Grampians rock climbing

Nina Scott-Bohanna on Jugular Pulse (21), The Watchtower, the Grampians. Photo: Chelsea Brunckhorst


Grampians rock climbing guidebooks have existed since the first guide was published in 1968. That was a navy-blue leather book. It was small-ish – hand-sized, with 135 routes in it. Today, when it comes to Grampians guidebooks, we're spoilt for choice.

"Which Grampians rock climbing guidebook should I buy?" is a question we get asked a lot by customers browsing our store's book nook. Which guidebook you buy, of course, depends on several things: what sort of climbing you like to do, how often you'll use the book, and whether you like detailed or brief descriptions, for instance.

Here, we take a look at four main options.

Grampians Selected Climbs, Mentz and Tempest

Grampians Selected Climbs

Simon Mentz, Glenn Tempest

For a while, Grampians Selected Climbs was the only comprehensive(ish) guidebook to Grampians rock climbing. At least, it was the first to encompass all the major climbing areas in the Grampians. Before the first edition of this guidebook was published by climbers Simon Mentz and Glenn Tempest, a single tome for Grampians climbing didn't exist. Before 1998, if you planned on climbing in the Grampians, you needed one of four rock climbing guidebooks (depending on where you wanted to climb). And, if you desired up-to-date information, you needed one of the five supplements.

Despite its coverage of the Gariwerd's major climbing sectors, Grampians Selected Climbs is – as the title implies – selective. Mentz and Tempest handpicked the Grampians' best cliffs – those with the widest grade ranges, easiest access and highest quality climbing. That's simply because it was nigh impossible to squeeze all thousands of climbs into a mere 300 pages. Maybe it was do-able with one-liner route descriptions, but that's not how these authors roll.

Simey and Glenn are renowned for colourful route descriptions and quippy words. Their rock climbing guidebooks pack so much flavour, you can almost smell the grit of dirty old EBs steaming off the page. Some climbers don't care for such details. But, I'd argue that the purpose of a guidebook is two-fold: One, to inform. Two, to inspire. Otherwise, we might as well carry crumpled screenshots of instead.

Beefing up descriptions involved the authors revisiting crags, reclimbing (and re-aligning) classics. Part of the task also demanded drawing usable, accurate route topos. The project of making this book turned out to be monumental. The result? A bible of the Grampians' most classic crags.

This paperback gets top points for substance and vision. Downsides? The cover looks outdated these days. And, black-and-white snaps are a bit yesteryear. Also, simply due to when this guidebook was last revised (2009), it doesn't contain up-to-date details on newer bolted routes and sport crags.

That said, there are still plenty of both sport and trad routes in this guidebook to keep you busy. Plus, it has the best route descriptions of all the guides currently out there.

See the guidebook >>

Grampians Climbing, Onsight

Grampians Climbing (2015 Edition)

Neil Monteith, Simon Carter

Grampians Climbing is the successor to the out-of-print Grampians Climbing: Sport Crags. The latter, confusingly, did actually inculde some trad and mixed routes – basically, it was created as a guide to the Grampians' sport crags, but it also included worthwhile trad and mixed routes at these cliffs. That book was, roughly, a 50-50 split between sport and trad lines.

By contrast, Grampians Climbing is a much more complete guidebook to rock climbing in the Grampians – for both sport and trad routes. For instance, it covers Stapylton Amphitheatre almost in its entirety. It does have glaring omissions (Rosea, for example), but otherwise is currently the most up-to-date, comprehensive(ish) select Grampians rock climbing guidebook out there.

Like its previous edition, Grampians Climbing is a collaboration between long-time new-router Neil Monteith and world-famous climbing photographer Simon Carter, who is based in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales.

If you've bought any Australian rock climbing guidebooks in recent years, you probably own a Simon Carter guidebook – one produced by him under his company, Onsight. The value in having a bunch of Onsight guidebooks in your personal collection is that they all use the same colour coding, route symbols, abbreviations and chapter layouts. Which, if you're used to them, makes these books easy to navigate. What's more, it's got colour images, photo topos and maps that aren't hand-drawn.

As with all Onsight rock climbing guidebooks, though, the route descriptions are a little light-on. This is deliberate, in an effort to include more routes and cut the fluff. Personally, I find that a robust description helps me select the climbs that I want to do, and differentiate what's appropriate for me and what's not. But, on the flip side, I do see the value in getting straight to the point. It saves space – which means, room for more routes. Plus, not everyone is interested in route history and details.

The main drawcard for this book is its newness. Being the most recently printed Grampians rock climbing guidebook (not including bouldering-only guides – we'll get to that later), it's currently the print guidebook with the most up-to-date information. Which means, many newly bolted crags (with moderate grades) are included in this guide.

If you want a slick, modern guidebook that covers most of the Grampians' major crags, this is it.

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Sublime Climbs, Lindorff and Goding

Sublime Climbs

Kevin Lindorff, Josef Goding & Jarrod Hodgson

Sublime Climbs is a big guidebook that doesn't only cover the Grampians; it also includes Arapiles and Mount Buffalo. That's the three major climbing areas in Victoria that you might sample as an interstate or overseas travelling climber.

And, that's really who this guidebook is for. People who might be passing through. Or, if you're on a tight budget and can only buy one book, Sublime Climbs is good value. It might not contain as large a selection of routes as many individual guidebooks, but it does include most of the classics. Particularly, between the grade 18-26 range.

It's also worth noting that this book provides the most up-to-date information on climbing at Mt Buffalo. The most recent standalone Buffalo rock climbing guidebook – Mt Buffalo: A Rock Climber's Guide – was produced by Kevin Lindorff and Simon Murray in 2006. Sublime Climbs was released in 2011.

See the guidebook >>

Grampians Bouldering 2016

Grampians Bouldering (2016 Edition)

Simon Madden, Ross Taylor, David Pearson & Chris Webb Parsons

Some Grampians rock climbing guidebooks do include information on bouldering. For instance, Mentz and Tempest's Grampians Selected Climbs offers a few pages on bouldering in the Grampians, but it's really just a light touch. Each area gets a brief description, a guestimation of how many problems exist and a summary of the style. There are no topos of individual problems; only maps to show where the different sectors are.

By contrast, Grampians Bouldering is a dedicated bouldering guidebook – as the title implies. It was first published in 2009, authored by David Pearson and Chris Webb Parsons (one of Australia's strongest boulderers).

The second edition is a significant update, spearheaded by media moguls Simon Madden and Ross Taylor, the editors of Australia's premier digital climbing rag, Vertical Life – arguably the highest quality climbing magazine to be produced on our shores.

Simon and Ross didn't disappoint when it came to updating Grampians Bouldering. Simon no doubt made sure the guide looks spiffy. Ross brought the right credentials: he grew up in the shadow of the Grampians' rugged peaks. He's also a second-generation climber (his father, Rob, co-authored the 1968 Grampians guidebook with Jerry Grandage). And, he was in the scene when many classic problems in the Northern Grampians were established.

The big update is the inclusion of newer areas: The Bleachers, Valley of the Giants, Venus Baths, The Tower, Buandik and Cave of Man Hands. That's a massive amount of new 'problems' – about 650 all up. So, even if you're a veteran of the Northern Grampians (which is essentially the only part of the Grampians the first edition covered), there are plenty of new lines to throw yourself at.

Still, it's not a truly comprehensive guidebook (and, doesn't claim to be). Some areas in the Southern Grampians were omitted – most likely to keep traffic low in this environmentally and culturally sensitive area. (It's been ravaged by bushfire, and it's plentiful in delicate Aboriginal art and indigenous sites.)

With the first edition out-of-print, and other Grampians bouldering guidebooks now hard to find (e.g. Gordon Poultney's Big Book of Problems), this is currently the only readily available Grampians bouldering guidebook out there, which makes it a no-brainer if you're at all inclined to pinch pebbles.

For guidebook nerds – well, we don't need to push the hard sell – but it's worth noting that the authors have significantly upgraded the introduction, history and cultural notes. The fruit of their labour is a solid, beautiful, modern guidebook that's a must-have for any mattress-backer.

See the guidebook >>

Other Grampians Climbing Guidebooks

Rock Guide: South Eastern Grampians (Chris Baxter)

The Black Guide – North West Grampians

The Mount Difficult Range

See our range of rock climbing guidebooks here.

Questions? Visit us, email us or call us (03 9600 0599).

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