Mount Arapiles Rock Climbing
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|Shared By:||Josh Janes on Jan 12, 2007|
The Mount was the real birthplace and heartland of Australian climbing, but it has also seen two significant "tours" by visiting international climbers -- specifically Henry Barber and Wolfgang Gullich. The early and mid sixties saw the first major wave of development of both easier free climbs and some aid routes. In the late sixties many of those aid lines started going free and the early seventies brought in more young talent. In 1975 the 21 year old Henry Barber single-handedly revolutionized climbing at Arapiles by freeing many of the Mount's hardest aid testpieces. His bold style was unmatched and many of his climbs were done barefoot and onsight (in fact, if he was unable to free a route first go, he would retreat and move on -- who knows what he would have accomplished using modern redpoint tactics!). This visit, although initially humbling to Australian climbers, ushered in "The New Wave" which included the likes of Mike Law, Chris Peisker, Greg Child, Glenn Tempest, Kevin Lindorff, and others. Many new hard lines went up, and when the super fit and dedicated Kim Carrigan showed up in the late seventies, the difficulty leapt ahead yet again. The eighties were dominated by Carrigan, Law, the Shepherd siblings and Mark Moorhead, and were punctuated by Wolfgang Gullich's visit in 1985 to put up Punks in the Gym (5.13d), at the time the hardest climb in the world. Since then development has slowed but not stopped; there is still plenty of virigin rock at the Mount and new routes go up each year, but perhaps the best of lines have been done. Although The Inquisition, the last great aid climb of the Mount, remains to be freed by future talent.
The camping scene is excellent -- there are two main campgrounds, the Pines, and the subsidiary Gums. The Pines is named for a growth of fir trees that were planted by early explorers in the area, and although they are gradually dying/being phased out by the park, they do provide a homey feel and a bit of relief from the blazing sun. There are two sources of running water near the camp -- both of which are bore-water and may or may not be safe to drink. Consume at your own risk. A small bathroom is also located nearby. Beware of the fire restrictions which are often in effect during the warmer months. A tarp is an essential item for shade, a hammock for rest days, and a good sized jar of Nutella will make you a lot of friends. Fees, as of 2004, were $3 AUD per night -- unenforced but worth the price. Basically the place feels a lot like a smaller, more quaint and welcoming version of Camp 4.
The nearby town of Natimuk (5-10 minute drive) has a dive of a pub, a fantastic gear shop, a milk bar, and lots of local climbers. The closest real town is Horsham, another 20 minutes past Nati, which has petrol stations, two major groceries, a hospital, a public swimming pool (although there are various swimming holes near the Mount, some within walking distance), banks, stores, restaurants, etc. During my extended stay I would usually make it in to Horsham once a week for supplies (including water).
Rest day activities generally consist of swimming holes, hammocks, eating and socializing, lounging around watching people fall off "Have a Good Flight," and other miscellaneous "can't be bothered" activities. For a fun challenge, try the post game: circumnavigate the entire Pines, hopping from post to post, tree to tree, without touching the ground (there's even an integrated slackline!). If you're (un?)lucky you might get invited to a climber's party or disco in the bustling town of Natimuk. Perhaps a better bet is to take your car, or befriend someone with one, and convince them to go to the nearby, and astonishing, Grampians... or at least for a swim at the Horsham pool. By the way, the pool is a great place for cheap showers as well.
Be careful of leaving food out unattended -- the possums and Kookaburras will find it. There are plenty of mostly harmless kangaroos around, and possibly venemous creatures but I never saw them.
When staying at Arapiles remember that it is a special, special place. Take care to leave it as you found it, if not better.
Classic Climbing Routes at Mount Arapiles
Days w Precip