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The Warrumbungles -trad climbers paradise

posted Jan 25, 2011, 6:37 PM by Brisbane Rockclimbing Club

One week climbing in the Bue Mountains was something to remember. Even the weather was close to perfect.

But that week was followed by a 4 day stay in the Bungles. This being my first visit to the area anticipation was high.

Shawn was well informed about the many climbs, mostly out of his guide that he was constantly reading. Shawn was my climbing partner for the 4 day stay there or more accurately, I was Shawns climbing buddy.

We arrived at the tourist camp ground in the dark and crashed after a nice hot shower. The plan was to get ready in the morning, pack for 4 nights, tent, food, climbing rack, etc.

My pack was so heavy, I had to sit on the ground, strap it on my back and then get up.

Well, it was only a 2 hour walk in, up, up, up. Some parts of the track were even paved.

Certainly a good track up to our base camp, in a saddle, smack in the middle of the major peaks. That was enough walking and off loading was a pleasure. After the tents were pitched we got ready for our first climb. A short and easy one to test out the rock and the way one climbs here: Vertigo a grade 10 - 78m in 3 pitches on Belaugary Spire. All in all it was a very enjoyable

climb. Good friction, clean rock, we even had an audience; some bushwalkers lingered and watched us from afar.

The rap off was a bit of a bush bash down a very vegetated gully. All good fun.

Day 2: Sunday 11th April '10

After a cold night and a nice fire for the breakfast ceremony we set off to climb Cornerstone Rib Direct, a grade 14, 190m, I think we did it in 4 pitches. First pitch really easy with a large belay ledge. The second pitch was Shawns turn. He seemed to be somehow stuck at some point. After calling (communication was difficult) he replied something about a stuck cam. Well, I just had to keep freezing my but off a bit longer. Eventually I heard what I was waiting for: I got it !  I was glad I could get ready for climbing since the wind was quite chilling. Beautiful pitch the second one. Shawn ended up telling me that he found the cam stuck in the crack

and he didn't want to leave it there. A nearly brand new medium size cam. It took him the better part of half an hour to retrieve it.

Well, it was worth it.

We found the summit book upon topping out and left our names in it.


By now we learned that climbing here wasn't just going for it. A lot of the hand holds had to be tested for loseness or hollowness.

There was a lot of knocking on the holds up the rock face before we would commit to the move. That sounds scary but after a while we got used to it and incorporated it into our climbing regime. As for gear, we mostly used wires and small to medium cams.

Lots and lots of wires. A good idea is to combine 2 sets of wires and takes them on the lead. We never used a cam as big as a no 4 Camelot. Some small hexes were useful here and there.


Thus on the 3rd day of climbing here we stripped our rack to what we knew we would use and left the rest at the tent.

Of course we always carried our head torches, just in case.

We used double ropes and even though I still had issues with the rope management I believe they are essential in this kind of

area. The climbs wander, going around a lot of blocks, in and out and around pillars and aretes. Long slings on the quick draws

are equally essential. More than half the gear we placed had to be exended. Rope drag issues are very real here.


On the 3rd day we did Bastion Buttress 240m in 7 pitches grade 13 only.

This climb looked pretty good from the base of the cliff, very blocky and I mean big blocky. And so it was all the way up the first pitch that I led. 45m of block after block. I found the climbing awkward especially since it was the first pitch of the day.

We ended up having route finding problems. So we traversed around closer to an arete. From here it was a bit easier finding the way. We were swinging leads all the way and we made good progress up the wall. As we got higher and higher we could watch

wedge tail eagles fly, sometimes fairly close. One just had to stop for a few moments to watch these beautiful and majestic bird fly by. In moments like this I just love this sport. Up, hundred or two hundred meters above the deck just your buddy and self and the


The exposure is thrilling to say the least. No pre placed anchors, no bolts, just the gear, the rope and the rock.

Quite an experience.


Day 4 - the highlight.

We left Flight of The Phoenix till last. After testing different easier grades we were ready for a harder one. It's a grade 18, all of 330m of climbing in 8 pitches. I chose to start the first pitch. Easy first but getting quite balancey soon.

Always exciting to start a days climbing with a harder grade. It might not be a hard one but for me it was. On the belay I got into another fight with the double ropes. I suppose one has to do all the wrong things before one has figured out a way that works well. Anyway, safety is the first and formost thing and that I will not let slip.

Shawn decided to take a shortcut on the 2nd pitch which is a grade 19 according to the guide. We are

approx 80m above the ground at this point. The experience is intense and the adrenaline is pumping liberally. Well, my mouth is dry as I make myself safe. Looking down is ...wow...!

Now it is my turn again. Changing gear, draws, gear belt, chalking up and away on a trverse to the right, slightly getting steeper and steeper. Good holds... gear here?... no better not, sounds too hollow... run it out a bit more.... finally some good gear.... pop it in... set it, clip it....phew....feel better now. Looking back...wow that was nearly 8m run out. Have to set more gear!

On and on,...a glimpse down....must be more than 100m up now. How much rope is left? A call to Shawn confirms only 7 or so metres. Better look for a good anchor spot. The guide talks about a ledge.

Where the.... is it? A bit more up and right. Well this is as good as it will get within the next 5m or so.                                   Shawn is already taking the anchor apart to get me some more rope. ! Safe !!!!

Wow, that was great. Setting up the belay starts to become more proficient now. On belay!!! and Shawn starts off.

We swing pitches all the way up. The climbing varies. We come into blocky pitches. Different style of climbing. Double ropes

are really paying off now. In and out of niches, around and over blocks, weaving sideways and up but always heading for that "feature" until the rope runs out. Another anchor, another belay, another pitch.

The climbing flows, head space opens up, confidence grows, looking for the next possible move and sliding into it is inevitable,

the feel for the rock that is being climbed enhances.

The weather is being perfect, the eagles gliding not far away from the rock face at times, At one point there are 3 or more to be seen.

As we top out exhilaration is high. There is the inevitable call to a friend to let them know we made it and share the

feeling. What a great finale to our stay in the Bungles.

There is still the walk off the mountain on the easy track back to our camp and the nice camp fire with a nice meal to be enjoyed.

We walk off the mountain in the morning back to the campground in the valley where we left our car. I take more pics of the rock face. Everthing is more real now and we can make out the exact route we climbed.


I am pretty sure I will be back.