El Desperado Wall

  • Grade context: AU
  • Approach time: 25min
  • Ascents: 24
  • Aka: Mt Blackheath

Access: Bushfire related crag closures

May 2020 - some climbing crags in the Blue Mountains are officially closed due to extensive damage from bushfires and floods over Xmas period 2019/20. All campgrounds are closed during Covid-19 restrictions and some are also damaged from bushfires and will be closed in the medium term.

Refer to this spreadsheet for current crag access status.

Areas that have been burnt and will not reopen for many months include Mt York, Bardens, Bellbird Wall and most of Narrow Neck including Diamond Falls.

See warning details and discuss

Created 4 months ago - Edited 2 days ago




North-east facing trad crag to 50m north of Big Top. Original route descriptions from pioneering climbers Keith Bell, and notes by Harry Luxford.

Access issues

Most of the crag is on Crown Reserve land, except the far northern end, and the road north of the cattle grid. Respect both government regulations and private property to ensure ongoing cliff access and good relations between climbers and land managers.


Drive down Kanimbla Drive past the Big Top access track and park outside private property and the cattle grid (-33.64183, 150.2598). About 120m past the grid take a dirt track left up hill, follow as it curves right, then turn left up hill behind a huge boulder.

Continue up hill to a flat and smaller "double-headed" boulder on the left. The cliffs are visible above, go straight up to arrive near Absoloodle and "Silver City Express", or head right into the wide gully below the talus.


Trad. The area was developed in the era of the occasional fixed bolt or piton, and the first ascenders request this ethic remain so subsequent climbers can experience the same sense of adventure on these climbs in their original context.

Modern cams and a range of passive nuts and stoppers will provide largely adequate protection, although by modern standards some pitches may seem run-out to those not used to the climbing style. Trees provide belays and abseil points.

Keith Bell specifically requests: Please do not add additional bolts. Leave it as you have found it.


View historical timeline

First climbed in the early 70s, further routes were put up through the 80s and early 90s primarily by Keith Bell, climbing with Kevin Bell, Ray Lassman, Chris Blunsden, Greg Mortimer, Mark Toakley and Harry Luxford.

Other crags being closer, the shift to sport climbing, and removal from guidebook publication lead to less interest and climbing. Kevin's recent review of the area now provides a new insight into this interesting trad area.



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Grade Route

Big Top duplicate route to be deleted

Big Top duplicate route to be deleted

Big Top duplicate route to be deleted

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FA: K. Bell

Very impressive buttress.

  1. (15m) Climb wall between crack and arête to good ledge and belay.

  2. (30m) Pull with difficulty through overhang moving left then right to gain base of buttress. Up buttress with 4 or 5 BRs.

FA: Keith Bell & Kevin Bell, 1989

A wall followed by a crack in the higher buttress. Start: 35 metres right of High Plains Drifter on left hand side of ledge above the track.

  1. (17m) Up scoopy wall passing a drilled in baby angle runner. Fine groove leads left around the arête to belay at base of crack.

  2. (18m) Up crack moving right at half height into parallel crack. Follow this to top.

FA: R.Reynolds & K.Bell

Scrubby crack.

FA: H. Luxford & S. Kitchen

FA: H. Luxford & S. Kitchen

FA: H. Luxford & S. Kitchen

  1. Layback to ledge via BR

  2. Left up slab via 2 BR to BB on ledge

  3. Blind corner 2 BRs

FA: H. Luxford & K. Bell

FA: H. Luxford & K. Bell

Access track here.

Start: Marked "SCE/A" Same as Silver City Express and Absoloodle.

Crack in right-facing ferny corner.

FA: H. Luxford & K. Bell

Start: Marked "SCE/A" Same as Silver City Express and Grandpa Chook.

Ledge, left up diagonal crack, right tia arete via 3 BRs to break, 2 aid pitons then easily to bollard and piton belay on right.

Good climbing up a spectacular curving orange corner. A little vegetated at the bottom but it does not affect the climbing.

Start: Marked P, 4m right of Silver City Express.

  1. (35m) Pull over bulge and move left up wall towards corner above the bushes. Follow the corner with increasing difficulty. Exit right to single BB which can be reinforced by a 3.5/4.0 cam above.

FA: R. Lassman & Keith Bell, 1972

Delicate grey wall with some bolts but mostly on cams and stoppers. Belay as for Polybius.

Start: Marked P, same as Polybius.

  1. Over bulge and up wall to BR. Move left past bolt then diagonally right into middle of the wall and up to another BR. Hard blank section above to a narrow horizontal slot. Over this to another BR then slabby ground leads to belay shared with Polybius and On Any Sunday.

FA: H. Luxford & Keith Bell

Blunt arête to the right of Kerisal on trad pro. Take range of stoppers and cams. A cam larger than a #4 can be considered essential.

Start: Marked OS, 1m right of Polybius.

  1. Up groove then move right to bulge below blunt arete. Through bulge then follow arête to horizontal break. Belay

FA: C. Blunsden & Keith Bell

Next 5 routes are 15m right. Head around crumbling shale ledge, or down and to right past seasonal soak via ferns and swordgrass.

Start: Marked SS/H/J, same as Sargasso Sea, or from the right end of the shale ledge at obvious cracks that head out to the right of the end of the roof above.

  1. Step left onto obvious arête and follow it to a good ledge shared by Sargasso Sea, Jericho and El Desperado. Top run out, take a range of cams to reinforce the belay.

FA: C. Blunsden & Keith Bell

First attempt to crack the Sargasso Sea wall.

Start: Marked SS/H/J, same as Sargasso Sea.

  1. (40m) Up short groove to ledge and move left. In the middle of the ledge take a rising traverse towards the obvious arête. Up it to belay as for Sargasso Sea.

FA: K. Bell & C. Blunsden, 1983

A great wall and slab pitch. So named because the wall was initially very mossy. Take 1.0 to 1.5 cams to augment the belay.

Start: Marked SS/H/J about 5m right of the drop down from the traverse around from On Any Sunday, and 3m left of El Desperado.

  1. (35m) Up short groove to ledge and the undercut blunt arête. Climb this and the orange slab above to an obvious bulge. Take this on its right to gain a horizontal break. Move left along this then climb up to a BR. Diagonally left for a few moves then up right to another BR. Directly up to a good resting spot and BR. Climb the wall and slab above either side of the bolt to a good ledge and belay (22). Alternatively, move left to the arête and follow it to the top (21). The first ascent went directly above the bolt. A #1, #3.5 and #4 cam are essential on this pitch. Take a range of stoppers.

FA: Keith Bell & Kevin Bell, 1987

Ascends the thin corner crack that is capped by a spectacular curving roof. Probably the first climb in the area.

Start: Marked ED, 3m right of Sargasso Sea.

  1. (45m) Up the thin corner, harder than it looks but gets easier about half height below the horizontal break. At the break swing out left and follow the arching wide crack to the Sargasso Sea belay.

FA: Dave Massam & Paul Edwards, 1970

Next 3 routes are on ledge part of the way up 'Jericho' just before it curves to the left.

Crack, traverse then unusual corner crack.

Start: Up El Desperado.

  1. (45m) Follow El Desperado until slightly above the BR on right wall. Step right and diagonally across and up to crooked corner crack. Follow this to the top.

FA: Keith Bell & Mark Toakley, 1986

Direct and delicate wall climbing.

Start: Marked SOTB, 1m right of El Desperado.

  1. (45m) Directly up wall to bolt above small ledge. Easier up to break. Up through break right of obvious arête. Continue through scoop to the steep final wall (bolts and cam runners). Up the wall to top passing an in situ peg runner.

FA: Keith Bell & Mark Toakley, 1986

Great climbing above the leftward leaning arête capping the roof of El Desperado.

Start: Marked SOTB, same as South of the Border.

  1. 50 As for South of the Border to horizontal break. Through this and move left climbing just above the obvious arête above El Desperado (BR’s) onto wall above. Up and diagonally left to the obvious curving crack and follow this to the top.

FA: Keith Bell, 1988

Back to track level

Start: Marked BA.

Rambly gully.

FA: S. Kitchen & H. Luxford

Start: 2m right of Bitter Aloes on other side of gully.

May have been marked LD?

Don't confuse with Pussy Galore climbed later at the James Bond area.

FA: H. Luxford & S. Kitchen

Vegetated start but rock and moves above are good though a bit run-out.

Start: Marked F, 2m right of Pussy Galore.

  1. (30m) Up slab past trees to steep wall and double bolt runner (a second bolt was added by somebody on a subsequent ascent), pull onto slab and move up past large tree to the right of a blunt arête. Up this to ramp, move up and right to good ledge below final short wall. Up this (BR) to top. - K.Bell

A delicate slab leading up to corner.

Start: Marked J, 8m right of Felix.

  1. (35m) Up slab to roof, move left and onto slab above. Follow this to obvious corner crack. Up this to exit left onto the Felix buttress. Tree belay. - K.Bell

FA: K. Bell & Rohan Reynolds, 1988

Start: Same as Jokerman.

FA: H. Luxford & S. Kitchen

Short somewhat vegetated corner. Start not marked.

FA: H. Luxford & S. Kitchen

Eroded wall right of twin cracks.

Start: Middle of wall with twin outcrops at base.

  1. (15m) Up through scoops with peg runner to bulge. Through it to another smaller bulge. Up through it to gain ledge with trees.

  2. (15m) Difficult start using BR for aid then climb easily to top. - K.Bell

FA: J. Fantini & Keith Bell, 1980

Wanders through some steep territory.

Start: Marked HT, in corner with a crack on its right.

  1. (15m) Up corner then right along diagonal crack. Pull over bulge to horizontal break – belay.

  2. (30m) Up wall right of arête past BR.

FA: 1986

Listed in Harry Luxford's guide as P? FA please rename and claim.

Start: Marked P, 0.5m right of Hi Tension.

Short corner followed by longer corner.

A corner followed by a sweeping traverse across a wall.

Start: Marked HT, corner as for Hi Tension.

  1. (10m) Up corner to tree belay.

  2. (30m) Move right onto slabby wall. Tap across it taking a diagonal route towards arête. Up wall to the left of arête to top.

FA: Keith Bell, Kevin Bell & Wilbur King

  1. (20m) Uncertain of start. Certain I started in the middle of the wall moving diagonally left towards the arete then up it to ledge and double BB. Alternatively, climb Senile Dementia to horizontal ledge, move left to double BB. [Rusted twin FH visible in May 20, one with new purple tat - Graham Dowden]

  2. (30m) Up wall past bolt to bulge, left around it to rampy groove then slab above to BR. Continue up arête to top. - K.Bell

FA: K. Bell & M. Toakley

Crack and flake followed by a steep wall. Steep and run-out wall to finish.

Start: Marked SD/JB, same as Senile Dementia.

  1. (40m) Climb corner to flake then out right under flake until it runs out into wall. Move up and right to BR (hard to clip) then up and left through bulge onto steep wall. Up the wall to a strange pocket taking a 1.5/2.0 cam then move right and up to BR. Up wall above to ledge. Climb remaining wall to top – tree belay.

FA: Keith Bell, 1980

Good looking corner but vegetated again. Was cleaned before climbing.

Start: Marked SD/JB

  1. (40m) Follow corner crack to top – tree belay.

FA: H. Luxford & K. Bell, 1980

Another nice arête.

Start: At the base of a narrow gully 15 metres right of Business as Usual.

  1. (15m) Up the crack at bottom of gully then follow ramp out left past steepening rock to good ledge at the base of the wall.

  2. (25m) Up wall moving right to arête, follow it to the top. - K.Bell

High Riser Variant

Climb directly up wall above first belay. FA: Keith Bell, Kevin Bell​​​​​, 1980’s.

FA: K. Bell & C. Blunsden, 1980

Climbed on News Years Day and the name reflects the condition of the first ascentionists as well as the climb. Start. Keep following the ramp above Ferny Chimney to the top of block. Climb starts off its left hand side.

  1. 20 Straight up the obvious crack.

FA: Keith Bell & Kevin Bell

Classic old chimney groove though steep in places. Start: Follow the ramp left of ‘The Square’ up to marked overhanging start behind tree.

  1. 30 Climb overhang into the gully and follow it to the top.

FA: G. Mortimer & Keith Bell, 1970

Shares its first pitch with ‘The Square’.

  1. 15 Up first pitch as for ‘The Square’ then move left along ledge to below hollow.

  2. 25 Steep moves to start past bolt runner. Up slab to hollow taking it on its left. Climb wall above moving slightly left to top. - K.Bell

FA: Keith Bell & Mark Toakley, 1986

Step left via BRs and cams to flake

FA: B. Harrington & P. Burton, 1995

Rockfall from almost directly beneath Donkey.

Broken grey fist crack in left wall of Donkey corner.

To access, head north, then scramble up about 25m above the rockfall. Take care and use tree belay at base of corner.

FA: K. Bell & G. Mortimer

Short low-angled corner/gully providing access to top.

Old twin static draped down corner visible in May 20. Harry Luxford's list says "do not use fixed [something]".

"Prominent wide corner near where cliff changes direction". A massive north-facing chimney-corner is visible, needs to be checked.

FA: K. Bell & G. Mortimer

Start: 3m left of chimney downhill form Tosca. Wide handcrack and headwall.

Start: 25 right of Tosca. "Obvious debris"

Traverse across void and choss to vertical south-west facing wall.

Start: At flake 4m right of choss traverse. Up via BRs.

FA: G. James

Very good. Steep with tech moves for feet.

FA: FA Lloyd Wishart 2003


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