50 Classic Climbs of Australia – Groove Train

Taipan Wall

Mt Stapylton in the Grampians, with the Taipan Wall aglow in the afternoon light (Source unknown)

When I started compiling this list, it was my intent to showcase the huge variety of climbing styles in this sunburned land. This leads to a high level of juxtaposition, with low-grade rambles standing side-by-side with tendon-destroying testpieces. What binds them, regardless of grade, is the experience, the memory, the vibe of the thing…

As I mentioned in the first 50 Classics article, a classic route is not simply a “nice climb”. It’s a route you hear about long before you see it. It’s a route you talk about long after you’ve conquered it. It’s a feather in your cap. And there are few feathers more worthy of your proverbial cap than the almighty Groove Train.

The Taipan Wall is a climber’s wet dream, a proud feature which glows intensely in the wake of the Australian afternoon. The overhanging orange-and-black rampart is home to some of the nation’s most coveted lines, established with true blue Australian climbing ethics in mind. This means that features which can be traditionally protected still go on gear, and fully-bolted lines are equipped in typically minimalistic fashion.

The man who needs no introduction on the send of Groove Train (Photo by Simon Carter)

In the latter category is Groove Train, a sparsely bolted line which resisted the advances of many of the nation’s hardmen before finally being taken down by Ben Cossey in 2009. Since then, it has garnered an international reputation, attracting a veritable who’s who of the world’s climbing elite to our shores. Jorg Verhoeven ticked it as part of his “Big 4”, essentially the Grampians sendtrain that dreams are made of. Nalle Hukkataival had a crack at it during an uncharacteristic break from pebble wrestling. Sharma thought it was pretty neat and Megos called it “one of the best routes he’s ever climbed”. Not a bad rap.

Nalle Hukkataival slopin’ his way through the huecos of Groovy (Photo by Keith Ladzinski)

Briefly the hardest route on Taipan Wall, Groove Train is actually an extension of the pre-existing route Groovy. A classic in its own right, Groovy is an aesthetic line of graceful huecos, edged with heinous sloping holds. After the FA of the original route by Rich Heap in 1997, the extension was equipped by Blue Mountains mutant Zac Vertrees and the venerable Mike Law. It waited 7 years for its first ascent.

After the anchor, the route undergoes a drastic change in character, becoming very thin and rather bold. A run-out traverse across the black water streak leads to what Cossey calls “an okay rest”, but also admitting that “you’re cooking by this stage”. Then, its business time with a sustained and unforgiving boulder sequence leading to the chains.

This is sport climb in the finest Australian tradition, pairing some of the nation’s hardest climbing with some of the nation’s best rock. Of all the stars in the veritable galaxy that is the Taipan Wall, Groove Train shines among the brightest.

Route information for Groove Train can be found in Grampians Climbing by Neil Monteith and Simon Carter.

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

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?