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It’s now 50 years since the first recorded climbs at Mount Arapiles. That’s right, The Siren (9), Introductory Route (5) and Tiptoe Ridge (3) were cranked out way back on 16 November 1963. And so Arapiles is now celebrating a milestone!
Having travelled the world for climbing, I’m sure Arapiles is one of the world’s best crags for easier trad climbing — and that’s significant. It isn’t quite the cutting-edge crag it once was but I don’t think that matters. Arapiles’ ability to impact and enrich people’s lives, usually for the better, remains undiminished I’m sure.
Like it has for so many of us, Arapiles has played a major role in my life and I know it has influenced my life’s direction.
In some ways 50 years sounds a long time, so it’s a bit scary to think that my first-visit to Arapiles was some 30 years ago itself (hmm, I don’t feel that old…). It was August 1983, we travelled from Canberra and for sure we were on a pilgrimage to Australia’s climbing Mecca. Since that first time I’ve spent over a year in total camped out at that hallowed ground, and Arapiles has become a good friend that I know well. It hasn’t always been an easy friendship; honestly it has scared me many times, and once it gave me an eight-metre ground-fall — lucky to walk away.
In 1992-1993 I was on an eight-month full-time climbing stint, living in my tent at Araps. Back then that’s what you did if you lived for climbing, you saved your pennies (or lived off the dole), lived at Araps and you climbed — it was also the best way to get good. At that time it had been years since I’d done much photography; my childhood dreams of it had been crushed when working in a tiny University darkroom years earlier. But at Arapiles, on my rest days from climbing, I picked up my camera again and started to document my friends often impressive, spectacular and ground-breaking accomplishments. Soon I was spending so much money of film (remember that?) that I had to find a way to offset the costs, or else stop. Sitting in my camp site at nights and thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I came to some realisations. I decided there was something beautiful and positive and interesting and significant in what I was seeing and trying to photograph, and I decided that I owed it to myself to have a serious shot at professional climbing and outdoors photography. The next year I moved to Natimuk and Onsight Photography was born.
So you see, Arapiles inspired what I’m doing today — and the dream was born there under the stars.
To celebrate here is a little photo homage to Arapiles, with an emphasis on my older shots, some of which are unseen. To launch the gallery viewer to see the images full size, just click that little arrow (just above this paragraph, on the right side), there you can also turn on the captions.
Thank you Arapiles. Happy anniversary!
Thursday 17th October was already shaping up as a bad bush fire day in the Blue Mountains. The winds were extreme and the large fire near Lithgow, that had started the day before, was fanning fast. Then I heard a fire had broken out near Springwood, later we learnt it destroyed 200 homes. Meanwhile we were working from home in Mount Victoria until a blackout put an end to that, so we were outside doing some fire prep work around the house. Little did we know that power lines had started another fire — less than a kilometre from our house. We smelt smoke, heard sirens nearby, and thought the Lithgow fire might have somehow spotted all that way. Word on the street soon became “GET OUT!!!”. We grabbed a few valuables, saved my slide collection, then I plugged the gutters, turned on the taps and drove away.Â We thought for sure our house would be gone. In a strange mixed-emotion kind of way I was at least happy to have saved the slides; I’d always assumed I’d never manage that, and years of scanning and digitising them just isn’t the same.
Some people in a street nearby had little or no warning before the fire was upon their homes; there were some seriously close escapes. Eight houses were destroyed there. But the fantastic efforts of fire fighters and some residents undoubtedly saved many more homes. The fire burnt to our fence but the wind took it away; we were incredibly fortunate. My heart goes out to those who were not so lucky.
The fires kept on burning. Over the following days the Mount Victoria fire spread and positioned itself to the north of Blackheath. With winds up to 100km/h forecast for Wednesday the 23rd, and with fears that the three major fires might join up, an emergency was declared, fire-fighters came in from interstate, an incredible amount of resources were thrown at it — and the predicted catastrophe for Blackheath was somehow avoided. We were living under the flight path of three helicopters doing constant water-bombing, so we escaped and found some relative peace in Sydney for a few days.
When we returned a few days later I took this photo looking towards Bell; this is the night of October 24th — seven days after the Mount Victoria fire had started (the fires in the distance are from the Lithgow fire; The Mt Victoria and Lithgow fires had joined up).
Since then there has been rain and the situation is under control. Life has slowlyÂ returned to normal for us. Not that I don’t normally, but it has been a reminder to count my blessings and appreciate the good things in life. I know I’m lucky to have such an amazing family. I’m happy to live in such a special place (with some cool climbing too!) and it’s reassuring to find I live in a caring community and neighbourhood. And I’m thankful to our friends who sent us messages of concern, that’s something we really appreciated.
I’ve had some questions about this, so I wanted to quickly report about how the fires have affected the climbing areas here. While the fires seem to have scared some tourists away it has, more lately, actually been a good quiet time to be in the Blue Mountains. Fortunately, many of the best climbing areas weren’t affected by the fire at all and remain open as usual — so there is still no shortage of great climbing to be experienced here. The fire affected areas in the National Park and on Council land are currently closed, so that rules out the great multi-pitch routes in the Grose Valley and a few other crags, for now. It’s hard to guess how long these places will remain closed, it’ll depend on several factors. Past experience hasn’t been fast, perhaps several months in some places. Fortunately some fire affected crags haven’t received much damage so may be able to be opened again soon. Fingers crossed. I’ll try to update this post with more information below as crags reopen. But like I said, in the meantime there is still lots and lots of climbing (and walking) to do around here.
Let’s be grateful for what we have.
Well I’m stoked to announce that our World Climbing Calendar 2014 is available now. This year is special, we are celebrating 20 years of Onsight Photography and this is the 20th annual wall calendar that we’ve produced! I find that a rather strange thought, and it brings with it some mixed emotions. When I started getting serious about this stuff over 20 years ago some people’s predictions weren’t entirely encouraging. Honestly I didn’t expect to be in the game for particularly long, I just had a burning desire to create a certain sort of imagery and decided to give it a serious go. Keeping the wheels turning takes a lot more than just taking and selling climbing photographs, but despite the bump and grind I do consider myself lucky to have found a way to make it work in a fast changing world. I feel extremely fortunate to have followed my dreams; to explore my vision of climbing and capture climbers doing their thing in many spectacular places. Obviously, I couldn’t have done any of this without an incredible amount of help from many climbers — as well as the amazing support of the greater climbing community. Thank you everyone!
And so let me present our special 20th Anniversary Edition calendar – the World Climbing Calendar 2014!
Each calendar has a bonus Anniversary poster inside (measuring 550 x 295mm), showcasing a collage of 90 favourite photographs. The centre-spread can also be pulled out and used as a poster.
The calendar itself is 30 x 30cm and opens to 30 x 60cm (12 x 24″). Design is stylish and functional and includes international holiday dates and moon phases.
Well I’ve been busy… Since finishing the Grampians guidebook in February I’ve done trips to Spain and Moonarie, which I’ll have reports on soon, and in between trips have been beavering away in the office producing another guidebook. Thankfully this will be our last guidebook for a little while as I’ve got some exciting photography trips and projects coming up, but this was a good opportunity to finish producing something which I think will be a significant and popular guidebook to one of Australia’s premier climbing areas.
So now I’m delighted to announce Arapiles, 444 of the Best. This is a very affordable, small-format, selected routes guidebook to Mount Arapiles. The author of this no-nonsense book is local climber Gordon Poultney. This is a complete revamp of some earlier budget Arapiles guidebooks which Gordon, in fact, produced back as far as 1995. This book covers the best routes at all grades, it’s pocket-sized and has the usual high standard of photography, design and production that you’d expect from Onsight Photography.
Arapiles has always been a special place for me personally. It was there that I spent eight months full-time climbing back in 1992/93. It was then, when I was taking climbing photos on my rest days from climbing, that I started regaining my youthful obsession with photography, I really started to find my vision, and made the decision to pursue my photography professionally. Soon after I moved to Natimuk to live and started up Onsight Photography. So it has been a real delight working on this book, getting psyched about climbing there again, and being able to put so many of my photos — both old and new — together into this one book.
I first became interested in this project when I started hearing stories of people climbing at Arapiles without a guidebook, mostly short-term visitors I guess. The need for it was then driven home to me when we were getting out of the car at the Pharos car park one day and three climbers came up to us, looking a bit lost, and asked “Where is Bushranger’s Bluff?”. I kid you not! With a recommended retail price of a mere $19.95 this 132 page book will be a little winner for climbers and travellers wanting a budget guidebook. The small format makes it easy to carry around — even up those multi-pitch routes. And Gordon’s waffle-free route descriptions combined with the “tight” design will help make finding the best routes easy. I’m actually really very very psyched about this book — and I can’t wait to put it to use — and get on many of those classics which I haven’t yet done!
The book is available now from climbing gear shops, or from our online shop here — where you can also see some sample spreads.
Edit: Since publication of the guidebook author Neil Monteith has compiled this document detailing updates, corrections and several new routes.
This blog might have been a bit quiet of late but behind the scenes things have as busy as ever. Now I’m delighted to announce that our first project for the year is complete and will soon be released. It is an entirely new guidebook to one of Australiaâ€™s best climbing areas â€” the world class Grampians in western Victoria! The book is titled Grampians Climbing: Sport Crags. We decided to note “Sport Crags” in the title because the book covers the main sport climbing areas, however the book actually covers some 53 crags and the trad routes at those areas are also thoroughly documented.
This guidebook was personally a very satisfying project to work on. The Grampians has been one of my favourite places for climbing for the last 25 years and it has long been one of my favourite places anywhere for climbing photography. It was great to be able to use some of that photography (seen and unseen) in the book. This guidebook is long overdue and in the 10 years since the last Grampians guidebook many fantastic new routes have been climbed.
The author of the book is Neil Monteith; he has established scores of new routes in the area and has his finger on the pulse. I really want to take my hat off to Neil here. It was a pleasure and an honour to work with him on this. Neil had been researching and recording Grampians crag and route info for years, he was in a unique position to author this book and backed it up with countless hours of hard work to get this finished. During one research trip to the Grampians in late 2012 Neil visited nearly every one of the crags, checked route descriptions or wrote new ones, detailed the access, and took cliff photos covering many of the crags. There are 53 crags in this book; that’s an incredible amount of work! I’d worked with Neil before on Crux Magazine and other projects but never cease to be impressed by how exceptionally prolific he is and by the quality of his work. Basically Neil made my job on the production side of things as smooth and easy as possible. For some weeks there Neil and I were both smashing out up to 16 hours a day on this. The result was that we have created something I’m really proud of but also we finished production in super fast time. Thanks Neil!
Before I present the book first a word about the bush fires. In case you are not yet aware, in late February several lightning strikes started bush fires in the Victoria Range area of the Grampians. These bush fires joined together into one massive blaze. Despite the efforts of hundreds of workers and volunteers and a huge amount of resources that were thrown at it, there were incredibly unfavourable weather conditions and the unruly blaze burned out of control for over a week. It ended up burning through most of Victoria Range. They say bush fires are natural and to a degree necessary for the bush’s long term rejuvenation, but at times this was an very intense blaze and it is sad to think of the devastation that occurred. The Victoria Range is home to a fair portion of the best Grampians rock climbing and many of these areas are detailed in this new guidebook. Be aware that at the moment the entire Victoria Range is closed to climbing. It is important that climbers are patient and respect the closure. The latest word I’ve seen from Parks is that the area will be closed for weeks or months, check for updates on the Parks website here. Apparently some of the climbing areas have received only moderate damage, but at other areas the damage was more severe. It sounds as though that Parks are keen to reopen some of the areas as soon as possible but be aware there is a lot of work that needs to be done — if only to fix some of the damaged access roads. Outside of the Victoria Range there is of course a huge amount of great climbing in the Grampians; fortunately a lot of this climbing is also detailed in this new guidebook.
So here it is, presenting Grampians Climbing: Sport Crags:
- Details 53 crags, including 25 crags which have not been previously published.
- Action photos by Simon Carter and Neil Monteith.
- Numerous cliff photo topos help make route finding a breeze.
- In total over 400 photographs.
- 23 access maps and user-friendly design.
- Over 900 routes in total (500+ sport and 400+ trad or mixed).
- A5 in size, 240 pages, full colour.
- RRP $46.95 (including GST).
- Available from climbing equipment stores in Australia, or by mail-order from our online shop here.
Sam Whiteley interviewed me for this profile which appears in the current issue of Better Photography, an Australian magazine which is edited by AIPP Grand Master of Photography, Peter Eastway. Many thanks to Sam and Peter for featuring my work, it’s a real honor.
We had a fantastic time climbing up in South East Queensland this winter but I’ve got to say information on the climbing was hard to come by. It soon became obvious to us that a lot of the crags up there were not covered by any print guidebooks; the coverage was usually very out of date and/or unavailable, or had simply never been covered by a print guidebook. Some local climbers had been gathering information for years and had already pretty much authored the text for some new guidebooks. We got talking and we all decided to work together, to make it happen and get all this material into print as soon as possible. I ran around taking a lot of crag topo photos and then when we returned home I locked myself in the office for a couple of months and smashed out the layout. The main contributors busted their arses to update, finish and polish the text as well as mark up the topos, and the local climbing community were fantastic with their support with contributing information and action photos. I needed to do the production of this book in between trips and we all wanted to get this guidebook produced before Christmas. And as it turns out we managed to achieved that; things went super smoothly with the printers, our shipment is being freighted to us at the moment and we’ll be distributing the books to the shops next week. Yeeha!
A huge shout out of thanks to everyone who contributed. I can’t wait to visit Queensland again next winter — to put this new guidebook to use and enjoy the great climbing!
So here we have it, I’m proud to announce the new South East Queensland Climbing, Selected Crags guidebook!
There’s more information below:
- This is a new guidebook for rock climbing in South East Queensland. There is a wealth of fantastic climbing in the area — and this compact yet comprehensive guide covers many areas not covered by any other current guidebook. It includes some of the best sport and trad climbing South East Queensland has to offer â€” a must have book for local climbing fanatics and visitors alike.
- Details eight climbing areas: Brooyar, Mount Beerwah, Mount Coolum, Mount Ngungun, Mount Tibrogargan, Mount Tinbeerwah, Serpent and the ever popular Kangaroo Point. All up over 1000 routes!
- Authored by local climber Lee Cujes in collaboration with Ross Ferguson, John Oâ€™Brien and others.
- Numerous cliff photo topos, access maps and professional user-friendly design help make route finding a breeze.
- A5 in size, full colour, 168 pages. RRP $36.95 (including GST).
- Available from climbing gear shops or by mail-order from our online shop here.
I’m stoked to learn that in a round about way a some of my imagery has found its way into the Messner Mountain Museum in Italy. It has come about because in recent times I’ve collaborated with the brilliant artist Paolo Albertelli. And Paolo has used some of my images for a couple of his sculptures. This is the work in the Messner Mountain Museum:
The sculpture is inspired by my image of Tony Barron on Agamemnon (10) at Mount Arapiles, Australia. And here is another one of Paolo’s works, this one comes from my image of Mariona Marti on Titulo Ferretero (7b+), Granada, Spain:
Paolo has produced a lot of beautiful and interesting pieces. See his website here. Thank you Paolo for you work!
After a few months sweating it out in the office it’s good to be on the road again, this time to The Grapiles (The Grampians and Arapiles – you heard it here first?) for a few weeks – which is flying by all to quickly. We’ve been climbing of course but there is no such thing as a holiday for us really, we have been very busy with photography and a couple of different projects that I’m currently working on (more on those later).
Mount Arapiles feels like home in a way, I spent nearly eight months camped here just prior to starting my photography business nearly 19 years ago. The place still feels magic…
Over in the Grampians Coco has been getting her bush walking game on…
And Monique has been doing her thing too…
Our calendar for 2013 is out and I’m stoked with the result again this year!
The marketing departments word is below. If you are thinking about getting a copy then don’t wait, we’ve cut the print run fine this year and there’s a good chance we’ll sell out.
This is the 19th annual calendar to showcase the work of World-renowned climbing photographer Simon Carter.
Seamlessly merging action and landscape, the dazzling imagery inspires and captivates climbers across the globe.
Features climbing destinations from Australia, China, France, New Zealand, Spain, UK, USA and Vietnam.
The design is stylish and functional and includes international holiday dates and moon phases.
Presented in a large 30 x 30cm format, shrink-wrapped and stiffened for protection. Opens to 30 x 60cm (12 x 24″).
Update: we have now sold out of the 2013 calendar!
If you’d like to know which Australian retailers may still have it in stock in your area, please email us with your location.