Mt Stapylton Amphitheatre Rock climbing480 routes in crag
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Much of this guide is based on Kieran Loughran's wonderful Mount Stapylton Amphitheatre print guide (1996). It has been updated by Neil Monteith and friends (2005-2007).
One of Australia's premier areas. A high concentration of quality routes of every variety. 'Taipan Wall' is world renowned for offering some of the most amazing steep orange sandstone routes around. The bouldering is also very popular.
Useful Info: Much of this guide is based on Kieran Loughran's wonderful Mount Stapylton Amphitheatre print guide (1996).© (nmonteith)
Access issues inherited from North Grampians
This entire area is currently closed due to ongoing fire activity. Fires started on 15/1/2014 and swept the area. All access is prohibited.
Here's an update from Parks Victoria:
Grampians National Park Update – 14 February 2014 (Rock climbing and Bouldering)
The Northern Grampians Fire severely burnt the natural environment and much of the park infrastructure in and around Hollow Mountain, Summer Day Valley and Mt Stapylton – this includes many popular rock climbing and bouldering sites; as a result there are many park closures in place. The dry, rocky landscape is now extremely fragile and will take a long time to recover – the fire burnt extremely hot so in many cases regeneration will now occur (very slowly) from seed. Loss of vegetation, loose rocks, unstable soils and loss of access tracks means any foot traffic will have long term impacts on the recovery of the environment. Impacts now will also affect the sustainability of rock climbing sites well into the future.
Please respect the fragility of the environment and support the long term recovery of the Northern Grampians by remaining out of any closed areas. While Parks Victoria regrets the need to enforce closures, substantial fines will be imposed on those found in any closed, fire affected area.
Parks Victoria recognises the importance and popularity of the Northern Grampians to the rock climbing and bouldering communities and will be working closely with industry and community representatives throughout a staged reopening process. Environmental considerations will largely determine when sites are available to be reopened, and replacement of damaged infrastructure will occur as suitable funding is available.
As part of the recovery process, Parks Victoria will be identifying alternative options for climbing and bouldering, and will closely monitor impacts on these sites as their use and popularity increases. There will also be significant work done on the future experience of visitors in the Northern Grampians.
Parks Victoria is continuing to improve its understanding of the needs of climbers and boulderers and is intent on providing an experience that is well respected, regarded, promoted and understood throughout the Australian and International Climbing and bouldering communities.
Parks Victoria will be relying heavily on the climbing industry to work together to spread the messages about the fragility of the landscape and the long term sustainability of rock climbing in the Grampians. There may be opportunities for licenced tour operators, school and community based groups to become involved in the recovery process.
Due to closures in the Northern Grampians, the availability of rock climbing, camping, car touring and bushwalking experiences is limited. Sourcing information on available campgrounds and other accommodation options is recommended. Please visit www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for park maps and regular Grampians fire recovery updates.
For detailed information on available rockclimbing and bouldering sites in and near to the Grampians please refer to recognised guidebooks/websites. A general list of open and available areas includes the following:
Rockclimbing sites open in the Grampians:
- Wonderland Range
- Serra Range (Including Mt Rosea and Bundaleer)
- Mt William Range
- Victoria Point area
- Victoria Range (Including the Red Rock, Muline and the Gallery area. Please respect cultural heritage and recovering fire affected areas)
Limited Bouldering Sites available in and near the Grampians:
- Victoria Range (Including the Gallery area. Please respect cultural heritage and recovering fire affected areas)
- Serra Range (Including Mt Rosea and Bundaleer)
- Mt Arapiles
- Mt Talbot
- The Black Range
Please remember your climbing etiquette:
- Only climb and boulder in open accessible areas
- Stick to tracks
- Respect fragile environmental areas and cultural heritage
- Keep an eye out for Aboriginal Art sites – Report to Parks Victoria if you come across anything new.
- Be mindful of cleaning
- No chipping or bolting
- Avoid excessive chalk
- Take your rubbish home with you
Parks Victoria - Grampians National Park
Mount Stapylton is at the northern tip of the Grampians(Gariwerd), 30km south-east of Horsham. Train and bus services can get you to Horsham from 'Adelaide' or 'Melbourne' but after that you are on your own.
'Access' by car is easy. All but the last 4km is on sealed road and the unsealed road is negotiable in all weather conditions but care must be taken with corrugations, suicidal marsupials, emus and feral tourists. Hitching is not a good option because you'll probably have to walk a few kilometres and end up isolated in an empty camp-ground a long way from anything.
From 'Melbourne', follow the Western 'Highway' towards Horsham, passing through Ararat, Stawell and Dadswell's Bridge, until you're 11km past Dadswell's Bridge and just after the 269km post. Turn left and continue for 6½km, turn left (signpost Mt Zero) onto a dirt road. After 1.2km turn right (signposts Flat Rock 2.5, Mt Zero 1) and follow the road for 2½km to the 'Mount Zero' Picnic Area.
From Horsham, follow the Western 'Highway' towards 'Melbourne' for 19km, 4km
past Green Lake, turn right (signpost to Laharum). Follow the road south for 8km, turn left (signpost Flat Rock 6), after 3 km turn right (signpost Mt Zero) onto a dirt road. After 1.2km turn right (signposts Flat Rock 2.5, Mt Zero 1) and follow the road for 2½km to the 'Mount Zero' Picnic Area.
The lone visitor can normally find climbers in the carpark at 'Hollow Mountain' on any weekend...but not always! During the week you may get lucky but are more likely to strike youth groups and corporate team-builders. If you have no organised partner, your best option is to go to Mount 'Arapiles' first to make some contacts.© (nmonteith)
While the Amphitheatre is one of the important climbing areas in 'Victoria', development has been sporadic.
When the area was discovered in the mid-sixties there was an intense period of development that culminated in one of the most intense months in Victorian climbing history.
In the four weeks from 23rd April to 18th May 1966, Mike Stone, Ian Guild, Chris Dewhirst and Gary Kerkin put up 'Spillway', 'Simpleton' and Seventh Pillar. In that same month this group, minus Gary Kerkin but with John Moore also added 'Scorpion' and 'Skink' at 'Arapiles'. These were the hardest, most serious climbs around, done in one brief period by a small group.
It's hard to appreciate what it was like in the sixties. Even in the mid-70s it was possible to arrive at 'Arapiles' on a mild summer weekend and find only five people there. 'Arapiles' was popular, Stapylton was not and, with the sixties, we are talking a decade earlier: we are talking isolation.
Contemplate placing the bolt runner on 'Simpleton', jamming your head in the crack to free both hands for drilling, or climbing hand-over-hand up a knotted rope to regain the first belay of Seventh Pillar or standing around in hard rubber while hand-drilling the bolts on Spillway? It's quite sobering.
Things were pretty quiet in the early seventies. Andrew Thomson added some aesthetic(?) bolt-laddders to 'Lower Taipan Wall' and combined with Kim Carrigan to free 'Clicke Crack' and dramatically reduce the aid on Seventh Pillar. Dave Mudie freed 'Simpleton' and contributed Seventh Banana to 'Taipan Wall'. John Chapman freed 'Spillway'.
Thomson and Carrigan's one-day ascent of Seventh Pillar in 1975 was no great shakes by the standards of the day. That is in theory. In reality this climb had people intimidated. The general steepness and atmosphere clobber aspirants to the present day. It was an indication of things to come from Carrigan.
Glenn Tempest and Kevin Lindorff had a spree in the Amphitheatre in April and May of 1977. They didn't break new ground in terms of grades but, in two weekends, they brought Stapylton into the modern era. 'Benn Gunn' and 'Asterisk' free, 'Starstruck', 'Technical Ecstasy', 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Atomic Tadpole' seemed to open the gateway, but it was not to be. Why? Because they weren't into rap-bolting or inspection in those days and obvious protectable climbs were exhausted.
At this time abseil bolting of routes was not common. Abseil bolting first appeared in 'Victoria' at Hanging Rock in the late sixties and did not catch on. Andrew Thomson reintroduced the concept when he did 'Swinging' at 'Arapiles' in April 1976 and it was quite controversial. When Tempest and Lindorff did their routes in the Amphitheatre, they were rejecting the use of chalk as unethical, let alone rap-bolting! This looks funny now, but it was taken quite seriously at the time. I suppose it has shades of British mountaineering in the thirties when crampons were rejected as unethical. Anyhow, Tempest and Lindorff set a new standard at the crag and then left it. Curiously, when Lindorff revisited Stapylton in the early eighties with a revised bolting ethic, he ignored his old stamping-ground in favour of Summer Day Valley.
At the start of the Eighties, Carrigan and I crossed from Summer Day Valley to The Amphitheatre to cut Seventh Pillar to one aid point (Carrigan did the work and dragged me up after him). At the end of the day we walked the length of 'Taipan Wall' and could see no more free propositions; quite hilarious in retrospect. I don't suppose Kim was having me on?
Anyhow, among other things, Carrigan put up 'The Great Divide', Matheson did 'Serpentine', Monks freed Seventh Banana and Pollitt did every climb on the wall as well as adding Rage, the direct version of 'Serpentine'.
'Taipan Wall' is far and away the highlight, but much of the rest is also deserving of your attention. Enjoy.© (nmonteith)
Some content has been provided under license from: © Australian Climbing Association Queensland (Creative Commons, Attribution, Share-Alike 2.5 AU)
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