Sunday, September 21, 2014

Amazing Arapiles

Mount Arapiles, it's been called "the best crag in the world," is actually a string of convoluted buttresses, gullies, faces and towers spread across a three kilometre expanse and rising a 150 metres or so above the surrounding Wimmera Plain. Calling Mount Arapiles the best crag in the world seems like the worst kind of hubris - it's hard to believe the typically understated Aussies actually coined the expression - but, it certainly has the best climbing in Australia, and, compares very favourably with other well known climbing areas like Red Rocks, Nevada, Joshua Tree, California, City of Rocks, Idaho, Smith Rocks, Oregon, Squamish and Skaha, BC, and even the Rubbly Mountains (aka Rocky Mountains for the Aussie readers - all Canadian readers will know what I mean) of Alberta. The multi-pitch routes aren't long by Red Rocks standards, the grades aren't easy like Squamish, the crag isn't ultra friendly and safe like Skaha, but the climbing is superb. 

Doug on the fantastic second pitch of Siren

We are into our second week at Arapiles and we haven't climbed a bad route yet. Even the routes that get no stars are great and the star routes are simply superb. Visiting climbers, used to the YDS grading system apparently find the grades tough at Arapiles. A 16 Ewbank at Arapiles is just not equivalent to a YDS 5.8 at any North (or even South) American crag. But, if you can toss away any idea of climbing at an equivalent (or what you think is an equivalent) grade to what you climb back home, and just go climb for fun, rather than to tick number grades, you really can't have a bad day at Arapiles. 

 Clean corner climbing high above the Wimmera Plains

The traditional ethic at Arapiles has apparently been staunchly defended by local climbers, and, truthfully, most of the well traveled routes seem to suck up gear like a yobbo sucks up beer. Climbers used to bolted belay stations, top anchors, and rappel anchors will be disappointed. All the belays are gear, and you have to walk or downclimb off most of the routes, but, then maybe that's just part of the Arapiles experience. Certainly, the number of high quality easy to moderate trad routes (and hard routes if that is your bag) is staggering. 

Chilling out on top of the Pinnacle Face

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