Mount Arapiles - Australia Destination Guide

© jon

Mount Arapiles (aka. Arapiles) is considered to be one of the finest cliffs in the world. It's difficult to know where to start when throwing compliments at the crag because it really has got it all: immaculate rock, quality routes, easy access, stable weather and fascinatingly pouch-ridden wildlife. The downside is that for those of us that live in the UK it is on the other side of the world, but if you find yourself with a month to spare then look no further...

Duncan McGreggor catching the afternoon sun on Thunder Crack (20), Mount Arapiles.  © Steve Bell
Duncan McGreggor catching the afternoon sun on Thunder Crack (20), Mount Arapiles.
© Steve Bell, Oct 2010

The rock at Arapiles is a high quality quartzite that is made for climbing, being both solid, featured and varied - there's slabs, walls, overhangs, ridges, faces and even squeeze chimneys (if you want)! There is quality climbing to be had throughout the grades (once you get the hang of the grades that is...) and no shortage of classics, with over 2000 routes it's remarkably difficult to find a bad route out there!

The crag itself is extremely featured, so much so that you can go for days without actually seeing any other climbers anywhere but the campsite/walk-in. Gullys, buttresses and ridges divide the climbing areas and have the added benefit of providing many aspects, so there's always somewhere to suit conditions. More often than not you are looking to chase the shade, so it is definitely worth getting your head around what is in the sun and when. It may sound obvious, but don't forget that you're in the southern hemisphere and the north faces aren't as cold/miserable as they are back at home! One final word of warning is that with the ozone being somewhat thin on the ground it's worth lathering up with a hefty quantity of high factor suncream.

Duncan Campbell on Kachoong, 21, Mt Arapiles  © Dominique Houyet
Duncan Campbell on Kachoong, 21, Mt Arapiles
Duncan Campbell, Mar 2009
© Dominique Houyet

The grading at Arapiles follows the standard Aussie system, which is an open ended system that currently runs from 1 (i.e. easy) to 35 (less easy). Two things were immediately obvious after doing a few routes: firstly, don't expect anything to feel soft for the grade and secondly, be wary of trying to convert the grades back to British grades too literally. The key to understanding Australian grades is to read the description, they are extremely well written and provide all the clues needed to ascertain whether the 23 you are about to get on is indeed a E3 6a (like the conversion tables suggest) or a dangerous and run-out E5 6a. Just because it's got a lower number doesn't mean it's any easier, be warned!

Arapiles Selected Climbs Front Cover  © Open Spaces Publishing
Whilst on the topic of descriptions it is worth giving a special mention to the local guidebook by Simon Mentz and Glenn Tempest, it is almost as perfect as the crag itself. Superb topos, brilliant action shots, entertaining and brutally accurate descriptions, a wealth of historical information, themed tick-lists and much, much more. There's also an abundance of Aussie humour gluing it all together.

Click here to read Steve Bell's review from back in 2008.

Bard Buttress, Mt Arapiles, Australia  © Colin Brearley
Bard Buttress, Mt Arapiles, Australia
© Colin Brearley
Despatched, Arapiles, 1986.  © jon
Despatched, Arapiles, 1986.
Hilary Sharp, Jan 1986
© jon

Rather than put together an exhaustive tick-list I decided put together a shorter list of stand-out routes and crags that are a must-do/visit whilst in the area:


  • Tiptoe Ridge, 5 - A superb mountaineering route, but in a much better climate. Traditionally done naked under the moonlight (apparently...)
  • Blockbuster, 11 - A line high up on Bluff Major, that when viewed from the ground looks around E5. Don't worry though, it's Severe - just a pretty out there Severe!
  • The Bard, 12 - A superb multi-pitch VS that feels impressively out there for a route 5 minutes walk from the campsite.
  • Watchtower Crack, 16 - It's probably a cliche to include this, but this is THE line at Arapiles and one of the finest HVSs I've ever done
  • Scorpion, 18 - If you're into your gritstone jamming cracks, but have always been a little disatisfied by their length then step this way - it's 30m for won't forget
  • Thunder Crack, 20 - Again, maybe I'm being unimaginative but this route is a great line, on a great crag, with some great climbing - what's not to like?!
  • Reaper, 22 - Some climbing styles go out of fashion for all the right reasons and jamming did because, in short, it's hard. Reaper features a jam of every way, shape and form and just to make it that bit more tricky it goes sideways so none of them fit logically either.
  • Despatched, 23 - I got on this one when I first arrived, lured by the guidebook description 'one of Arapiles' finest routes''. It is, but alongside that comes a bit more than the E3 I had bargained for - brace yourself for a 7a on trad!
  • Trojan, 25 - This innocuous looking line looks comparatively straightforward from a distance, from up close it punches, kicks, bites and bruises - brutal! Another one for the gritstone addict in need of a longer fix.
The Pines Campground at Mount Arapiles, with the Organ Pipes not an inconveniently long distance away  © Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing
The Pines Campground at Mount Arapiles, with the Organ Pipes not an inconveniently long distance away
© Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing
One of the locals, a Grey Kangaroo at Arapiles  © Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing
One of the locals, a Grey Kangaroo at Arapiles
© Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing


  • Bluff Major - This was my favourite place to climb whilst out at Arapiles. From the campsite it looks miles away, but in reality it's around a 10-15 minutes walk + scramble up the via-ferratta style chains of Alys (3). All the routes are classics and the postilion high up is one of the most beautiful and exposed in the area.
  • The Pharos - An intricate area that provides days worth of climbing to explore and investigate. Home to some of the best rock in the area, Birdman of Alcatraz (23) is worth seeking out irrespective of what grade you climb simply to see the orange 'babies bottom' rock formations that are synonymous with the area.
  • The Artridae + Organ Pipes - These are the first crags you see upon arriving at Arapiles and therefore the first you are likely to climb on. Considering that convenience and popularity often have negative connotations, these two crags have a lot going for them. The Artridae has some harder classics such as Mike Law's Debutantes and Centipedes (25) and the immaculate corner line of Oretes (23), whereas the Organ Pipes is filled with mid-grade classics such as D-Minor (14), Piccolo (11), and Horn Piece (13).
  • The Northern and Far Northern Group - If you ever feel like getting away from it all then these are the places to go. Due to the fractionally longer approach these crags see little traffic, despite the quality of routes being just as good.

arapiles, how i do love thine scabby charms.  © w.pettet-smith
arapiles, how i do love thine scabby charms.
© w.pettet-smith

Greg leading at Arapiles, 1960's  © steve craddock
Greg leading at Arapiles, 1960's
Pat Craddock
© steve craddock



When to Go

Climbing is possible year-round at Arapiles, but the best times to go are in the Spring (Sept - Nov) and Autumn (March - May) when the temperatures are a little more manageable and the rainfall is minimal.

How to Get There

The easiest place to fly to is Melbourne which is a 3 hour drive away (a short distance by Australian standards). Qantas, Emirates, Malaysian Airlines, Etihad Airways all operate regular flights and availability shouldn't be a problem. As with all flights it's worth booking early to get the best prices, but all the more so with Australia because they're not cheap - £850 in 2014.

Accommodation Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

The Pines Campground is located directly underneath the crag and costs 5 dollars per person, per night. The payment system changed earlier this year and you are now required to pay online, or over the phone, before you arrive at the site. If you're after something a little more luxurious then there is a Hotel + B&B in Natimuk 7km away.


On the climbing equipment side of things it is worth mentioning that Australia is very expensive, so it's worth bringing everything out with you and more so to avoid the prohibitively high cost of any replacements. That said, the Mountain Shop in Natimuk is well stocked should anything be required.

Outdoor Shops Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

Food and Supplies

The nearest - and best - place to get food is the Natimuk Cafe. This friendly little place is open Friday - Sunday and seems to be the gathering point for members of the local climbing scene. There is a great spread from breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a fanatic array of local beer/wine. If you're after something a little different you can head up the road to Horsham.

It's best to stock up on food in Horsham (30 mins away) where there is both an Aldi + Safeways. Should you have forgotten any camping equipment, or are in requirement of additional gas, the K-Mart should accommodate most of your needs. .

Other Activities

The wildlife in Australia is - for want of a better word - hilarious. Many a rest day was spent watching the Kangaroos, Wallabies, Stumpy Tailed Lizards, Noisy Miner Birds, Echidnas, Galahs and Skinks - it's hard to get bored. Spending a moment to read up on the areas wildlife is a great way to pass a day.

For when you get tired of all the dust it's worth heading to the Horsham Swimming Pool for a swim/shower, it's worth every penny...

Rob Greenwood - UKC's advertising manager, eater of fried eggs and climber of 8a routes.  © Rob Greenwood collection
Rob Greenwood - UKC's advertising manager, eater of fried eggs and climber of 8a routes.
© Rob Greenwood collection
About the Author:

Rob Greenwood is the Advertising Manager at

He's a passionate climber, hot yoga addict and eater of vegetarian food. He has done more UK trad routes than he's had roast dinners (and that's got nothing to do with the vegetarianism).

Aside from UK trad, he's dabbled with alpine climbing, Scottish winter, Himalayan climbing and more recently Peak limestone sport climbing.

Support UKC

As climbers we strive to make the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKC Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate then please help us by becoming a UKC Supporter.

UKC Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support UKC Supporter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

5 Jan, 2015
I would only add that combined with Grampians, it's perhaps the best rock climbing destination in the world
I couldn't agree more Ramon. We'll have a Grampians Destination Guide coming out shortly. Before I went I'd never realised how close the two areas were, maybe I'll re-work the articles to highlight this once they're both out.
5 Jan, 2015
The photographs in the article do not even come close to doing it justice. It's a truly amazing place, if a little hot at times!
5 Jan, 2015
Epic so epic! If you are a young Brit climber and can do still do your working visa in Australia do it. Pull up in a tent in the Pines for a month or more, maybe work in the Blue Mountains for another part of your stay. But if you are at a bit of a career standpoint get on over.
5 Jan, 2015
Great crag. I don't know whether I'd recommend going there in September though? Maybe late September. I turned up in September and the Pines was deserted, plus it snowed! Climbing is good in December, so long as you're in the shade. Then it gets unbearably hot over NY and the bugs take over.
More Comments
Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email LinkedIn Pinterest