Gettin’ Silly in the Wollondilly

(I originally posted this to Chockstone in a thread about this crag.)

This was probably the most adventurous climbing I’ve ever done. On this trip we climbed Perpendicular Rock by what is probably a new route.

So to start with, we had Sunday free with a car available. I kind of wanted to do Bunny Bucket Buttress, as after years of Blueys climbing I still haven’t done it yet, and the list of sport climbers, canyoners, bushwalkers, and Europeans we know that have is getting kind of embarrassing. But Bulti wanted to check the Wollondilly out, and in the end it was of course the obvious decision.

When we asked people if they wanted to check out an obscure multipitch trad crag, somewhere on Wombeyan Caves Road, that probably hadn’t been visited in 10 years, responses ranged from “…No” to “What? No. Hell no!” The scariest part about this for me was that we could only find one blurry black and white picture of this cliff on Google. Do you know how terrifying that is for the Facebook generation? If there’s no pictures of it on the internet, it might as well not exist! Plus, the guide (scans of some handdrawn stuff from who knows how long ago) doesn’t describe any descents, so even if we climbed something, how would we get down?

This is literally all we had. Mysterious, huh?
This is literally all we had. Mysterious, huh?
Picture of Perp Rock from the road
Luckily, Crones posted a pic to Chockstone a few days before our trip. So it does exist. Phew.

Before venturing into hillbilly country, we attempted to purge all the Eastern Suburbs out of our system, by going drinking with Norwegian students at Coogee Bay Hotel, then some afternoon sea cliffing in ‘Vawcloose’ with an onsight ascent of The Corner at Diamond Bay.

After a longer than usual packing & racking session, that included stuff like hammers and bolt kits, we drove down on Saturday night, and slept under the national parks information sign at Wollondilly Lookout.

In the morning we got up and drove down into the valley. The parking spot was right as described in the guidebook. Hooray.

We started walking up the lefthand spur as described in the guide. This was a straightforward horrible uphill bush bash struggle which took over an hour, exactly as we had expected.

About halfway up, I admitted my crappy GPS mobile app was completely useless. We went to pull out the printoff of the guide, and discovered I had left it in the car. Ah well, most of the descriptions were useless stuff like ‘up as you will’ anyway, so no big loss.

Approaching the base
Approaching the base

Eventually we made it to the base of the crag. It was pretty hard going just to walk around the base. A big landslide had fallen all over Square Gully, and it was sketchy as hell to walk over the debris.

Looking over at Lanagan's Falls
Looking over at Lanagan’s Falls
 The corner of Hercules on the right, and the buttress of Centerpoint on the left.

The corner of Hercules on the right, and the buttress of Centerpoint on the left.
The first pitch of Command Performance?
The first pitch of Command Performance?

After checking out a few lines, we started scrambling up the right side of Square Gully to what we thought was Odyssey. The scramble turned into class 4 dirt wallowing pretty quickly, and we wished we had racked up at the base. We both found small dirty ledges, and very carefully built an anchor and harnessed up. I lowered the packs back down the first ‘pitch’ while Bulti racked up.

Death scrambling
Death scrambling
Looking down the first 'pitch'
Looking down the first ‘pitch’
Harnessing up on a small ledge
Harnessing up on a small ledge

Bulti then led a bad vegetated pitch up and right to a ledge with trees. The gear was good though. I then led the next pitch, which was two good looking twin cracks on actual rock up to the next ledge. The crack on the right turned out to be fused, and the crack on the left turned out to be no. 4 sized, and I only had one no 4. So it was a bit exiting laybacking up. Easy good climbing though. Looking at the description I’m pretty sure this was the second pitch of Odyssey.

From here there didn’t look to be any good options. Either manky mossy blocks to the left (I think this is where Odyssey goes in hindsight), or trees and who knows what off around the right? Bulti decided to try and get on the right side of the buttress. Having previously described his first lead as “the worst climbing I’ve ever done”, he had to retract this for the next pitch, the “Heart Of Darkness”. He went and disappeared into the maw of one of the filthiest vegetation-tunneling ‘climbs’ I’ve ever seen. Picture one of the Cerro Torre ice-mushroom tunnel pitches, but with trees and stinging nettle instead. And the climbing wasn’t easy either, with tricky bulges that had to be overcome with mantles and standing on twigs.

He eventually trampled out a belay in a corner on the right-hand side of the buttress. When I got there I was a bit annoyed, as the next pitch actually looked good, so we had to continue. I then led the best pitch of actual climbing, which was a good exposed corner up the right side of the buttress, on actual rock. A steep fist-jam crux led to a excellent belay ledge exposed right out on the middle of butress, now narrowed to a pillar. This was probably the 3rd pitch of Command Performace.

We were now only about 15m from the top. Bulti came up and congratulated me on the lead. I said “Thanks, now just get us out of here!” Above us, the pillar was blank and hard-looking. The easiest option seemed to be to traverse left into the gully, and try and find something there. Unfortunately, a rockfall has stripped the gully bare to dirt and choss. Bulti stepped left, lassoed a big flake with a sling for pro, and then proceeded to trundle blocks for several minutes. I remember thinking “f—, I don’t need to go to New Zealand to get killed by rockfall, I can do it right here!” Eventually he got cams into some blocks that didn’t move, and climbed up and right. To get to the top of the pillar, he had to pull on a cam placed in between pillar, and the chockstone that bridged the pillar to the wall. Then he ran it out up hard unprotectable grass to finally get to a good tree. I managed to free the move on second, it felt hard, and in hindsight I’m lucky I did as I would have had a nasty pendulum fall.

So despite all odds, we were at the top, in the sunshine and alive! And we even had about 3 hours of daylight left. Now we just had to work out how the hell to get down. Either rapping into unknown territory, or a blind steep bush bash in climbing shoes with no navigational aids.

We spotted a white PVC pipe, and what looked like a bolt on the next buttress south. There was no bolt, so the white pipe was probably some sort of survey marker. We decided to walk off to the north (climber’s left of the buttress). We walked straight down the back of the crag until we got to an old wire fence. We turned left and followed the fence for a couple of hundred meters until we saw a small pile of scree on our left back up on the ridge. We climbed up this, and saw we were past the northernmost buttress of the crag. So we started the descent and scrambled down the scree and steep vegetation. I think we went down into a gully right next to the buttress, and then headed diagonally back right to a huge sprawling fig tree, around right of the fig tree and then down.

The descent had gone perfectly, with no abseiling needed. I went and got the packs (more death landslide debris scrambling). Finally, we decided to skip the bushy ridge, and scrambled down talus fields and then open bush and meadows to emerge out at the creek about 10m from the car.

Our approach (blue) and descent (red) routes. The descent took under an hour and I reckon was the better route.
Our approach (blue) and descent (red) routes.

For the approach, Bulti reckons the northern ridge bash wasn’t too bad. I think I’d prefer to go the way we descended, take trekking poles and just battle up the talus fields to the south. This avoids nearly all the spiky stinging vegetation and gives the approach an alpine feel.

Sadly, Bulti left his camera on the roof of the car as we drove off! So we have no photos from on route, all we have are the few blurry shots I got on my phone. I personally believe this was the spirit of the crag itself protecting its traditionalness!

In conclusion, we picked an appalling route which shouldn’t be repeated. However Centerpoint and definitely Hercules are much MUCH cleaner, and look to be as good as any routes at the grade in the Blueys.


One thought on “Gettin’ Silly in the Wollondilly

  1. Hi Sam,

    We bashed our way in to this crag yesterday, had a similar experience approaching Hercules up the landslide debris, which we then found was utterly, utterly chocked with dirt and thick mats of moss and orchids. Then I found my mate had left the fat cams behind. I aided up excavated out the first 10m of the crack before it gets wider than fist size, then we bailed bank to the base and climbed centrepoint, which was a hoot.

    Cool crag I’d totally rate it for an adventure – I might need a new partner for the next trip though.

    Cheers, Spiersy

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