Australia is probably THE destination that every traveler wants to visit at some point, because it’s so far and rimes with adventure, roadtrip and wilderness! For us it was obvious to put it in our destination list, especially because of the famous climbing destination it offers. Actually, Australia was the first destination of the trip, before we decided to add to stops in Europe. In 2008, Charlotte spent 10 days in the Blue Mountains, so we wanted to try another spot : the Grampians! Located North-East of Melbourne it is the ideal destination, because of all the different type of climbing it has (all of them ?!), the proximity of the big city if we wanted to do some work, and last but not least, our friend Steve (who we met when living in Montpellier) lives in Melbourne. For the previous 3 months leading up to our trip, we exchange tons of email with Steve, mostly logistic and when to meet each other. For some further goal later in the trip, we booked Australia for 45 days starting in November, definitively not the best season for rock climbing as it is the start of their summer, but we figured we could find some good shade spot of even do night sessions.
On November 2nd, we landed in Melbourne, pick-up our rental car (which we were pleased to get an upgrade from “compact” to “SUV”) and went to the Northside bouldering gym in Northcote, to meet up with Steve who welcomed us with crashpads (we didn’t fly with any but had some coming from Petzl later), the Grampians bouldering guidebook and a homemade bread. What wonderful first few hours we got in Australia! After that, we drove 3h-ish to the Grampians and checked-in at the Mt Zero Log cabin with the owner Angela, located 5mins away from the Northern Grampians and here we were, settled down in our cabin for a month and a half.
Our plan : climbing ! This is gonna be one of the rare destination where our only plan and goal is to climb and get into projects. We started to flip the guidebook pages and we were chocked (in a good way) how dense the sectors are, some World Famous boulders being so close to each other!
Surprisingly when we arrived the temps were pretty nice, having us put long sleeves and beanies. On our first day, totally jetlagged, we wanted to make it easy with not too much hiking and we ended up at the Kindergarten. Amazing amazing AMAZING rock in orangey-white colors that has unique wavy features. One of a kind that none of us has never seen before. What a treat for our first day, we had no idea! We climbed a bunch, trying easy and intermediate boulders, tempting our fingers on some harder lines. The rock and moves quality were so pleasant! We hiked out on the sun set, thrilled by those long days which added 4 hours of daylight compared to our previous stop in Serbia.
The next day, we met up with Steve and his family : his wife Kate, and their two adorable kids Tommy and Suzy. We went to Andersens and once again we climbed around to check out the moderates up to V6. We finished the day up in the hill, where we checked out the famous Hollow Moutain Cave.... just WOW! That day, we stated something that we’ve been noticing few times and that confirmed later on : no photos nor videos can truely show you the beauty and unicity of places. The HMC is definitively a unique climbing sector. We played in there a little bit, and Josh grabbed an awesome send of Dead can’t dance, V11. To watch the sunset, we went a few hundred meters higher at Loopeys where we climbed around and contemplated the evening colors on the impressive Taipan Wall.
Finally, before a first rest day, we wanted to climb a bit more and get some volume in, so on our 3rd day we went back to Andersens and climbed a bunch of V7 (seems like half the boulders are V7 here) and also “Pumped Action” V9 (only Cha tried it and flashed it... you know by the name why Josh didn't want to try it !), and the beautiful and tricky “Etch-a-sketch” V10, flashed by Josh and sent 2nd go for Cha after figuring out her own twisty beta!
“Ammagamma” has been our zen word since we left for our trip, mostly for Josh because it's the name of a boulder problem on his dream list. Most climbers have a "dream list" whether it's just in their head or written down somewhere arbitrary, we all have goals and dreams. Ammagamma has been one of those for Josh since we booked our flights. This is Josh’s words when we arrived to the Citadel sector : ”Walking up to the boulder (this is going to sound weird) I was nervous; like the blind date feeling of "what if they are annoying, or smelly, or their headshots online were photoshopped?" I walked around the corner - palms sweating - to find it near perfect. She didn't smell bad, she looked fine, she even had a shimmer of sun on the topout for me. I quickly warmed up and started to session on my blind date...my dream boulder. I worked through all the moves, the intricate toe-hooks, the subtle finger positioning in the good/bad pockets and figured out the topout. The entire boulder revolves around a big dynamic right hand jump to a flat, rounded edge. I was very far from sticking on my first try, then after the subtle foot and momentum beta, pretty much stuck it and fell trying to put my feet back on. STOKED!”.
We left the boulder after it started to get warm and went around the corner in the “Between the sheeps” sector where Cha wanted to try "When we were Kings" 8A/ V11. It’s a boulder made for Char, steep (nearly a roof) with pockets, and power-endurance focused with a few mini cruxes. She tried it once, fell, worked through the moves quickly, rested, then sent it, making it her 2nd boulder of the grade, a great surprise at the beginning of the trip here!
Arrival of the heat wave
We found out pretty soon that afternoon climbing is relatively impossible as all the boulders (at least the one we wanted to try) are facing the sun in the afternoon, which became extremely hot (like 30°C minimum). Well, we were warned, it's the summer here and in the summer, it's hot, and yes, it just arrived in the Grampians, few days after our arrivals. So we dragged our pads in different sectors and eventually found some shaddy spot (not temps dependant boulders) like "Butcher choice" V10 in the Trackside sector, that Josh flashed and Cha sent 1st go after figuring out her own beta (again!).
Our projects not being climbable in the heat, the next days we decided to take full advantage of the climbing around and drove a bit further, checking out the Campground sector (not so interesting but wins the “least hiking” reward) and even further, the Cave of Man Hand sector in the Southern Grampians. It is an incredible little cave with crazy features and holds. We played around in the moderates, loving the compression of "The pummelling" V4. We both got a flash of "Cold hands, cold heart" V8, and then Josh kept going with sending "Manhandled" V8 and impressively (Charlotte speaking here) flashing the powerful V10 "The sound of one man hand slapping".
While in the South, we checked out the sector “Bleachers” with Steve and fam and spent a chill midday climbing around on everything that had a good look.
Meeting the Tiger
After a lot of bouldering, which felt great after almost 2 month of route climbing, we packed up the rope and quickdraws and head out to the Muline sector, a southern Grampians shaddy wall. The hike was tough, the temperature just keeping to increase. Also we noticed that the trail was not super well maintained so we had to kinda scroll through the Jungle, which is kinda weird judging by the reputation of the sector! You don’t know Muline? Then you have to know it’s most famous climbs : “Eye of the Tiger” .
After some minutes of silence to admire the so-call route and all the amazing swirly colorful rock around, we opened the guidebook, getting all psyched to climb. 5 minutes later we had our harnesses on and we warmed up on the classic " Krankandangle" 24/7a+. Then Cha started to climb on the "Eye of the Tiger" 29/8a, and here is what was on her mind : “both excited and intimidated, I was pretty sure I would be dominated by this monster. But while I passed the steepest part with a nice physical twisty beta, I felt like I was not allowed to fall after that. The end was definitively very challenging and it probably took me a while to reach the chains. But damn, this is probably my proudest and most emotional onsight, not for the grade, but for the its charisma !”. Josh followed the send train with an awesome flash of the route and let us tell you, we were psyched.
We then just moved left to try "The flying Duck" 32/8b+, which starts in "Krankandangle" for a bolt and then crosses the face (while hanging at the lip of the roof) to finish same as "Eye of the Tiger". We solved all the moves surprisingly very fast but struggled all day with the temperature, being 35°C in the shade. Finally, in the evening the temperatures got much nicer, probably 10°C less hot with a nice little breeze. So even if we were tired from our previous tries, we went back in the route and finally sticked the big move, making our way to the anchor. It was a nice reward to send this 8b+, and overall a good day, with a nice lesson learned : on the hot days, work some projs when it's the hottest, but do not ruin yourself doing some real tries, just wait for the last 2h of the day when it's getting much nicer out.
First injury and aborted trip
Something happened on the send of “Flyin Duck” : while lowered down, Josh felt an intense pain on his right side, kind of where the ribs are, and the pain never disappeared in the next days. So he went to a Sport Physio (luckily a climber, who can understand the climbing movements) and got diagnosed with a torn oblique, injury highly enhanced by how dehydrated we were that day. The recovery ? Rest for few weeks, with no real “deadline” as the rule is “climb when you don’t feel it anymore. A hard punishment only 10 day into the Australian trip, but we took it with intelligence. Indeed, we know that, climbing and pushing ourselves non-stop, we will inevitably get inured at some point, we just didn’t think it would happen that fast. And to remove a bit of remorse, it just stayed super hot so trying hard was not feasible. Later on, sweating and suffocating on another hot day, we actually decided to abord the trip in Australia. Having some duties in Melbourne at the end of the month, we couldn’t leave any sooner, but that was a nice landmark to leave to New-Zealand just after this, shortening our Australian stop at 1 month instead of 1 and a half. With about 10 days left in the Grampians, we took full advantage of it.
Sport and Trad climbing
- The Taipan Wall! Finally we walk to it and put our bags below it. We actually started to the right hand side of it, in a short sector called Spurt! Only Cha was able to climb, and she experienced some very reachy moves, as quoted “I felt pretty short on those routes as I had to do some big lock-offs and dynos, but it was very fun until a certain point when it became upsetting”. Her favorites routes in the area were “Dial-a-Lama” 24/7a+ for warm-up, “The invisible fist” 26/7b+ (probably the best one) and “Tyranny” 29/8a.
On another day, we came back for “Serpentine” 29/8a, a gorgeous and iconic mixed route in the middle of Taipan Wall. Luckily for Cha, the gear was all in place, thank's to a "Lincoln" who was projecting the route, and that made the experience a lot nicer. We ascended our way up the static rope to an anchor about 30m high, where the 42m pitch starts. Then, Cha tells “I took off and did the few first moves on the roof, but was totally blind on the next holds, so Josh took me on the first bolt, so I could see where to go after the roof. He lowered me to the anchor, and I started again, passing the roof and passing slowly every difficulty all the way to the top for a almost-onsight send of this awesome route. Somehow, just like "Eye of the Tiger" I was impressed by the route and the powerful meaning of it (not by the grade), really thinking I'd have to project it and come back for it another day. Climbing it "1st go" (mostly onsight in my heart, because it matters for me) added so much more to the experience... this is a badass route and I'm psyched I got to climb in the middle of the Taipan Wall ! “.
Climbing on the Taipan Wall was definitively an intense experience, especially because of the engagement of the routes, which we honestly don't understand the point of... if you bolt, why not make it fully safe?! For example, Cha tried “Groovy” and we’d have to say it was pretty sketchy... the bolts where far, and if she felt any time between the ground and the 3rd bolt (1st bolt being probably 20m high), she would probably have broken both her legs. We’ve got some explanation from the locals, which kinda make sense : when the area was first developed, bolters wanted their names on a maximum of the routes and on the first ascents, so they just throw a minimum amount of bolts (those being costly) and sent their proj before moving on to the next one. As the routes have been like this forever, locals don’t want to change the way it is (by adding few bolts) in those older (awesome) lines… Sure! Though we still had the feeling that those “ethics” made this amazing wall not so good to climb.
- Bundaleer, a sector that we’ve never heard of, but a must-see! We actually joined our Aussie family for a weekend down there, and we were pleasantly surprised by this sector. It’s located in the southern Grampians and is a 40 (ish) meters high cliff band, more on the vertical side. It has a good variety of trad routes and sport routes. The first thing we noticed was the colors of the wall, sometimes “normal” grey, but sometimes almost black, orange, yellow, blue and even purple. The second thing was the crazy pocket features in some routes, one almost looking like a hangboard in a middle of a blank face.
Kate and cha went on a little mission together up “the Minch”, a very easy chimney trad climb. Cha led it, as she wanted to revise gear placement. The route was ultra fun, and apparently gear were placed pretty good, even if Cha’s confidence took a while to come back.
Then Cha climbed with Steve an awesome route called "Manic Depressive" 24/7a+ which follows a steep arete but climbs on the slab part of it with very good pockets.
Finally, after Steve send his project "Touchstone picture" 28/7c+ on his 1st go of the day, he left the quickdraw so Cha gave it a go. It took her few tries to pass the bottom crimpy crux, having to find a tricky high foot beta to overpass a reachy move, and then she made it to the anchor, flashing the rest of the route. What a cool line ! It goes through incredible features that looks just like the hangboard we mentioned before, and finishes on a technical diedre. Both “Touchstone…” and “Manic” were on the spaced-out-bolts, but nothing very endangering; although I wouldn’t take the whipper at the end of the (easy) slab of “Manic…”.
- Wall of fools, why not ?! After few very hot days, we were down working on our computers, so we figured we might as well taste (test?!) what other things the Grampians have to offer. So on a disgustingly hot (we like the expression because that’s how it felt at some point, especially when some humidity came into play), we decided to go do some easy trad route and we picked the sector "Wall of fools", about 5min from the parking lot so we don't lose 2L of water sweating during the hike ;) . We loved the look of the wall : little cliff band, probably 15-20m high, beautiful colorful stripes. The only downside is that there is no anchor so you have to top out and the second has to climb top rope so that both climbers then walk around to go back to the bottom. We climbed some nice routes, remembered how to place gear - or run out like in “Soweto” 21/6c. We also played in “Arch Enema” 24/7a+ a pretty cool bolted line that goes behind an arch, in a very narrow chimney! Super fun!
- Eureka wall… Eureka! Damn the Grampians has a lot of secret jewels. We made our way down there one day and we were absolutely enchanted by the beauty of this hidden gem! Cha’s main goal was to climb “Archimedes principles” a long 25/7b trad that follows a beautiful strikes through the main part of the face. After looking at the route and reading the guidebook, we didn't know if we had the good trad gear, and especially enough of it. As our experience in trad is pretty low, we didn't want to go for it, which we think was a safe idea. Luckily, two dudes were rappelling from the anchors when we arrived, and we were able to put our rope in top-rope up there. So, as weird as it sounds, Cha sent the route top rope, placing the gear on her way (climbing and unclimbing because it would be too runned out) and it took her about 1h30 to reach the anchor, 40m high! Then she came down and left the gear in place, and went for a quick lead send, with a big storm rolling around the corner. We are pretty stoked we went there and got to climb this amazing route, especially it made some stunning epic pictures!
Through our heat fight, we had couple nice options to refresh ourselves : the super cold pool at our place, the MacKenzie falls down south (30-ish minutes drive from our place) or the winery caves in Halls Gap to refresh our palate. Actually, The Grampians are famous for the wine, and we totally agreed as we found some really nice Shiraz, a grape variety that we are not used to in Europe and USA.
Last few days in Australia
The evening before we left the Grampians, the temps somehow got chilly (meaning 15-20°C) so we wanted to enjoy some good conditions and went where we started : Kindergarten”. At that point Josh was definitively bummed to not have climbed much (more than two weeks since his injury) and felt really unsatisfied, so despite the injury, he wanted to give one more session to the Grampians. We arrived around 6pm, but it was very hot still. Although later, the wind blew very strong, bringing a nice breeze in the wall, drying it from humidity and cooling it from the heat. We tried "So you think you can dance" V11/8A, a gorgeous wavy boulder that we tried on our first day, and we made some very good links on it. Cha couldn't do some moves (missing some reach and some finger strength) but Josh, all taped up on his right side was looking good, imperturbable. When the wall got in the shade, we went for a send... and sent it smoothly, perfectly. We think we can call that a happy ending!
When leaving the Grampians to Melbourne, we head down South to drive along the coast. It makes the drive much longer, so we took two days for it, willing to enjoy a bit of down time by the Ocean. We stopped in Portland, which we did not really find interesting, but we witnessed a perfect sun set from Cape Nelson. The day after, awaken by awesome birds singing, we went to the beach for breakfast while watching sunrise. We continued our journey along the coast and stopped at beautiful beaches and nature follies - including the 12 Apostles, no so “unique” because you have to share the view with hundreds other tourists while there are actually the same (if not better) kind of “rock towers in the ocean” a little before on the west. Most recommended café:Breakfast stop along the coast in the town Port Fairy, and highly recommended lunch stop at the Basalt Wines in Killarney.
We ended our Victorian journey in Melbourne where we stayed a few days, hanging with our Australian family and with the crew at Northside boulders. We got to set for their Christmas comp at the Brunswick location which was super fun with a cool crew led by Reuben. And we also did a coaching session with a young squad at the brand new Northcote location. Melbourne is a cool town! Besides the fact that it’s just on the ocean and only 3h to the Grampians, it has some really awesome neighbourhood like Brunswick which we really really like for all the restaurants, the chill vibe and multi-cultural atmosphere!
For the end
The Grampians were beautiful. So much rock. Classic rock. New rock. Untouched rock. So many possibilities. The rock was beautiful and we felt liek living in a very colourful world for a month. Added to that, we felt just enough remote, enjoying the wilderness and big spaces of the region. So many animals too, everyday we saw an animal, it being a colorful bird, a walabi, a flat tail or other little lezard.
We feel that we didn't take full advantage of the Grampians and the region, obviously because of the heat. We missed out on a few things, for example climbing in Mt Arapiles, so close to us. That made our “Goodbye” to the country a little sad and sorry to not have enjoyed it more… but in the same time, we have both agreed that we will be back for sure, who knows how long, who knows if it’s only gonna be in Victoria, but our Australian appetite needs to be satisfied!
Krankandangle, 7a+, C and J
Touchstone Picture, 7c+, C
Tyranny , 8a, C
Serpentine, 8a, C
Eye of the Tiger, 8a, C and J
Flying Duck, 8b+, C and J
Lygon St Massacre , V3, C and J
Good man down, V3, C
Fashion, Gramps, V4, C
The Pummelling, V4, C and J
Master bates, V5, C and J
Wimmel Friedhoff, V5, C and J
Hands up, V5, C and J
Riding shotgun, V6, C and J
Hands down, V6, C and J
Falsh Gordon, V7, C and J
The Nevin Rule, V7, C and J
Rodeo girl, V7, C and J
Rise of the machines, V7, C and J
Mr Knox, V7, C and J
Mr Fox, V7, C and J
Bitch slap, V7, C and J
Underhanded tactics, V7, C and J
Caffeinator, V8, C and J
Spanking the Monkeybar, V8, J
Rave heart, V8, J
Ammagamma Stand, V8, C and J
Cold hands Cold heart, V8, C and J
Manhandled, V8, J
Pump Action, V9, C
Stand to a Sit, V9, J
Cave man, V9, C and J
Lost for Life stand, V9, J
Etch-a-sketch, V10, C and J
Butcher's Choice, V10, C and J
The Sound of One Man Hand Clapping, V10, J
When we were Kings, V11, C
Dead can't Dance, V11, J
So you think you can Dance, V11, J
Nothing really out of ordinary (compared to US and France)… although we can highlight the lamb, which was in abundance and very yummy. We also noticed a great diversity as far as multi-cultural food and restaurants.