Review: Grampians Climbing – Sport Climbing

By Neil Monteith (, 2013, RRP$46.95)

In the VL bunker we were super excited to get our greedy hands on a copy of Neil ‘the print guide is dead’ Monteith’s new print guide to the Grampians. Grampians climbers have been waiting an eternity for a new guide to salivate over; dog-eared, rain-warped copies of Mentz and Tempest’s Grampians Selected Climbs have served us all well; online resource the Crag ( has taken over where the ACA website left off and is filling up with route data; but still we lust after printed guidebooks and we are delighted Neil took on the job of trudging to crags up hundreds of hills, contriving topo photos, sinking new bolts at midnight to avoid the attention of diligent rangers, scrawling and deciphering notes, and not sleeping for a couple of months. The growing Victorian bolt-clipping massive has been screaming for it.

That’s Nathan Hoette on the cover climbing the second pitch of Malcolm Matheson’s outrageous Space Odyssey (27) at the (currently closed) Lost World. Simon Carter.

First up, Grampians Climbing: Sport Crags, despite a popular misconception, is not a tome dedicated solely to clipping bolts. We’ve witnessed not just a few bemused climbers exclaiming, ‘It’s not a sport guide?’ with the tell-tale rising inflection marking it a question. It’s best to think of it as a sporting guide, or better yet, a sporty guide, like Sporty Spice is Sporty. Yes, she is sporty but she also takes a little gear.

Second up, the where’s and the how’s. The guide covers a super huge amount of development throughout the range which has seen quite the accumulation of bolts in the last 15 years, recent crags like the Chilly Bin, additions to the Tower, Kent Paterson’s 300 routes at Van Diemen’s Land, Sick Nutter’s (swap the S and the N) 462 projects, user-friendly Weirs Creek, the resurgent Dreamtime and the outrageously popular Ravine and Wave Wall (or the Sun Deck, or whatever it is called). All these sit alongside the likes of Muline and the Gallery while Millenium and Taipan have benefited from significant updates. It has heaps of other information too on camping and provisioning (and VL’s favourite, how to get to the Grampians from Cairns).

Third up, it’s undoubtedly pretty. Filled with pictures from the extensive back catalogue of longtime pro-snapper Simon Carter and longtime pro-frother Neil. There are some stunning images of stunning rock in the guide.

Fourth up, it’s simple. Those familiar with Onsight’s stable of guides will immediately recognise the colour-coded style for sector and type of protection (which helps the bemused climbers mentioned above who were expecting a sport guide). Visual quick reference tools also convey weather, approach times and kid-friendliness data.

Fifth. To paraphrase Clinton strategist and meme-master James Carville, ‘It’s the routes, stupid.’ Climbing in the Grampians is amazing, lots of the routes described in this guide are super mega so it’s hard to fail at this bit.

A guide’s proof is in its use-pudding and we haven’t been out and about to field test this one all over the stone of Gariwerd, but despite the usual typos, erroneous nationality allocation to climbing superstars and slightly dodgy history revision, our limited use and toilet-based skimming has not turned up any glaring errors. Unfortunately, large swaths of the crags covered in the guide have fallen afoul of the curse of the Fire God* and they lay in areas of the Grampians that remain closed due to the impact of the 2012 fires.

Now the bad. Superlatives are like heroin and Axl Rose said it best when he wailed, ‘I used to do a little but a little wasn’t doing so a little got more and mo-o-or.’ Nowadays nothing is hard, everything is super-hard. Nothing is mega, everything is super-mega. Nothing is runout everything is super runout. And now we have routes with 4-stars in the Grampians. Super.

Surely the only reason why you would break the 3-star system that has served our super great state so well and move to a 4-star system is superlative creep. We used to love going to the Blueys, not just for the super-awesome climbing, super-convivial surroundings and relatively-super-good coffee, but also so we could moan about how crap the 5-star system was. Rubbish. Though we are willing to concede there is an extra layer of computation and analysis necessary for speedy pattern recognition in a 5-star system that may be beyond the reasoning power of we Mexicans.

Sure, in Glenn and Simon’s old guide there is a qualitative caveat that not all stars are created equal and 3-Taipan-stars are worth more than 3-Normal-World-Where-You-Climb-Stars and that was enough. Of course stars are different, and of course Taipan is the best. Do we need four stars? Nein (fuck it, why stop at four, let’s go for nine).

Does that mean you shouldn’t buy it? Hell no, exactly the opposite. Will this prove the last paper guide to the Gramps**? Maybe. That’s just another reason to get it, just in case. Like owning the last of the late great interceptors.

I give it 879 stars out of 1082.

Neil has created an online document where you can find updates and corrections or add notes yourself here.

*there is no such thing as a Fire God that looses vengeance upon crag developers and guidebook authors for messing with sacred land.

**Neil’s already proven himself wrong once, given his track record we doubt he could be wrong twice.

3 thoughts on “Review: Grampians Climbing – Sport Climbing

  1. Andrew

    “It’s best to think of it as a sporting guide, or better yet, a sporty guide, like Sporty Spice is Sporty. Yes, she is sporty but she also takes a little gear.”

    Gold. Just gold.


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