Review – Newcastle & Hunter Rock Climbing guide

“Quick come up with a shitty joke about steel and climbing, like needing fingers of steel for the crux, or steeling your resolve for the runout or something like that, because we’ve got our hands on a guide to Newcastle!”
Transcript of actual conversation, names withheld.Cover-Draft-final-low-210x300

We actually have three and this week we’re going to give them away as prizes to VL readers, but more on that later.

Bad gags based on cliched associations aside, if you live in or around Newcastle there is a shit load of rock climbing in your immediate backyard. And even better, Tim Haasnoot has poured his passion into crafting together a guidebook so that you can find your way to the best of it.

As you would expect from a guide to such a large expanse of land, this one is not exhaustive. Rather it provides a selection of the major crags at areas of noted historical significance. What does that mean? That means Watagans, Bulahdelah, Port Stephens, Newcastle and Gloucester.

Double Shot 23If diversity is your mantra and you have your heart set on being a climbing all-rounder then this guide should help you on your path. No matter what your proclivities – bouldering, DWS, trad routes, clipping steel (‘That’s it! There’s the joke! Sing it to the tune of ‘Shipping Steel’ – ‘Clipping steel, clipping steel. Nobody knows, the way it feels. Caught between the ground and the chains. Clipping steel, clipping steel…’ ”. There are even suggested areas for primo slacklining.

This is a 2nd edition, an update to the original, which is now outdated by the passing of ten years. And a lot of development can be undertaken in ten years – more than 500 new routes, 100 new bouldering problems and 50 DWS problems, not to forget newly included designated slackline spots.

In a world where form often threatens to overshadow function we are used to very
pretty guidebooks. Though this is not the prettiest guidebook you will have on your shelf, it hits the mark on function and that is where it oozes integrity. It it might not be the slickest design product but it does resonate the kind of project out of which it came; to explore one’s backyard and to climb and to document it so others may follow you.

To that end the design is functional. The guide’s sections are colour-coded, the covers have flaps for page marking, the symbology is simple to interpret if a little cartoonish (the stick-figures being particularly cute), it has loads of photos and the geology section has the mandatory reference to some rock being like Arapiles – what more do you want?

I always read the warning sections in a guidebook. I’m not sure if it is because of an obsessive compulsive drive that can’t be ignored or out of genuine curiosity at the form and function of disclaimers. I’m no Law Talking Guy but it seems to me that most are generic copy-n-paste jobs that wouldn’t hold up in a kangaroo court let alone the Supreme Court of Oz. Do they actually matter? I have no idea if they are evidence of caring about those whom our guidebooks inspire or are they legalistic box ticking – all care, no responsibility. Don’t we all know that if you climb you can get hurt and that guidebooks are smudged mirrors of reality with factual errors and misrepresentations, not to mention the subjective nature of interpreting grades and risk and the conflation of both with ability?

In this instance there is one important warning in the Newcastle & Hunter Rock Climbing guide and that is that climbing at the very impressive Tomaree Headland is banned. Information on the headland is included only for its historical significance and climbers should heed well the closure.

We at VL are sending our congratulations to Tim on putting so much energy into developing and documenting climbing in the Newcastle area. After thumbing through the guide I am super keen to get out to Bulahdelah in particular.
Simon Madden

The guide’s author, Tim Haasnoot, has graciously offered three copies of the guide which we are going to give away – one a day for the next three days. You can follow the competition on our Facebook page.

You can purchase the guide in Newcastle from Pulse Climbing indoor gym, Adventure 195 and Mountain Designs, and in many of the Sydney outdoor shops like Mountain Equipment and Mountain Designs. It is available online through Climbing Anchors and direct at

Newcastle & Hunter Rock Climbing by Tim Haasnoot retails for $44.95. You can read an interview with Tim about the guide here.

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