6 CLIMBING: Blue Mountains
Best time: All year
More info: www.www.verticallifemag.com.au www.bmac.com.au
JUST AN HOUR OR SO WEST of Sydney is one of Australia’s best rock climbing destinations, the Blue Mountains. Here you can drop off suburban streets and suddenly find yourself in a different world – surrounded by grey and orange sandstone walls and looking out onto valleys framed by the smooth, silvery trunks of blue gums reaching skyward.
It can feel odd to escape so easily from the embrace of subtopia, and just as odd to return with bruised tips and tired muscles at the end of your day, although it is not the worst thing in the world to never be too far from your next latte or the warm embrace of a shower. Beyond the hyper-convenience, the Blue Mountains is a true climbing paradise, a vast, rugged, almost infinite climbing resource, with something for everyone, from trad warriors looking for adventure to rock athletes looking for the hardest climbing in the land.
The Blue Mountains is most famous for its sport climbing: routes that are pre-prepared with bolts, meaning that you don’t have to worry about finding ‘natural’ protection in cracks or crevices in the rock. The Blueys has more sport climbing than anywhere else in Australia. You could literally climb here your entire life and not get everything done. Some of area’s more famous cliffs include the cirque of crags just west of Blackheath – Shipley, Centennial Glen, Wave Wall, Porters Pass, et al – an area which will often be heaving with climbers on weekends. Close to Katoomba is the legendary Diamond Falls, which locals rightfully proclaim as the home of hard climbing in Australia. Here you will find Australia’s hardest route, Retired Extremely Dangerous (35), which was first climbed by visiting German uber-wad, Alexander Megos.
More recently, local climber Tom O’Halloran became the first Australian to climb 35 – a long-awaited event in Australian climbing – and he did this by ascending a new route he called Baker’s Dozen at a cliff called the Pit.
But beyond the cutting edge of climbing, there is a huge amount for regular climbers, from veterans to beginners. Sport climbers can find moderate sport routes nearly everywhere; traditionalists can go to older cliffs like Mt Piddington in Mt Victoria and climb cracks on natural gear; while if you are after all-day adventure you can disappear into the gaping maw of the Grose Valley and climb hundreds of metres back out on multipitch routes. And if hyper-convenience isn’t your bag, don’t worry, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of kilometres of undeveloped cliffline, just waiting for someone with the motivation and pioneering spirit to climb them. – Beyond the hyper-convenience, the Blue Mountains is a true climbing paradise.