We speak to Dave Graham and Nalle Hukkataival about their recent barnstorming, cherry-picking trip into the “new frontier of bouldering” – the Grampians.
What did you think of the Grampians?
Dave G: I was enchanted from the moment we arrived. As soon as we pulled into the parking of the Mt Zero Log Cabins, green birds started flying in circles and kookaburras started their laughing monkey-sound thing. I was awed, like a little kid in an amusement park, and I hadn’t even seen rock yet.
The next day, as we drove to Mt Stapylton on the orange sandy roads, we encountered more wildlife. Even driving at about 20km/h we nearly hit birds, emus, kangaroos and wallabies all in a single three-minute voyage, I liked how wild it seemed. Obviously it’s not as remote and crazy as Australia can offer, but it was an insight into what was hidden away in the never-ending landscapes.
Twenty minutes later, after sorting our pads, we embarked onto the giant prehistoric-looking slab of scaly sandstone, which brings you towards the majestic Taipan Wall and the bouldering area called Trackside. It only took about half an hour to realise I would be returning here for the next I-don’t-know-how-many years. I had known for a long time I would come here, but when I would break out my cycle of traveling between the United States and Europe was a great unknown, thus I procrastinated over the trip for years.
High up on the wall, trying Sneaky Snake (33), and going for it on Groove Train (33), I got a sample of the crazy style in which the routes here had been developed, and as we only had a couple of days on the Taipan itself, I knew lines and routes I would be trying next trip with an imported posse who wasn’t scared of bolting new routes, and going much farther to see what kind of lines this stone could offer.
The bouldering stood out as a new frontier as well. There were too many projects in the guidebook to comprehend, and further, next to every boulder, around every turn, there was some other boulder or wall, seemingly undocumented and undeveloped. The Grampians is a Mecca for someone like myself, who enjoys climbing the existing classics, but is obsessed with cleaning and climbing new things, as the opportunities are practically endless, and the rock lends itself to solid problems with amazing sequences.
Given that there are a lot of strong local boulderers, were you surprised that more people hadn’t developed the bouldering?
Dave G: I guess it’s about what you’re into. For myself, my passion revolves around finding new things, and climbing them. It takes a particular character and a special set of eyes to take an area or region somewhere new. The visionaries of the day have passed through the Gramps and left amazing marks, like HB and some of the other inspired locals, but it’s not always the responsibility of locals to have that kind of perspective, so maybe it’s a natural progression to have some more worldly ‘locals’ roll through and point some new stuff out. I know I will be there for the next decade, climbing and exploring, and I am sure many strong locals will be psyched to get out there, check out whatever is discovered, and eventually do the same thing themselves.
You both seemed pretty excited about the bouldering in the Grampians. What is it about the area that got you so psyched?
Nalle: Well, first of all the rock quality is some of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world. The style of climbing is often very pure as the holds are few. Not only is the climbing absolutely amazing but also the potential for new problems and even areas is out of control. Even in the already established areas there were plenty of great projects to do. Another plus is the location in the southern hemisphere, which means Grampians is in season in our summer and there are not too many places where the conditions are good for bouldering at that time of the year.
What did you think of the bouldering around Buandik?
Dave G: So Buandik was like a revelation. I thought the Grampians was awesome but when I suggested to the crew we go on a rogue trip into the bush, half expecting to get lost on the way, I was stunned when we entered the Victoria Range. I had expected to walk through a “confusing array of corridors and boulders, which we would most likely get lost within” as the old guidebook suggested, and lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.
What I didn’t expect was to see the endless rolling hills littered with towers in spectacular shapes, and crazy orange and blue colored walls everywhere. As I had already assumed this kind of thing existed, it was like a dream come true, and thus we got to work. The discovery of Buandik definitely limited our goals, but with so much good rock and so many lines discovered just on the first walk through, it only seemed logical to debase whatever plans we had into just plain developing Buandik a bit.
I walked up to Cherry Picking (V13) before it was a problem, rapped down and cleaned it. I was astonished by its perfection, I couldn’t have concocted better in my mind, and was inspired by the problem’s location, just below a very popular little spot, yet unobserved. Next year I am going to explore the entire region, looking at all the old sport cliffs, and spots where people have mentioned bouldering potential, as I am dead positive we just saw the tip of a massive iceberg down there in Buandik.
Nalle: The southern Grampians seems to have tons of potential for new bouldering areas. Buandik is just one of the places. Before our visit Buandik was pretty much unclimbed and became of the best sectors for hard bouldering in the world. And also has one of the best boulders I’ve ever climbed, Cherry Picking (V13).
How did you think the bouldering in the Grampians compares to other world class areas around the globe?
Nalle: Like I said, the rock quality is some of the best in the world, the same kind of orange sandstone as in Rocklands, but unlike Rocklands there are lots of little roads so the hikes won’t get ridiculously long. And then there’s Ammagamma which has been my dream to climb for as long as I can remember. I think Ammagamma is worth a trip on its own. And then there’s Taipan Wall, which makes even a sworn boulderer like me psyched on sport climbing!
You can see a video of Nalle in action in the Grampians here. According to their blogs, Dave and Nalle are going to be back in the Grampians shortly, so expect to hear about more hard ascents soon…