Dome Wall Mostly Trad climbing92 routes in crag
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Dome Wall has been Armidale’s premier climbing area for a number of years now. It offers some of New England’s best and most popular routes as well as a generous sprinkling of harder routes.
Access issues inherited from Western Gara Gorge
Mike Coffey (Kenwood Park): 02 6775 3766
Pete and Susanne or Jeff Moore: 02 6775 3727
It is important to let the Coffeys know you’re coming (as access is very close to their house), and ask the Moores for permission to cross their land (providing the most efficient access to Dome Wall or Persian Carpets).
Good relations with these landowners are essential for New England climbers, and all visitors in the future, to access these excellent crags, so please treat them with respect. Leave all gates as you find them, cross fences at the strongest strainer post, etc etc. Access is likely to be refused if tenants are in the Moores’ ‘holiday’ house, so please be patient or better still ask about staying there yourself.
This is a link to a file you can use in Google Earth to see a map to The Dome Wall Parking area:
Like many of the cliffs in the Gara gorge it is better if you can find a local to take you there for the first time. If you haven’t been there before, your best bet is to contact the University of New England Outdoor Adventure Club: www.une.edu.au/unemc However, you should be able to find the cliff yourself with these instructions. Dome Wall is on a prominent protrusion into the gorge to the right (facing gorge) of a relatively major creek’s entry to the gorge. Grid reference 863 116 on topographic map “Armidale” sheet 9236.
Take the Dorrigo road out of Armidale for about 1km them a sign posted right turn onto the Blue Hole/Gara road. Follow this for about l0km to another right turn (just before Blue Hole road turns to gravel) onto a gravel road (signposted ‘Castledoyle Road’). The road goes through a creek crossing, veers left (the house on the hill to the right is the Moores’) and then comes to the big brick gates of Kenwood Park (Coffeys’ property). Reset the odometer here.
Turn right to follow the road (public access road) rather than going through the gates. At 0.5kms the road more or less ends – turn left through a gate (you are now on the Moores’ property) and continue in this direction, ignoring the better defined track you cross.
At 1.3kms, gate (after a short section between two fences). At 2.0kms, two gates. Take the left gate and follow the faint track. At 2.7kms you will pass a newish (ie 90’s) ‘holiday’ house – continue down track. At 3.2kms track ends – park.
Walk about half way down the gully to your left, and then head off to your right up the hill towards the gorge rim. At the top of the hill head around rightwards for a couple of hundred metres before dropping down the hill to the top of the cliff. The lookout area on top is right behind a huge pillar of rock called the dome and is an obviously well worn area. Total walking time is about 5-10 minutes.
The first visit to Dome Wall by climbers was in 1976, when Richard Curtis and Bob Rugo (a visitor from USA) split from an expedition to Colony wall that found itself on the wrong side of the gorge. They did the first route there that day: ‘Bunker Hill’ 16. No one was to visit the area again until Joe Friend came to town. In 1978 Joe did a few routes here with Brian Birchall and Phil Prior, the most notable being the classic ‘Face Value’ 17 and ‘Diabolique’ 20. Despite ‘Diabolique’ being one of New England’s hardest climbs, Dome Wall was just another cliff. In those days there were many cliffs awaiting first visits in the Gara Gorge, and others such as the Three Sisters which seemed to offer more potential so Dome wall had to wait another couple of years before any significant development would take place.
When interest returned to Dome Wall in 1980, of the climbers to have visited Dome Wall earlier, only Brian Birchall remained and he couldn’t remember how to get there. Some of the attempts to find it led to the discovery of Split Rock and Sweetheart’s Buttress. The latter was to occupy a lot of N.E. climbers’ time in 1980 and so it wasn’t until early 1981 that concerted efforts to rediscover Dome Wall were made again. It was a rather persistent Brian Birchall, along with Al Stephens and Mark Colyvan who eventually stumbled onto it again and proceeded to waste most of the day attempting a roof right of ‘Dogmatic Demise’ which was later to become ‘Prime Time’ 23 (this route was to occupy a lot of Colyvan’s time in the coming months). They did however manage to do ‘Aisle of Deceit’ 20 before leaving. After a few more visits by various people the potential at Dome Wall was being realised and the word spread quickly. The race was on; everyone wanted to get out to Dome Wall and get their names in the forthcoming New England guide book.
During the early months of 1981 Rob Clark, Brian Birchall, and Al Stephens in various combinations were the main activists since all three had summer holidays. Some of the many routes done during this period include ‘Working Class Heroes’ 18, ‘Rise of the Bourgeiosie’ 19, ‘Master Blaster’ 18, ‘Ambrosia’ 19, and the rediscovered ‘Brut’ 17. This was the start of Dome Wall’s domination of the Armidale climbing scene, a golden age, if you like. However, after the initial wave of routes in the 17-20 grade range were completed, the next set of obvious lines were to present more difficulty, since 20 was some what of a ceiling limit for Armidale’s climbers. During the next transitory phase attempts were made at ‘Pagan Paradise’ 21 and ‘Curtain Call’ 21 and routes such as ‘Bang Bang’ 20M0 and ’Autumnal Beauty’ 19M1 were done by Stephens. It was obvious that New England climbers would need to improve a bit before they would be able to free such routes.
After an extended climbing holiday Mark Colyvan returned to Armidale climbing a little better than when he left, but more to the point he was prepared to siege the fuck out of things if necessary (and it frequently was!). This next period of development saw routes such as ‘Bang Bang’ 21 and ‘Autumnal Beauty’ 20 freed as well as first ascents of Pagan Paradise’ 21 ‘Curtain Call’ 21 and finally ‘Prime Time’ 23 which was at the time New England’s hardest climb. Paul Bayne teamed up with Colyvan for many of these routes.
In early 1982 John Lattanzio (alias Jack the Slack) returned to the area and was determined not to miss out on the new routing spree at Dome Wall which seemed to have finished. Lattanzio, however managed quite a few new routes the best of which were the classic ‘Corridors of Power’ 16 and Labour Force’ 21, a hard finger crack at which Jack was a specialist. Since then development has slowed down but quality new routes continue to appear.
In June 1982 a Greg Pritchard conceived a slab route right of ‘Bang Bang’ was bolted and brushed by Colyvan giving ‘That’s Entertainment’ 23M1 (24 when freed a year later by Giles Bradbury) which became quite a test piece for a while and was the first route at Dome Wall to make use of bolt protection and offer slab/face climbing. Paul Bayne really hit form around this time making significant inroads in freeing ‘That’s Entertainment’ and adding ‘Running on Empty’ 23M1 which when freed a month or so later by he and Colyvan was New England’s hardest route and second 24 (only one day after the first 24 was completed at Ebor). Later that year Bayne added a couple more good routes such as ‘The Gremlin’ 21 (with Croft and Stephens) and ‘Overkill’ 19 (with Colyvan).
In 1983 a few more good routes appeared. Colyvan returned to do ‘Post Modern’ 21 in January and later that year Bayne added ‘Tipsy’ 21 and ‘Severance Pay’ 20 and Stephens did the classic ‘Jackhammer Blues’ 19.
1984 was a pretty quiet time at Dome Wall, the only significant new route being ‘Footprints on the Dashboard’ 22 by Stephens which ironically was looked at by many others and had been proclaimed impossible at reasonable grades. It became an instant classic.
In 1985 Russell Chudleigh (Chunder), John (Jack) Lattanzio and Tim Ball (Tadpole), amongst others, spent several months camped out between Dome Wall and The Pagoda at ‘Camp Pog’. Armed with the new friction boots, ‘fires’, and not afraid of a bit of bolting they managed many new routes mostly on The Pagoda and Persian Carpets. However they drifted over to Dome Wall occasionally where they did ‘Valium Vision’ 21 (Jack), and ‘First Aid for Budding Pimples’ 22 (Tadpole).
In 1986 Jack Lattanzio returned to Armidale to live and did ‘Built in Obsolescence’ 20 on lower Dome Wall and ‘Casa Nostra’ 22 left of ‘Bunker Hill’. Colyvan added ‘Crawling from the Wreckage’ 23 up the ‘Bang Bang’ wall introducing the new Petzl bolting technology to New England.
The latest little bout of new routes was in May 1987, when visits by Mark Colyvan, Paul Colyvan and Mike Law coincided to produce a few quality new routes, the best of which are ‘Backlash’ 24 (M. Colyvan), ‘Pace Fainting’ 22 (P. Colyvan) and the audacious ‘Fuck Knows’ 23 (Law) up the left arête of the Dome which is one of the hardest routes in New England.
Since then new routes have appeared rather infrequently, although those that have been done have generally been of high quality. In 1988 Mark Colyvan did ‘Down for the Count’ 23 and the following year he bolted and climbed one of the best routes in New England: ‘Sweet Dreams’ 24. In 1990 Gavin Dean and Al Stephens added the classic ‘Between the Sheets’ 23 (Dean) and ‘Under the Covers’ 21 (Stephens). Early in 1992 Stephens added ‘Stage Fright’ 21 and Colyvan added the exposed ‘Black Intention’ 22 to the right of ‘Sweet Dreams’.
I’m sure new routes will continue to appear at Dome Wall but l’ll be surprised if there is anything like the boom time of 1981- 82 again. So you can be sure that most of the best routes are contained in this guide, especially up to about grade 23.
Mark Colyvan 1/6/87, updated Feb 1992
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