An idea that had been tossed around on the odd weekender at the crag; Dan Brown and Sam Bunyan had been down to the Grampians for a weekend the year before and had been raving about it ever since. “You guys have got to come it will blow your mind!”, Dan would say often enough that we took the bait. Before anyone had the chance to stall or back out, Dan had already booked everyone’s flights and that was it.
This trip had crept up on everyone, what preceded the domestic flight from Sydney to Avalon Airport were rapid discussions about how the trad racks could be split up between bags so that we could all remain underweight with the mountain of gear we had between us; just the essentials! It didn’t matter that we had only made it to the check-in counter 2 minutes(!) before it closed, this was quickly behind us as the five of us sped through security and onto the plane.
We had 2 days to soak up as much of the classics that Victoria had to offer, beginning with a single day at Mt. Arapiles - trad heaven. Naturally the first climb we went for was Kachoong (21), a well-known trad line up a run-out slab and into a gorgeous roof sequence with the hero move: dangling on one hand right on the lip, finally ending with a mantle and 8m of jugs to the finish.
Rod was quick to set the pace for the trip, having already climbed the route ten times over in his head, he onsighted Kachoong (21), leaving me with plenty of time to get the ‘Kachoong’ shot of him at the lip. Dan and I followed him up, with it becoming one of my favourite lines to date. There was an incredible adrenaline rush hanging by one hand above a 20m drop into space; I could not recommend getting on this route enough!
That afternoon did not follow the same level of planning, I’d thrown a spanner in the works. In the carpark, flicking through the guide book for potential lines, Minstrel Pinnacle catches my eye. With tactful coercion, I convince the team to follow me (completely following my nose), down an unassuming track into Central Gully Right. After at last finding the pinnacle and silencing the exhaustive groans from the group that I have led them all on a wild goose chase, I quickly lead the adjacent route and hauled my camera to shoot them climbing Pestilence (19), where Rod is pictured reaching a welcomed jug. First day well spent.
The second morning began with a ‘shortcut’ through dirt roads surrounded by wallabies and fallen trees, popping us out on an unsealed road that would take us to Clean Cuts Wall in the Grampians National Park. Two climbers we met in the carpark were able to show us the well-hidden track up to the crag. Now being accustomed to driving to the top of Mt Arapiles to access climbs, it was a shock to find ourselves on a steep and cumbersome walk-in to reach the crag. But the reward was giant, these routes have excellent exposure and expansive views of the surrounding bushland.
Quickly warming up on sandstone leagues apart from the quality we were accustomed to in Blue Mountains, it was time to hit some more difficult routes. Dan made the overhanging walls seem far too easy, seen here flashing Upper Cut (22) and many others in the area. After my earlier attempt to onsight The Man Who Sold the World (25), a mammoth second-pitch overhang that overshadows all other routes in the area, another climber jumped on at dusk just in time for the last light of the day as nearby smoke from backburning drifted through. It was the perfect end to a monster weekend, spirits high as we trudged back down in the dark with only a couple functioning headtorches.
It didn’t even need to be said: we were already thinking about next year, new projects and more mileage at these incredible crags. Eureka wall is just around the corner after all.