50 Classic Climbs of Australia – Eye of the Tiger

eye tiger grampians
Source: Melbourne University Mountaineering Club

Whichever way you slice it, Eye of the Tiger is a king line. Everything about this route is incredible – the unique rock formation which inspired the name, the outrageous steepness with some 15m of overhang, the wacky crux move spanning the lip. Legend has it that the critical beta for this baffling obstacle has a going rate of $100 a throw…

But don’t rush out to find a cash machine, because climbers are personae non grata at Muline these days, and many other crags besides. Eye of the Tiger is just one of more than 3000 routes and boulder problems that fall under the current ban affecting access in the Grampians/Gariwerd region.

At this time, it is not my aim to examine the politics, the policies, the rationale and the rhetoric surrounding the ban. There is more than enough debate being carried out online, and most of it is unregulated noise. That said, one of the key aims of this “50 Classics” list is to provide a glimpse into history, and this unprecedented closure is literally history in the making. Above all, I would like to examine the human side of this melancholy affair.

eye tiger grampians
Photo by Simon Madden

If there is one thing which routes like Eye of the Tiger can show us, it’s that landscapes capture our imagination and fire our spirit. To a climber, one gaze at that almighty eye is enough to quicken the pulse. The striking appearance of the route has inspired climbers of all stripes, luring domestic and international crushers alike to commune with this peerless piece of sandstone. Simon Madden described it well:

“The route ascends the kind of feature that brings you to your knees upon seeing it for the first time: a phenomenal eye-like sculpture that sees you scarpering up the left side of the iris, thugging across the sclera, turning the lip of the eyelid, delicately crossing the brow, then pumping up the forehead. Long, absorbing, varied climbing on unbeatable stone that is weathered into siranic architecture.”

The beauty of such routes draws us inexorably toward them, and the sheer difficulty of them forces us to become familiar with their every detail. And yet, our intimacy with these landscapes is paltry in comparison to those who have gone before – mere decades against untold millennia. We can only imagine the depth of connection that indigenous people feel to these very same spots. Although speaking about a different area, I discussed this concept a couple of years ago with Yellong Bulla, a Gooreng Gooreng man. He told me this:

“We have been here so long the land is part of our DNA. I grow out of the land, I am the land. Just like you consider your hand is “yours”, I am just an extension of the land and the land is us.”

It’s pretty hard to argue that climbers have an equally strong connection, and yet it’s a concept we can understand. Resistance to the Grampians/Gariwerd ban has been tenacious, and this is because certain landscapes can come to form an integral piece of a climber’s identity. Surely then, we can extrapolate this concept – imagine that the land is not just a piece of your identity, but the entirety of it, and that of your family. If we put ourselves in others shoes, we can see why they fight for these places with similar fervour.

Photo by Kilian Fischhuber

Nobody will be ticking Eye of the Tiger in the foreseeable future, or any number of other routes in the area. The resolution to this debacle will likely take place in the courts, but away from the legislation and the hidden agendas, perhaps climbers and traditional owners have more in common than they think. Our concepts of landscape and place are certainly not analogous, but perhaps we can make them compatible.

The way forward is not easy, nor is it clear, but if we care about preserving the sport, we should equally care about protecting cultural heritage. Instead of the usual route information, here are a few useful links:

  • You can visit the Djab Wurrung Embassy Camp and have a yarn with local traditional owners near Ararat.
  • You can join Australian Climbing Association Victoria here. Denizens of other states can donate here.

50 Classic Climbs of Australia
#1 – Logan’s Ridge, Mt Barney – Grade 3 – 1000m
#2 – Punks in the Gym, Mt Arapiles – Grade 32 – 35m
#3 – The Bard, Mt Arapiles – Grade 12 – 120m
#4 – Sunburnt Buttress, Mt Tibrogargan – Grade 19 – 185m
#5 – Infinity, Frog Buttress – Grade 19 – 40m
#6 – Cornerstone Rib, Warrumbungles – Grade 14 – 190m
#7 – Muldoon, Mt Arapiles – Grade 13 – 42m
#8 – Pole Dancer, Cape Raoul – Grade 22 – 55m
#9 – Blade Ridge, Federation Peak – Grade 17 – 420m
#10 – The Janicepts, Blue Mountains – Grade 21 – 27m
#11 – Ozymandias, Mt Buffalo – Grade 28 or M4 – 280m
#12 – Tiptoe Ridge, Mt Arapiles – Grade 5 – 120m
#13 – Groove Train, Grampians – Grade 33 – 45m
#14 – Devil’s Dihedral, Frog Buttress – Grade 20 – 45m
#15 – Eurydice, Mt Arapiles – Grade 18 – 70m
#16 – Bunny Bucket Buttress – Grade 18 – 270m
#17 – Kachoong, Mt Arapiles – Grade 21 – 25m
#18 – Passport to Insanity, Grampians – Grade 27 – 135m
#19 – Impulse, Frog Buttress – Grade 24 – 18m
#20 – Eye of the Tiger, Grampians – Grade 29 – 25m

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?

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