"It's hot, dam hot".... Yep this is the place to go when rain threatens the rest of the state. I've almost never seen it rain at Mt Hope. Apparently a friend of mine once saw a puddle out there but I think he may have been delirious from the heat and flies. Bring plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.
Despite this foreboding introduction, Mt Hope does offer some great sport climbing (and one or two trad lines) on granite like rock. You get some loose micro flakes and crystals, but essentially it's solid stuff. Lots of smearing and crimping, plenty of slabby face climbing. Access is from the town of Pyramid Hill. (See approach map).
Right: Suicide Rock at Mt Hope as viewed from the car park just before the gate. The bigger wall on the left of the picture is about 50m, and has the hardest routes. The smaller section "Side Outcrop" on the right has easier, shorter climbs and is a good place to start.
When the heat gets too much, head around the Dark Side, and clip some bolts in the shade. (Note: Morning shade only, later arvo the Dark Side is back in the sun). However the best place to start is the "Side Outcrop" directly up from the car park. Jump on Sleigh Ride the left trending (hand to fingers) crack line pictured below. It can be sewn up with cams.
Left: Ben leading "Sleigh Ride" the 20m, grade 13 that starts on the right of the picture and follows the crack line up and left. Descend via the rap chains above Winter Dreams, a short scramble left across the slopy slab, or alternatively exit via the down-climbable gully to the right. Both options can be a bit daunting for a beginner, so if you're bringing up a first time climber as second, it might pay to just lower them off.
Beware the snake that sometimes resides in the lower part of the Sleigh Ride crack. The first time we spotted him we decided to employ the "snake avoidance variation" which I think added at least a grade or two to the climb. Far be it for me to tell you how best to avoid a snake, but lets just say our method involved dubious, stealthy aiding off of cams. Since then we've come across the slithery local several times, and he's been identified as a non poisonous carpet python. (Though don't hold us to this). The last time we were out there the crack was alive with said snake, 2 blue tongues and a skink of some kind. Quietly climbing past them seems not to anger them, though how deeply you thrust your fingers into the depths is up to you.
Right: A lizard winks to us from the safely of the Sleigh Ride crack.
Immediately left of Sleigh Ride is a face climb (grade 20 I think), with a high first bolt that involves some tricky bouldering on smears to clip. After the first bolt the grade eases off a bit, but if you're not confident of clipping that first bolt I'd skip this route or top rope it. Still its up to you.
To the right of Sleigh Ride (just out of the shot above), starting behind some shrubs is a grade 16 climb called Persia 79. This one is worth a crack if you're up for the super scary, unprotected slab start (16 my ass!). Bring your RP's or micro nuts, because you can get a couple in a tiny crack prior to clipping the first bolt which sits close the arÍte. (Dot blame me if your RPs rip). After the first bolt you have the option of meandering away from the arÍte back to the left, where another bolt can be found on a different route. The top out is again unprotected but the grade eases off considerably.
Move a few routes left of Sleigh Ride you'll find another climb, Winter Dreams, definitely worth look. Pictured left it begins at the entrance to the cave, behind a tree. The opening moves require that you summit a small, free standing pillar (detached flake) and then reach across right and clip the first bolt. After committing to the face (don't fall or you'll be in the tree!), move up with the arÍte within reach on your left. Beautiful face climbing.
Left: Winter Dreams 22m, Grade 16, goes up the face just right of the rightmost twin splitter cracks.
The top of Winter Dreams also has two bolts with chains. If you're working several routes on the Side Outcrop its sometimes worth setting up a fixed static line off the chains so that leaders and seconds can rap down after completing each route. Beware, however, the "walk" from the top of Sleigh Ride to the rap chains above Winter Dreams can be a bit daunting for a beginner.
Right: Adrian leading "Patho", 23m grade 15. Take big cams to protect this line.
In the hand to arm bar crack left of Winter Dreams you'll find "Patho" the 23m grade 15 (pictured right). There are two crux's, the opening moves and the moves that flop you onto the spacious ledge above, from where the chains above Winter Dreams can be reached. It's a fun second, but you'll need some monster cams or a big bro to protect the lead. Adrian headed up with a #4.5 camalot, 2 #4s and a variety of smaller units. Even then the #4.5 wasn't quite big enough to protect the mid section, which he was forced to run out a tad until the crack narrowed sufficiently again.
I can also recommend Grasping At Immortality 30m, grade 13, which can be found on the very far left of Suicide Rock. This is something of a busk wack from the Side Outcrop, but you can work your way up to it from the road. The opening moves can be a tad tricky if grade 13 is your limit, but the rest of the climb is a hoot, with closely spaced bolts, 6 in total, including one belay bolt that can be backed up via a crack set a ways up the slab. Be aware of loose micro flakes, and perishing crystals on the surface of the rock.
A few feet right of Grasping At Immortality, behind a small tree you'll find "Niemann Street", the 30m grade 18 (pictured left). Three bolts with fixed hangers lead you up the brown water streak. The first is a lofty 6m off the deck, and requires working the crux moves. There is at least a good stance from which to clip, but if soloing grade 18 moves above a crappy landing zone is not your thing consider passing the lead to another. The terrain eases off in the mid section, then after bolt three is clipped you'll encounter a mossy slab with large, loose flakes. Just when you start to wonder how far it's run out you'll come across a shallow nut placement (#5 walnut broadside on), and an undercling flake that will accept a couple of the smaller aliens. Bare left here and you'll soon arrive at the same belay bolt as for Grasping At Immortality.
Out of the taller lines on the main wall of Suicide Rock proper, I can recommend "Hoddle Street", the 48m grade 21. This line is probably the pride of Mt Hope, offering a tall route with enjoyable but challenging climbing. A friend of mine tells a story of taking the whip of the century off this route. Though the distance fallen seems to get longer with each retelling and the passing years, the morale of the tale remains - be careful. For a sport climb, the upper section is pretty full on for the grade despite an abundance of bolts. If you're not up for the lead it's possible to set a top rope, or belay from above, though you'll feel like you're on a bungie cord if you pop off the lower moves.
Right: "Hoddle Street", the 48m grade 21. There are numerous variants to the left and right of the line. The direct route simply runs straight up the brown water streak, staying on the left hand one in the crux upper section. The rightmost brown streak begins easier off the mid-way ledge but encounters a crux mantle higher up, just before an easy top out. Thus the cunning climber wanting the easiest path off the mid-way ledge will head up the right streak, then traverse into left streak and track back along the thin crack to avoid the cruxes.
The first half of the climb feels about grade 18, until you reach slanting ledge where a massive staple can be clipped and bolts every 2 metres or so head on up the steeper, grade 21 terrain above. The final moves to the chains look a little run out. A careful search around the summit of Suicide Rock should reveal no less than four carrot bolts above the line with a set of chains bolted in about 10 metres lower again. A length of static rope is handy for rapping down to the chains in safety. Due to a previously unheard of persistent drizzle we top roped this line (two ropes required) for the pictured shown.
There's several other routes around Hoddle Street worth investigation. The line that looks hellishly impressive from the ground, taking the dominant path up the faint groove smack in the middle of Suicide Rock, with no less than 8 fixed hangers is "Touch Me I'm Sick", the 45m grade 27. If you're up for the lead, let me know so I can come and document the journey!
"Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side" - Jedi Master Yoda.
Right: Me leading Wicked Sensation 12m, grade 20. Four bolts to glory.
When the flies and the sun have done their job, hike over to the Dark Side by heading down the dirt road beyond the gate (where you probably parked your car), and following it until your see a hulking 12m high outcrop on your left that is generally in shade in the mornings. Here I can recommend Wicked Sensation (pictured right) 12m, grade 20. Watch the video clip (2.4 Meg, 40 seconds) of me leading it. The opening moves to the first bolt are the hardest so if you can boulder these you're up for the lead. Its well protected, though only a single bolt belay exists at the top unless you resort to backing it up by slinging small shrubs, or caming the thin flake some distance from the top out.
You'll find Mt Hope an interesting destination. Most climbs are bolt protected, though a trad rack is often required build to belays, and lead some lines, such as the wonderful "Sleigh Ride". Good luck and climb safe!
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