We were driving past Hillwood on our way to take the ferry back to the mainland and decided to call in at Hillwood climbing area on the Tamar River north of Launceston. I did not really have high hopes of much good climbing as there is nothing about this area but farm land and, truthfully, Australia is still behind the rest of the world when it comes to well developed climbing areas. However, with the rather terse Crag guide downloaded we easily found the stile over the fence on the Craigburn Road just south of the Batman Bridge.
The Chessboard, looks fun, is fun
A good pad leads off up a short hill and we walked up to find an amazing and high quality climbing area. The rock, I think, is basalt, and the familiar columns are turned 90 degrees so that a hexagon or checkerplate pattern results. If you've ever climbed at Tieton in Washington, the place will look very familiar. The first area we found was a huge amphitheatre with climbs on either side which look fantastic but harder than we wanted. A side track branches off to the right just before the amphitheatre and up this track we found the Chessboard crag with perhaps as many as twenty climbs under grade 20. The climbs are all clean, well bolted and equipped.
Doug heading up for the first clip
We went back for our gear and met one of the local climbers taking measurements for a new stile, then walked back to the Chessboard and had a fantastic afternoon climbing. This area must bee really popular as it is one of the best crags we have been to in Australia. Good access, safe well equipped routes, clean solid rock, and a beautiful setting in the trees above the river.