The Fortress




Brilliant remote crag with a great walk in (1 hour). Gets a lot of wind and sun. The classics are Tom Thumb and The Wind Cries Mary.


It's worth reviewing the information (including topos) available on the Sydney Rockies site.

Access issues inherited from Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are a World Heritage listed area. The Grose Valley, the cliffs around Katoomba and much of the Narrow Neck peninsula are part of the Blue Mountains National Park which is managed by the NPWS. The Western Escarpment - where most of the climbing is - is Crown Land managed by the BMCC. While the NPWS Plan of Management nominates several locations in the National Park where rock climbing is deemed appropriate, the majority of the climbing remains unacknowledged. To maintain access our best approach is to 'Respect Native Habitat, Tread Softly and Leave No Trace'. Do not cut flora and keep any tracks and infrastructure as minimal as possible.

Practically all crags are either in National Park or in council reserve: dog owners are reminded that dogs are not allowed in National Parks at any time and fines have been issued, while for crags on council reserve the BMCC leash law requires that dogs be on-leash.


About an hour on the Fortress Ridge walking track. For a fun through-day, can also be accessed from Govett's Leap, via Junction Rock (about 2 hours).

Ethic inherited from Blue Mountains

Although sport climbing is well entrenched as the most popular form of Blueys climbing, mixed-climbing on gear and bolts has generally been the rule over the long term. Please try to use available natural gear where possible, and do not bolt cracks or potential trad climbs. If you do the bolts may be removed.

Because of the softness of Blue Mountains sandstone, bolting should only be done by those with a solid knowledge of glue-in equipping. A recent fatality serves as a reminder that this is not an area to experiment with bolting.

If you do need to top rope, please do it through your own gear as the wear on the anchors is both difficult and expensive to maintain.

If you have benefited from climbing infrastructure in NSW, please consider making a donation towards maintenance costs. The Sydney Rockclimbing Club Rebolting Fund finances the replacement of old bolts on existing climbs and the maintenance of other hardware such as fixed ropes and anchors. The SRC purchases hardware, such as bolts and glue, and distributes them to volunteer rebolters across the state of New South Wales. For more information, including donation details, visit

It would be appreciated if brushing of holds becomes part of your climbing routine - do it with a soft bristled brush and never a steel brush!

The removal of vegetation - both from the cliff bases and the climbs - is not seen as beneficial to aesthetics of the environment nor to our access to it.

However, the fast growing scrub can conceal walking tracks in mere months, making remote and less popular crags slightly more difficult and fun to navigate to. Some appropriately discreet pruning is a far better alternative then track braiding (which causes far more damage).

However, do so only on Council land and definitely not in the National Park. Remember, to maintain access our best approach is to 'Respect Native Habitat, Tread Softly and Leave No Trace'. Do not cut flora and keep any tracks and infrastructure as minimal as possible or risk possible closures.


Some content has been provided under license from: © Australian Climbing Association Queensland (Creative Commons, Attribution, Share-Alike 2.5 AU)


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Grade Route

FA: Zac Vertrees & Frank Moon, 2010

FA: Frank Moon, Zac Vertrees & Damo Taylor, 2008

FA: Ted Batty & Bryden Allen, 1963

FA: Hayden Brotchie & Paul Davies, 1997

FA: Hayden Brotchie & Angie Bishop, 2004

FA: Frank Moon, Bruce Cameron & John Ewbank, 2009

1 8 18m
2 13 40m
3 9 16m
4 8 45m
5 13 21m
6 8 26m

A light rack of cams (maybe BD 0.3 - 3) is more than enough to protect this. Most bolts are carrots

  1. 18m (8) Up a few metres to bolt (used more to show direction than for protection). Up to vertical crack for pro and up bulbous wall (another bolt on right) to DBB at top of buttress. Walk up and right 8 metres to start of next pitch. DBB on wall. Many people don't find the start of this and have epics, walk 8m, find the DBB!

  2. 40m (12) Left of belay grunt onto wall (crux). Natural pro in crack or horizontal breaks up higher. Clip bolt on left. Then move diagonally right to small friend (#0) in horizontal crack and further rightwards on easy stuff to bolt (clip with sling to reduce drag). Up left clipping two bolts, steep tricky move (easiest if you move left). Easy 10m ramble with two bolts to DBB. Best to give your second a tight rope when they start the pitch.

  3. 16m (9) Bolt on right shows the way, then up crack on left to belay. (Bolt and #½ friend or purple camalot.)

  4. 45m (8) From right of the belay move up a few metres, then traverse left past bolt runner to arête/ridge. Up ridge 30m past 4 bolts. Walk across rightwards to bolt on little buttress. Over this and walk 10m+ (no bolt protection) and scramble through small bushes up easy crack into cave to DBB (at your feet).

  5. 21m (12) From belay start to the right. Up wall trending left past 4 bolts. Climb onto large blocks at top. They seem OK. And traverse right passing bolt that protects the second to DBB.

  6. 26m (8) Clip bolt on right of belay. Stand on rock thing and up. Follow ridge with a few bolts to top. DBB.

FA: Hayden Brotchie & Jenny Bradford, 2004

Warning Flora and Fauna: Final pitch severely impacted by December 2019 fires

Mixed carrots and trad route up the grand wall right of Tom Thumb, like 4 pitches of Cosmic County climbing. Simon Carter's Blueys guide has description and good topos. Be aware that this is a new route and there are some loose holds still. Steep face climbing, good rock and reasonable pro.

Start: rap as for 'Tom Thumb'

  1. 18m (8) Up 'Tom Thumb' P1, onto block at 10m and up right to belay. Then walk R into gully and up 10m

  2. 45m (18) Up block and layback then R up wall past bolts and crack, then R to steep wall and bolts and up slab past cams and hard mantel, left top 3BB in break.

  3. 35m (19) Up and slightly R past bolts and cams, then left into corner (good thin break at top) up steep wall (BRs) and runout up to slab and 3BB below cave.

  4. 30m (18) Up to cave and bush runner. Rightwards in the 12.30 o'clock direction past bolts then leftwards up corner (average pro) and easy arête to DBB on big ledge. (The original last pitch went left with no gear, avoid!. You can run new P5 and P6 together but rope stretch means you could hit the big ledge in the middle.)

  5. 15m (18) Walk R and up 2 waves of rock past 5 BRs. Belay on a high bolt and a Ubolt. There is a 50 year old carrot on the ledge from Bryden)

  6. 30m (19) Up steep wall past 2 BRs and sling, then up left on easy wall, walk 6 m to left end of rock band and 2 BB.

Walk left to hit track.

FA: mikl law & Brian Simonds, 2011

The filthy vegetated gully/chimney system to the climber's right of Tom Thumb.

FA: Bryden Allen & Ian Logan, 1962

FA: Hayden Brotchie & Andrew Jones, 1997

FA: Warwick Williams, Hayden Brotchie & John Crocker, 2004

FA: Hayden Brotchie & Angie Bishop, 2005

Approach: abseil the route, a rope protector is comforting - sharp ironstone at the top.

Some bolts have been recently added (2015?). The bolts aren't always easy to spot, camouflaged by lichen.

  1. 6 bolts up to 2 abseil rings at deep undercut, then 3 bolts above to the oiginal TBB.

  2. 2 bolts above, then various horizontal breaks for cams (BD 3, 1, 4, 0.5), DBB (abseil rings) on ledge at top. Plus, a sensible bolt just above to protect the easy scramble to the grass & scrub.

FA: Angie Bishop & Hayden Brotchie, 2005

While it's probably best noted as a good escape route from the bottom of the cliff, it's actually not a bad little number in its own right. Some of the climbing might feel a few grades harder than grade 11, but by and large it's possible to find a line that conforms to the grade.

A standard rack of wires and cams (to #3 camalot size) is sufficient, although a #5 camalot is also recommended. Helmets are an absolute must and 60m double ropes are highly recommended as well. Definitely not for the inexperienced.

  1. 20m (4) Up the easy ledges then halfway up the right tending gully. Belay off a small tree.

  2. 35m (11) Move left along the obvious traverse line then up as you will to the large, steeply sloping ledge. The initial moves up are harder than they look and it's much easier to traverse back onto the wall from further left.

  3. 80m (4) Walk up the ledge, trending left initially, then solo up a short 8m wall (might be an idea to belay up this). At the top of this move up and slightly right to the small stand of saplings below the obvious squeeze chimney corner crack (#5 camalot for this belay).

  4. 45m (11) Grunt up the squeeze chimney for a move or two then fondly bid it farewell and venture out onto the right wall. Engaging climbing (suss dinnerplates) to the top of a lovely little exposed pinnacle perched in the middle of outer space. Step back to the main wall and up to a spectacular belay ledge.

  5. 55m (11) Move right and up the obvious chimney (which is often wet at the back). At the top, head left and up a steep dirty gully for about 15m, passing the two dodgy looking banksia trees. Belay off a small gum further up, with the trusty #5 camalot in a block just to the left.

To get off, walk directly away from the cliff for about 250m and you'll hit the Fortress Ridge walking track. Turn right and follow the track back to the Mt Hay Road, taking the left fork at each junction. It's about 45 minutes of flat walking back to the road.

FA: Hayden Brotchie, 1997

FA: Hayden Brotchie & Angie Bishop, 2005

FA: Kevin Westren, 1960

Expeditionary undertaking. Classic Ewbank no doubt. Obvious crack in yellow and black wall capped by large roofs on SW facing cliff below Fortress Ridge. Visible from Evans Lookout.

Leave car on Mount Hay Rd and walk along 4wd track on to Fortress Ridge. At end of track head WSW along prominent subsidiary ridge. Upon reaching cliffs, head S around small upper cliffline and down bushy ramp. 3 long abseils on double ropes to reach a big ledge. Scramble L along ledge and down bushy gully to short abseil at bottom.

Start: Walk NW 300m to base of route.

  1. 18m (16) Black crack to small bushy ledge.

  2. 24m (19) Up over 2 ledges, then corner-crack to grassy ledge.

  3. 20m (18) Belay under small overhang on R. Corner to ledge. (good bivy site?)

  4. 30m (21) Crux. Cracks, then major crackling to foot ledge on L, below small roof.(#1.5 cam, wires).

  5. 15m (19) Crack to shale ledge on right. (Cams 3m above ledge.)

  6. 15m (21) Equal crux. Overhanging crack to large slot. Bolt belay.

  7. 25m (18) Crawl 3m R, then left up wall to corner and roof. Now left to aerate and crack above to ledge.(Poor pro).

  8. 20m (12) Crack, and corner to tree.

  9. 50m (12) Up to black slabs, and up.

Set: Ewbank

FFA: Trihey & Ewbank

FA: Lucas Trihey & John Ewbank


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