A Guide To Four Climbing Areas In The Hills Behind James Cook University

By Lee Skidmore, with some assistance from Steve Baskerville, November 1999

Last updated 24 March, 2000

This page is dedicated to four areas, three of which are accessed from the south end of the James Cook University ring-road. These three areas are Shepherds Crook, University Wall and a bouldering area. The fourth area is Lazy Afternoon Wall and is located 3km from the Uni.


To climb at these areas without possible trespassing, relevant permission may be required. It's your choice whether you obtain permission or not.


This does not apply to Lazy Afternoon Wall. At the top / south / furthest from the sea end of the JCU ring-road there is a dirt 4WD track leading in (toward the SW). Take this SW and then take the next obvious left turn (facing SE, or toward Mt Stuart) until you stumble across the main creek bed (obvious). It should take about 5-8 minutes of walking to get from the bitumen road to this creek. This is the starting point from which all area-specific directions will be given.


Creek bouldering  University Wall  Shepherds Crook  Lazy Afternoon Wall 


Creek bouldering
The start of the walk up to Shepherds Crook and University Wall is up the obvious washed out, boulder-filled creek. Steve Baskerville and Jason Shaw have done quite a bit of bouldering in this creek area in 1997 and 1998, and have established some nice problems.


To get to the decent area with good-sized boulders, walk up the creek for about 15-18 minutes. You'll pass small (3-4m high) walls on the way, and will eventually come across one large boulder on the right of the creek bed (pictured right). This signals the start of the good area. This boulder has two great problems and a project on it. Click here for another shot of Jason on Desperately Wanting. 

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Above: Topo lines on the main boulder. Jason Shaw bouldering Desperately Wanting

Above: Steve Baskerville slapping on one of the slick problems upstream

Further upstream is an assortment of slick, smaller-sized boulders that offer some very cool problems. Many are severely water-washed with no footholds and rely on contact and open grip strength. 

University Wall Climbing Guide

This slabby mini-cliff was discovered by Steve Baskerville and Jason Shaw when they were too lazy to bother walking all the way up to Shepherds Crook. The wall is about 40m long and 15m at its highest, and the middle section of the wall features an overhang. In many ways, the area is quite similar to Kissing Point. For those that don't know Kissing Point, this means easy, slabby and a bit chossy. Stars are given to the better climbs and are relative.

Upon arriving at the creek bed, follow it upwards for 10-15 mins (i.e. not as far as the bouldering area) passing one major R-hand branch (at about 5 mins) until you reach the second, major R-hand branch. Follow this R-hand branch of the creekbed for 10 mins until you see a black and orange wall up to the R. Walk steeply up the 70m or so to the base (5 mins). At the far R end of the wall there is a small detached pinnacle. Here is the first climb. Most of the routes have their starts marked with an orange arrow.

Off Campus 6m 15
No pro. Starts on the front of the pinnacle, about 0.5m L of the R ar�te. A bouldery low section to a cruisy slab top out.
FSA Steve Baskerville 9/9/98. 

Pass Conceded 5m 8
Start is marked. Climbs the short, slabby corner behind the pinnacle on small wires. Pick the line of most resistance or the grade will decrease. Tree belay.
Jason Shaw 13/8/98. 


Crack Anatomy 101 10m 8
About 20m L of PC there is a very obvious big black corner. The start is marked. Up short slab to crack. Up past ledges to big ledge at base of good crack on L wall of corner. Good cams up this to small tree, then mind loose stuff as you push through to the top. Tree belay off L.
Pip Newton, Lee Skidmore 14/8/98.

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Above: Pip onsighting the first ascent of Crack Anatomy 101

Extracurricular Activity 13m (??)
Start is marked at base of ar�te 2m L of CA101. Up ar�te following cracks to below small roof. Through this to the R up the nice-looking crack to large tree growing in crack. Traverse R 2m then through 1m roof.
Status: Waiting to be led, get to it. 

** The Graduation 13m 19
Very cool. Start as per the above project - at base of ar�te (marked). Up ar�te following cracks to below small roof. Commit to crux and pull directly through roof on RP's, then nice climbing straight up ar�te to perfect belay seat and tree.
Lee Skidmore, Jason Shaw, Pip Newton 14/8/98.

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Above: Sequence of Lee onsighting the first ascent of The Graduation. Extracurricular Activity's crack can be seen on the R of the images.

The wall to the L of the ar�te is capped by a 2m roof and there are three climbs going through this.

** Just a Piece of Paper 8m 18
A top rope route up crisp edges on the nicest rock here. The light coloured face reaching R into the corner and finishing on holds on the little ar�te. Anyone's welcome to bolt it.
FTRA Doug Hockly, Jason Shaw 9/99. 

* Purely Academic 15m 17
Start is marked 5m L of TG. Up slab, then climb the finger/hand crack through middle of the overhang and up slab to tree belay.
Jason Shaw, Steve Baskerville 13/8/98. 

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Above: The roofs in the middle of the wall

Thinking Cap 15m 19/20
You'll need one - a very thought-provoking crux! Starts around 5m L of PA below the double overhangs (marked). Spaced jugs up slab to below the double overhangs. Cruxy moves climbing the corner through overhangs on small-med wires and then a slabby ramble to the top and tree belay.
Lee Skidmore 14/8/98. 

About 4m L, the overhang reduces in size from big to small. Steve's project climbs through this section.

Higher Learning 15m (??)
About 4m L of PA. Up slab and through blocky corner between the large roofs (on R) and tiny roofs (on L) and then runout slab.
Project: Steve Baskerville. 

* Campus Freak 10m 7
Start is marked, 3m L of the above route. Climb black slab to small rooflet (gear at base of this). Nice moves through rooflet then run it out up the ledgy slab to tree belay.
Steve Baskerville, Jason Shaw 13/8/98.

School's Out 10m 1
Very much a beginner stroll. Start is marked. Climbs the black streak up slab 4m L of "CF". A tree for belay is 5m to the R.
Steve Baskerville, Jason Shaw 13/8/98.

Shepherds Crook Climbing Guide

Shepherds Crook is the name we've given to the bright orange walls and boulders to the right of Mt Stuart on the same ridgeline. The area is plainly visible from the JCU campus looking in the opposite direction to the sea (south). Its peak is 456m above sea level. On Townsville's 1:100000 map #8259 it is closest to the co-ordinates 74,60. This area is gained by a ~1.5 hour walk uphill from the south end of the JCU ring-road. It is a slog, don't go on a hot day. If you are visiting Townsville, go to Mt Stuart instead, this is a spread out, difficult, and often unenjoyable area, but new routes are there for those who seek them...

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Above: Looking at Shepherds Crook from the wrong way

From the bouldering area mentioned above, keep walking up the creek until it becomes difficult to do so, then move out of the creek onto the grassy plain. Then follow your nose steeply up to the orange walls. The walk up should take about 1.5 hours in total.

Shepherds Sheep 10m 14
Start is marked. The left (R-trending) crack on the first major, orange boulder encountered on the walk up.
Lee Skidmore 8/96


Inquisitor 7m 15
Start is marked. From the top of the SS boulder, walk 20m uphill until next boulder/wall is encountered. Climb the #1 cam-width line 7m R of obvious chimney.
Lee Skidmore 8/96

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Above: Lee onsighting the first ascent of Inquisitor

* Jumpuck 9m 19
Start is marked. From I, walk uphill and L around ridge to meet unusually large boulder (main walls become visible here). Starts on lower side of boulder at base of chute. Easily up chute to ledge and boulder base. Climb great finger crack up boulder. Scramble down opposite side.
FTRA: Lee Skidmore 8/96


* Ramming Cams 15m 15
Start is marked. From J, walk back (away from sea) and down to R side of main walls. This route starts on the ledge. Nice start up cracks leads to ledge at 1/3 height. Up fun lift-shaft to a difficult belay (bring tape).
Lee Skidmore, Daniel Blanchard 8/96

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Above: Lee on the first top rope ascent of Jumpuck


** Boy Who Cried Wolf 25m 17/18
Currently the cliff classic. Start is marked. From RC walk ~40m L along base of main walls to the cave (possible sleeping spot). Start 3m R of cave. Climb L side of block to wall. Up this with thin pro into corner system. Up corner into well protected, bottomless bridge shaft. Up to loose exit (care!) to belay off tree. Second mini-pitch up chimney leads to massive terrace. Walk R and rap off tree.
Lee Skidmore, Daniel Blanchard 8/96

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Above: The main walls of Shepherds Crook, home to Ramming Cams and Boy Who Cried Wolf

A Room With A Vewe 9m 10
Start is marked. From L side of main cliffs walk up & back (away from sea) for 100m to reach black wall. Up crack with tree growing from base to below roof to hidden 'room'. Traverse R under roof and up to finish at tree.
Matt Russell, Lee Skidmore 4/97

* Project 17m 18/19?
From ARWAV walk L, skirting the rock walls. This climb is obvious as a steep crack start tending L into a corner then up to beneath a 1.5m roof split by a 5 inch crack. Pro goes in this, then traverse to the lip of the roof, turn the lip on hand jams (crux) and up the wide crack to finish at tree.
Project: Lee Skidmore 4/97
Status: Open project, feel free. 

Lazy Afternoon Wall

In early 1997, Matt Russell and Lee Skidmore walked up to the wall to check out climbing possibilities, but with no bolting gear available and the all-natural routes looking too easy, the area was put aside for later. It took until late 1998 for Lee to return to the area with a drill and cleaning gear. 

The wall is small. Around it are lots of boulders. The wall is about 20m long and 13m at its highest. The rock? - volcanic, bubbly, pocketed, highly-featured and very frictional. Very different for Townsville. There is an undercut bouldering area with a couple of steepo problems. There are a handful of beginner-moderate routes, most of which are quite nice. Perfect for a lazy afternoons climbing, or for Uni students with bikes. Because the rock is sharp and rough, take padding for top anchors. Trees are located a long way back from top of wall, so take some long setup gear. The wall faces NNE so gets shade in the mid-late afternoon.

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Above: Click for a topo map you can view and print


Let's talk access. Very easy. Exiting the University via the JCU gatehouse, drive 100m to the T-junction with the "No Dumping" sign. Instead of turning R as usual (going towards Townsville), turn L (on to Angus Smith Drive). After 300m the road will become dirt. At 2.8km there will be the Water Treatment Plant on the R. The wall is now visible up the hill to the L (not that small upper wall, the lower one). At 3.2km there is a 40km/h sign and an obvious gate (firing range boundary). Park car in dirt side-road 15m back from gate on L. Follow this dirt track away from road and up towards the crag. Should take no longer than about 12 mins from car to crag. You're aiming for the largest section of wall amongst many small boulders.

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Above: Map showing the location of the crag

A note about the bolts. They are bomber expansion bolts that have their screw nuts glued into place. Treat them as carrots, but please note that only larger 45 degree bolt plates will fit (not 90 degree ones). Experiment to find what works. Routes are listed from L to R.

The following four climbs are on the tallest section of wall, L of the undercut bouldering wall [see topo map].


* Binocular Pocket 11m 13
Starts on small boulder. Straight up onto flaky face with small holds (bolt) to far R side of big orange cave. Don't pike into cave - go directly up to basketball-sized pocket. Now drop a crucial #10 hex into another pocket which is up and L. A big reach for small pockets, then motor up slab to the "binocular pocket" (#6 hex), then more easy slab to top. A very big cam might be handy on the easy slab.
Lee Skidmore, Philippa Newton, Steve Baskerville 27/10/98.

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Above: Lee on the first ascent of Binocular Pocket


** Triple Connection 16m 17
An excellent diagonal line crossing some steep territory. Start as for BP to first bolt, then trend up R to clip second bolt of SW. Keep trending up and R for a reachy clip of NBN's FH at mid-chest level (i.e. don't make the mistake of trying to clip the FH too early). Directly through bulge (crux), then finish as for NBN up easy slab.
Lee Skidmore, Jason Shaw, Steve Baskerville 2/11/98. 


* Small Wonder 11m 14

Start just R of BP on the big block. Up past BR to horizontal break. Up past pocket and second BR to bulge with optional #2.5 SLCD. Over bulge and carefully slab to the top.

Philippa Newton, Lee Skidmore, Steve Baskerville 27/10/98.

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Above: Pip onsighting the first ascent of Small Wonder

Above: Jason Shaw onsighting Small Wonder


* Nasty But Nourishing 13m 21
First top-roped in the rain. Starts on ground level 2m R of SW beneath base of short corner-crack. Up to ledge then easily up corner to break. Pull directly up overhung face to big pocket (#5 camalot, or go without), then undercling and reach high to clip FH. Move R-wards to traverse lip of cave a few moves, heelhook and rockover L, and pull up onto slab. Up short slab (no pro) to finish.
Lee Skidmore 2/11/98.


Idle Apathy 13m 17
Located off the main wall, about 9m R of NBN. Climb very easy corner-crack to base of pillar. Move L under pillar until able to latch jug and clip bolt. Pull onto the pillar (crux), where a few cranks give a rest. Easily to the top. Easy tree belay.
FTRA: Lee Skidmore 2/11/98.
FFA: Jason Shaw, Steve Baskerville 12/98.

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Above: Lee heelhooking the crux of Nasty But Nourishing during the first ascent