The Governor Mostly Trad climbing112 routes in crag
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At 1410m elevation, the Governor is a majestic pinnacle. Located just to the side of the main road rising to 'Mt Lindesay' - the climbing is north facing and up to 90 or so metres in length. It was during the first ascent of Air Raid in 1977 that rangers ordered climbers Richard Curtis and Brian Birchall down off that climb, by helicopter, that led to the climbing ban of 2 years being lifted.
The 1983 Rock guide to Kaputar by Mark Colyvan said that the Governor offers “some of the best lines in Australia”. It is also one of the best multi-pitch trad crags in Australia, with a strong tradition of ‘ground-up’ ascents, removable protection and minimal bolting. The Governor is an excellent crag for applying such an ethic.
Unfortunately around 2015-2017 someone began retro-bolting some of these classic lines and bolting within reach of others. A bunch of concerned climbers got together and removed these bolts.
The activist group want to promote a future for The Governor as a trad-only cliff (i.e. no sport-routes, no retro-bolting, new bolts only where essential on new routes). This ethic had been assumed but should have been asserted more vigorously years ago because the natural lines are so close together (see the group’s statement in the Ethic section below).
In this way the existing climbs can be protected so they can continue to offer fantastic trad experiences, while opportunities for new trad climbs are also protected. Climbers on The Governor are asked to respect and support this ethic.
Ethic inherited from Kaputar
- Endorsed by:
- Peter Blunt, Ian Brown, Scott Camps, Richard Curtis, Taib Ezekiel, Angus Farquhar, Adrian Kladnig, Vanessa Wills (some of whom would have preferred a stronger position).
Retro-bolting at Kaputar
Since the first climbs were done in Mount Kaputar National Park in the 1960s, it has been a predominantly trad climbing area. Until about ten years ago, most of the hundreds of established climbs were protected entirely with natural gear. A small number of climbs had one or two bolts, and a few independent, fully bolt-protected climbs had been done. The 80m north face of The Governor has been regarded as one of the premier trad crags in Australia, with more than 80 multi-pitch climbs, many of very high quality, mostly established in ground-up style and with only a few bolts in total (and often at the technical limit of the climbers).
Since about 2005, more bolt-protected climbs have been established, particularly on Euglah and then Mt Lindesay, then The Governor. At first these were independent of established trad climbs and on otherwise unprotectable rock. But over the past few years other climbers have been retro-bolting over the top of existing climbs. This practice began on Mt Lindesay and then extended onto the Governor.
On Lindesay, about 200 bolts were placed, most of which retro-bolt or impact on at least 20 existing climbs. Bolts were very close together and some bolted lines were only one metre apart. Many bolts were placed beside good placements for removable gear. Numerous chains were also installed at the cliff-top, and the climb grades were painted in large letters along the bottom. Some of the bolts were found to be dangerous – either glue-ins on which the glue never cured (and which pulled out by hand) or dangerously short ‘studs’.
These were not assessable without removing them. Some of the retro-bolted Lindesay climbs are on the bold side, while others are very well protected with natural gear.
On The Governor, at least 60 bolts were been placed which either retro-bolt existing climbs, or squeeze up very close to them. Natural lines on The Governor’s columnar structure tend be only a couple of metres apart, so any new bolted climbs will impact on adjacent trad routes. Eight climbs have been impacted, including the popular moderate classic Clandestiny, and it's start that gives access to five other climbs. Additional chain anchors have been installed at the cliff-top. Some of the new Governor bolts have also been found to be dangerous, including a chain anchor with un-cured glue.
The people who have done this retro-bolting are not known to have consulted with first ascensionists, other Kaputar climbers or NPWS. Some first ascensionists and other climbers are angry.
A number of climbers who love the special qualities of Kaputar climbing became very concerned about this trend and joined together to take action. The objectives are to restore The Governor to a premier trad-only crag (i.e. no sport routes), and to remove impacts on pre-existing routes on Mt Lindesay (retro-bolting etc). Most of the offending new bolts have now been removed and patched on both cliffs and the remainder will be removed shortly. Painted grades have been cleaned off. This has taken lot of work, time and expense by a bunch of people. If any of the bolts removed from these climbs are replaced, they will also be removed. Any new retro-bolting will also be removed.
Why have we taken this action?
Because we believe the following:
- Existing trad climbs and quality trad crags should be retained in their original condition. That means no retro-bolting and no bolting that impacts on the integrity, or ‘hanging space’, of natural lines. Good trad cliffs, and trad climbs in general, are limited resources which need protection.
- Retro-bolting on established climbs should be opposed and rectified.
- National parks exist to protect natural areas. Therefore the environmental impact of climbing should be minimised in national parks. Trad climbing is generally low in impact, consistent with other activities like remote bushwalking. The Plan of Management for Mt Kaputar National Park (2006, section 4.3.9, page 37 – emphasis added) states: The NPWS will provide information and guidance on Service policy to visitors wishing to undertake adventure activities in the park, and will require minimal impact use of the park for these activities.
- Excessive and unsightly bolting or other climbing impacts in national parks risk attracting the disapproval of other park visitors and park authorities, and may threaten ongoing climber access to these areas.
Trad climbing at Kaputar
Trad climbing at Kaputar requires judgment and skill. Important skills include route-finding, down-climbing (when necessary) and finding and using natural gear placements - which are often small wires or cams/nuts in unexpected places. Kaputar is a good place to learn and apply these skills because it offers trad climbs at a wide range of grades.
Protection is often very good but not always obvious from below. Poor protection is usually mentioned in route descriptions, and/or allowed for in the grading (i.e. increased grade for poor protection). Bold routes on Mt Lindesay can be easily top-roped. Route descriptions on thecrag.com will be amended where necessary to assist safe climbing on climbs that were previously retro-bolted. But climbers should always be wary of attempting trad climbs that are close to the limit of their ability.
Check out what is happening in The Governor.