A Trip to the Moon

July 2003 with Caroline.


Standing on the highest thing made of stone I take in the view of the plains surrounding... who would believe it... the Flinder's Ranges! It looks pretty flat if you face in the wrong direction. Welcome to climbing South Australian style.

Considering it is mid-winter and it is snowing on the Australian Alps back home in Victoria, it also looks pretty dry.

Caroline is shaking her head because she secretly predicted I couldn't resist the urge to climb this small rock. "C'mon Alan, there is plenty of time to climb without resorting to every little boulder." (You can see her in the ochre shirt waiting impatiently for me to get down off the rock.)

For those who haven't had the pleasure of visiting this spectacular landscape, the Flinders Ranges are located just south of the most arid territory in Australia and about 5 hours north of Adelaide, maybe twelve hours from Mt. Arapiles, the other Australian rock-rat Mecca. If you drink enough coffee you could probably get from one place to the other in a single drive. OK, you might need a mid-highway refueling.

Wilpena Pound is a flat plain (formerly used for cattle grazing until the droughts and flash floods discouraged those who tried) surrounded by rugged mountains on all sides. It has only a single entrance and it is beside this that the climbers congregate on "The Moon" - Moonarie Gap to those with a map.

The area has plenty of surrounding bushland (complete with ancient Aboriginal rock art), miles of cliffs, no conveniences, no crowds and an Australian feel like only the Flinders can provide. The landscape is much less spoiled than that which surrounds Mt Arapiles. Thanks to the enthusiastic resident climbers (good on you Alex, Dave and Duncan the Bushranger) and the visiting climbers being a little thoughtful, the area is well maintained and secluded. Thanks also to the private land-owner who tolerates us camping out on his turf.

Some hardcore nut dragged a "Steep Climb" road sign up to the Top Camp which I believe makes an appearance in a popular coffee-table climbing book. Top Camp is the place to soak up the sun on a winter's day, chill out between climbs and admire the view, cook up a storm, or if you're really keen (or really lazy) to camp out right beneath the best climbs for a many hundreds of kilometres.

The locals have even installed a water tank up here with a feed from a seepage point in the descent gully... just what is needed for days when the sun bakes and fries scrawny climbers out on the rock.

Today its my birthday and I'm with Caroline in the place where I most wanted to be... what more could a guy ask for? How about a climb?!

My present this year was a set of Wild Country Nuts... complete with little gold ribbons. Time to put them to good use on the highly recommended Ultion **(*?) 12, corner crack which appears at left in a muchly fore-shortened form. In the picture of the whole crag (roll the mouse over the image of the crag above) Ultion is the clearly visible corner which runs vertically on the upper cliff just to the right of the central gully.


Number 10 hex borrowed from another climber (now *that* would never happen at Araps) on the neighbouring climb (please don't let it get lost into the depths of the crack), my new Wild Country toys clipped on - off we go. As you can see from the picture... I still need to remember to place extra long runners on my pro beneath overhangs - I'm learning! :-P All in all I was pretty happy with the pitch.

You can see my bum and leg about 5m below the first belay point. The clear blue Australian sky is overhead. A bit above me and to the left is a clear blue jacket - amusing how on a cliff that runs for miles somebody would want to climb right next to us (they were faster climbers - we *did* get there first) But also, its funny how I didn't mind a bit! Its not like being over-crowded at Arapiles on the Easter weekend. This place has hundreds of miles of space around it.

Here's the view from the cosy belay cave. Awesome. I gaze off into the distance as Caroline seconds her way up the corner on the hardest climb she's done... jolly good work!
The second pitch goes smoothly. Caroline overcomes some minor crises (the belay ledge was too cosy to leave) and makes it up alongside me on the prickle-bush ledge (somewhat less comfy) to eat a muesli bar amongst the brush.
I wonder... why didn't we listen when people were explaining to us how to get down? Hmmm. Well the view into the gully is good but we only brought a single rope and the rap is more than 25m. "Bugger".

Up we go for another (somewhat easy pitch) to the very top of the cliff in the hope of finding a walk-down. Now that's an awesome view... and a descent gully which, after a bit of bush-bashing, leads to a nifty downclimb and back to Top Camp.

And there went Ultion. Sure, it took all day - what a great way to spend it!


Now for the three kilometre trek back to our tent for a birthday dinner.


About Animaland