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Best Beginner Crags in the Blue Mountains

Best Beginner Crags in the Blue Mountains

Rock climbing outside can have a pretty steep learning curve when you are right at the beginning. But once you get past that first step of safely ascending, descending, and retrieving your gear from a route, there opens up a whole world of possibilities. The problem with taking on this initial phase of learning is when looking for the perfect place to hone these skills, the grade only tells you one part of the story. There are climbs and areas at lower grades that can be absolute death traps and there can be climbs that, while a harder grade, are equipped very safely. This guide aims to give people a starting point and some insight into just some of the crags in the Blue Mountains that are ideal for beginning, taking beginners to, or growing in confidence with your rigging skills before branching out to some more wild adventures. 

 

When getting into outdoor climbing the thing to know is that an area can really dictate the style in which climbs are equipped with hardware. This is usually determined by how the first ascentionist established the initial routes in the area. The later routes to be established generally follow in similar style. So if the first routes were bold, ground up and minimally equipped, you can take a punt that other routes in the area will follow suit. On the other hand if the first routes were equipped with safety in mind, the area usually developed in that style. This all comes back to the idea that there are crags in the Blue Mountains that are known as great beginner areas with well equipped routes, and others that are not. So knowing this is often the first piece of the pie to a great day out rock climbing. 

 Beginner Crags in the Blue Mountains

 

The Sunbath - Mellow Bath

 

Grades: 4 - 25
Family Friendly: Yes
Dogs: Permitted
Style: Variety
Route Lengths: 8 - 46m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

The Sunbath provides a large variety of easy-moderately graded climbing. While its name implies a smothering of sunlight, the area actually offers some all-day shade options (The Block/Pitang Wall), making it an awesome but also common option for those wanting to escape the sun. Be prepared for a social day climbing if you come here on a hot summer's day! All this combines to make it one of the most popular crags for beginner climbers to visit.

 

Route Recommendations

  • Mañana (14) 22m and Until Death Do Us Part (12) 25m: Two long, popular sport routes with Mañana being the more classic of the pair, while also requiring bolt plates.
  • Old Salt (18) 18m: Fun climbing which proves more pumpy than it looks. Sees all day shade!
  • Radioactive Man (20) 12m: a well-bolted opportunity to challenge yourself. The exciting finish (think laterally for the easiest option) guards anchors set back on the ledge above; the edge isn’t particularly kind to ropes so consider this when cleaning or toproping.
  • Katoomba Brothers (8) 10m: perhaps one of the easiest bolted route in the mountains so is perfect as your first ever lead climb or when taking absolute beginners. It is on carrots but at grade 8 and only 10m high that just adds a little spice.

 

 

 

The Soft Parade - Mount York, Mount Victoria 

 

Grades: 8 - 23
Family Friendly: Yes
Dogs: Permitted
Style: Short slab climbing
Route Lengths: 6 - 14m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

Developed with the intention of making it ultra beginner-friendly, its well-bolted routes up short, slabby rock faces provide a less intimidating introduction to climbing and/or leading in the Blue Mountains. Coupled with other elements, such as the presence of anchors at ground level to practise threading, the outcome is a training ground for climbers new to the outdoors. That being said, there isn’t really any climbing to be found down here that rivals the other areas included in this guide. If you still wish to visit the area, please take note of the advice from the Australian Climbing Association NSW (ACANSW) below.

 

Route Recommendations: 

  • J Meister (9) 8m, Who’s Bob (8) 8m & Bob’s Breakfast (11) 8m: immediately right as you descend the access gully, these are good options for someone looking to lead their first few climbs outdoors. All have comfortable stances to clip from throughout.
  • Visions Fade (16) 12m: one of the longer climbs here, which navigates a series of interesting features up a blunt arete.

 

TIP: To maintain good relationships with Council - ACANSW advises the following when visiting Soft Parade.
  • Do not mark the entrance of the track so it is visible from the main road.
  • No moving rocks anywhere along the track or at the crag itself, including building rock cairns or retaining walls.
  • No chopping, trimming or moving vegetation, including dead trees. Stick to all paths - don’t trample fire regrowth.
  • No new routes, bolts or fixed ropes - Council considers this area overdeveloped already.
  • Do not install signage, or leave "shared" (natural) stickclips, guidebooks etc at the cliff. Anything left will be removed.
  • Reconsider large groups - the base of the cliff is steep & very susceptible to erosion.
  • ACANSW recommends climbing guide instructors avoid taking clients to this area altogether as it sets a poor example to new climbers of what a climbing area should be.
  • If you see anything that needs fixing such as fallen timber across a track - please contact the ACANSW who will then contact Council - do NOT fix it yourself.

 

 

 

The Dam Cliffs - Bells Line of Road

 

Grades: 10 - 24
Family Friendly: Yes
Dogs: Permitted
Style: Vertical face climbing
Route Lengths: 10 - 28m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

The Dam Cliffs is like a mini "gardens of stone" where there's a bunch of little cliffs and large boulders all facing in different directions. This means you can usually climb in the shade at any time of day and coupling this with a swim in the dam nearby makes it a great crag on warmer days. Saying this though, on colder windy days it is sheltered so it can be the prime crag for those conditions too. This place is intentionally equipped for safe climbing and with the route lengths mainly around 10-14 metres and not really going above the trees. Because of this, it doesn't feel at all intimidating or exposed. Although there are a couple of harder routes here, most of the 51 climbs are around the 10 - 18 grade range which means there's a heap to do to hone your skills and get efficient at your rope work. There are a lot of routes at the Dam Cliffs still on carrot bolts so you'll need a few hangers. 

 

Route Recommendations:

  • Hesitation (10) 12m: If you've never lead on carrots before this is the one. Easy climbing with close carrot bolts to get into the craft.
  • Fucary Rug (14) 15m, Jug City (12) 15m: These are great routes to further practice your carrot clipping skills before moving on. All generally on good holds. 
  • Stormin Normin (18) 12m, Sisters of Fatima (16) 12m, Lonely Thursday (19) 12m: These three routes all on the "Steep Wall" (don't let the name put you off) give a great progression when you're ready to push a little harder.

 

Tip: As hinted to earlier, there is some deep water soloing at the dam nearby. Although not extensive, it is a bit of fun on hot days.

 

 

 

Mezzaluna Area - Mount York, Mount Victoria

 

Grades: 15 - 24
Family Friendly: Yes
Dogs: Permitted
Style: Vertical face climbing
Route Lengths: 10 - 30m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

Located an extremely short walk from Mount York campground, Mezzaluna Area is a deservedly popular area for climbers, no matter their ability or experience. It features well-bolted routes, which are often unlocked by technique rather than brute strength, making it an awesome area to become more versed in climbing on actual rock. The backdrop of Hassans Walls across the valley makes it one of the most photogenic crags, with climbs of this grade, so a good one for the ‘Gram! It is not uncommon to see guided groups here, along with the normal traffic, more commonly on weekends so keep this in mind.

 

Route Recommendations:

  • My Grandmother's Dinky (15) 20m, Shabby Doll (15) 16m and Community Service (15) 20m: all three of these are a good introduction to the intricacies of climbing outdoors, featuring varied movement that may even challenge strong gym climbers! Remember your bolt plates.
  • Mezzaluna (16) 25m: The classic of the area, which is now protected with ring bolts. Sustained technical climbing with just enough jugs to make it reasonable!
  • Tin Man (19) 18m: enjoyable climbing leads to rad, thought-provoking crux; one of the most memorable sequences on a climb of this grade.

 

 

 

Little Triggers Wall - Mount York, Mount Victoria

 

Grades: 15 - 24
Family Friendly: Yes
Dogs: Permitted
Style: Vertical face climbing
Route Lengths: 15 - 25m+
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

Bardens Lookout and specifically Little Triggers Wall is home to probably the best moderate sport climbing in the Blue Mountains. Think of it like the older sibling of Mezzaluna Area; featuring long pitches of sustained, varied face climbing, only a short, easy walk from the carpark. Unsurprisingly, there is seldom a day it's empty. While the entire wall is worth climbing, the classics start from about grade 19 - Mezzaluna Area is a better, closeby option if you aren’t yet comfortable leading this hard. 

 

Route Recommendations:

  • Hermione (17) 25m: my go-to warm-up on this wall; a bit more sustained than Karinya (16)
  • Mike and Lorna go to Town (19) 25m: a tricky start leads to enjoyable climbing up the corner feature to a sting in the tail!
  • Little Triggers (19) 25m: another thin start guards sustained face climbing through horizontal breaks and upwards. Generally considered the pick of the area.
  • Go Lotto (20) 22m: a personal favourite, which features a crux that can be tricky if you’re short

 

TIP: Time your session so you make it back up to the lookout to enjoy the stunning sunset!



 

 

Jimmy Cliff - Celebrity Crags, Blackheath

 

Grades: 18 - 23
Family Friendly: No
Dogs: Permitted (not recommended)
Style: Vertical face climbing
Route Lengths: ~ 20m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

A small collection of moderate sport routes. While the area was established circa 1995, recent development of its surroundings has meant it has become more popular. Featuring 7 quality routes graded 17-20, along with a couple harder options, it is an awesome option for those comfortable. While the wall comes into the sun around 1pm, the 4 routes on the right, nestled in the trees, essentially stay in shade all afternoon. The recent development/maintenance has meant that Simon Carter’s Blue Mountains Climbing Guide (2019) is not up to date for this area; it is recommended to load up the relevant pages from the more up-to-date ‘The Crag’. Given it's a bit more compact, it can feel really busy with only a handful of parties, so keep this in mind on weekends! While dogs are permitted given it is council land, the access involves traversing along a ledge (protected by a fixed rope) which isn’t probably suitable for your average pup. 

 

Route Recommendations:

  • Johnny's Jalopies (18) 20m: The pick of the wall, sustained, technical climbing from start to finish. Don’t worry there are plenty of jugs that help with the pump!
  • Butt Nuggets (19) 20m: Shares the start with Johnny’s Jalopies (18) and a slightly harder version of the route, which is almost just as good.
  • Mr Christmas Poo (20) 20m: A heady (but safe) start leads to technical climbing and distinct crux which may take some time to figure out.

 

 

 

The Grey Slab - Upper Shipley, Blackheath

 

Grades: 13 - 20
Family Friendly: Yes
Dogs: Permitted
Style: Vertical face / slab climbing
Route Lengths: 18 - 20m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

A concentration of the more moderate grades along the Upper Shipley ledge, the Grey Slab is another unsurprisingly popular choice. Sometimes featuring tricky starts, relative to the grade, and high first bolts, it is a good idea to bring a stick clip, or use one provided by mother nature. Upper Shipley’s north-westerly aspect means it sees plenty of sun and catches the predominant westerly winds of the Blue Mountains. What does this mean for climbers? In summer, it can make for enjoyable climbing in the morning, but once the sun hits (approx 11:30am), it can turn into a sauna! In winter, the entire wall sees sun from approx 8:30am, meaning it can be quite a good spot to spend the whole day, as long as there isn’t too much wind about. Cragcare, a volunteer initiative in the Blueys, has recently been working in this area in an attempt to protect the surrounding vegetation and prevent further erosion. It is requested to ONLY access the ledge by the steps located below Trinity on the far right of the wall; please do not scramble up the centre or anywhere else!

 

Route Recommendations:

  • Trinity (13) 18m: The furthest- right route on this wall, which is also the easiest. Trinity is a good top rope for those new to climbing outdoors, however it is quite spaced between bolts so be mindful of this if leading.
  • The Answer is Obvious (18) 20m: Enjoyable movement off the left end of the ledge builds to an exciting finish.
  • The Bandoline Grip (18) 18m: A very high first bolt guards great climbing through a variety of crimps and jugs.


TIP: There are some other worthwhile routes along the Upper Shipley wall. Pompadour (13) is another good easy option nearby; the first route you come to around the corner to the climbers right of the Grey Slab. If your fingers are feeling strong, Jack High (19) is one of the most popular 19s in the Blue Mountains, located a short walk in the opposite direction.

 

 

 

Disneyland - Mount Victoria

 

Grades: 8 - 23
Family Friendly: Somewhat
Dogs: Permitted
Style: Vertical face / slab climbing
Route Lengths: 6 - 20m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

Disneyland is a lesser visited area on the western end of Corroboree Walls, which has seen extensive retro-bolting in recent years. While it doesn’t possess the same sustained quality that can be found at Bardens or Jimmy Cliff, the routes (predominantly 15-18) can provide a fresh change and escape from the crowds. It is somewhat family friendly with the first pitch of ‘Possum’ (6) providing a good option for kids. However, the base of the cliff is significantly eroded and the right half of the routes (facing cliff) start off a narrow ledge that poses a risk. It is recommended that you load the relevant pages of ‘The Crag’, which has the most up-to-date grades/descriptions.

 

Route Recommendations

  • Nappy Action (18) 22m: Summed up perfectly on The Crag… “The most popular route on the wall - hits the Mtns sweet spot of lots of bolts and grade 18”.
  • Glabrate (17) 17m: Fun, interesting climbing up the arete on the left side of the wall.

 

 

 

Reservoir Dogs - Medlow Bath

 

Grades: 15 - 22
Family Friendly: No
Dogs: Not dog friendly
Style: Vertical face climbing
Route Lengths: 35 - 40m
TheCrag.com LINK CLICK HERE

 

Reservoir Dogs is by no means a beginner climbing area. This is due to its abseil-in climb-out nature and more difficult/technical climbing (for the most part). While almost all the routes can be climbed in one long pitch, with some forward thinking regarding rope drag, they are all equipped with anchors halfway. I’ve included this area here for this reason; it provides a really good option to practise systems related to multi-pitching on quality rock. The easiest route to climb back out is grade 15, which you’ll require bolt plates for as it is bolted using ‘carrots’. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your opinions of carrot bolts) this is the only route you’ll require bolt plates for. However, it is recommended to carry 7 bolt plates even if you don’t intend to climb this route just in case, or leave a static rope fixed on the abseil, carry gear to ascend back out and know how to! This is another wall that can bake in the sun (from 1pm in Summer and 11am in winter) so be mindful when making plans.

 

Route Recommendations:

  • I Don't Tip (15, 12) 36m: The easiest escape route back up to the top of the cliff, as mentioned previously. Pleasant but nothing special.
  • Let’s Get a Taco (18, 17) 36m: The most popular route on the wall. Enjoyable climbing in amongst somewhat ordinary sections but overall worthwhile if you aren’t up to the higher graded routes.
  • Mr Orange (20, 21) 38m: Gets the pick over its neighbour, which is also a classic, given its exposure over the valley below. Both pitches feature moves which can be a little harder if you’re short but a classic nonetheless! And very photogenic from the abseil in.

 

 

If you've ticked off everything up until here then you're certainly moving on your way to looking further afield for some adventures. The Blue Mountains is blessed with well over 3000 routes so this guide only represents a fraction of what's available. You'll be sure to find other hidden gems out there to learn the ropes on, gain experience and confidence in as you begin your outdoor climbing journey. Just remember to take things in a steady progression as some less equipped routes can have the tendency to chuck you in the deep end real quick if you're not ready. But saying that, with the plethora of routes and crags intentionally aimed at being accessible for all, there's no need to go in the deep end before you're ready. 

 

By - James Collins