Grampians Bouldering Part III – Romanticising the Stone

Romanticising the Stone Part III – The Victoria Range & What’s Old is New Again

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Though the whole of the Grampians National Park is sensitive, the Victoria Range is a particularly sensitive area. Access is not-quite-precarious, but it is not guaranteed and it would only take the wind to change to the wrong direction for it to become a major issue. Tread lightly.

It mightn’t seem like but the Blocs on the Hill have been on the radar for years, with the old school doing old school things way back in the Back When. Even so it was not until in 2012 the Strong Global Elite (STROGE*) brought their fingers of steel and Social Media Machines that Buandik bouldering literally** exploded.

The stone of Buandik is that of an outdoor art gallery. It is alive with whorls of vivid colour – grey, red, orange and yellow – and crazy patterns – quartzite filigrees like silver spiders’ webs, symmetrical cross-hatchings, banding like the contours of a map. Often the boulders with these artworks are blank, but sometimes form, shape and colour come together in a sublime melding.

Stephen Waring testing himself on the hard, crimpy classic, Balazar (V8), Buandik. Simon Madden

Stephen Waring testing himself on the hard, crimpy classic, Balazar (V8), Buandik. Simon Madden

The setting is sublime, with the field spilling over a broad hill from which boulderers can look out into the far distance across choked valleys and jagged ridges.

It’s hard to know where to start a list of must-do problems; Hanson’s Disease (V6) is topical once again given the 2016 election results, Treebeard (V7) is a classic from the early days of development, Balazar (V8) is a belter, the massive Music to my Fears (V8) will get your blood pumping, you’ll remember the roof move on Alone on the Hill (V8), the unique feature of Gravity Wave (V8) sucks you in, Nalle says The European Dream at V8 could be his favourite FA in all of Oz and, of course, if you’re a V13 boulderer, Cherry Picking is amongst the best problems you’ll find anywhere. Best just go and check Buandik out for yourself.

Rumours of a thigh-smashing, lung-busting walk in scare off many but, in reality, that is propaganda spread by the greedy who want to keep the joint to themselves. Sure, the approach is a little punchy but the modern boulderer is keen to call themselves  an ‘athlete’ nowadays and the only ‘athletes’ that we know who could rightly complain about the access would be professional darts players with hip replacements. Suck it up ‘athletes’.
* TM
** it did not literally explode.

The Tower
Such development as there is at The Tower is not new, in fact the majority of the established lines in the gullies and on the ridges surrounding the eponymous rope-climbing stack of The Tower were put up back in 2006. Still, despite its oldyness it has received relatively scant attention, far less than its neighbour the much-lauded Buandik, and so the area should be novel for pretty much everyone.

The stone is generally of very high quality, indeed in places such as around The Poison (V8), it is some of the finest that you are ever likely to fondle – a gorgeous, deep orange, bullet-proof and beautiful. The Tower delivers particularly well for lovers of arêtes, with three of the best getting around – the Proud Highway (billed as the ‘Best 5 in the Grampians’), the brilliant Sun Arête (V3) and the ode to Aphex Twin, Windowlicker Arête (V4) – whilst for the strong and bold the Shark Arête Project is surely one of the best unclimbed lines in the Grampians and will not linger much longer as a project. If you prefer your boulders to be more like routes, Cannonfodder (V6) and everything on the daunting Machismo Boulder could be for you. Similarly, The Lord Humungous Project is an intimidating-come-enticing line that deserves its name.

Access will not drain your energy in excess – basically you just punch straight up a gradually-steepening valley – but the field is quite spread out spanning multiple gullies and ridges and the post-fires regrowth is slowly reclaiming the land. Though relatively dispersed there are several problem-rich areas, the lines are strong, the rock is great and the setting is lovely.

Simon Weill on the first ascent of the proud Sun Arete (V3). Ross Taylor

Simon Weill way back in the black-n-white days on the first ascent of the Sun Arete (V3), The Tower. Ross Taylor

Cave of Man Hands
Easy access, soft grades and an available topo made the Cave of Man Hands an instant go-to-destination as soon as word of it got out. The superb, steep cave is now thick with well-featured problems and link-ups. The emphasis is on fun with the added bonus that much of the cave is climbable even should the rain be pissing on your parade.

In terms of problems, of particular interest are the thought-provoking – in name and in movement – The Sound of One Man Hand Clapping (V10), the anti-bullying rallying call of Manhandled (V8) and the anti-welfare Libertarian propaganda of Hand Out (V6). though there are also several easier lines that are worth your attention and energy.

Access couldn’t be easier. In fact, if you are overwhelmed by the access to the COMH then the outdoors is not for you, instead use what finger strength you do have for macramé.

What’s Old is New again
Long before the 2014 inferno scorched the land and forced its closure to climbers for what seemed an age, The North had been the Rome of Grampians bouldering to which all roads led. It is well developed, well known and well travelled. Even still, the 2016 edition of Grampians Bouldering corrects a few errors and adds loads of new boulders and problems to the areas that were well covered by Dave Pearson and Chris Webb-Parsons in the first edition.

The area around the Citadel has a fistful of new problems, the Jungle Boulder emerged from Trackside, Tom O’Halloran and Tom Farrell chimed in with Fairy Hole (V12) and Haters Gonna Hate (V11) respectively. Even the hallowed home of hard – the Hollow Mountain Cave – got some mega hard new stuff courtesy of Alex Megos. Nalle has cleaned up a bunch of projects including the very jumpy Quitline (V12) and Parallel Lines (V11) and partially ruined one of the Grampians’ best problems when he removed the jump from Peter Parker by adding a low start and birthing Spidermate (V11). Dave Graham confirmed as possible what many had walked under and wondered at when he added On the Beach (V13), whilst Dorothea Karalus proved though her head might be In the Cloud (V12) her fingers are steel forged firmly in terra firma. Plus much, much more be it obscure or obvious, nails hard or accessible moderate.
Simon Madden

Read other pieces in our Grampians bouldering series:
Part I  Romanticising the Stone – Halls Gap
Part II The Usual Suspects – Klem Loskot & Julian Saunders

Wanna be the first to get the new Grampians Bouldering guide? Pre-order your copy of Grampians Bouldering now!

This piece is taken from issue seventeen of Vertical LifeDownload the magazine here.

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