Outdoor Rock Climbing: Brooyar
Author: Taylah Danaë Baggs Date Posted:5 December 2017
A group of our staff recently went outdoor climbing at Brooyar and tested out some of our climbing and camping gear.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by some work mates to try outdoor rock climbing for the first time out in the Brooyar State Forest. Over the next few days, I popped two car tyres, sliced my finger open, got ridiculously sunburnt, and had the time of my life. As a bonus, I got to try out my Black Diamond and SCARPA climbing gear in a new environment and really test out its capabilities.
I’d classify myself as a beginner climber; I’ve only been climbing for a few months, and only indoors at gyms. I was nervous at the prospect of climbing outdoors with my work mates Laura and Shaun, both much more advanced climbers. I’m a top-rope fanatic, though, so when Laura and Shaun told me I could top-rope up a 40m cliff face, I was all in.
We hit the road early in the morning with our partners and dogs and drove out to Brooyar State Forest, which lies in the scenic Mary Valley 2.5 hours north of Brisbane and 20 minutes north-west of Gympie. We let the dogs out for a run at our camping area at Glastonbury Creek, but Shaun was itching for a climb already and convinced us to leave setting up camp for later. Instead we made our way up to Black Stump, a sandstone crag typical for Brooyar, with a mixture of sport and trad routes.
My partner and I used an Osprey Momentum 26 Pack to get our gear and supplies down from the cars to the bottom of Black Stump crag. The Momentum 26 is perfect for these outdoor environments. Its 200-420D fabric shrugs off incidents that might damage other packs, such as being dragged over rocks or accidentally stepped on with muddy shoes. One pack can serve as a day pack for both my partner and me. It can handle our gear and the vast number of snacks I bring everywhere I go. As a true millennial, I was paranoid about my phone getting wet when the sky started getting cloudy, but the Momentum includes a built-in high-vis rain cover, so I was reassured that my phone and snacks would stay dry, even if I didn’t. Thankfully, the day cleared up. When I was carrying the Momentum back up in the hot afternoon sun after the climb, I appreciated the mesh-covered shoulder straps and back panel since they allowed the breeze to cool me down.
One thing I didn’t have was ankle-supportive footwear. The tracks at Brooyar are sloping and trailed over loose dirt surfaces, with rocks and roots scattered everywhere. It’s true Aussie scrub out there: plenty of gum trees, bird calls…and insects. (One decided to keep flying into my face midway up a climb). I was jealous of Shaun in his Salomon X-Ultra LTR trail shoes, with their mud guard, heel and toe caps, leather upper and advanced chassis. He was scrambling up and down the trails like a mountain goat while I slipped and slid everywhere.
Down at the bottom of Black Stump crag, I watched with a mixture of awe and horror as Laura, Shaun and his partner Rachel lead climbed a few routes. They set everything up for top-roping and then told me to get saddled up. I was shown how to tie myself in and was pointed to the 10m wall (which looked much taller from the bottom). The crag was rough and featured, but thankfully fairly juggy. I started my ascent, unsure of how my entry-level climbing shoes would hold up on the crag.
I was pleasantly surprised. My SCARPA Velocity Laces are my first pair of climbing shoes, and in the months since I bought them they’ve helped me complete harder climbs than I ever have before. They’re a comfortable, non-aggressive shoe for beginners or circuit climbers, and a lot better than the hire shoes available at climbing gyms. I’ve always liked their full asymmetrical lacing, which allows me to get a perfect, second-skin fit. That said, my climbing partners who use Velcro-strap shoes do tend to sigh heavily as they wait for me to lace up. Most importantly, the Velocity has a great grip that sticks to both indoor plastics and outdoor grit. I could balance on tiny lips at Black Stump thanks to these shoes without feeling like I was about to plummet to my death.
As usual, I wore my Black Diamond Primrose Harness. I bought this harness before any of my other gear because I was so sick of the ‘punisher belts’ available at indoor gyms, which chafe at your skin and give you unfortunate wedgies. The Primrose is the most comfortable harness I’ve ever worn. All the padding around the waist means that falling or being lowered is no longer painful (especially important when outdoor climbing, since the ropes are stretchier and you fall further). The leg straps are super quick to do up, with no fiddly parts. Plus, there's heaps of loops to hang your carabiners, chalk bag, etc. from. And, of course, it’s really pretty.
With my Velocity shoes and my Primrose harness, I made it to the top of Black Stump without too much struggle. The climb had been scarier than I’d expected, and my hands were unused to the roughness of the sandstone. But I felt proud of myself, and was pumped full of adrenaline and exhilaration. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t felt confident in my gear. I finally felt ready to tackle Eagle’s Nest, the giant 40m crag further up. But that could wait for another day.