Mount Stapylton and Hollow Mountain are located at the northern tip of the Grampians range, 30km south of Horsham. The area is most easily accessed from the Western Highway (A8).
From the southeast (Melbourne side): follow the A8 towards Horsham. Ten kilometres past the terrifying Giant Koala at Dadswell Bridge, turn left onto Wonwondah–Dadswell Bridge Rd (70km from Ararat). Continue for 2.8km and turn left onto Flat Rock Rd for 3km before turning right onto Mt Zero Rd. After 1.4km there is a turn-off to Hollow Mountain car park. Continue past this for 1.1km and turn left to get to the Mt Zero/Flat Rock Picnic Area.
From the northwest (Adelaide side): follow the A8 south from Horsham for 14km and turn right onto Drung South Rd (C222). Continue for 7.8km and turn left onto Wonwondah–Dadswell Bridge Rd for 3.1km. Turn right onto Winfields Rd and then take the first left onto Mt Zero Rd. The dirt road winds around the side of Mt Zero for 2.1km and meets Mt Zero Rd. Just to the right of this intersection is the Mt Zero/Flat Rock Picnic Area. To get to the Hollow Mountain car park, turn left and drive up Mt Zero Rd for 1.1km.
Halls Gap is located on the eastern side of the Grampians.
From the east (Melbourne side): follow the Western Highway (A8) to Ararat. At Ararat leave the Western Highway and follow the Ararat–Halls Gap Rd (C222) for 48.2km to Halls Gap.
From the north (Horsham or Mt Stapylton): the best way for you car is to take the Northern Grampians Rd (C222) south to Halls Gap. From Stapylton you can also take the Mt Zero Rd south around the eastern edge of the Grampians – it’s the shortest route, but it’s a dirt road and quite slow if you don’t have a 4WD.
Venus Baths: This area is very close to the centre of Halls Gaps. See the Venus Baths section for further directions.
Bleachers: Take the Northern Grampians Rd (C222) west from Halls Gap (the turn-off is just north of the main strip). After 4.8 windy kilometres turn left onto the Silverband Rd. Silverband Rd is followed for 2.3km before making a left turn onto Sundial Rd, which is followed for 1.1km to the Sundial car park. Alternatively, if you are coming from the north, follow the Northern Grampians Rd (C222), until you can turn right onto the Silverband Rd, after which you follow the previous instructions. For further directions see the Bleachers section.
Valley of the Giants: The route is similar to the Bleachers, except that you continue on the Silverband Rd for 5km once you turn off the Northern Grampians Rd. Once you get to the Rosea car park, you can either park there or drive a further 1.2km down the Silverband Rd. See the Valley of the Giants section for further directions.
The areas in the Victoria Range are all close to Buandik Campground in the southwest Grampians. Coming from the Melbourne side of the Grampians there are two main ways to get to the Victoria Range, the shortest is via Halls Gap and involves a lot of dirt roads, the second, longer way is to come around the top of the Grampians past Stapylton.
Via Halls Gap: Follow the instructions for getting to Halls Gap. From Halls Gap take the Northern Grampians Rd (C222) for 7.8km, turning left onto the Glenelg River Rd (shortly after you turn-off there’s a junction, turn right). Follow the Glenelg River Rd for 11km until you can turn right onto Lodge Rd. Follow Lodge Rd for 12km until you can turn left onto Red Rock Rd. Just over 5km south along Red Rock Rd you will reach the turn-off to the Tower on the left (see the Tower section for further directions on page 304), another kilometre further on, turn left onto Billywing Rd. Follow Billywing Rd south for 4.6km, until you see the turn-off for Buandik Campground (the parking for the Cave of Man Hands is 1.2km further south, see page 300 for further directions). Turn left and you will soon see Buandik Campground on the left and the picnic area just past it. For further directions, see the Buandik section on page 258.
Via the north: Coming from the north, either from Horsham or Stapylton, it’s best to come down via the Henty Highway (A200). From the Henty, turn left onto Billywing Rd and follow the signs to Buandik Campground. To get to the Henty Highway from the Western Highway (or Stapylton), turn off the highway onto the Wonwondah–Dadswell Bridge Rd. Follow it for 9.3km, turn south onto the Northern Grampians Rd (C222), drive for 12.5km, then turn right onto the Brimpaen-Laharum Rd, which is followed all the way until it meets the Henty Highway. Turn left and drive south for 26km, where you turn left onto Billywing Rd and follow the signs to Buandik Campground.
"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
- Charles Dudley Warner
Surprise! Bouldering is outdoors and outdoors there is weather. It is possible to climb in the Grampians year-round. However, the prime bouldering season runs from April through September, with the best conditions usually found in the shoulders of this time when it’s both cool and dry. You can climb in summer, but it usually requires early starts or night sessions to avoid searing heat and mega-spooge. If you are climbing in summer beware bushfires are common – and for you Internationals especially note that on Total Fire Ban days it’s uncooked pasta and no coffee – you cannot even use a gas stove.
The mean minimum and maximum temperatures range from highs of 29.8°C during the summer months and lows of 3.7°C during the winter. Mostly, though, conditions are mild, although it can still get dishearteningly wet and cold.
The northern parts of the park are generally drier than the southern, and often the Victoria Range will be clagged in damp clouds whilst Stapylton will be dry and clear. Many of the steeper cave sectors – the Hollow Mountain Cave, Kindergarten Cave of Man Hands, for example – are fine to climb in all weather. If you are climbing after rain, note that sandstone becomes very brittle when soaked, and if you don’t give the boulders long enough to dry you run the risk of snapping holds and ruining it for everyone.
The best site for checking the weather is: www.bom.gov.au but the Wily Weather app is also helpful.
Parks Victoria campsites can be booked online at www.parkstay.vic.gov.au/book-your-stay. The State Government is capricious and its commitment to a user-pays ethos is subject to constant review, but at the time of writing, a site for up to six people cost between $24 to $28 per night, depending upon the season. There is a small additional cost for extra cars. Book early during public or school holidays. Bring your own water. Carry out your rubbish – there are no bins.
The North – Mt Stapylton
If you are bouldering around Mt Stapylton the most convenient camping is Stapylton Campground. It’s on Plantation Rd, 6km south of the Mt Zero/Flat Rock Picnic Area). Run by Parks Victoria, it has 25 sites with tables, fireplaces, pit toilets and shower stalls (BYO hot water). It is the best place to meet other climbers and makes for a relaxing location to spend rest days. Just up the hill is the popular Campground Boulders. For those without wheels, there is a walking track leading the 5km to Mt Stapylton past several smaller bouldering areas.
For those too good for tents, Mt Zero Log Cabins (www.mountzerologcabins.com.au) is very close to Mt Stapylton at 221 Flat Rock Rd. If you are in a group it can be a very comfortable alternative to camping whilst still being affordable to those on a tight budget.
Halls Gaps & Environs
If you are climbing at the Bleachers, Valley of the Giants or Venus Baths, Halls Gap is rammed with accommodation options, from commercial campgrounds to deluxe digs. The closest Parks Victoria–run campground is Borough Huts, 10.5km south of Halls Gap on the main road. It has 30 sites in a pleasant location on Fyans Creek.
If you are climbing at Buandik, the Tower, or the Cave of Man Hands, your best bet is Buandik Campground. Located next to Cultivation Creek just off the Harrop Track, Buandik Campground has 13 sites and toilets. You can roll out of your tent, shoulder your mat and walk from the campground to the boulders at Buandik, easy as.
Water, Food, & Petrol
Always bring your own water. Many campgrounds have rainwater tanks with ‘Not for drinking’ warning signs. However, it’s rainwater and you can drink it (at your own risk) – just don’t rely on tanks having water in them.
It’s best to purchase food before you arrive in the Grampians. Thriving Horsham has the closest big supermarket, while there is a small (and expensive) mini-mart in Halls Gap. The Melbourne weekend warrior’s ritual includes a stop and shop at the famed Ararat Woolworths, but be aware it closes at 10pm.
Petrol can be purchased in any of the nearby large centres. In the Grampians itself, you can fill up in Halls Gap or at the (expensive) Happy Wanderer at 2493 Northern Grampians Road in Wartook.
Mobile Phone Reception
Phone reception is reasonably good in the Grampians, particularly if you are with Telstra (although other providers have vastly improved their service in recent years). The notable exceptions out of areas covered in the guide are the Valley of the Giants, the Bleachers and at Buandik Campground.
Sadly, you pretty much need a car to boulder in the Grampians. The nearest public transport hubs are Horsham and Halls Gap, which are serviced by VLine buses. The only area accessible via public transport is Venus Baths, which is just a short walk from the centre of Halls Gap. See www.vline.com.au for more information.
Climbing with Kids
If, like one of the authors, you have been foolish enough to ruin your life by having children, fear not, all is not lost. There are a number of excellent places you can take your tykes while you attempt to climb in between building sand castles and stopping your kid/s eating kangaroo poo.
Around Stapylton the easiest spot is the Campground Boulders – you can drive right up and the base flat and forgiving – just watch Jnr doesn’t scramble up the backsides of the boulders. It’s more of a walk, but Andersens is good with plenty of places to explore (there is a great cave at the back of the field, accessible via Gobsmacker Corner, that you can take them through). If your kids are strong enough to walk up Flat Rock, then Trackside is child friendly.
Around Halls Gap, Venus Baths is super easy for parents (and the creek is fun), although you will have to keep a close eye on them as there are a number of small cliffs they could walk off in some sections. The Bleachers is more of a walk, but the area around the Cirque of the Climbables is very kid-friendly.
There is nowhere in the Victoria Range that we would recommend taking children unless you are a masochist or your children are really small adults.