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Grampians Climbing – Pulse heads south

Heaven is a place on Earth?

The Grampians national park located in central Victoria is my idea of heaven. World class boulder fields and crags, good mates and a cosy wood fired cabin in the middle of winter. How does it get better?

With good weather… that’s how.

In previous years I had headed down to the Grampians with my good mate and climbing sensei Pete Tosen. However these trips only lasted around a week giving us 4 or 5 climbing days in an area with more to do than I can imagine. It was for this reason and the fact that I had just finished my engineering degree that I had decided to plan a longer trip.

Taipan Wall

*A view of Taipan wall

Initially I convinced John Ash (Dr John) to join me for 20 days. However when we told more people about our planned trip we also managed to get John boy, Chris Zaia and Ben Able sweaty palmed.

Unfortunately rain was the theme of our trip and we saw far more than our fair share. Over the 20 days we saw only around 5 days where it didn’t rain at all. On other days it would rain and sometimes  winds of 117km/h made climbing exceedingly difficult. It even snowed on us one day so we had to seek refuge in a nearby cave and wait it out. However not even these conditions could destroy my mood as I was climbing at a destination which when I’m not there, I’m dreaming about being there.

Keeping out of the rain

It rained when we first got to the Grampians however we managed to find a few caves where we could boulder, predominately this was done at a place called kindergarten – and its here that Ben and Dr John found their trip project, Spanking the monkey bars (V8). They both quickly set their minds onto sending the climb, which for both of them was the hardest boulder that they had ever attempted. Despite this after day 1 they both left having done all of the moves at least once and beginning to piece sequences together. It looked like their training was paying off. Also at kindergarten I finally managed to send my project from previous trips Flash Gordon (V7) which had developed into a mental battle for me. Good to put it to rest so I could move on to one of my main trip projects – Gripmaster (V10). John boy also found something to play on quickly sending the V2 and V3 in the outside cave and beginning to work on the tough V4 with Chris – A horse is a horse.

Dr John working Spank the Monkey Bars V8

Ben Abel Spanking the Monkey Bars V8

*Dr John and Ben working Spanking the Monkey Bars (V8)

Michael Tonon trying to keep the holds of my project Gripmaster (V10) dry from the wind and rain.

*Me trying to keep the holds of my project Gripmaster (V10) dry from the wind and rain.

When we did receive some sunlight we would spend our time either trying out some of the close by sport climbing crags or boulder fields.

– John boy flashing Fot as Huck (17) Sentinal.

* John boy flashing Fot as Huck (17) Sentinal.

Chris fondling the sloppy top out of Out of the Bleau (V5).

*Chris fondling the sloppy top out of Out of the Bleau (V5).


*John Boy’s Laksa.

Pressured by the amount of time Ben had left in the Gramps (since he had to leave after the first week). We decided to head back to Kindergarten so he could try to finish off his project. Ben climbed very well managing to make it to the last hold a number of times however falling of matching on the ledge. Dr john also did very well linking the climb into two halves consistently. With some new beta from one of the locals Ben managed to send his first V8 – Spanking the monkey bars, and quickly too, only putting 2 days of effort in.

Ben soon left us to continue battling the blocs and routes in the Grampians. In his week with us he managed to climb his first two V5’s, including the difficult and world class Wimmel
, his first V8 Spanking the monkey bars and a heap of other easier lines. His trip sounded very similar to my own first Grampians trip, however he was 5 year younger than me! Will be interesting to see how he goes on future trips.

Back to the boulder fields and we found ourselves at Andersons during a day with minimal rain but enough wind to keep it fairly dry. We all set to work trying out projects from previous days and discovering new ones. We all managed to send magnum (V5) with Dr John and I also sending the nearby Epinephrine (V5). After the four of us were finished with these problems we split up where Chris and John Boy moved on to try a few other problems and Dr John and I moved to some different boulders. Here, I managed to send Mr Fox (V7), Etch-a-sketch (V11), Shanghai (V8) and a number of other problems around the 5/6 range. Dr John came very close to sending Mr Fox and managed to send a few others including 4:45 (V4) in the dark! It was here we met up with Chris and John Boy again and they told us about their fruitless efforts to do some of the boulders at a different location called legoland. Unfortunately due to the rain the tall slabs had vegetation growing off them. Next time guys.

Michael Tonon on Flash Gordon (V7)

*Me on Flash Gordon (V7)

Our rest days were spent exploring new crags, grocery shopping in the nearby town of Horsham or simply enjoying a few movies in the comfort of the cabin. We continued climbing, bouldering, hiking and keeping out of the rain. The days began to mesh together as we moved from crag to crag, project to project, getting as much done as we could with what limited skin we had left. We woke up each morning with stiff muscles from the previous days  adventures and our fingers pink and raw. Despite this our motivation couldn’t hold us back because we knew we were in a place we had been waiting and training to get to for a very long time. For me, this was since I left last year. Through the days we managed to send many of our projects that we had set ourselves before we came. Dr John managed to send many at Campground boulders including, No sex after mushrooms (V5),  Minus (V4), Obelisk (V5) and Raumschiff Enterpriess (V4). John Boy and Chris also did well on the sandstone boulders at Campground sending Obelisk (V5) and Raumschiff Enterpriess (V4). I also managed to send many of its classics including Butthole surfer (V9), Gourmet Cats (V8), Fat Cow (V6), Worm Saloon (V8), Gay Hip Flexor (V7), Race Eater (V9), Butt Gravity (V7), Silly Putty (V6) No sex after mushrooms (V5),  Minus (V4), Obelisk (V5), Raumschiff Enterpriess (V4) and various others in the couple days we spent there. The campground boulders offer some amazing rock with no walk in and a huge range of easier problems.

Chris performing the awkward mantle on top of ‘the Obelisk’ (V5)

* Chris performing the awkward mantle on top of ‘the Obelisk’ (V5)

Michael Tonon on his first problem at the campground.

* Me on my first problem at campground.

After 20 days of climbing and exploring our way around the Grampians we were all extremely exhausted. We had all climbed many classics and had an amazing experience in one of Australia’s and the world’s greatest climbing destinations. Each night we would rotate cooking and recall the days climbing activities as we ate and discussed where to venture the following day. As usual on climbing trips we left many unsent projects to return to, and I know I will return eager to get back onto them as well as the climbs I was unable to attempt due to weather and access issues. I thought 20 days here would help me lay to rest many problems I have wanted to climb, and it did, but it also created a longer list. An issue that occurs each and every visit I make here.

Many other areas were visited which are not mentioned here such as the Hollow mountain cave, Loopys, Trackside, Sandinista wall, Cut Lunch and others I have probably forgotten. A small video of each area will be made and released though our website.

Thanks for reading, Michael.

Classic Chris Zaia