The Hyper Bowl hyperbole

Well, finally back from a week in Townsville. Neil Monteith and I were greeted with 26°C temperatures, blue skies, and friendly locals to show us around. We wasted no time in dropping off our bags and heading straight out to our objective - Fredericks Peak.

Set amongst a desert-like backdrop (picture anthills and dry, dusty plains and scrub) Fredericks Peak is a collection of four main pinnacles up to 150m in height. Due to access issues like locked gates (and the five minute walk-in at the nearby Mt Stuart), climbing here has only been sporadic since the 90s. More recently, a solid access arrangement has been established, and regular climbing has been occurring since about 2003.

The climbing culture in Townsville is quite unique. The climbers are very active, and it would seem that nearly everyone is involved in putting up new routes! However the overall climbing level is fairly moderate, with only a small percentage of climbers regularly pushing beyond grade 21. I attribute this mainly to the style of the climbing on offer. Townsville is a mixed route haven (bolts and trad on the same climb), with relatively few purely sport routes on offer, and nothing above grade 26. Most of the climbing on offer is a mental rather than physical challenge. This was demonstrated amply to me on the first afternoon when Neil and I launched up what we thought was the crag classic Monkey On A String, a multipitch 23. I cruised through the mostly bolted, second pitch crux only to arrive on a slab where I was expecting a set of chains. No, there was 15m of near-vertical granite with no bolts and quite crap gear. I was quietly shitting myself. And then we found out that ours was actually the second ascent. Hmm!

To date, the routes that really get the traffic at Fredericks are the grade 15 and 17 five-pitch trad offerings. The quality is apparently very good on these. However, we were lured to the area with photos of large caves that looked perfect for modern sport climbing, so after descending, it was time to check them out. We weren't disappointed. There was two existing mini-routes in the main shaded cave which were done ground up, and stopped short of the steepness. It was obvious that a top-down approach was required, so the next day we made our way to the top of the South Sentinel and after several rappels gained the top of the cave. What followed was days of torture which only developers of extremely steep routes on extremely hard rock can appreciate.

Me bolting my first route, Townsvillians 25.
© N Monteith 2009
The days blurred into one another. Wake at 6:30am. Trudge up the hill. Spend eight hours hanging in a harness brushing, cleaning, hammering, drilling, jugging. Try to climb something in an exhausted state. Stumble down hill. Repeat. We likened it to what it must have been like being captured and forced to row a slave ship. Your body either quickly adapted, or you were thrown overboard.

I couldn't be happier with what we ended up with at the end of the week, with routes of every grade between 22 and 27 being established. The Hyper Bowl is an amazing piece of rock secreted away in the wilds that will now become the crucible of hard steep sport climbing in North Queensland. It seems to tick all the boxes with quality routes on bullet hard, highly featured rock (it's a type of granite believe it or not!) which stays in the shade all day. The cave itself is capped by an impressive 80m headwall. Potential for harder routes and endless extensions won't be exhausted any time soon. Visitors from cooler climates will choose July or August to come here, else dissolve in a puddle of sweat.

Thanks to everyone we met and were so hospitable to us during our stay.

Want more info? Check out the guide here. The best way will be to contact the locals if you're in the area and want to take a look. Christopher Glastonbury is one of the most active locals and a good central point of contact. He can be contacted at cglassy99 at hotmail dot com.

South Sentinel fool! At the base lies the Hyper Bowl, swathed in jungle.
© L Cujes 2009
Neil 6th day in a row attempting his colossal White Gold extension.
© L Cujes 2009
Neil sending his Metalicious 23.
© C Glastonbury 2009
My first ascent of Hyperbowl 27, currently Townsville's hardest route, but not for long!
© N Monteith 2009
Spain? Nope! Me on Hyperbowl 27.
© N Monteith 2009

3 comments:

Gareth said...

Super effort chaps! A bit miffed that i decided not to go now :). A great start for the place to get.

Trent said...

This is awesome, good stuff! Townsville nearly has it all now. I'm glad to hear the rock is good.

Simon Carter said...

Looks awesome Lee. Great job opening this up! Very significant eh!