50 Classic Climbs of Australia – Tiptoe Ridge

A climber in silhouette nears the crest of the pinnacle of Tiptoe Ridge (Photo by Jed Parkes)

16th November, 1963 – a pivotal moment in the history of Australian rock climbing. On that auspicious day, five climbers stood under the Pinnacle Face, gazing upward at the vertical terrain which would host the mountain’s first routes. By day’s end, they had established three routes on the compact, orange quartzite, thereby beginning the colourful story of one of the finest traditional crags on the planet – Mt Arapiles.

Photo by Blach Swan

Of the three routes, Tiptoe Ridge stands out as a clear winner in terms of aesthetics. It has a clear and elegant line the others lack, tracing its way along one of Arapiles’ most recognisable features. Combining visual appeal with easy but engaging climbing in a fantastic position, the route was always destined for stardom. It is quite rightly described as one of the finest routes of its grade in the world.

Although a direct variant was later established, the original line traverses right to meet the eponymous ridgeline almost halfway along the length of a large, detached pillar. Mellow climbing follows before the terrain steepens at the pinnacle, a proud capstone which captured the attention of the first ascensionists and gave the face its name. A short abseil or an exposed and tricky downclimb awaits those who crest the pinnacle, though many choose to avoid such technical difficulties by traversing around the obstacle. A chockstone bridge joins the pillar to the main wall, where a secure but exposed jug haul leads climbers to the summit.

One of the great strengths of Arapiles is that quality routes exist at all grades. As a traditional crag, it is peerless in its ability to cater for elite climbers and first-timers alike. At one end, you have hard, mixed testpieces like Ethiopia (30), while at the other end there are longish, low-grade rambles like Tiptoe Ridge. The fact that mega-classics can be found even in the lowest reaches of the grade spectrum is testament to the quality of climbing to be found here.

Indeed, Tiptoe Ridge has been made famous because of, not in spite of its low grade. It has seen popularity as a midnight scramble, a cheeky solo for incorrigible climbers after a four hour drive from Melbourne and a late-night arrival at The Pines. One guidebook even directly recommends such nocturnal antics, stating that “in full moonlight, with a head full of chemicals, an ascent takes on a real alpine flavour.”

Perhaps more sensibly, another guide simply describes the climb as a “must-do” for every Arapilesian visitor. Whether roped or unroped, by sun or by moon, it’s hard to argue that you should get yourself on this thing by any which way you can.

Route information for Tiptoe Ridge 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

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?