Mt Beckworth is about 25 minutes drive from Ballarat, or approximately an hour and 20 minutes from Bendigo, or Melbourne. It rises behind the little township of Clunes (voting population 7, and one of them is a boarder-collie), like a patient observer, unfazed by the shrieks of granite loving climbers. I think the Clunes Shire Council must know they have a good thing, and wish to keep it to themselves, because you won't find any road signs indicating "Mt Beckworth this way", until you've almost navigated the array of tracks leading in. Essentially, you'll want "Mountain Creek Road" about 3kms down "Fentons" road. (See approach map for details). Once there, however, you'll be rewarded with a picturesque little mountain, suitable for a family picnic or bush walking destination, as much as it is home to Ballarat's climbing population.
If this is your first visit, head straight for the "Main Group" (turn right as you enter the park, and then right again, following the track anti-clockwise around the hill until you eventually get to the cork trees area), situated above a delightful little valley with curious cork trees, questionable toilet block, and nearby picnic table. If you've brought the wife and kids on the pretence of a picnic, this might be a good time to off-handedly remark upon the granite tors uphill and on your left as you enter. Grab your gear, which fortuitously was in the boot, and with a quick "honey just off to check these boulders out", make your way steeply uphill - it's a sharp hike, but quite short. You can wade through the bracken on a small foot-track, or bear slightly left around it, steering clear of the revegetation area.
Either way, make your way to the centre of the main cluster of exposed rock called the "Main Wall" (pictured above right), where you'll find "Afternoons" (pictured above left), the 14m grade 11 ramble, suitable for a warm-up. The crux, if indeed there is one, is probably the little, smeary layback corner leading to a small recess just above the climber pictured. Natural protection abounds so it's probably a good one to send a beginner leader up.
Above Right: The "Main Wall" as viewed from the "Cave Group". Above Left: Kent, leading "Afternoons", 14m Grade 11. Right: Ben, Leading "Quartz Route", 18m grade 17. Below Left: Me, Leading "Cozy Corner", 15m Grade 13.
Just left of "Afternoons", is the superb classic slab "Quartz Route" (pictured above right) 18m grade 17, with three bolts to glory. The opening moves require a delicate balancing act, until you can stand on a horizontal crack and reach high for the climb's namesake crystalline pocket. Pull the pocket and you're soon mid-way and at the crux slabbing where small edges can be utilised to gain easier terrain for the top out. All in all a delightful route, and well worth the three stars. Probably my favourite line at Mt Beckworth!
Left of "Quartz Route" (as you face the rock), in the sheltered alcove you'll find a goodly number of quality routes. This section is also a handy place to get out of the sun or rain and have a bite of lunch or whatever. The most obvious line is the corner crack, aptly named "Cozy Corner", (pictured left) 15m grade 13. It's a hoot of a climb, and eats cams in exactly largest (#4 camalot) to smallest (#2 camalot) size. The crux is smearing your left foot on the slab here and there, but your ascent is greatly aided by a huge jug on the right wall at about the mid-way point. At grade 13, it's an easy tick and well worth taking a punt. On the slab face to it's left you'll find "New Kid In Town", the smeary 16m grade 20. Classic slabbing and cranking of micro edges leads past a single bolt to the summit. The line has some history, and is a bold lead, though achievable.
Left again, on the smooth arÍte, you'll find a line of three bolts ("Sophie", 16m grade 18), that might inspire you, however, beware the run out, bouldery start and pick your landing zone ahead of time. At about mid-way you find yourself with your back against the opposite tor, chimneying, but wanting to commit to the face. Perhaps send your partner up this one instead!
Right: Kent leading "Scansorial" the 14m grade 22 that tackles the thin finger crack and makes you beg for foots holds.
On the block directly opposite "Cozy Corner" you'll find "Scansorial", (pictured right), the 14m grade 22 route that follows a thin finger crack, past three bolts to a crux top out where a set of chains reside. At grade 22 it's no giveaway. Delicate and precise footwork is required, and a certain degree of luck and power to pull the final crux moves. The line that heads up this same block, but from the other side (at the entrance to the alcove), is "Simple Simon", the 10m grade 25 and one of the hardest leads at Mt Beckworth. I didn't personally enjoy it, even on top rope, but others do. When the finger crack all but disappears reach over, high and right for something on the lip of the face.
A third climb that gains the same summit chains as for "Scansorial", and is worth a look is "Time's Up", the 20m grade 11 that follows the hidden, low angle slab facing the valley. From the alcove , you'll need to down climb into the gap a bit to gain the climb's start. The opening moves are a layback crack that can be naturally protected, but there are bolts for the slab finish. Abseil off the chains. Also in the alcove, check out "Stegophilist" the 18m grade 14, that includes a fun hand traverse which can be cammed up with ease.
Walk right (as you face the rock), back past "Afternoons", and on until you arrive at "Taking It Easy" wall, nestled against the bracken. Just right of a small tree you'll find a slab line with a single bolt protecting it's super runout finish. This is "Primeval Upheaval", the 13m grade 18. It's not a lead to be taken lightly. Popping off towards to the top will mean a ground fall.
Above Left: Kent leading "Primeval Upheaval", grade 18. The single bolt can be clipped from his stance, then it's a bold solo to the pseudo "top", where a single belay bolt resides. Right: Me leading "Taking It Easy", 13m grade 16.
A couple of metres right of "Primeval Upheaval", you'll find "Taking It Easy" (pictured right), the 13m grade 16 that follows the thin finger crack to gain the same false summit, and single belay bolt. It's protected by small nuts, and micro cams, so bring the smallest two aliens or you'll be stressing over the last few metres. A hard-ish move guards the start - just step up and reach high for crimps. Despite this, the line is genuinely enjoyable and worth the three star rating. To get off, you can continue up the slab to the real summit, or very carefully traverse right and down climb the easier terrain (use your own judgement). If you have a beginner who doesn't like "Taking It Easy" at grade 16, send them up a couple of metres right of it, where the grade is more than halved.
Several metres right again, and you'll enter "The Cave Group" (pictured left). We've done a route in the Cave Group's alcove (also pictured left), on the large block shown, possibly "The Eternal Optimist", but I'm not sure. In any case you start where Kent is pictured and then veer right across the face, past a few bolts. I don't recall enough about the line to recommend it.
There are numerous other outcrops in the "Main Group" worth investigating. Some of them are right back down near the picnic area, other's are scattered about the hillside. I'll mention "The Resurrection", a short 8m, grade 23 as the pick of these. It's situated at what is known as "Easter Rocks". These can be found several metres left (as you face the rock), and down a tad of the Main Wall's alcove area - heading back towards the picnic table. "The Resurrection", has two bolts and two crux's. The first is working double under-clings, smearing up, and stabbing a good fin-like hold from which bolt two can be clipped. The move is beyond me, even on top rope. The second crux is crossing the delicate facing climbing on the top out. A further two bolts can be found at the summit, useful for a belay or top rope set up. It is possible to down climb the block via the chimney to the right of the line.
Above Left: Looking at the Cave Group from the top of "Taking It Easy", and Kent standing below "The Eternal Optimist", in the Cave Group's alcove. Right: Kent leading "The Resurrection", 8m Grade 23 at "Easter Rocks".
As for the rest of the hundreds of lines at Mt Beckworth's further areas, such as "Baal Spur Rock", "The Plantation", "East Side", "Upper Valley".... well I'll leave these for you to investigate. Suffice it to say that they are scattered about the mountain with significant walking distances between them. Route finding is not straightforward, and in some areas there might only be one or two lines genuinely worth doing, despite the plethora of documented routes. My advice is to demote investigation of these areas to a day with less than perfect weather, when you've got plenty of time on your hands for wandering about. Good luck and climb safe!
"The single belay bolt you mention on Taking it Easy was put there by Ray Fenton some time after the route had been put up. Ray likes to rope solo the routes and has placed many bolt for this purpose out there. The true belay is at the blocks at the top of the slab" - Chris Watson.
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