5 CLIMB­ING: Moonarie

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Adventure -

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

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