5 CLIMBING: Moonarie
Grade: Mixed More info: www.thecrag.com/climbing/ australia/moonarie
PERCHED ON THE edge of the great cirque of Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, 400-suicidal-kangaroo-kilometres north of Adelaide, lies one of Australia’s best kept climbing secrets: Moonarie.
The Moon, as it is known colloquially, is one of Australia’s great crags; the sun-baked sandstone, alternatively dusty red and grey, yields a disproportionate number of Australia’s best routes, generally long, demanding pitches linking desert-varnished holds up steep and intimidating walls. Moonarie is not a place for beginners: help is a long way away, the grades are stiff and you need to be an experienced trad climber.
Most famous of Moonarie’s many walls is perhaps the Great Wall, a perfectly vertical 50m-high face formed some millennia ago when a huge chunk of rock must have peeled away as if sliced by a giant’s knife. The Great Wall holds a number of classics, most perfect among them, Downwind of Angels (19), the best pitch at the grade in the land. Less perfect, but more moderate, is its near neighbour Outside Chance (16). For those climbing harder, it’s hard to go past three-star classics like Languish in the Anguish (25), Hypertension (24) and Dryland (22), just to name a few must-dos.
While the Great Wall is called the Great Wall for a reason, for many, the dark and menacing walls of the Ramparts are even better. Here you will find the 50m pitches of your dreams, including Goblin Mischief (23), a bold arête and face with a committing crux, the sublime Durban Poison (25), the sadly finite Endless Pitch (23), and my personal pick for the best route name ever, Jesus Loves Me, the Poofta (25). Those climbing a bit harder should remember that Everyone Dies Alone (27), a thought that may come back to haunt you as you climb this disorienting, undercut arête high above the desert floor.
But these two areas are just the tip of the iceberg at this cliff holding more than 600 routes. For those seeking more moderate terrain, some old-school classics that have to be on the tick list include: romping up the aptly named Flying Buttress (15), the long and varied adventure of Pagoda Variant (15), and the bizarre architecture of Pine Crack (19) – another contender for Oz’s best at the grade, if it weren’t really actually 20.
Because it’s the desert, picking the season is crucial. Only madmen come in summer, winter can be brutally cold, so generally autumn and spring are best, with Easter and the somewhat disturbingly named Froctober (think men in dresses) being the most popular times to visit.
Most climbers camp at the Callitris pine-studded campground at the base of the cliff, and make the heart-starting walk up every morning (30 to 40 minutes). But when the weather looks good, make the effort to drag a sleeping bag, mat and dinner up to Top Camp – a flat rock surrounded by a great arc of cliffs – and spend a night with the foodstealing lizards to see the sunrise the next morning.
If Moonarie sounds too full on – or you don’t have that much time – Adelaide has some great local cragging. For those who love a bit of tradding, Morialta has close to 500 routes, while sport climbers and boulderers generally head to Norton Summit, where you can find some of the best manufactured routes in Oz (the area is an old quarry and thus has been modified for climbing consumption). – Ross Taylor