Rock climbers come from around the world to the small town of Natimuk, in far western Victoria, to scale some of the 3000 routes up Mt Arapiles.

Story By Ken Eastwood

Like a mecca for worshippers of cliffs, there’s one place in Australia where every rock climber has to travel to at least once in their life. In fact, people come from all over the world to congregate at this nirvana, reverentially touch its polished walls and climb up towards the heavens.
The full stop at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range, Mt Arapiles rises 140 metres from the wheat fields on the vast Wimmera Plain in western Victoria. Formed at the same time as the nearby Grampian Range, its sandstone, accumulated over millions of years on the floor of a vast inland sea, was ‘cooked’ as a huge mound of molten granite crept in underneath it, fusing the grains together into a finger-friendly quartzite stone as hard as marble.
For thousands of years the Djurid Balug clan climbed part way up the cliffs in order to quarry the hard stone for tools. In 1963, the first of the modern-day climbers made their way from Melbourne out to the little town of Natimuk, just a few kilometres from the base of the mountain. Initially, they didn’t like what they saw, but as they touched the mountain’s wrinkled folds and felt how secure the rock was, they fell in love. The first climbing guidebook to Mt Arapiles was written within a year, containing 15 routes. Now there are more than 3000 recognised routes up the mountain, from deadset doddles for complete novices, right through to some of the most difficult rock climbs in Australia.

This Story is from Issue #96

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2014