The ground rules for climbing location "yeahs" and "neahs"
- Each crag has its own personality with unique advantages and challenges, which are highlighted.
- It is tempting to list “beautiful” as a “yeah,” but that is true for a lot of crags. I allude to beauty and scenery in the summary. You can also (sometimes) tell by the photo. If the place is a dump, then that will be listed in the “neahs” and rated as "Meh" or "Trash."
- The "Rock Type and Climbing Style" talks about the type and quality of rock as it relates to climbing style (e.g. slab, face, crack).
- Each location will receive an opinion rating - "It Rocks!", "Worth It," "Meh," or "Trash."
Boasting upwards of 1000 routes, Nowra is dubbed a sport-climbing haven in Australia. Located about 2.5 hours south of Sydney, Nowra is a small city blessed with a lush green landscape, a fresh-water river, awesome waves for surfing, and quite a bit of unique sandstone for climbing. Climbs are scattered throughout the area and primarily concentrated in or near town, making access and approaches quite quick and easy. If you are used to the crimpy sandstone of the Blue Mountains (NSW Australia) or Red Rock Canyon, Nevada (U.S.), you will be in for a surprise here. The climbs here are generally slopey and with very little feet (but there are some exceptions!). Unless you find those few climbs or have open handed climbing and compression techniques down, the climbing is difficult.
Be aware that although Nowra is a climbing hub, at the time of this writing there were no rock climbing stores in or near the town, so be sure to get your climbing supplies (including guidebook) in Sydney (there is a small climbing wall in a local gym, but they do not sell climbing gear).
Grading, Bolting, and Guidebook Tips
Grading at Nowra uses the Australian scale. The grades at the various crags tend to be on the stiff side, but there is some variability. If you are new to the area, start low and be prepared to feel potentially frustrated when you aid up that AU 17/ U.S./YDS 5.9. As mentioned, there is some variability in grading in different areas, where some 17s/5.9s are easier than others. A 5.7 at the Thompson's Point areas we visited (Descent Gully and Sunrise Wall) was considerably easier than a 5.7 at the Hospital Wall area.
Nowra does have plenty of lower grade climbs (AU 17/ U.S./YDS 5.9 and under) to keep any level of climber engaged, but due to the nature of the rock (slopey and overhung), many of the areas have higher concentrations of harder climbs.
First bolts tend to be high, so a stick clip is recommended. However the rest of the bolts are generally well placed to prevent ground-fall. In some areas, anchors can be easily accessed from the top, allowing top-roping as well.
Because this is sandstone, bolts are often glue-ins. Glue-ins are time consuming to place and not easily replaced, so take extra care by not top-roping through the anchors. Instead, top-rope through draws or your own anchor. When cleaning rappel or walk-off rather than lower off through the anchors.
A new climbing guidebook for Nowra has been released:
- Nowra Climbing by Carter, LeBreton, LeBreton, Monteith, and Young, 2016 - http://www.onsight.com.au/product/nowra-climbing/
The online resource The Crag:
Rock Type, Climbing, and Style
The rock in Nowra occurs in cliff bands scattered throughout the town/region. Climbs are often short (less than 40 feet) and pack a lot of punch in a small distance. As described above the climbing tends to be slopey with poor feet, overhung, and pumpy, but you can find featured faces for some juggy fun (like at Thompson’s Point).
A general rule of thumb for sandstone is to not climb on it when it is wet, this preserves the rock and the bolts/anchors placed in the rock (sandstone tends to weaken significantly when wet). The sandstone in Nowra does tend to have a strong patina, possibly protecting it more from the rain, but it is still good to be aware of the potential issue of disintegrating wet rock.
The climbing at Nowra is scattered throughout the small city and not concentrated in a single area, like a national park, so camping is scattered as well. The following websites may be helpful in finding camping or accommodations nearby. We rented a room at a local Airbnb for a reasonable price.
- VisitNSW.com: http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/south-coast/jervis-bay-and-shoalhaven/nowra/accommodation-caravan-and-camping
- Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/
Nowra is located about a 2.5 hours drive south of Sydney, NSW, Australia. There is a mix of toll and free roads, so directions will vary depending on whether you want to pay a toll. We avoided tolls out of Sydney and, as a result, the driving directions ended up being fairly complicated. But phone GPS did pretty darn well to get us there.
Because the climbing areas are scattered throughout the city, you will need to obtain directions to the area of choice from The Crag or the Nowra Climbing Guide. Two recommended areas for easier climbs are Thompson’s Point and Hospital Wall. Thompson’s Point is in a public park, with plenty of parking. It has beautiful views of the Shoalhaven River and is quite peaceful. I would highly recommend it. Hospital Wall is near the hospital and parking is more of a challenge here. It is a smaller crag with more of an urban feel.
- Lots of high quality sport climbing on solid rock.
- Nowra is a nice, safe, small town with amenities.
- If you want to surf and climb, this is a great spot!
- Approaches are short and easy.
- Although there are lower grade routes to keep the moderate climber busy, most of the climbs are in the higher grades.
- Even lower grade climbs are difficult (especially if you are not used to the style of rock).
Opinion Rating (It Rocks, Its Worth It,
- Nowra photos and beta
- My Home Crag: Nowra, NSW, Australia (by Max Gordon) - Max Gordon describes his early days of climbing and his deep appreciation for the spectacular sport climbing at Nowra. Interspersed with the story are beautiful photos taken by Max.