They say that a picture speaks a thousand words, and if that’s true, then the most loquacious route in Australia is definitely Kachoong. The proud roof stands in stark contrast to the vast flatness of the Wimmera Plains, encouraging heroic poses in a truly spectacular position. The pairing of aesthetic appeal and the convenience of a nearby photographer’s ledge have conspired to make this the most photographed route in the country. If you type “Arapiles” into Google, almost 50% of the first page of image results will feature this iconic route (as demonstrated above).
Although the route is now a de rigueur photoshoot for visiting climbers, it wasn’t always a casual outing. Glenn Tempest, who together with partner Kevin Lindorff battled a head cold as well as the rock, remembers the first ascent as a significantly more committing affair than the average punter enjoys today. Before the mysterious appearance of a fixed peg and invention of camming devices, there was essentially no protection when moving through the juggy roof.
“If you fell off pulling the lip, you were going for a major king swing back down and into the wall,” recalled Tempest.
Indeed, during the course of my research, one of the explanations behind the origin of the name was “the sound your femur makes when it breaks hitting the wall on the way down.” Like much of the mystique surrounding Arapiles classics, this claim is probably spurious and contains more than a hint of wry Aussie larrikinism.
In fact, the origin of the name is not Australian at all, but rather can be traced back to Hot Henry Barber, whose Midas Touch was just a little bit off in this instance. Barber’s original Kachoong runs slightly to the right of the current line, but Glenn and Kevin were encouraged to push directly through the roof. They had been egged on by Greg Child, who cheekily suggested they would find “buckets the size of toilet seats”. He had only been joking, but the pair followed through, and in doing so established a new route that was destined to become one of Australia’s most quintessential lines. The new route soon eclipsed the original and eventually inherited the name as its own, demoting its predecessor to a mere Right-Hand Variant.
“We were just really lucky,” said Tempest. “I wouldn’t have done it if Greg hadn’t had sandbagged us. There were at least a dozen other climbers around that day who could have led that climb, and I’m just pretty pleased that I got it.”
If you want to get on Kachoong yourself, take a light rack and head on up the summit of Mt Arapiles. Pass by the mobile phone tower and into a series of short gullies, eventually finding yourself at the base of the climb. Cruise the initial wall, rest up before the roof, plug some gear, monkey your way to glory, and then think about what hashtags you’re going to use… because if you climbed Kachoong and you didn’t get a photo, did you really climb Kachoong?
Route information for Kachoong can be found in Arapiles Selected Climbs by Simon Mentz and Glenn Tempest.
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