The only problem? I recently shifted from California, where I had Yosemite, Tahoe, the Pinns and J Tree in my backyard back to Melbourne, Australia, where I have, er, a little less climbing in my immediate backyard. Still, when faced with lemons etc, and now that the shipping crate with the ropes and rack has arrived, I am pleased to present the epic Black Hill trip report, with full orchestration and five part harmony and stuff like that. Please enjoy.
Black Hill, ~1 hour from Melbourne, is a slight hill with a stack of granite tors (known as “blobs”, to the less geologically inclined of us) overlooking surrounding farm land.
Does it have mighty and majestic cliffs to scale? Er, no. The longest climb in the place is 30 meters, and most don’t even make 20 meters.
Does it have a proud history of climbing stretching back almost a century and encompassing many of the great names of climbing? Um, not really. From what I can tell from the guidebook, most of the climbs were put up in the late ‘80’s by some guy named “Ferret”.
So what’s the attraction? Because it’s within 10 minutes drive of my parents house, meaning FREE BABYSITTING for the little tike! So, Naja (my partner) and I dropped Jo (the said little tike) off with my mom for a few hours and headed for the hills. Well, the Hill, anyway.
Our first port of call… Hollow Rock! We flaked out the 70m rope (overkill, but we’ve only got 70 meter ropes. Can’t be too prepared…) and climbed Facing Page, a grade 16 (~5.8-5.9) climb that heads up 8 meters past 2 carrots (hangerless bolts) to a 1-carrot-and-as-many-nuts-as-you-can-shove-in-the-crack anchor. Apparently these carrots are all the rage in Australia, presumably so the first ascensionist can save a few bucks by buying ordinary bolts from the hardware store and shifting the cost of the hanger onto the climber. I guess they are slightly less visually noticeable to non-climbers, but I don’t quite see the attraction.
Next off was the enigmatically named climb “Half Man Half Biscuit”, a 15 meter grade 17 (~5.9-5.10a) crack. I figured given crack climbing is less popular in Australia than California the climb would be easy for its grade and for me (“Hey, I’ve climbed in Yosemite and J Tree, I’m the crack-meister, right?”). Wrong! Took me a few shots to get the crux, a bulge at the top of a water polished hand crack. Judging from the frantic calls of “TAKE!” and jerking on the rope, I’m guessing Naja had some trouble with that bit as well. Ah well, we’ll get it clean next time. After that the climb mellows to a nice traverse and great finger crack.
Finally, Milawa, a 23 meter grade 17 slab past 4 carrots. Great quality rock and a great view from the top.
Then, back to the parents' place to pick up the indefatigable Jo. This was the first time myself and Naja had got to climb together with just the two of us since she got pregnant ~2 years ago; our last trip together was to Yosemite. Black Hill seems a bit of an anticlimax after that, but it’s still great to get outside together again.