Unroped In North Queensland
By Steve Baskerville
Ranging from the superb and varied climbing of Mt Stuart to the massive walls of the Citadel, North Queensland is well equipped with climbing
locations. However, being a few years behind other areas of the country, there are certain aspects of the climbing experience that are yet to be
fully developed. The most notable form is bouldering. That is not to say that nobody in North Queensland has been bouldering, just that it has not
yet been embraced as it has elsewhere. That is set to change as North Queensland has a wide variety of superb bouldering areas that are quite
comparable to any others in the state. What follows is a run down of some of the bouldering areas located in North Queensland, making mention of the
better problems to get you in a quranking mood.
The most notable thing about Townsville bouldering is that the better stuff is rarely found at the major crags. Instead, those who want to crank the good problems must often hike to obscure areas, where they will find a wealth of classics. The major crags do have some good areas, although they do tend to be small and often only get repeated between climbs.
For the wealth of rock that can be found on Mt Stuart, good problems are often surprisingly hard to find. The best area is probably the Nursery Cliff, which offers some good traverses and short problems. A low traverse of the left side of the wall goes at about V2 on small and often slopey edges, while the higher traverse is a little easier. The top of the Playground is littered with smaller boulders which offer numerous short sit start problems but little else. One exception is the high boulder with the short aid route, which has a scary V2/V3 on the back side. The only other area offering a few worthwhile problems is Nameless Wall.
There are some good areas on Castle Hill, providing your fingers can handle the sharp nature of the rock. Madoc Sheehan recently discovered a short overhanging wall on the back side of Castle Hill and set about creating numerous problems, with the best being a juggy V2/V3 traverse. Doug Hockly visited the area and set to work on a powerful undercling problem. Although he didn't complete it, if he returns and completes the problem it will possibly be the hardest in North Queensland. There is also a good traverse on the wall below Have A Nice Day I'm Off To New Zealand (23), on pockets and small edges. The overhanging boulder near the start of Saint And Sinner (21) has some hard problems, and the potential for more. It also has the advantage of shade for most of the day.
Has a good little wall discovered by Menno "Took" Smits, that is located about 20m seaward of Kiss Of The Spider Woman (17). The short overhanging wall has some good traverses on weird vertical pinch-rails that can be made better by using selective holds. Unless you're a crustacean, it is usable on lower tides only.
While there are only a few recorded problems, Magnetic Island has the potential for literally thousands of classic problems. Granite boulders litter the island, and are found in the hills and on the beaches. Good problems can be found everywhere. Of the established problems Slap High V0+ and Slap Direct V0+, which were done by Lee Skidmore are good offerings in Alma Bay, as is In the Buff, a V1 traverse at the nude beach in Rocky Bay. Magnetic Island has problems for everyone, at any level, and as much potential for new problems as anywhere in the state.
The bouldering is not actually at Shepherds Crook, but in the boulder-filled creek on the approach walk. Located behind the Uni, this is one of the best bouldering areas in the Townsville area with about 30 established problems and the potential for many more.
Right: Jason Shaw on Crimpathon V2 at Shepherds Crook Creek, 1997.
Discovered by Steve Baskerville and
Jason Shaw in 1998, the problems climb water washed granite boulders and often require good sloper strength and smearing
with the feet. The classics
are numerous, from the committing moves on Backbreaker V0+ above a five metre
plummet onto sharp rocks, to the powerful V4 that Doug Hockly created
nearby. Desperately Wanting V1 is one of the best, starting on an overhanging face which becomes less vertical 'till the crux move of pulling onto
the final slab section. At 5m high it is also quite committing. Its companion route
Crimpathon V2, is just as committing, ascending a dead vertical wall on perfect edges requiring careful use of the feet and some big
rock-overs. Both problems were done by Jason Shaw. The
problems continue upstream for several kilometres, although the most concentrated area of bouldering is around the earlier mentioned problems.
Lazy Afternoon Wall:
Has a small undercut bouldering area, that features a few short problems. The best was done by Lee Skidmore and ascends a steep section of the wall on small edges, slopers and pinches, weighing in at about V2. There is the potential for some seriously difficult problems on the wall.
Definitely the worst bouldering area in the world and must be avoided at all costs. Found by Keith Van Den Broek near the weir at Willows, he soon set about creating problems with Steve Baskerville. The highest wall is about two metres and everything is slabby. About a dozen silly problems have been done to about V1. Stay away unless you are really desperate!
Nothing too special in Cairns, with only a few small areas. The best nearby bouldering is found on the Atherton Tablelands (mentioned below).
Sea Cliff Areas:
A few small rocky outcrops can be found around the northern beaches with pocketed overhanging walls. Palm Cove has areas at the northern and southern end of the beach, with some nice problems. Trinity beach also has some small areas, but the sharp nature of much of the rock can slice the fingers of climbers.
Barron Gorge Area:
A lot of rock, with some good bouldering if you spend the time looking for it. There is a good pyramid shaped rock a few hundred meters up from Radiation Wall that has some nice problems, and the areas under the Power Station Bridge (with five minute access) offer some long, classic traverses on fantastic polished rock.
The Atherton Tablelands
A few different areas offering some of the best bouldering in the state. The potential for new problems at all of the areas is enormous and the quality of existing problems is extremely high. At two of the areas at least (The Walsh Range and Emerald Creek), the bouldering is far better than any of the climbing available at the same areas.
Turkey Hill and Granite Gorge:
These two adjacent crags offer a wealth of good bouldering potential, with very little development. The numerous granite boulders that cover Turkey Hill are often too small to climb on but are perfect size for bouldering. A short balancy V1 can be found about 5m right of Entranced (22). A steep V4 open project by Steve Baskerville exists above and to the right of Cheese Grater. Granite Gorge also has numerous potential problems on similar sized boulders, with more potential for steep stuff. Entry costs $1, but is well worth it.
The Walsh Range:
Perhaps the most extensive area of good bouldering in North Queensland with potential only recently discovered by climbers. There are numerous outcrops, but the best stuff is concentrated around the twin waterfalls of Martins Farm. There is a wealth of good easy and moderate problems but most of the bouldering is serious hardman territory. There are literally dozens of large overhanging boulders littered with pockets ranging from one and two fingers to buckets that accept every limb you can throw at them. There are several hundred high quality problems waiting to be done if the area gets enough attention. Existing classics include Who Nibbled Nobby's Nuts V1, which starts in a steep sit start and jugs upwards with excellent big throws to perfect pockets, and Nobby's Nuts Are Not For Sale V0+, a short traverse on bizarre pockets. At the base of the first waterfall are two of the finest easy problems you will find anywhere. A 10m overhanging traverse on mega holds weighs in at V0-, and can be done several times in a row for a great endurance work out. Located nearby is a 6m high wall that is slightly slabby and covered with massive flaky jugs. At about grade 6, it is perfect for first time climbers. More visits will surely unearth many more classics, making the area well worth visiting.
A smaller area that makes up for its lack of size with the quality of the problems. A guide will soon be available on The Original Queensland Climbing Reference. Most problems are classics. The Smooth Machine V0 is the crag classic and ascends an overhung arÍte on fantastic holds. The LHV of The Smooth Machine V2, established by Steve Baskerville, moves from the arÍte to a shallow dihedral and involves a delicate drop knee. Two other V3s exist nearby, the 5m traverse of Enigma is good providing you can crimp on tiny holds and stick some awful slopers. Completely different is the short but very overhanging Down In The Dungeon, which has a single huge move out of a small cave. Tris Baskerville added the very fun V1 traverse Sideswipe (see Gallery), while Jason Shaw added a great V0 at the waterfall. The most stunning line is the overhanging arÍte that rises from the main swimming hole. The grade depends upon the water level at the time, but climbing out of the water makes the holds very hard to stick and ensures that it doesn't go at less than V3.
Left: Tris Baskerville slaps The Smooth Machine V0 at Emerald Creek while brother Steve holds an invisible guidebook, Nov 1998.
For information on access to most of the above areas browse around The Original Queensland Climbing Reference or contact me by email.
Steve Baskerville goes to James Cook University and has been climbing rock for about three years. His favourite crag is Mt Stuart, his fave route is Safari 11m (22), and his fave boulder problem is The Smooth Machine (V0). Steve is scared by snake-infested offwidth roof cracks, on bad rock, with no pro. Steve's short term goals are to climb a 50m 28 protected by a single #0 RP 1m from the top and boulder V18. If that doesn't happen then he'll "maybe get up a handful of 22s and 23s at Mt Stuart".