After almost 5 months in New Zealand, we fly to Australia. We spend about eight weeks there, mainly rock climbing.

Anything in red on the map below can be "clicked" on for a summary report and related photographs.

We arrive in Sydney on February 13. We settle at the YHA hostel in Glebe (a Bobo neighbourhood of Sydney, about 15 minutes from downtown proper) and spend a couple of days exploring the city. We intended to buy a car, but we got discouraged when we learnt how complicated buying and selling a vehicle is in Australia, particuylarly if you have to buy and sell in different states. It is certainly not worth the hassle for less than 2 months.

After three days exploring Sydney (a great, lively, and beautiful city), we book a rental camper with Backpackers and drive North to climb in the Blue Mountains. We spend 10 days or so there climbing, but also watching rain fall. Never thought we would see so much rain in Australia...

Enough of the finicky weather. We decide to drive South to Booromba Rocks, a small granite crag near Canberra, Australia's capital city (lifeless and depressing city, don't bother, although it is located in a very beautiful area of rolling hills). Camped at the trailhead, we get to see our first kangooroo. The climbing however, was really disappointing. Very bushy approaches and generally uninspiring routes. We didn't even climb a pitch.

From there, we head to Mt Buffalo, where we spend a couple of days. We are not impressed with this area either. The granite is extremely rough and the more striking lines are grade 22 and up. We still get a few pitches in, including the classic "Where Angels Fear to Thread", a 6-pitch offwidth line. We didn't see even one other climber...

We then drive back through the Australian Alps toward Mt Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia. At 7,200 ft, it is exactly as high as the town we used to call home in New Mexico! It is also the most crowded summit we have ever been on. It is still worth the hike, for the views and the alpine tundra, so rare in Australia.

By then, it's March 8 and we've heard it's still too early (too hot) to climb at Arapiles, reputedly the best crag in the country. So we drive to the Grampians first. With a bit of altitude, the climbs there should be cooler. We get two good days of cragging in the shade in the Northern Grampians, but it is still way too hot to climb in the sun. Temperatures hover around 35 to 40°C!

We decide to leave for a few days until it cools down, and go do some tourism to the South and along the Great Ocean Road. We also stop on the way at Mt Eccles National Park and the Tower Hill Reserve, where we have been told by a ranger at the visitor center in Halls Gap that we would see Koalas (and we do indeed). We drive the Great Ocean Road from Warrnambool to Geelong, stopping along the way for a number of tourist attractions, including the London Bridge, the Loch Ard Gorge, and the Twelve Apostles.

Three days later, we're back in the central Grampians. We climb at Bundaleer, Barbican Wall, and Mt Rosea. Luckily, Mt Rosea has just reopened for climbing after much damage to the forest in a wildfire three years ago. It is pretty crowded because of the Easter week-end.

After Easter, the weather gets colder and we head toward Arapiles, only an hour away. We spend the last two weeks climbing mostly at Araps, except for a sunny week-end where we drive back to the Grampians for 4 days and climb at Mt Rosea again, as well as at the Watchtower and Barbican Rocks, two small crags also near Halls Gap.

We leave Araps on Sunday April 12 and drive to Melbourne when we return the van the next day. We spend our last three days in Australia exploring Melbourne and eating good food. We fly back to Las Vegas on Wednesday April 16.

For all the hype about the rock climbing in Australia, we can only say we were a bit disappointed. Arapiles is often described as "the best crag in the world"... sorry mates, but it is not that good! The best part about it is the very cheap camping and the fact that you can easily walk from camp to any of the climbs. It is also a very pretty place. The rock however is not very good looking, often unpleasantly slippery, and so broken that obvious lines are few and far between.

Of the areas we visited, our favorite is the Grampians, and in particular Mount Rosea. This is a good size cliff (3 to 4 pitches tall), with excellent, fine-grained rock, and good-looking crack lines. Most of the routes we did there were classics by any standard.

The Blue Mountains have some very impressive steep, tall faces, but the best lines at quite difficult and sustained. Face climbing is not our forte... One exception (which we enjoyed a lot) is the Mt Piddington crag, which offers a great selection of classic splitter cracks. Unfortunately, the weather in the Blueys is also notoriously rainy.

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Yep!

 
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The Opera House, a Sydney icon.
 
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Friendly parrots downtown Sydney.
 
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We found walking more treacherous than driving. Looking left before crossing is really hard-wired in our brains...
 
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The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.
 
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Climbing in the Blue Mountains.
 
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Lots of steep orange walls typical of the Blue Moutnains.
 
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White parrots are everywhere.
 
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Driving through the Australian Alps.
 
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Climbing at Mt Buffalo.
 
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Colourful parrot.
 
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Hiking to the summit of Mt Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia.
 
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'Roo crossing!
 
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Kangoroos in Grampians National Park (click here for movie).
 
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Climbing at Barbican Wall, in the Grampians.
 
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We drove to this lake near the Gramps, hoping for a swim... The drought in the state of Victoria is reaching epic proportions.
 
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Lucie climbing "Scarab", a classic Grampian moderate.
 
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Koala hidding in a eucalyptus tree at Mt Eccles National Park (click here for movie).
 
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The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road.
 
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Views from our camping spot at Arapiles.
 
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Lucie leading the first pitch of "The Bard", an Araps classic.
 
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Sunset at Araps.
 
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Eric on "Tony's Route", another classic on Bard's Buttress.
 
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Panoramic view of Arapiles.
 
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Tramways are everywhere in downtown Melbourne.

Australia

February 13 - April 16, 2008