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Trip Report – Almost a Section Trip

Photo: Lindsay Smith

By: Lindsay Smith

Source: Otago Section Newsletter (June 2017)

Not quite ready to finish rock climbing for the summer, six from the Otago section and one from Christchurch headed across the ditch in April to experience Dunedin’s most westerly crag – Arapiles. Three and a half hours flying to Melbourne and about the same time driving brought us to Horsham to stock up with supplies before the final 25km drive to the Pines Camping Ground at the foot of the crag.

From a distance, Arapiles looks like a low island rising from a flat sea of wheat stubble and it isn’t until you’re quite close that you can gauge the scale of the crag. Imagine sitting in Otago Harbour looking back at the city; the length of the crag is the same as from High Street on your left to Leith Valley on your right and the vertical height of 250m is close to the rise from town to Roslyn. According to the guide book there are over 2,000 recognised climbs, the best 1,200 of which are listed in excellent detail with very clear pictures and amusing, though often sparse beta.

The Saturday before Easter was travel day and once we arrived early afternoon, the team of, Tanja, James, and Meg,(who were there for two weeks) and Jaz, Pete, Riley and I (only one week) spent the day making the camp comfortable and erecting a large fly as the cooking/meeting area before heading out to explore the first few climbs which could be seen from the camp. That day there were a few other climbers in the camp, which is well set up with toilets, rubbish bins and dishwashing facilities for $5/night. But by Good Friday the place was packed and there were rumoured to be 500 dirtbags looking for something to climb that day. For those who haven’t been before, Arapiles is a Trad. Crag and although the occasional bolt has been placed, if you are into sport climbing I suggest you head to the Grampians – about 100km back towards Melbourne.

But what Arapiles does have is literally something for everyone. From the Bushranger Bluffs with tons of grade 3 to 10 beginner climbs to an almost endless list of starred, multi-pitch projects in the 20s and beyond.

It’s also worth mentioning the Arapiles grading system, which although supposed to be the same as NZ, often appears to bear little relationship to the grades we would expect here. I mean, who’s ever heard of a near vertical, 120 metre climb graded a 5! And of course there is the world’s most photographed climb, Kachoong, a grade 21 roof problem high above the plain but in clear view of those sitting on the Photographer’s Ledge”.

The Otago team certainly made the most of the time they had, climbing from dawn to dusk – and even beyond. Mid-week one it was a full moon and the team, with a few hangers-on, soloed the 120 metre Tiptoe Ridge by the light of the Aussie moon – which of course is much bigger and brighter than our version. A full day was spent in an assault on Kachoong, with each of the team managing to top out on this classic by day’s end. Another day the team focused on the King Rat Gully and the shorter, but much more technically challenging climbs in that area. Throughout the week that I was there the team ticked off over 50 climbs in the guide book, leaving 1150 to be done next year. If you’d like more details, check out this excellent website www.chockstone.org/Arapiles/Arapiles.htm

Posted: 31/05/17

Posted By: Narina Sutherland