“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, what they have created is a surprisingly high-quality sport crag on what would otherwise have been an obscure, neglected corner of the craggy massif that is Mt Maroon. It seems as though the quality of these lines has become reason enough to ensure that the incongruous hardware has survived the test of time.
I have no doubt that the establishment of this crag carried with it some level of infamy. It is perhaps because of these circumstances that details about Paparazzi Cliff remain somewhat clouded and clandestine, even after more than a decade of existence.
Allusions to a vague and lengthy approach are included in the cliff notes. 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 determined to answer.
Having been unable to unearth any first-hand knowledge of the approach, we were able to locate a GPS track on thecrag.com. Armed with this information, we prepared ourselves for (mis)adventure… which never arrived.
The “vague” track consisted largely of a clear fire trail, followed by a short ridgeline with a moderate gradient. Bushwalkers on Maroon’s 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 the experience at this crag is quite sublime and Paparazzi Cliff simply deserves more attention.
We began our day on the leftmost sector of the wall. This detached mini-wall houses four climbs of the quality I originally expected from the crag – 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 of the climbing changes entirely. 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.