The Shoalhaven’s cliffs are more than just pretty. To the local rock climbing community, they are Utopia. As far as rock quality, climbing options and natural beauty go, it’s hard to find better. Shoalhaven crags entice our climbers, like a magnet pulling pins to its face. And the force of this allure is spreading across the country and the world.
Shoalhaven cliffs are bustling with human activity. Climbers from all over the globe are scaling these world-class crags. Winter is too cold to tackle other premier rock climbing spots in Victoria and The Blue Mountains, so Aussie climbers flock to the Shoalhaven, where climbing temperatures are perfect. Foreign accents drift from cliffs. Overseas climbers make a pilgrimage to Nowra, Point Perpendicular and New Nowra at this time of year. It is too hot to climb where they come from. But here it is just right. The rock is good quality, the scenery is incredible, both trad and sport climbers are catered for, and there are thousands of routes to choose from.
Shoalhaven climbing is first-class, at any time of year, and word has spread across the country and the world.
Point Perpendicular is popular for trad (traditional) climbing, which involves securing your own gear, or nuts and camming devices, into cliff pockets and cracks, and relying on correct placement of this gear to protect climbers from falling. It is a risky, responsible task for the lead climber, who carries this gear, determines where to install it, and hopes it will stick during a fall. The last climber removes the gear as they move up the cliff. With sport climbing, practised in Nowra and New Nowra, a lot of this risk is taken away. The lead climber clips onto existing bolts permanently set into the cliff face. These bolts help protect climbers if they fall.
Equipment for sport climbing includes a harness, dynamic rope (which stretches to soften falls), climbing shoes, chalk, 12 quick draws, a belay device, a competent belaying partner, a helmet, and a guide book. In trad climbing areas you will also need camming devices, abseil ropes, prusik loops, bolt brackets, nuts, slings, a short static rope to rig anchors to the cliff top, and experience in tying knots like the figure eight and alpine butterfly.
For great trad climbing you cannot beat Point Perpendicular. Vertical 80-metre-high sandstone cliffs plunge straight into the blue, foamy-waved waters of Jervis Bay’s Beecroft Peninsula. Seals, dolphins and whales swim by. There are roughly 660 routes from grade 7 (easiest) to 28 (harder), a small percentage of these being sport and mixed routes. Climbs are very exposed and are brilliant in good weather, but unpleasant in strong winds. Point Perpendicular has some of the easiest beginner climbs in the Shoalhaven. But it is daunting. The only way to start a climb is to abseil from the top of the cliff onto narrow rock ledges, with the ocean methodically pounding on boulders directly below you, competing with the sound of your thumping heart. The only way out is to climb back up. Popular routes are Grey Mist (grade 17) and Little Red Riding Hood (17). Point Perpendicular is within Beecroft Weapons Range near Honeymoon Bay, and is open on weekends and school holidays. Register at the boom gates, follow Lighthouse Road to the lighthouse carpark and walk to the clifftop.
The sandstone cliffs around Nowra, carved over millions of years by the currents of the Shoalhaven River and Bomaderry Creek, deliver some of the best sport climbing in Australia. There are over 1000 bolted routes for beginners to advanced climbers in areas such as Thompson’s Point, The Grotto and Bomaderry Creek.
The Grotto, accessed via Yurunga Drive in North Nowra, has one fantastic beginner climb, Blade Flake (13), but most routes are grade 19-23. The area is best for intermediate to more advanced climbers. Spinning Blades of Steel (20) and Queens of Avocado (23) are worth a try.
Bomaderry Creek, definitely for more experienced climbers, has a set of small crags scattered along the creek gorge behind North Nowra.
The most popular cliff in the area is Thompson’s Point. Sunny and warm in winter, it pleases climbers of all levels and offers around 351 routes from grade 11-34. Try Vanderholics (18) and Day at the Beach (21). To get there, travel west of Nowra along Yalwal Road, turn into George Evans Road at the University, follow the dirt road for less than a kilometre, turn right into Jonsson Road and drive under the powerlines to the end.
New Nowra, home to wilderness sport climbing on sandstone cliffs amidst waterfalls and tree-filled valleys, is twenty minutes south-west of Nowra along Braidwood Road. There are hundreds of routes on cliffs ranging from 15 to over 40 metres high. Popular climbing areas include: The Goldmine, with some of the longest routes in Nowra; The Lair, great for beginners; Hylands Lookout; and Tianjara Falls. Tianjara Falls is the largest climbing area in New Nowra. Suiting all climbing abilities, it is divided into six main sections along a kilometre of cliff face. Dodecahedron (22) is a local favourite. Avoid climbing directly under the lookout. Objects dropped by sightseers really hurt.
Climbers are spoilt for choice in the Shoalhaven, with thousands of climbs in stunning locations and new routes being installed regularly. It’s no wonder this region’s crag reputation is climbing to global heights.
For further information:; Nowra Sport Climbing by Rod Young; Climb Point Perp by Robert Dun.
Rock Climbing Safety Precautions:
- Rock climbing is dangerous and can result in death or injury. It is a relatively safe sport for experienced and competent climbers. It is a high-risk sport for the inexperienced or the inattentive. Take care and listen to advice from others.
- Wear a helmet.
- Climb with correct and adequate equipment. Use a long rope.
- Climb with a responsible and competent belayer. Belayers, PAY ATTENTION. The lead climber’s safety is in your hands.
- If leading a climb, check that the rope has been properly fed through the belay device. Make sure the rope and belay device are attached with a locking carabiner to the belay loop on the belayer’s harness.
- Always check ropes, knots and harnesses.
- Clip your rope through carabiners on quickdraws correctly, and use locking carabiners on important placements.
- Always check the current condition of fixed anchors.
- Always retreat from two pieces of protection.
- Check weather conditions are safe prior to climbing.
By: Nina Tobin