Western Australian Bouldering

With the release of Will Atkinson’s new short video – titled confusingly given the quality of the stone that it showcases West Coast Choss – the people of Oz may finally have realised that there is a lot of bouldering to do be done way out west in Western Australia

Give us the Will Atkinson 101?
I’m 32 years old and I’m from Sheffield in the UK, I have been living in Perth, WA for the last 18 months.

I’m currently working at Portside Boulders as their head route setter and when I’m not at work I like to get out bouldering (and fishing) as much as I can.

What is a ‘fat lad from Yorkshire’ doing in Perth?
My wife started a new position at one of the hospitals in Perth so I was dragged out here kicking and screaming.

It must be quite the shock, both from a climate perspective but also on the climbing front, moving from the UK to somewhere like Perth?
For sure, the weather was a big shock, a Perth winter is like a Yorkshire summer. The difference in climbing was also a lot different to back home, I was quite spoilt having all the gritstone and limestone on my doorstep. I originally thought the move over to WA would result in my outdoor climbing taking a back seat, but fortunately it’s been the exact opposite, the climbing in WA has been brilliant.

Andy Lampard on Newton's Arm Wrestle (V11) Wilyabrup. Image Rebecca Weeks

Andy Lampard on Newton’s Arm Wrestle (V11) Wilyabrup. Image Rebecca Weeks

For the rest of the Aussies who know nothing about the far away land of Western Australia can you give us a rundown on the bouldering way over there.
So the bouldering in and around Perth mainly consists of small granite outcrops and boulders that are littered around the hills. There is a lot of rock around, not all of it is climbable, but what is climbable is usually pretty good. A lot of the more popular areas can be found on The Crag and there are also a few old PDF topos on the CAWA website.

About six hours drive north of Perth you’ll find the Kalbarri Gorge, this is a huge sandstone gorge that winds on for around 80k. The rock here is beautiful orange sandstone and in places it is very reminiscent of the Grampians sandstone. There has been a lot of bouldering developed in the gorge over the years by a few of the WA locals, although not much of this has been heavily documented due to potential access issues. There’s heaps of bouldering to be had, you could walk into the gorge with your mat and shoes and keep yourself entertained for days. Just remember to go easy on the chalk, and maybe try and keep out of view of the hundreds of tourists that gather around the viewing platforms and access paths.

Around three hours drive south of Perth you will find yourself in the South West, there is absolutely tons of bouldering around here and the majority of it can be found all the way along the coast in between Dunsborough and Augusta. This is definitely the most popular bouldering destination for the travelling Perth boulderer, it’s a great destination for a short weekend trip if you are staying or living in Perth. Most of the popular bouldering areas and local classic blocs can be found on The Crag. There’s a fair old lot to go at no matter what grade you climb and the rock quality and surroundings are truly amazing. Travelling south in the height of the summer is usually a good way to escape the Perth heat, bouldering in the Perth hills in the summer is a no-go for a pasty white Pom like me.

Further south, around four or five hours drive from Perth you’ll find yourself in the Albany area. The climbing around here is a lot more wild and a lot less documented, some of the recently discovered bouldering is very good quality, but some of the approaches are long and steep and governed by the conditions of the sea. Mutton Bird Rock is probably the more popular area in this neck of the woods and this can also be found on The Crag. A lot of the harder grade bouldering in the area has only been discovered relatively recently and there is potential for this area of WA to produce a lot more top quality blocs, a four wheel drive and a sense of adventure is definitely an advantage.

The majority of the bouldering in the South West and Albany areas is coastal so you have to be careful when the sea is big! People have been known to lose pads!

Will Atkinson on To Infinity and Beyond (V11/12 ) Albany. Image by Rebecca Weeks

Will Atkinson soaring To Infinity and Beyond (V11/12 ) Albany. Image by Rebecca Weeks

If someone were interested in a trip out West, when should they plan their trip for and where should they go?
The Perth Granite and Kalbarri bouldering is definitely more suited to the colder months of the year.

The South West and Albany areas are definitely worth a visit for any keen boulderer, these places are great throughout the summer months and they usually provide a respite from the Perth heat.

Your new video makes the bouldering in WA look pretty sweet, is that the reality or the magic of TV?
Cheers! I honestly think it’s the reality.

Kalbarri, Albany and the South West are some of the most stunning places that I’ve had the pleasure of climbing in. The bouldering areas and boulder problems might not be as condensed as other bouldering destinations but the calibre of the problems and the quality of the rock is world class. Some of the areas definitely have an adventurous feel to them, but to me that adds to the fun.

Seaside granite or tumblagooda – what’s better?
Two completely different landscapes and styles of bouldering, I honestly couldn’t pick one.

Charity Goh on Spoon-Fed (V5) The Gap, Albany. Image by Will Atkinson

Definitely not a freezing day on the grit – Charity Goh gets Spoon-Fed (V5) The Gap, Albany. Image by Will Atkinson

What do you most miss about climbing in the UK?
Freezing cold days on the grit.

What are the pick of the new problems and what are the WA classic must-do blocs?Oooooohhhhhh……..Hard to pick but here it goes.

Perth Granite:
Mt Randall – Steel City Groove V8-V10 – Amazing slab/dyno, about V8 if you’re a giant and probably about V10 if you’re a normal size human. Regardless of the grade it’s a stunning feature and a really fun boulder.
Kalamunda – Thin Grin V10 – One of Perth’s original hard problems involving super thin crimp climbing up an immaculate granite face. First climbed by Jason Girdlestone, Jason is responsible for developing heaps of bouldering on the granite around Perth and Thin Grin is a real gem!

Andy Lampard on Welcome to the Cut-Off Club (V4) Kalbarri. Image by Rebecca Weeks

Andy Lampard on the must-do Welcome to the Cut-Off Club (V4) Kalbarri. Image by Rebecca Weeks

Kalbarri:
Red Can Dreaming V10 – I was shown this project by Andy Lampard and I managed to snake my way up it last season. Hard steep climbing leading to a highball finish up a beautiful sandstone wall. Awesome!
Welcome to the Cut-Off Club V4 – Contender for the best V4 in WA

South West:
Merchant Rock, Conto – Jonesy’s Arete V8 – Stunning highball arete at Merchant Rock, Conto. First ascent by Chris Jones.
Wilyabrup – Newton’s Arm Wrestle V11 – Short and sweet problem at Willy’s.

Albany:
Blowholes – To Infinity and Beyond V11/12 – The Toy Story Project, another one that I managed to snake my way up (sorry) and an absolutely world class bloc, if only someone could find a few more boulders like this!
Prosciutto Bloc – The Never Never V4 – Every problem on this boulder is a classic but you might have a hard time finding it. Proper adventure bouldering 😉

Alex Mazza on Andy's Wall (V8) Prosciutto Bloc, Albany. Image by Will Atkinson

Alex Mazza on Andy’s Wall (V8) Prosciutto Bloc, Albany. Image by Will Atkinson

What’s the climbing scene like in WA now, how and why is it changing?
The climbing scene in WA at the moment is great! I have only been here a very short amount of time (18 months) but a lot has changed in that time. When I first arrived the only good bouldering only gym was The Boulder Hub, ran by Christina Bedard and Alan Pryce. Since I arrived two new bouldering gyms, Portside Boulders in O’Connor and Adrenaline Vault, Belmont opened and then a couple of weeks ago The Boulder Hub 2.0 opened its doors, so in just 18 months Perth has gone from one bouldering gym to three!

These new gyms have definitely increased the number of climbers and hopefully it will have a positive effect on the WA climbing scene in the months and years to come.

Are there any issues confronting the WA bouldering scene?
Like anywhere else in the world I think crag access is a major issue. Access to some areas can be quite sensitive so people should definitely be aware of that. Keeping chalk and tick marks to a minimum and not destroying vegetation etc. is a big thing.

Are there any strong young things over there in WA that we should keep our eyes on?
Most of the kids from the Boulder Hub and City Summit youth squads! They’re already starting to burn off most of the seniors.

We notice from your Instagram feed that you’re quite the angler, do the two sports complement each other?
In WA they most definitely do, most of the southern bouldering areas double up as quality fishing spots.

Since moving to Perth I have been very lucky to have met a lot of really cool people who have very kindly shown me around the boulders and even pointed me at a few stellar projects. A big shout out to Andy Lampard and Jason Girdlestone, they have done so much exploring and developing over the years. There are a lot of other people who have been climbing at and developing areas around WA who I am still yet to meet, so a big thumbs up to them as well.

Andy Lampard on Meat and Potatoes, Kalbarri. Image by Rebecca Weeks

Andy Lampard gets his Meat and Potatoes (V6ish), Kalbarri. Image by Rebecca Weeks

Also a big shout out to everyone at the Portside Boulders and The Boulder Hub as well as Rebecca Weeks for letting me use her images.

Happy Days!

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