Sutherland Rock climbing941 routes in crag
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The Shire has a long history of climbing. Accessible cliffs, routes you do not have to die for and a variety of locations keep the suburbanite climbers happy. Because of the not so steep nature of much of the sandstone in the area, a lot of routes are of a moderate grade making it a good place for new climbers to develop their craft.
Most of the climbing can be found on the rim of the hills, overlooking the Woronora River and Georges Rivers. The rock is the usual Sydney sandstone but the Cathedral has a a weird type of stone that is a refreshing change from the norm.
For over 50 years climbers in the Sutherland Shire have enjoyed free access to many fantastic crags and caves. But as of 2014 there have been access problems emerging at several climbing and bouldering areas due to aboriginal art sites and shell middens in caves. Sutherland Shire Council and the Dept of Enviroment and Heritage have announced closures and sign-posted some of these aboriginal sites, with further closures and signs to be added during summer/autumn 2016/2017. Areas of particular problem are ground level overhangs with flat bases, the type of terrain popular at hard bouldering areas. Whilst the details are sorted out keep a low profile, clean up ALL rubbish (inc removing mattresses in bouldering caves) and avoid climbing at closed areas. In particular treat non-climbers you see at crags with the utmost respect as they could be rangers, archeologists, traditional owners or anyone else with a dim view of climbers and the ability to shut us out. Climbing in Royal National Park has been officially banned for many years - probably due mostly to the Wattamolla 'don't jump off rocks' cliff-diving-into-water ban. For more information about aboriginal sites and rockclimbing please read this link from Sutherland Council: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0KxtU2nUQB9cjhHUWE4cE5HWnM/view?usp=sharing
There is easy access to all the sites with an average walking time from car to cliff being under five minutes! To get the Shire drive south towards Wollongong from the Sydney CDB or take the Heathcote Road if coming from the South West. West Sydney climbers can approach aiming for Menai. Alternatively, take the train.
Climbing has been going on since the 1960's in the Shire. Gossip has it that an old doctor used to play around the cliffs on the Woronora River in those early years. Joe Friend was also known to climb here back in the 1970's. You can find some old pitons, pin scars at odd locations such as the Heathcote Bridge, Menai area and at the Cathederal. It was common that Scouts and at times the Army regularly frequented places like Menai, Lucas Heights and Alfords Point.
The 1980's saw a steep rise in development with climbers from the Loftus Crew, Anthony Scharnbel,Damian Taylor and Bruce Stevens. A big influence in the 1980-1990's was David Barnes. Dave developed several new areas and put up scores of routes across the shire, including the classic routes at Rainbow Wall and Ruthless Babe and a handful of others at Heathcote. He has now moved onto Tassie. Mikl of course had flurries of activity at the Cathedral, Bonnett Bay and Heathcote when he was working with Homer Simpson at the Lucas Heights Nuclear facility. A Young Graham Fairburn made a good contribution to the Cathederal, before growing muscles at Nowra.
In the last ten years Jason Lammers has added new routes as well as re-bolting the old routes, lower offs and rings have been added to most shire crags now. As of 2010 Neil Monteith has been living in the area so a new chapter of history is a given. What will you add? DB
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