Australia is a huge and diverse continent that contains a great deal of rock to explore. Although the country has little to offer in terms of ice climbing, mountaineering, and long routes, what it lacks in these departments is more than made up for in terms of unique cragging experiences that can be had in few other places in the world.
The two largest cities, Sydney, in New South Wales, and Melbourne, in Victoria, serve as hubs for the two major climbing destinations of the continent: The Blue Mountains and Mount Arapiles, respectively. Either of these areas could be considered world-class, but Arapiles stands a notch above and is arguably the "world’s best crag”.
But these aren’t all Australia has to offer. In the outskirts of Sydney lie Point Perpendicular which hosts dramatic sea-cliff climbs and Nowra, a popular sport climbing crag. Further inland are the remote and towering limestone blades of the Warrumbungles and the deep cleft of the Bungonia Gorge – each of these areas include some of the country’s longest routes. Up the coast in the neighboring state of Queensland one can find Frog Buttress, a crack-climbing area, as well as the Glasshouse Mountains, volcanic plugs with a handful of lines.
Victoria hosts Australia’s most spectacular rock. Mount Arapiles is the mere coccyx of the long spine of mountains known as the Grampians. Scattered through this spread out range are astonishing crags both obscure and world-famous (such as the Taipan Wall). Much new route potential and development exists within this area. A few hours east is Mount Buffalo which is the best granite Australia has to offer. Buffalo still serves as a training ground for Australian aid climbers who have set their sights on the big walls of Yosemite, but it is also a popular multipitch free-climber’s destination.
South Australia (Adelaide) is home to Moonarie, a beautiful cliff of bullet sandstone, and Western Australia (Perth) has reportedly stellar sandstone sport climbing as well as dramatic sea cliffs, but these areas are generally not considered international, or even national, destinations.
It would be a crime, of course, to neglect mentioning Tasmania. Not only is this island state home to the continent’s only real mountaineering (Federation Peak), and the infamous “Totem Pole” sea stack – popularized by a Lynn Hill/North Face expedition, but it also has some amazing sandstone, seaside granite, and columnar/volcanic rock that offers splitter crack climbing. The weather is finicky, and access is even more difficult (typically via a ferry from Melbourne), but it is a beautiful place to explore.
While getting down under can be time consuming and expensive, once there the country is generally easy to navigate, although distances can be very great. The people are friendly and laid back, crime is low, the exchange rate is favorable (although only slightly so), and much will be familiar to the Westerner. That said there are many backwards things: such as the time zones, the seasons, the side of the road you find cars driving, and bizarre things like carrot bolts, wombats, and vegemite. The beer is pretty good.
The climbing season is year-round, but December and January can be brutally hot. Plan on renting or buying a car for your stay, unless you are content to spend all of your time at Arapiles (certainly not a bad prospect). Beware of driving at dawn/dusk hours -- kangaroo strikes are more common than deer strikes in the States. The other lethal animals (just about all of them) are probably a bit over-hyped. During my 3+ months there I never once saw a deadly snake or spider. A good rack for any of the climbing you might do nationwide would be a single set of cams through wide hands, extra TCU's/Aliens, a set of nuts and some cash to buy authentic RP's. All the gear you might need for camping, climbing, and traveling is readily available in the major cities and even the small towns near the major climbing destinations. Expect to pay a lot more, however, for imported equipment. Traveling alone? Arapiles is an easy place to meet partners. Some of the other areas can be a bit more challenging.
abseil = rappel
safe = off belay
carrot bolt = machine screw requiring a bolt plate (removable hanger)
BP = bolt plate
FH = fixed hanger (a normal bolt)
peg = piton/pin
runner = fixed piece to clip a draw/sling to
route = the path of a climb, not to be confused with "root" which is the act of having sexual intercourse
track = trail; walk-in = approach
bridging = stemming
goey = heady/scary
The Australian grading system (Ewbank scale) is perhaps the most sensible scale invented. It begins at 1 (level hiking) and is open-ended (currently the hardest climb on the continent is 34 which is roughly 5.14c). Good reference points:
18 = 5.9
19-21 = 5.10a-5.10d
22-24 = 5.11a-5.12a
25 = 5.12a/b
28 = 5.13a
32 = 5.14a
International flights into and out of Sydney and Melbourne are readily available.
107 Total Routes
['4 Stars',38],['3 Stars',50],['2 Stars',17],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',1]
Browse More Classics in Australia
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Australia:
Featured Route For Australia
The Bishop 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c International
: ... : Mitre Rock
One of the most exciting climbs you will do at the grade. Sandbag (like most of Arapiles), a few moves felt like they should have been graded 5.9. Thought provoking crux at start of second pitch involves climbing horizontally out into empty space, placing a sling for protection and doing a mantle. Moves are actually quite easy and protection great, but an A+ for exposure....[more] Browse More Classics in International
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From: South Salem, NY
Jan 13, 2007
One thing you should know about Australian climbing is the carrot bolt. "Carrots" are machine screws with the threads filed off, then pounded into slightly undersized, pre-drilled holes. They aren't used any more, having been ousted by modern hanger bolts, but there are still many in use that haven't been and likely won't be replaced. Trust carrots as you would trust any other piece of fixed gear of unknown parentage - carefully, and with deep suspicion. Some of them are still bomber, while you can remove others easily by sliding them out of their holes. Also, carrot bolts generally don't have hangers - they're just bolt heads sticking out of the rock. You will need to carry somewhere between 5-10 "bolt hangers", available in most Aussie climbing shops and hardware stores. The leader puts a bolt hanger on the carrot bolt head, then clips the hanger; the second comes along, takes the draw, then also takes the hanger. I prefer the hangers at a 45-degree angle, myself.
Here are some examples of:
Bad carrot bolts - www.safercliffs.org/code/photos.html
Bolt plates - www.mtntools.com/cat/rclimb/bolts/rpkeyholehanger.htm
|By Josh Janes|
Jan 17, 2007
One of the great joys of the Australian sport climbing experience is desperately slotting a hanger on a carrot bolt, then reaching up with a quickdraw only to bump the hanger off the bolt sending it tumbling to the ground. Hopefully you've saved enough juice to holster the draw and try again...
|By John McNamee|
From: Littleton, CO
Jan 20, 2007
Great to see the Aussie section coming alive. It's looking great.
From: Morrison, CO
May 16, 2007
A car is absolutely mandatory for climbing in Australia. It is possible to visit some of the Blue Mountains crags using public transportation, but it would be a serious tragedy to travel this far and not get onto the open roads.
If on an extended trip, the best option is to buy a car. This sounds daunting, but is in fact relatively easy, especially if you are starting in Sydney. Once in town, go to the infamous "King's Cross Car Market", located at the King's Cross Car Park in the King's Cross burough of Sydney. This market is a bit of a curiousity in itself. World travelers from across the globe converge here to buy and sell cars that they have owned or will own for only a few months. The staff at the market will mechanically inspect cars, help you register your purchase, and sell you the legally mandated amount of insurance.
|By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)|
Apr 18, 2008
Just a comment on the organization of this section. Wouldn't it make more sense to list areas by state, as you do or the US?
|By Josef Goding|
From: Brunswick, Victoria
Apr 4, 2009
just like to let you know about some fantastic on-line info in case you're not aware of it:
The Australian Climbing Association
has a fantastic website with quite a few decent on-line guides (some like Taipan Wall are totally up to date) but others are not yet sorted. It also has a reasonable web forum. This site has National information.
is a very popular web forum and a great place to talk to people in the know (that's not always the case!!!) so you can find out where to get good info.
Tassie climbing: TheSarvo
Has some fantastic on-line guides and also a forum (although Chockstone is much more popular in terms of the forum)
If you want good print guides, or some more info I'd suggest you try these guys:
I'd also like to flag that there is a new "Best of Victoria" guidebook coming out later this year. Some details on that here:
I hope this is useful for anyone planning a trip to Australia.
PS the "Best of Victoria" site currently has a "preliminary" GPS file so you can more easily find the remote camp sites, cliffs etc in the Grampians. Any feedback most welcome.
|By mikl law|
Jun 22, 2009
As a local I'd add a few things- I think Arapiles is the best easy trad crag in the world. Sport climbers may be disapointed or scared. The easy routes (up to 22 or 5.11a)are great. Harder routes are better in the nearby Grampians. The most common trip has one staying at Arapiles and making daytrips to the Gramps to do various routes. There are a lot of climbers living at Arapiles and nearby Natimuk, and none in the Grampians. There is a bit of sport climbing in the Grampians, but most of the best routes require some trad gear too. Taipan is awesome, everything is hard for the grade I think.
NSW has more sports climbing, in summer (September through till may) most people climb in the Blue Mountains, there's a but of trad, lots of single pitch sport, and some multi pitch sport up to about 1000'. very vertical. Nowra is the sports venue in winter (single pitch, steep, undergraded).
Moonarie (South Australia)is great as it gives you a taste of the outback. Western Autralia has some great climbing if you are there.
I don't know why there's a photo of me on the seacliffs, I've added shots of a few other areas.
Grading is variable as anywhere, as a general rule, multiply the decimal bit of the YDS grade to arrive at an Australian grade, 5.9 means 9x2=18. This works up to 5.12. Older trad routes can be shockers.
Dec 24, 2010
Great to see the Aussie section coming alive. It's looking great. Jazz
|By Chris Owen|
From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Sep 7, 2011
Been to OZ lots of times (with work, NASA has a deep space tacking complex west of Canberra) - I remember the first time arriving the pilot said "we're just passing over Botany Bay" it was such a fantastic and wondrous moment to see a place i had read about when i was a kid, learning about the voyages of James Cook.
Sep 28, 2013
Interesting that all the comments and climbs are in the southern states. There is great and really different climbing in Queensland and central Australia. Check out Mt. French in SE Queensland for GREAT crack climbing on really solid rhyolilte. Best time for climbing Mt French is winter - cool but dry and the cliffs get the afternoon sun which warms things up. In the summer, Mt French is really great in the early morning. FInish up by lunch and then go to the pub for a beer or go for a swim. Plan on a rack with plenty of small to moderate size cams, some hexes and some stoppers if you are planning on making a trip to Mt French. There are very few bolts or fixed pro at Mt French - definitely a trad cliff.
Beware of leaving your pack open with your lunch inside - you may find a very large goanna (big lizard) inside demolishing your food!
If you want well-protected granite, head to Giraween.
There is also excellent climbing around Alice Springs in central OZ - check out the climbing guide.