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Mt Arapiles, Natimuk
[ Climbs | Images | Map | Crags | Guide Books | Forum | Trip Reports ]
Crag Summary (PDF) Quick Stats
Climbs *** ** * Hardest Longest Rock Access
>2000 69 185 147 32 170m Sandstone 5 Mins

What can I say about Arapiles that hasn't already been said a thousand times before? Very little I fear! Many a would-be writer has waxed lyrical about the magic of Victoria's climbing Mecca, the premier destination, possibly the very the heart and soul of traditional climbing in Australia. Too much? Okay, so we all know it's the bee's knee's, that it fills the dreams of climbers world wide, inspires many a new comer to take up the sharp end, and causes Melbournians to get up at ungodly hours of the morning to make the mad 4 hour rush to The Pines campground, just so they can be at the front of the queue on the Bard.

Right: Mt Arapiles Reflections. Photo by Michael Boniwell. To purchase a print, click here, then select "Buy Photo".

Arapiles is home to over 2000 quality routes, condensed into one, and let's be honest, fairly small mountain. There are climbs within a stones throw of the infamous Pines campground, and you don't have to walk far at all to access hundreds of worthwhile routes. Basically if you can't find a line you like at Araps, then you're in the wrong sport. The rock is super strong sandstone, that really lends itself to solid nut placements. The climbing is essentially all traditionally protected. There are a few bolts around, but they're mainly on the harder stuff, and only in places where natural gear won't suffice. If you turn up with a power drill and rack of draws, you'll likely be strung from the nearest tree and fed to the blue tongue lizards!

Bard Butress, and Tiger Wall.The mountain rises above the otherwise flat landscape just 33km south-westish of Horsham, near the little town of Natimuk (see map). Horsham has several supermarkets, cafes and restaurants, so supplies shouldn't be an issue. The Natimuk pub does counter meals (until 8pm I believe), and is generally packed with climbers of an evening. Which brings me to another point: crowds. The absolute worst time to visit Arapiles is over Easter break. You'll be sharing the cliffs with over 500 other climbers, I kid you not. Expect a queue at the base of every 2 and 3 starred climb within walking distance of the Pines. The best time to visit is the day after Easter break, when a couple of nut tools and a quick run up the classic lines will yield a rack of otherwise stuck booty gear. The advantage of it's popularity, of course, is that finding a climbing partner on-site should not be difficult, unless you're 5 days past your last shower, and look like the climbing bum from hell. If so, there's a wealth of boulder problems scattered about the base of the cliffs.

Realistically Araps is an all year round crag. In the height of summer you'll bake on the Watchtower face, for example, but with a bit of planning you can easily find a shaded line somewhere. In the depths of winter, even with a light rain falling, you can climb dry rock by seeking out the lines protected by overhanging terrain, such as "Mantis" (grade 14) on Fang Buttress behind the Plaque or "Oceaniod" (grade 17), on the front of the Pharos.

The Pines CampgroundCamping costs $2 a night per person. There are three official campgrounds all in the one location, though "The Pines" has all the atmosphere and history. The toilets have recently been upgraded and are quite good. There's a public telephone, useful in case of emergencies. There's bore water on-site, but it doesn't hurt to bring your own because it tastes pretty ordinary. If you want a swim there's a few options, including the Wimmera River, though I'd advise you to avoid Lake Toolondo in the late summer - it's just a mud hole. Showers can be purchased from a camping & caravan park at Lake Natimuk. You can hire climbing gear, like shoes, harness, etc (or feed your gear addiction and buy more metal for your rack), at the local climbing shop in Natimuk. Note, the new regulation: "Mount Arapiles will be a fuel-stoves-only area for a six month period from 1st November to 30th April each year". 

The Pines offers diverse forms of non-climbing entertainment. Expect to find slack rope walkers, hackey-sack players, fire jugglers, flying foxes, gentle music from classical guitars mixed with thumping loud stereos, the occasional drunken yahoo's, and basically just lots and lots of climbers all hanging out, cooking, sleeping, talking, and bragging about their latest ascent. "Permanent" residents abound, just look for the camp sites that appear to have been set up for months, because in all likelihood they have. Often one university or another, that offers an outdoor education course, will descend upon the campground in their multitudes, (usually very late at night just as you are finally falling asleep), occupying all the good sites and generally filling the Pines with activity and noise, so don't ever count on reserving a site for your mates, or expecting one iota of personal space. If you need space, go climb in the remoter parts of the Grampians.

Above Left: Bard Buttress and Tiger Wall. Above Right: Looking down at the Pines campground, from up on the bluffs.

There are frequent guided groups, school groups, and top ropers galore, but they generally keep to the shorter, more isolated crags, such as Bush Ranger Bluff, Declaration Crag, and so on. The "Plaque", being only a hop, skip and a jump from the campground is almost never without a large group of beginners swarming up it's polished features. Newish leaders also abound, and classics such as The Bard, and just about anything on The Organ Pipes will likely be scaled many times per day by them. The good news, however, is that with 2000 odd routes to choose from you can easily evade the masses, by walking a bit further, and still tick a mega classic lead.

Which routes do I recommend? Well, pick just about any starred climb and you won't go wrong. Get yourself a copy of Arapiles Selected Climbs, the guide book authored by Simon Mentz & Glenn Tempest, and available from local climbing shops, or the VCC. I'd estimate that 1 in every 3 climbers at Araps would own a copy. It's simply the best climbing guide book I've ever seen, with it's greatest feature being the pictures. Just about every climb is pictured with a white line showing the path up the cliff. With this little beauty in your hands, route finding is no longer an issue.

Ben, Leading "Pilot Error", Grade 20.If this is your first visit, and you want a sample of the easy classics, head on over to the Organ Pipes and get in line to tick, D Major (grade 10), and D Minor (grade 14). The later is my personal favourite of the easier lines, though I'm not alone. I believe it once got voted "best climb in Victoria" or some such thing. It's a series of fun little steep sections, each slightly harder than the last. Two pitches, with rap chains to get off. Other recommendations? Well, everybody loves "Muldoon", the grade 13 jug fest, and of course, for pure historic appeal, you can't go past "The Bard", grade 12, with it's infamous, and comical traverse pitch. Still in the easy stuff, you'll love "Eskimo Nell", grade 10, for a taller outing, and for a bit of adventure climbing try "Lamplighter" at grade 14, though the final pitch can be a tad tricky. 

For something a bit harder head up the "Watchtower Crack". At grade 17, it's four pitches of fun adventure climbing, and something to tell your friends about, with one belay not hanging, but certainly cramped, and involving small wires. At around grade 17/18, I can recommend, "Death Row", "Oceniod", "Eurydice", "XI", "Howling Wolf", etc. Everyone will say "Missing Link", but if you do it, use two ropes to reduce drag. For a 19 worth a look, try "Lemmington" on the face opposite "D Minor". Short, easy to access, and will make you pay attention. If you found it easy, head up "Tannin" for a taller, pumpy 19. For rooves, try the ever popular, one move wonder, "Pilot Error", grade 20. Make sure you get the obligatory photo! If you're still looking for a roof, try "Kachoong", grade 21, and let me know how the lead went! If you're leading harder than that, well, you don't need my advice. One of the hardest things out there is the world renowned "Punks In The Gym" at grade 31. Every now and then you'll see some dude working it. Have fun!

Above Left: Ben, leading "Pilot Error", the grade 20 one move wonder, that's been climbed in all manner of styles including, so the rumour goes, some dude who soloed it nude and cracked open a beer on the crux.


Melbourne to Arapiles on Public Transport   Push For The Summit

Train to Ararat, then Bus to Horsham with V-Line (See timetable).  Local Bus to Natimuk -for the schedule for the local bus try calling: V/Line Services - Horsham. Address: Horsham Coach Terminal, Roberts Ave, Horsham, 3400. Tel: (03) 5381 1871 or ( AH) 136 196


Overseas Travellers   Push For The Summit

If you're visiting Australia from overseas, and are yet unacquainted with Arapiles rock, perhaps make note of these points. You won't find any "fixed hangers" to clip. On the rare occasions when there is a bolt, it will require a "bolt plate". They're worth about $5 AUD each, and you can easily pick up a few from any climbing shop, including the one in Natimuk. If you get stuck up a route without any plates, just slide a nut back on it's wire, hook it over the bolt head, and slide it up again for a tight fit. You might also find you need some RP's or micro nuts on a few of the harder climbs, though you'll likely get by without them. If you're stuck for transportation, check V-Line, for the train from Melbourne to Ballarat, then catch a bus to Horsham, though you could probably bum a lift by hanging out at any of the Melbourne climbing gyms, and practicing a little charm.


Selected Arapiles Climbing Areas   Push For The Summit

Just the particularly worthwhile crags. The approximate number of climbs shown comes from TheCrag.com's index.
Approaching Arapiles From Natimuk

Area Description Climbs
1 Declarion CragDeclarion CragDeclaration Crag
Clearly visible from the road as you approach the Pines camp site from the south side, this little gem of an outcrop is the perfect road side crag and is very popular despite or perhaps because of the short nature of the routes. Instructors often use this as a beginners training ground with starred climbing as low as grade 2, though there are some greater intermediate and way hard routes too. The classic draw card is "Little Thor" 12m 20, which has spat off it's share of leaders. Take the micro cams on "Marmot's Mall", 12m grade 15 without them its not so easy to protect. Have a lash at "The Ferrets Are Coming" 12m grade 19, perhaps on top rope, which would be worth a star if the protection was better.
24
Bushranger BluffBush Ranger Bluff
A handy little out of the way spot for beginners and top ropers, though it does have one or two harder lines. You can even do a spot of caving (I nearly got stuck once).
29
2 Colosseum Wall. Good crack routes on the left buttress.Colosseum Wall
For some seriously fun (though short) crack routes that can be easily top roped. Christian Crack (20) is the line to choose if you want to practice jamming. Tape up if need be. To it's right the grade 18 is just as fun, with a little less jamming required. Note both of these are a very serious lead. However you've got a fun little 13 to the right, and the "easy for the grade" 22, face climb on the left. Basically a great little spot. Rap chains to get off. You've also got the short Comic Strip wall behind it. In the picture above the good crack routes are on the left buttress.
40
3 Lizard Procrastination PinnacleKing Rat GullyKing Rat Cliffs
This is a shady little retreat from the summer sun, though in winter it's a damp sort of place. Here you'll find King Rat at grade 18 sharing the committing overhang with a neighbouring grade 23 that is equally as exciting. Skydiver wall to it's right, contains some hard stuff. Guarding the entrance to the gully is Lizard Procrastination Pinnacle.
89
Pilot ErrorPilot Error Cliffs
For some unknown reason Pilot Error a 12m grade 20 roof problem has become incredibly popular, despite it being a one move wonder. There's a collection of routes in the area that are short by Araps standards, making it not a bad spot to tick something hard late in the day. "Debutantes and Centipedes" 18m grade 25 is well worth a look if you're into scary face climbing on mixed trad and bolts.
49
4 Climbers on Flight Deck Wall. Muldoon is to the right.The Atridae
This area has some superb routes all within sight of the pines. Anyone who hasn't yet lead Muldoon 42m grade 13 is mad not to head straight for it. A pure jug fest! And it's neighbour "Surface To Air" 30m grade 17 is one the most enjoyable juggy leads around. For a exposed thrill at an easy grade try "Agamemnon" 40m grade 10 that gets plenty of air under the crux bridging. For the hardcore types, check out "Have A Good Flight" 20m grade 25 over on the Flight Deck wall. I've watched many a budding hardman pop off this powerful line, which is way beyond my abilities. The three star route "Orestes" 40m grade 24 in the corner crack is reputed to be easy for the grade. Most people just do the powerful 20m first pitch, complete the dramatic traverse and rap off the fixed anchors.
49
Organ Pipes Gully
A collection of routes near the Organ Pipe descent gully. Here I can recommend "Lemmington" the 18m grade 19 that sits on the face opposite the rap down D-Minor pinnacle. Beware the poorly protected dog leg traverse. When rapping off D-Minor pinnacle don't pull the ropes before running up "Aardvark" 18m grade 18. The crux is the first few moves. It's got some nice rests, making the lead very enjoyable.
43
5 The Organ PipesThe Organ Pipes *
Undoubtedly the most popular crag at Arapiles. A series of tallish vertical columns packed with features offer one outstanding route after another all within a hop, skip and a jump from the Pines camping ground. Beginner leaders flock to the pipes mainly due to the wealth of easy to intermediate routes all so close together. The downside is that its so busy you'll need to queue up to get on classics like D-Minor, and the sandstone has sadly become polished from greasy climbers mitts. Make sure you save Tannin, 40m grade 19, for the on-sight lead, it's not nearly as tricky as it looks and is probably my all time favourite climb at Araps.
60
6 Wailling WallCentral Gully Left Side
Kind of following the Organ Pipes track higher up the gully you'll find a wealth of worthwhile stuff. "Beautiful Possibilities" 30m grade 15 has got to be one of the most enjoyable leads. Nearby "Pedro" 35m grade 10 always seems to attract a queue. A bit of a walk further up you'll find "Howling Wolf" 28m grade 18, which I can really recommend. The well protected crux is all about getting the sequence right. Technique wins this route. 
113
Upper Central Gully 79
Reaper ButtressSacrecen, 114m grade 16.Central Gully Right Side
This is a big area and includes such crags as Mari Buttress, Preludes Wall, Reaper Buttress, Dunes Buttress, etc. A friend once had a cam rip free of Mari leading to a deck out fall, so beware its glassy smooth cracks. Of course for a top beginners outing, or just an easy, enjoyable romp you can't go past good old "Eskimo Nell" 109m grade 10 that leads up Dunes Buttress and offers grand views overlooking the Pines camping ground and beyond. Nearby Saracen 114m grade 16 is also well worth fighting the shrubs on route and steep walk to the base. Over on Preludes Wall you'll find Dracula 40m grade 11. Rapping off the huge cave bollards is way cool. Nearby "Preludes" 35m grade 17 is also real rewarding. There's just too much good stuff here to describe in one paragraph.
106
Major Mitchell Gully 35
XI 30m grade 18, Fang ButtressMantis on Fang Buttress, grade 14.Fang Buttress
This is a free standing crag set out in front of the Bard Buttress, behind the Plaque area. Here you'll find the sheltered route "Mantis" 30m 14 which is good if it rains. You'll also find "XI" 30m 18, with it's pumpy little crux, well worth a look. Beware nearby "Morfydd" 30m grade 19 below the Bluffs. It gets two stars so is often climbed, but it's probably one of the scariest and hardest 19s I've been on.
21
The PlaquePlaque
Within spitting distance of the Pines camping ground this tiny tor is generally swarming with beginners and people looking to make one last tick before the days end. It's almost ridiculously popular. It's features have become so polished from climbers hands that the grades probably go up each summer. The classics here are "Minimus" 12m grade 14 and "Camelot" 13m grade 10, both probably top roped 50 times a day by large groups. Just right you'll find "Maximus" 13m grade 17 which is a very enjoyable lead on small cams and wires if you can push past all the crowds to get at the rock. Right again is the Plaque test piece "Dramp" 15m grade 21 that runs through the little roof and is basically a one move wonder, which never fails to entertain. I've seen people toss their helmet just to get the extra two centimetres reach required to pull the single hard move.
20
7 Me leading Eury dice, 70m grade 18.Bard ButtressBard Buttress *
The Bard 120m grade 12, is one of the most historic and oft climbed routes at Arapiles. People get up in the wee small hours just to queue at it's base. The comical traverse pitch never fails to scare first timers. It takes an easy line up the most dominating feature of the whole place, the Bard Buttress & Tiger Wall. The buttress overlooks the Pines camp ground drawing climbers like moths to a flame. It's packed with fun climbs. Even the descent via Ali Baba's Cave is an adventure. Eury Dice 70m 18 on the face overlooking the Pines is a must do.
18
8 Missing Link, grade 17.Bluff Major. Face overlooking central gully.The Bluffs
Getting up to The Bluffs is a challenge in itself. However, once there you'll have all sorts of goodies to choose from, including the oft repeated classic "Missing Link" 30m grade 17, a bold outing that really needs two ropes to avoid drag on the lead. Rap chains let you descend easily. The fun little "Block Buster" grade 11 will put you on top of the Bluffs if you just want to get up it, or you could pick a more serious route like linking something to "Quo Vadis" grade 19. For a strenuous and scary outing head up "Thunder Crack" 30m grade 20, or "Despatched" 40m grade 23 that overlook Ali's descent facing down into the central gully. These are seriously spectacular lines, and very inspiring to watch being climbed.
82
9 Bard Buttress and Tiger WallTiger Wall
Just a stones throw right of Bard Buttress you'll see Tiger Wall, one of the biggest cliffs at Araps with a wealth of easy and hard lines. Steer clear of the loose and mossy bits further right and taste the classics such as Resignation 96m grade 15, a romp of a climb with a fun little crux. People queue up to get on Kestrel 50m grade 13 I think mainly because you can rap down, but also due to the fun three dimensional bridging. Once at the summit of Tiger Wall, don't discount the opportunity to explore The Bluffs above.
70
10 Castle CragCastle Crag
Very popular free standing crag with easy access. Heaps of lines graded 24 and above all packed into one weird little block. Nothing over half a rope length so rapping off is easy. Some overhanging stuff for the hardcore types, but most people come to do Swinging 20m grade 17 and it's brother Trapeze 20m grade 11.
27
Grotto Wall 35
11 Voodoo Area 87
13 Death Row PinnacleOceaniod, 75m grade 17, Pharos Front WallThe PharosThe Pharos *
This outcrop has it all. If I could pick one crag to transplant into my backyard, this would be my choice. It's got a climb for every mood and every skill level. From the beginners ramble "Spiral Staircase" 95m grade 8, right up to the all time classic Araps test piece "Punks In The Gym" 35m grade 31, which, for a short while was considered the hardest route in the world and still attracts overseas visitors today. A block to the side of the Pharos called Death Row Pinnacle offers the challenging but very rewarding "Death Row" 45m grade 18. The Pharos front wall, sheltered from the rain, gives you such classics as "Oceaniod" 75m grade 17, while the back wall houses the well trodden route "Lamplighter" 78m grade 14, which usually has a queue three parties deep. There's also several three star grade 21 and above climbs here. Gotta love the Pharos. Even the free hanging 50m abseil descent is an adventure!
98
14 Pharos Gully 123
15 The Pinnacle Face
"Tip Toe Ridge", the 120m grade 5 ramble is sometimes soloed in the dark by mad keen climbers who turn up late at night and can't get to sleep without ticking a classic. There's plenty of other easy to intermediate long adventure routes here to choose from.
41
Yesterday Gully 71
16 Watchtower CrackThe Watchtower Faces *
How can you pass up the opportunity to climb the Watchtower Crack, 95m grade 16? It's got to be the all time classic Araps adventure route for the intermediate climber. Admittedly the lower two pitches are a tad broken by ledges, but the upper two are pure gold. Beware the cramped belay on RPs! Next door you'll find the best slabbing at Araps, Brolga 100m grade 16, and for the beginners the classic romp of "Arachnus" 105m grade 9. Bring a water bottle! This face bakes in the summer sun.
67
Kitten Wall 59
17 Phil seconding Kachoong, grade 21.The Northern Group
Further up the valley from the Watchtower you'll find yourself in the Northern Group. Among other routes, this area is home to the infamous roof climb "Kachoong" 25m grade 21, which has been photographed so many times it's likely to be growing vain. This route fills the dreams of Arapiles regulars and is well worth braving committing moves. It's grade 18 until you're on the roof. For something far easier checkout "Harlequin Cracks", the 80m grade 10 which is fine outing.
118
18 The Far Northern Group
Climbers take on the hike to this area mainly to tick the classics "Entertainer" 35m grade 18 and "Comic Relief" 25m grade 21, both of which reside close together on the lower Curtain Wall. It's not that far to walk really.
139
Mitre RockMitre Rock
Over the road to the north you'll find this gem of an outcrop standing on it's own like a mini Araps. It's a popular place for beginners with a wealth of easier climbs, but also houses some short but hard routes. The all time classic beginners intro to Araps is "Exodus" 36m grade 6, which has basically become THE first time leaders route. There's plenty of easy stuff to top rope in the Deacons Dilemma area, and "Prelate" grade 17 is even worth leading. Over on the south face you'll find Serpent 43m grade 11, which is the perfect line to tow your beginners up, though there's a weird little traverse on the top out. "Acapulco Gold" the short 19 nearby draws attension. Do not, what ever you do, be conned into leading "Beelzebub" 27m grade 17 - it's got that name for a reason.
99
Western Side 128


Guide Books Available   Push For The Summit

Get yourself a copy of "Arapiles Selected Climbs", the guide book authored by Simon Mentz and Glenn Tempest. It gives you the cream of the crop from all Arapiles areas. Alternatively consider the following, most of which are available from local climbing shops or the VCC....

Jump to Glen Tempest's web site.

Arapiles Selected Climbs
Simon Mentz & Glenn Tempest (1999)

Jump to VCC Guidebooks A Rockclimbers Guide to Arapiles/Djurite
Louise Shepherd (1994)

 


Further Reading:
*Arapiles Selected Climbs - Guide book authored by Simon Mentz & Glenn Tempest, and available from local climbing shops, or the VCC.
*Arapiles.com - When you're pinning for the pines campground. Links to other Australian sites.
Arapiles.net - Run by climbers, info on new routes, local shops/resources, etc. Has a small magazine. Details on the Arapiles Mountain Shop, which do shoe resoling - very handy!
Arapiles - From RockClimbing.com's web site. Just a very brief intro page.
Arapiles Microguide - A few pages from Planet Fear web site.
Adventure Plus - A guiding service founded by Brigitte and John Muir, operating out of Natimuk they primarily offer guided Arapiles climbing.
Wills Climbing Page - Detailed descriptions of many routes.
Big Ben's Victoria - Brief intro to Arapiles, from a non-climbing perspective.
Climb NZ - Their page on Mt Arapiles. Just an brief intro page.
Climbing Locations - This page shows a map of the Arapiles climbing locations. It's been ripped from the Arapiles Selected Climbs guide book.
Mt Arapiles, Tooan State Park - Park's Victoria's page on Arapiles.
The Climbing Company - Guided climbing at Arapiles. Founded by Louise Shepherd and Chris Peisker.
The Spectacular Mt Arapiles - Page from "Where To Stay" web site.
Grampians Little Desert - Tourist Info for Grampians / Arapiles region.

 


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