The unseasonably warm year continued into April 2019. Luckily on the Saturday there were some scudding clouds giving temporary relief from the sun. Mount Gibraltar has a high elevation (at 863m thus is cooler) and is located near Mittagong, the rock type is called Mount Gibraltar Trachyte, thus closer to a granite style for climbing. Our trip to Mt Gibraltar focussed on the climbs at the Slab Walls.
Jeff arrived early that morning and prepared the descent ramp with extra hand line ropes. Geoff briefed the amassed crew numbering 20. Care was required on the descent ramp mainly to ensure no one dislodged any small stones.
The climb many people were interested in on the day was; The Very Easy Route (5 pitches, 110m, Grade 13). The many variations in and out of this climb (including shared belays) ensured a very busy afternoon on the slabs.
Slab Dash (1 pitch, 15m, Grade 12) was a popular starting point for the beginners. A single pitch to lower offs therefore a place to practice delicate foot work.
The more experienced groups were directed to other warm up climbs (including “Team Daddy’s Day Off” with Matt & Paul); On the Shoulders of Giants (with extension to the descent rope bolts, 20m, Grade 15) & Paved with Good Intentions (1 pitch, 15m, Grade 17).
After these warm ups a number of the beginner parties decided to climb Barking Knuckles (3 pitches, 60m, Grade 13) as their first foray into sport multi-pitching. This climb provides a gentle introduction where it is possible (with care) to escape to the descent ramp at each of the belays.
The lunch stop at the top of the crag allowed everyone to refuel and drink water (it is very easy to get dehydrated on the slabs) then it was back down the descent ramp to climb; The Very Easy Route (5 pitches, 110m, Grade 13). A number of the pitches can be combined by more experienced parties (i.e. pitches 1+2 and 4+5) but with beginner groups the full value of the 5 pitches allows the leader to keep an eye on their second(s) at all times.
Other climbs highly recommended and climbed on the day included:
- Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Pitch 1, 20m, Grade 16) particularly now with the new lower offs.
- Gripping Yarn (3 pitches 95m, Grade 16) for added value this climb was bolted on lead, thus a few spicy but easy runouts.
- Here Be Dragons (4 pitches 70m, Grade 18) a new climb, so watch for loose holds.
- Blood Magic (4 pitches 70m, Grade 17) also a new climb sharing some sections of Here Be Dragons.
- Road Less Travelled (2 pitches, 60m, Grade 19) this will test your slab technique.
- Nintendo 64 (3 pitches, 70m, Grade 17) Jeff’s birthday climb (guess why) new & possibly a bit of a sandbag.
Later in the day a Special guest appearance with one of the local crag developers – Matt Tranter and his son – witnessing what he described as “The Great Sydney Migration of 2019” as there was at one point 16 people all heading towards, at or moving away from a single belay point. Clearly this was one of the busiest days for the crag but made for a very fun social day out.
Everyone’s toes were feeling it by the end of the day (well that will teach you to wear your tightest climbing shoes on slabs!), ah the joys of acquiring a new ‘skill’ slab climbing.
The weather was near perfect and the last climbers finished at 5.30pm, yes, a long day out, but an enjoyable and successful day climbing and meeting like-minded people, what more can you ask.
Report: Jeff Crass with additional comments from Geoff Cooper
Photos: Jeff Crass, Slava Lipovskyi, Ev Ok, Andrey Moskalev