Cockburn Range East

  • Grade context: AU
  • Ascents: 2




The Cockburn ranges is home to a very impressive cliffline, approx 100m high that runs for hundreds of km's around the whole range. Looks very impressive and 'clean' from a distance, but despite good looking lines, closer inspection reveals huge amounts of loose blocks and very little in the way of natural protection!

However, this small area was found that has some potential for a dozen or so cleaner climbs. If this remote area has you excited to do some climbing, this cliff is well worth a visit. Could definitely do with some bolts, and a rap anchor or two, but it wasn't going to be up to me if there should, or should not be bolts on this cliff-line. It's possible to do them without.

Access issues inherited from North

As for most of northern Australia, this region is mostly pastoral leases (cattle stations) or Aboriginal freehold. Many pastoral lessees are already diversifying into tourism activities or are interested to do so, including obtaining as required an ILUA or the like. See also, etc.

Climbing thus may well be a sustainable and economically positive tourism activity which, in ILUA-suitable locations, could be not only acceptable to but even appealing to pastoral lessees.

Given that pastoral leases cover around 44% of Australia it would be good to see some headway on access for sustainable and respectful recreational tourism uses such as climbing.


Drive exactly 3km east of the El-Questro Township turnoff. Look for a recessed cliff with a dry waterfall (during the dry). Park near small floodway, and wind your way up the creek, which gradually becomes an awesome boulder choked gully. Upon reaching the obvious cave below the cliff (takes about 45mins), climb up left to tall cave about 20m uphill from the wide descent chasm / gully.

Descent notes

Descent from these climbs is problematic. Leave an anchor to rap from for the day, or do an easy pitch to the top of the cliff and descend via the gully. Author rapped of a 'micro tree' into cave, but this is probably not recommended.


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Attractive LH crack just inside cave, good gear, getting a little thinner when the crack runs out. Block at 2/3 height is more solid than it looks.

FA: Goshen Watts, 29 Jun 2014

A nice clean face, with some very good sustained climbing, although could do with a bolt at the first bulge, technically only 21. Take wires, and small to med cams. Up stepped R facing corner (3m R of main corner) up this to ledge. Climb straight over bulge and into the line (a 'hidden' #1 wire was pre-placed for the FA). Great climbing up the line with adequate protection, right up until a left facing corner ends at a roof. Traverse left to good belay ledge (although it may be possible to climb the increasingly loose face above to the top of the cliff).

FA: Goshen Watts, 29 Jun 2014

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