Bullengarook slate quarry is going to be a disappointment to anyone expecting a sport climber's paradise. The brittle rock, dodgy bolts, and short, limited, and generally uninspiring routes are not going to appeal to all. However, it does have two or three fun lines in the grades 17 to 19 range, and being reasonably close to the highway, makes a nice little stop over on your way to, or home from some other, more deserving location. The area has a similar feel as Meredith's Oxbow Rocks, except that it's bolted rather than trad, and the access is easier. The rock itself is about 15m high, shale-like slate, on less than vertical slab, with most of the climbing on small edges, side pulling seams, and high stepping. Leave the trad rack in the car, unless you're going to thread the hanger-less bolts with wires. (Bring a spanner for the nuts?).
Above Right: The Quarry. Kent re-rigging the anchor chains for a retrievable abseil after seconding my lead of Night Train, grade 19.
To get to Bullengarook Quarry, travel 7.5kms out of Gisborne heading towards Bacchus Marsh. (See: approach map). Turn right onto "Hassed" road at the small berg of Bullengarook. After 1km head left onto "Webb" road for 300m then right down "Fitzgerald". After another 1km find the 4 wheel drive track leading into the bush on the right, just at the edge of some paddocks. Park the family sedan here, or a little ways down the track. After about 500m you'll hit a clearing. Stay on the rightmost track, cross a small creek, and there it is, the quarry face, peeking out from behind some trees.
The immediate impression of the quarry face is that
it's not as wide as you'd expect from the picture in the VCC's Northwest
Victoria guide. The bolts (see examples, pictured
below), are pretty ordinary to say the least, putting the safety of many
of the routes in question. However, at least two of the lines, "Night
Train" (19) and "Appetite For Destruction" (18) seem to
have slightly better quality both in terms of the hardware and the moves,
though still don't trust your life with any of the fixed gear.
Some of the routes, such as "Welcome to the Jungle" (17), which leads up near an arÍte, sport ancient, rusted home made fixed hangers. This line, and possibly the variation just right of it, look more appealing than the routes in the centre of the cliff, which are overshadowed by a tree and contain hanger-less old bolts (pictured above left).
Right: Kent seconding my lead of "Night Train", grade 19.
The pick of the routes, as far as we were concerned
was "Night Train" at grade 19, and it's neighbour "Appetite For Destruction"
at grade 18 on the right side of the crag. The later route is the more
sustained of the two. "Night Train" might have a couple of grade
19 moves, but being a slab it contains several no hands rests. Combine
this with the 5 closely spaced bolts and you've got a low stress lead,
actually very enjoyable. Both lines terminate at double bolt anchors
with fixed chains, useful for lowering off after a lead. We feel that
these two routes redeem the area somewhat making it worth the trip, if
it's not too far out of your way.
Fear not the Ute driving, beer swilling, ACDC fans and their motorbikes and dogs. These are just the local inhabitants in their natural environment. In summary, if you can overlook the bad points and just want to tick two or three short bolted slab climbs on your way home, because you got too cold at Camel's Hump or whatever, well you're in luck, Bullengarook quarry should fit the bill.
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