able to do, but that some aspect of the mythology of the route (stories of injuries, loose rock, marginal protection etc) has thus far kept you off?

7:23:29 PM
The mythology or mystery behind the wine bottle on Country Road is what drew me to it and luckily M8 was of a similar mind. Country Road has a wine bottle on the roof belay that was placed by the FA's and the story of why has never been told to my knowledge. Now this could be a very benign story, but maybe it is a tale of larrikinism or some such. Unfortunately seeing and touching the bottle has so far produced no answers, but the promise of hidden secrets was sufficient to inspire me to tackle it despite it's grade of 24. I suppose I am attracted to routes with a tale behind them, the yales don't have to be of misfortune, just of adventure and mystery.

9:12:14 PM
I presume the bottle was empty when you got there?
The mystery of things like that are fantastical.

As a wee bairn the bard was like that. Was Never technically daunted, but had heard enough admiration about the climb to respect and thoroughly enjoy it when I got there.

I suppose that's why I've never climbed at Taipan wall - When I was in Vic, I could've climber stuff there, but couldn't treat the wall with the respect it deserved. "It's still there waiting" :)

Phil Box
8:05:45 AM
The Lost Boys on Mt. Warning. 580 metres long of uncompromising sustainability at around grade 23 for many many pitches. The fact that it took ten years to put up and has only had 2 recorded ascents both written up in Rock, one with a multi page spread and the other with a full page dedicated to the effort. There may have been more ascents by the secret society of troglodite Queensland olde schoole climbers but I haven`t sussed that info out so I`m sticking to the two ascents for now.

8:35:11 AM
On 3/02/2005 cheesehead wrote:
>I presume the bottle was empty when you got there?
>The mystery of things like that are fantastical.
Yeah the bottle was empty, but I was kind of expecting a message to be in it ala POLICE style :)

9:00:07 AM
West Wall in the blueys three sisters. The climb itself is more a bush walk, but a great day out for any budding climber. On top of that everyone knows it and about the only thing non-climbers can relate to when they ask..."so where do you climb?"

Shame the so called enviromentalist shut it down:(

The Fear at north head has always been one Ive also wanted to do (still yet to do). seen many a story of exposed conditions, manky bolts, airy lines etc and and with a name like The Fear its gotta be good

9:25:41 AM
East Face of Crookneck (now banned) in the Glasshouse Mtns. Three pitches of grade 19 up an overhung 'trench crack'. First aided back in the 1950's. Piton rust stains go all the way up this climb... really atmospheric climbing with semi-hanging trad belays and a grade 5 downclimb (which has killed several people) to get off. One of the best rotues in QLD - it is a shame that it is now banned. Generation afetr generation have used this route as a testing ground to hone skills. It was always special for me as my Mom told me that it was one of her first climbing trips in the late 1950's - she did the 70m free hanging rap in classic absiel style to inspect the route - Respect!
9:36:21 AM
In the Sydney area:

The Fear 17. What a route. Sydney sandstone, the Harbour, the ocean, exposure, straightforward grades, interesting gear, cool route description ("fear and avarice"), FA by a Sinny classic new router, has seen fun, danger, death and closure. Glad I got in while the going was good. Worth risking a fine for.

Janicepts 21. I've never done it, but that's partly due to reputation. An old aid route by Ewbank, freed by Law, a crack, at a classic crag (Piddington), a great line. All the ingredients. On the must do list.

Clockwork Orange 20. Best gear route of the grade I've done. Interesting moves on P1, wild stemming on P2, funky difficulty on the 'easiest' pitch (P3). P2 is outrageous. Have never had a bad day on it (although doing a repeat in order to take a visiting climber up it on my wedding anniversary was prolly a little out of order given the day...)

The Mantleshelf 12. Consumer exposure. Mega history, climbed by Roots in the fifties, early ascents by Westren and the crew, say hello to the tourists, and then 200m of exposure, with big holds and straightup moves, all a three minute stroll from the carpark.

West Wall 13. As noted by Rod – a great route, also excellent for taking the touring climbers on.

Samson Gets a Number One is a sly one as well, generally overlooked by being so close to Bladderhozen (another classic of the region).

Fark we’re a spoiled bunch.
10:17:41 AM
Balls Pyramid

Phil Box
11:27:00 AM
On 4/02/2005 WM wrote:
>Balls Pyramid

11:35:21 AM
Frenchmans Cap has always had a legendary status. Getting in used to be a major expedition with air-drops, some of which went in the lake. Now that you have to carry everything, it's still a major expedition.
Despite many years of walking and climbing in Tas I never got in there but the stories of my friends who did were awesome. The trips there in the 60's must have been amazing.

master of drung
1:31:35 PM
great topic, best thing about climbing that isn't actually climbing is drooling over desired lines and there stories however improbable an ascent is.
for what it is worth my two cents is as follows (excuse victorian bias)

Arapiles: the eighth, watchtower crack, the rack, procol harum

Grampians: the ogive, passport to insanity, serpentine

Buffalo: ozymandias, country road

Tassie: incipience, anything on frenchmans cap, precipitous bluff or ben lomond,
definitely the totem pole

NSW: the fear, anything on dogface or the three sisters

also infinity at frog buttress and without doubt balls pyramid.

i love the idea of the original ascent seeming highly improbable or dangerously committing.
As an afterthought the fact that i have never climbed any of these seems somehow important to how they inspire me whether they are well within my ability or well outside it, does anyone else have any clearer thoughts along these lines.

2:14:54 PM
Whistling Kite

Such an inspiring looking wall . . .and so blank

6:07:28 PM
There is that route Japhilion at Coles Bay. Only a grade 15 but I can't wait to find myself back in Tassie to go find it and give it a go. Some of the stories I've heard in Hobart gear shops, around tassie crags, etc... like

"50m runout with a twig to belay"

"my mate did that route, was so scared shitless he came home, hung up his rock booties and has never climbed since"

"it was so scarey just trying to find the route we turned back and did Stud City instead"

(stud city is an incredible 4 pitch grade 19 with the crux a wide layback traverse.... bloody awesome and quite frightening if you just lead the grade... you get progressively more pumped the further you work your way across and further away from your last gear, to the psychological crux which is getting off the traverse (now some ways from your gear) and into the next line, (if I recall correctly - it was 7 years ago!)


12:32:36 AM
>>I presume the bottle was empty when you got there?
>>The mystery of things like that are fantastical.
>Yeah the bottle was empty, but I was kind of expecting a message to be
>in it ala POLICE style :)

Haha! That would have been most fitting.

I've thought a bit, and expanded my list:
Serpentine, Ozy and/or Ozy Direct, Totem Pole, The Nose on El Cap, The Grand Wall on Squamish, The Eiger Nordwand, Cerro Torre (Probably the questioned Maestri route)

But I concur - Balls Pyramid is the winner.

It's funny to note that many of the climbs mentioned thus far are now out of bounds. To paraphrase Rohl Dahl "All the thinges you were allowed to do were so boring, but all the things you weren't were so exciting"

1:31:03 PM
Great responces!

Of the routes raised, The Fear and Passport to Insanity both are definatly on the list of routes I have to do. Both fit perfectly with the theme in that they have prominent stories / articles associated with them, and will require a great deal of pscycing myself up for.

Wouldnt Balls Pyramid be awesome! An Australian route that would require expedition type planning! I was lucky enough to see the late great Rick White give a presentation about his solo ascent of Balls Pyramid, outstanding effort.

Hex raised a good one on his thread (come on hex, no need to confine yourself to one thread, you can come out and play if you promise to play nicely!), namely the Kangaroo Tail route on Ayres Rock / Ulauru. Although obviously this route wont be climbed anytime soon, im sure lots of climbers have glanced at this feature with longing as they walk the tourist lap of the big rock.

Superstu wrote:

"There is that route Japhilion at Coles Bay........"

Whilst I havent done Japhilion yet, ive done a 15 (phnises) and a 19 (griphon) that are just left and just right of that route. Phnises had one pitch 100m of the deck, with a questionable belay (wires in pieces of rock held into a flared crack by dirt), with a 25m runnout to a little bush growing out of blank granite, then another 25m runnout to the next belay. Thank god I was belaying! Grade 15 slabbing may not be that hard, and you may never fall off a grade 15 slab move, but by the same notion you never feel secure.

Ive heared Japhilion is better protected than many routes on the Hazards Main Wall, but is still run out by Tasmanian standards (where most people climb on bommer dolerite crack routes, and hence have a different definition of well protected than people who climb alot on granite).

The Queensland routes sound interesting too. Ive heared / read about the Mt Warning routes, but dont know much about the other routes. MOst people I know that have climbed in queensland have only really climbed at Frog, and I dont seem to have read much about cliffs in Queensland other than Frog. I used to hear stories about an anti-queensland bias in Rock, could they be true?
9:27:25 PM
On 5/02/2005 oweng wrote:
>Hex raised a good one on his thread (come on hex, no need to confine yourself
>to one thread, you can come out and play if you promise to play nicely!),
>namely the Kangaroo Tail route on Ayres Rock / Ulauru. Although obviously
>this route wont be climbed anytime soon, im sure lots of climbers have
>glanced at this feature with longing as they walk the tourist lap of the
>big rock.

Umm .. actually a former school chum of mine who is now fairly well known in NSW climbing circles admitted to soloing it many years ago while working as a tour guide on bus camping tours through the NT. About gr 13 and fairly scary he claimed.
My lips are sealed ..
dried rat
4:56:34 PM
Mr Monteith sometime ago we made some films together due to an ever increasing crime rate my climbing gear was relocated into someone elses care [hope they drop and die!] as was a copy of The Great Devoid any chance you still have a copy ?

5:15:11 PM
... mr dried rat - are you one of the guys we did all that filming with MANY years ago back in Queensland??! If so - awesome! - i have no idea where masters of some of that stuff is - possibly in my parents garage. Do you have any copies of things we made?

5:22:23 PM
> I dont seem to have read much about cliffs in Queensland other than Frog

There's other cliffs? Must look into that...

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