“Sport bolting is a big no-no here,” reads the description of ethical considerations on Mt Maroon. “If you place a bolt here, you’d better have a damn good reason. Even then, expect it to be chopped.”
I’m not entirely certain that the developers actually had a “damn good reason” when they began equipping routes on Paparazzi Cliff. Nevertheless, the result was a surprisingly high-quality sport crag on what would otherwise have been an obscure, neglected corner of Mt Maroon. This quality, it seems, is reason enough to ensure that the incongruous hardware has survived the test of time.
Given the contentious nature of bolting on Maroon, information regarding Paparazzi Cliff is slightly clandestine even after more than a decade of existence. Allusions to a vague and lengthy approach are included in the cliff notes found online. Was this an attempt to dissuade the average climber (most of whom consider the word “hike” to be a curseword) from locating the cliff, and thus prolong its existence? This was a question that Scott Hailstone (of The Travelling Climber) and I were determined to answer.
We were unable to unearth any first-hand knowledge of the approach, but did locate a GPS track on thecrag.com (this has since dissappeared, but detailed track notes have been included in its stead). Armed with this information, we prepared ourselves for a minor epic… which never arrived.
The ostensibly vague track was actually a clear fire trail followed by a short ridgeline with a moderate gradient – hikers on the Tourist Track have it harder. Although the trail along the ridge did meander at times, it was a fairly simple matter of following one’s nose as well as a smattering of cairns. What was reputedly a 1.5 hour approach took us no longer than 45 minutes.
I have questioned whether it is wise to share these details with Joe Public. It may be that these gentle discouragements were intentional, designed to keep traffic to a minimum. But the fact is that Paparazzi Cliff is quite excellent and deserves more attention.
We began our day on the leftmost sector of the wall. This detached mini-wall houses four climbs which matched my expectations in regard to quality – to wit, they were a bit shit. Each was a short, uninteresting route on sub-par rock, no better or worse than I’d expected from a random slab of Scenic Rim rhyolite.
On the main wall, however, the character is entirely different. There are many routes with sustained movement, fantastic positions, good rock, thoughtful bolting and looooooong pitches… sport climbing par excellence! The sprawling vistas and sense of remoteness also lend a hint of adventure to the experience, and a few of the caves exhibit modest potential for continued development.
If you’re a moderate sport leader looking for somewhere new (and not shit) to climb, you could do a lot worse than a day trip or weekend at Paparazzi Cliff. Some of the longer routes (40m or so) may require the use of a second rope for descent, and the North East aspect encourages winter attendance.
Do I wish that more bolts were thrown into Mt Maroon? No, not really. But I think that Paparazzi Cliff is a worthy addition to the vertical terrain of the Scenic Rim.
Ryan Siacci, Esq.