50 Classic Climbs of Australia – Sunburnt Buttress

The North East Buttress of Mt Tibrogargan is a proud shoulder containing a number of interesting routes. They are long, idiosyncratic lines with generous servings of the most famous of Tibro specialties – the “portable hold”.

This sector of the mountain is like a South East Queensland climbing museum. One can find pure old school horror on the eponymous North East Buttress route, still equipped with its death ladder aid crux. On the other end of the spectrum is The Ross Miller Route, a modern moderate for the masses with more bolts than you can shake a stickclip at.

Somewhere in the middle is Sunburnt Buttress, a mixed route which heralded a changing of the guard. Perhaps it’s an unlikely choice, but I feel as though I can make a pretty convincing case as to why it belongs on this list.

A rather indirect route up the buttress, Sunburnt  somehow manages to avoid a minefield of questionable rock with a series of rising traverses. The crux pitch itself involves one such traverse, delicate and airy but adequately protected. Later, the terrain solidifies before the route presents one final homage to its ancestry – an easy but entirely unprotected 20m slab in characteristic Tibrogargan style.

As a route, it climbs quite well and is a fantastic day out if you bring plenty of water… it ain’t called Sunburnt Buttress for nothing. It is, however, its status as a historical artefact that pushes it into classic territory (at least in my mind).

Established in 2000 by Neil Monteith, it represented a change in approach as to how Tibro adventure climbs were equipped. After an aborted early attempt to hand drill the route from the top down, Monteith gained renewed inspiration for the line after climbing bolted multipitches in the United States. With a borrowed power drill, he returned to the humble Glasshouses to create one of his own.

Previously, adventure climbing on Tibrogargan had a staunch trad ethic. Very few routes featured bolts, instead favouring sphincter-clenching run-outs and the odd piton of desperation. This attitude proved problematic and limiting on Tibro, well known for unprotected slabs, fused seams, flared cracks and, of course, choss. It would take the liberal application of hardware for the peak to realise its true potential.

It is strange that it took an international influence to jumpstart the concept of mixed trad lines in SEQ. Such lines are fairly common in the Blue Mountains, and even the trad mecca of Arapiles is known to be home to a carrot or two. Wherever the inspiration was gained, it proved a sign of things to come in the Glasshouse Mountains.

The next 15 years saw a surge of new long routes established on the mountain, many in the sport/trad hybrid style epitomised by Sunburnt Buttress. This period of growth has seen the birth of some of Tibro’s most popular trad multipitches, esteemed lines such as Blabbermouth, Airtime over Pumicestone and Remains of the Day.

Perhaps Sunburnt does not have the greatest rock, the nicest flow or the most aesthetic line. But those which do have these blessings owe a great debt to its legacy, and I feel that the Glasshouse Mountains would be far poorer without it.

Route information for Sunburnt Buttress can be found in the South East Queensland Climbing – Selected Crags Guidebook by Lee Cujes 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

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?

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