“You’ll need a 4WD for Glenreagh”, I was told.
In light of that, I made plans to hitch a ride with my buddy Jye in his excuse for an off-road vehicle. In actual fact, I could have made it around successfully in my robust little 2WD hatch. Apart from an accidental and unnecessary foray onto a treacherous, debris-strewn forestry track, our convoy found the roads to be well-maintained and easily accessible. This holds true for most of the crags that we visited, but some like Fort Knox might prove troublesome for low-slung vehicles – better to park out on the main road and hike up the gravel drive to the crag.
Misleading vehicular advice aside, Glenreagh was a delight. The campground is conveniently located at the showgrounds, providing a welcome, shady respite with plenty of space to choose from. Best of all, no bookings were necessary and it was cheap. Amenities include an old but clean toilet block with a resident green tree frog, and (wait for it…) hot showers! This was a real treat at the end of the day when the cool air started to creep in with the setting of the sun.
Sited within easy walking distance to The Golden Dog, afternoon can find you enjoying a cold beverage after a long day on the rock. You could even opt for a night off from camp cooking in exchange for a pub meal. Be warned though, on Saturday night the entire population of Glenreagh joined us for dinner. This may or may not be a slight exaggeration. By 6pm, when the kitchen was due to open, a queue the likes of which I’ve never seen before trailed throughout the venue, leaving me to feel quite out of place without Ugg boots on my feet. The menu was plentiful but the options as basic as you might expect from a country pub. I passed on the token vegetarian meal – the typical stodgy pasta dish that one comes to expect in out of the way places.
But I digress… I didn’t come here for the food. I came here to climb!
I was initially overwhelmed by the 16+ crag guides clutched in my hot little hand, trying to decide where to go first. After setting up camp, we went for the bouldering option and headed out to explore The Scones. The remainder of group decided to bask in the setting sun at Fun Parlour, a hillside crag with a range of short climbs.
The Scones provided a variety of interesting problems, most of which were outside of my limited ability. Nevertheless, I still had fun trying the moves on several free standing boulders and short, slabby sandstone cliffs. Truth be told, bouldering is not my forte… I was itching to get on something longer.
Fort Knox was our destination the next day. It’s relatively easy to find if you follow the instructions from the guide. Others tried to find a ‘short cut’. This merely wasted precious climbing time and did not necessarily reap any benefits other than bush-bashing battle scars. Moral of the story – unless you have the low-down from a reliable local source, follow the guide notes! If you can’t read a map, don’t risk it… your so-called shorter route might lead you blindly to a cliff edge!
It was interesting to note that carrots are plentiful at Glenreagh, with a mixture of trad and bolted routes side by side. The variety of styles was a pleasant surprise – short, slabby climbs sit right next to exciting, robust overhangs, crimpy balancy fun adjacent to juggy delights. The grippy sandstone made for a lovely climbing experience with plenty of friction for all.
There was only one climb that we encountered at Waihoo from which everyone walked away in total disgust. It featured broken rock indicating several missing holds, sharp crystals protruding from the every surface, and a deceptively steep angle. It earned a plethora of alternate titles, one from each would-be ascensionist. None of them are repeatable here.
I briefly mentioned the topic of carrots earlier, something I was not prepared for. Having never climbed on carrots previously, being handed a fistful of bolt plates right before I was directed to “lead this one” did not fill me with joy. I stared up in horror at Pooh Scoop, named after a benign honey loving bear and something I would normally have lead with confidence. Instead, it had turned me into a quivering mess. This article about the Australian carrot bolt just about sums up the dismay one might feel at encountering a bolted climb without hangers…
Nonetheless, fun was still had. Although most climbs felt like they were over far too quickly, they were interesting. Despite the shortness of the routes, my fingerpads were worn to the point of extinction by the last day.
I wouldn’t rave about the quality of the climbs and I certainly wasn’t thrilled with my climbing over the weekend, but I would still recommend the Glenreagh experience. For me, a highlight of the weekend was my downtime exploring the region, chancing upon derelict buildings and abandoned bridges to photograph in the afternoon sun and glinting early morning light. This added another facet to the trip and, I think, certainly makes Glenreagh worth the drive.