An expert’s guide to rock climbing in NSW
Looking for a heart-pumping way to experience the natural beauty of NSW? Then get off the ground and try rock climbing. Whether you're a complete beginner or an experienced climber looking for the next challenge, our expert's guide will set you on the rig
Tom began climbing in his local climbing gym at the age of 12. Originally from Brisbane, he moved south to Blackheath, in the heart of the Blue Mountains, in order to dedicate more of his time to his passion. He has competed for Australia at World Cups and World Championships, as well as travelled the world for rock projects. In 2020 he qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, being the first and only Australian male to do so.
What do you love about rock climbing?
There is way too much I love about rock climbing to fit here! Firstly, I love the people. Everyone is awesome, inclusive and really wants to see you do your best. Secondly, you get to go to some incredible places with these amazing people. You end up off the beaten track and doing something entirely different; places you’d have never been otherwise. Finally, just the experience of actually climbing up a wall is what really kicks it off. I love the feeling of just flowing up a wall, discovering the sequence of movement, the holds and the satisfaction once you reach the top.
What does it mean to you to see rock climbing recognised as an Olympic sport?
It’s incredible to have climbing be in the Olympics. It’s going to do fantastic things for our sport and I can see the world falling in love with it. To be the first rock climber to ever represent Australia at the Olympics is incredibly humbling. I can’t wait.
You live in the Blue Mountains – is it the best rock climbing destination in Australia?
The Blue Mountains is insanely good. There are so many things going for it. Perhaps the best part is the diversity of rock formations. There are world-class locations for beginners right through to expert. This gives climbers an awesome opportunity to progress and always have a new, inspiring challenge on the horizon. The beauty of the place is undeniable too. How can you not look out at those views and not be in awe of the natural world? The icing on the cake is the great cafes and coffee shops right there as well. You can grab a coffee in town, walk to world class climbing and still have a hot coffee in your hand. Brilliant!
What other climbing spots do you like in NSW?
There are so many great locations in NSW. Point Perpendicular in Jervis Bay has short adventurous sea cliff climbing just a couple hours from Sydney. The vast ocean stretches out below you, whales are breaching and you’re making your way up a 20m blue streaked sandstone wall.
Going up to northern and central NSW there’s some great granite climbing around Armidale. This is on small granite boulders, where the challenge is more about the physical strength and problem solving. This is a top location, out in the middle of the bush, away from the hustle and bustle. Head off with your partner or a few friends and enjoy.
What’s a great NSW spot for experienced climbers?
If there was one spot to rule them all, it would be Elphinstone just outside of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. This spot has the highest concentration of hard climbs in the country. Plus the quality of the rock and movement you get to do are such high quality. It’s a truly world-class location.
Do I need to be super fit if I want to try rock climbing?
Not at all. That’s one of the best parts of rock climbing is that you don’t need to be super fit and brave. It’s a common misconception and unfortunately pushes a lot of people away before they even start. You can really tailor the experience to your own desire. There are so many climbs out there which are so well suited to the beginner. If you hook up with an experienced guiding company they will know exactly where to go.
Should first time climbers start with a tour?
A guiding company is a fantastic place to start if you want to go outdoors for the first time. The guides are super experienced in all things safety, have all the equipment and they’ll know where to take you for the best experience possible. Another great place to start is in one of the climbing gyms around the state. There are so many these days, especially if you live around Sydney. Go in and check it out. You don’t need any gear or any experience, the staff will give you a full briefing and all the gear you need. Trust me; just go in and try. You’ll love it.
How about kids – is rock climbing something the whole family can get into?
100% it’s a family-friendly sport. In fact, it’s probably one of the most family-friendly sports. I have a seven-year-old daughter and she comes climbing with us quite often. You and the kids can climb on the same routes and share in the experience together. It’s a really empowering experience for the kids to have, because they get to be in the same playing field as mum and dad. It’s not like cricket or netball where the parents sit on the sidelines.
I started climbing as a kid with my dad and it was the best. The time we got to spend together, doing what we love, gave us a great relationship. I’d highly recommend all parents make climbing a family day.