Rob Wall's Blog

Just another weblog

Kangaroo Rock – article as submitted to “Australian Rock”

Posted by robjwall on October 27, 2010

Its March 1792.  The French Frigate L’Esperence (“hope”) is sent to the bottom of the world to search for missing sailors.  Its crew become the first Europeans to set foot on the amazing coastline of Cape Le Grand National Park.  Skip 214 years and we are there on a holiday. Something in the back of my mind can’t stop searching this perfect granite, hoping for a line.  Mostly its typical W.A. rock, either too slabby or too blank, but while paddling I see an incredible snaking crack splitting an enormous orange boulder. I snap a photo from the kayak.


You can see the “Kangaroo” and the crack line up its haunch.  The next day I’m up early to try the route on self-belay.  Its mostly a clean finger crack (my favourite!) but the start of the crack is too narrow for me.  Eventually I find an improbable move out right to a slopey undercling that solves the problem —  I vow to return.  That afternoon I chat to a friendly park ranger about climbing in the park.  It transpires they don’t have a problem with it, as long as we can’t be seen from the tourist tracks.  I don’t dare mention bolting…

After some failed attempts to lure climbers the 780km with the photo, we return in Easter 2008.   The crack route is hard to get to safely with my 10 year old daughter Demelza, so after some exploration I place 6 stainless expansion bolts in a stunning Arete further left.  The crux move is again near the start: you have to pull hard on an ‘ear’ with your left hand, smear high with your left foot, and cross your right foot improbably high over the left, then balance up on one leg.  (No-one has yet onsighted this bizarre move, yet everyone eventually does it the same way!).  Demelza has belayed me on TR before, so after a quick lead-belay lesson she clips in to shiny new belay bolts on the narrow ledge above the sea.  I don’t plan to fall off.  I fell off — snapping the ‘ear’ off.  The grey sky now delivers light rain, and we notice some blood on the rock.  I feel a strange mix of emotions, but Demelza assures me she is OK, so we decide to give it one more shot.  I barely manage it, yielding the area’s first route “Family Affair” 22.

In January 2009 I do a lightning trip down to meet visiting Kiwi guides Rachel Ryan and Ed (“I love a bit of adventure”) Nepia.  In a two day mission we clean and bolt the 3 excellent sport routes on “Kiwi Wall” to the right of “Family Affair”.   Ed can’t believe how easy the cleaning is compared with NZ (we just kick the rock a couple of times and pronounce it clean).  Ed also leads the hyper-classic grade 15 corner to the right of Kiwi Wall, naming it “Windjammer”
For some reason we laugh a lot on this trip, odd things happen:  Rachel has to climb in one shoe and for the first time in my life I rap off the end of a rope, falling two metres into a bush unharmed. On our last day Ed and I climb the crack I have been obsessing over for three years (take an 8 rock for the crux!), naming it after the question with the answer 42, because thats what it feels like.  The contentment lasts the whole, long drive home.

We can’t believe the quality of climbing Kangaroo Rock is giving.  All the routes so far have been twenty to thirty metres of interesting moves on clean, featured granite.  We’re also watching Kangaroos, Seals, Octopus, and wondering about the bouldering on the hundreds of boulders all over the park.   Ed and Rachel are in NZ now, but Shane Richardson agrees to come down just before Christmas 2009, “for a look”.  His family beat us there, and Shane transforms into a new-routing super-hero, doing 10 or 12 pitches on self-belay, and chalk-dotting the bolts for two routes on his first day. One follows an amazing series of flakes up the orange wall right of “Windjammer”, and is now possibly the best middle grade sport route in WA.  Bastard.  I bolt a steep line through the big series of wacos left of “Family Affair” and reckon its about 18, so I offer it to the kids.  Kira has a go, succeeding on top rope.  Demelza looks solid on TR, and starts thinking up route names!  But after she falls on her first two attempts (her first lead falls) she is less keen…

An hour later Demelza fights it all the way on her 3rd attempt, naming it “L’Esperence”, 18. We also came in  hope, and we found the lines we were looking for, and I feel strangely connected to those brave 18th Century French who trod here first. (But didn’t record any routes!)


The Routes L to R

Music Wall:
*L’Esperence, 18, 15m, 5 bolts.  DW 12/09. Steep fun.
UNNAMED, 21, 20m, 6 bolts + take one thread. SR 12/09.  Tricky move L near top.
Tingle in Your Fingers, 23/4, 24m, 6 bolts.  RW 12/09. Desperate at the start.
Kiwi Wall:
*Family Affair, 22, 28m, 6 bolts. RW 4/08. Crux at start.
Flying Kiwis, 18/19, 28m, 5 bolts.  EN 1/09.
There She Blows, 19, 28m, 6 bolts.  EN 1/09.
Dance on Fires, 20/21, 28m, 6 bolts.  RW 1/09.
*Windjammer, 15, 25m, Trad. EN 1/09.
Orange Wall:
*UNNAMED 22/3, 25m, 6 bolts. SR 12/09. 21 until the last move!
Universe Wall:
Ultimate Question, 22, Trad with 1 bolt.  RW 1/09.

All these 10 are stared routes (really, new route developers are never biased). The * means absolute classic!.


From Esperence head East, making an improbable number of consecutive right turns following the signs to “Cape Le Grand National Park”.  Once in the Park follow the sign to “Lucky Bay” (named by Matthew Flinders who sought refuge there in 1802), where you can camp for $8 per night and have free solar hot showers.  It does get busy in peak times as its a fantastic snorkelling and swimming spot.  To get to the climbing walk on the signed trail toward “Thistle Cove”.  After 1km, near a hilltop you will see a balancing croissant rock, just after this take a left fork and follow the fisherman’s track down for 50m.  You get to an obvious ledge facing “L’Esperence” , and can scramble down the gully (grade 5) to the climbs.  The climbs all reach top-bolts so you can belay on top and walk off.  Long slings are needed if you want to lower off.

Photographers and Climbers

RW Rob Wall
DW Demelza Wall
KW Kira Wall
KV Kate Vyvyan
SR Shane Richardson
EN Ed Nepia

3 Responses to “Kangaroo Rock – article as submitted to “Australian Rock””

  1. Glenda said

    so proud of you Demelza, you are such a good climber. And very interesting read Rob, your climbing blogs read like an adventure novel! just wish I understood the language!

    love to all Glenda

  2. julie said

    I just love these photos. I remember your first climb at wave rock.

    love to all.

  3. […] off at 10am around to Thistle Cove for morning tea. (Taking in the sights of the by now famous Kangaroo Rock climbing area :)).  Then it was time for a long fast downwinder around past Cape Legrande itself […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: