Only five minutes walk from the centre of Launceston, the Cataract Gorge is one of the city's main tourist attractions. It is also the main climbing area of the city. It consists of short, high quality, dolerite cracks and faces. Recently there have been increasing numbers of bolted climbs appearing, mainly on the arêtes. As well as both sides of the main gorge there is also excellent climbing at Duck Reach, as well as numerous other buttresses on both the North and South Esk rivers, such as Willow Jungle, Riverbend, Grap Fureau and Castille Crag.
- The Gorge: Just walk up the Zig-Zag track from King's Bridge in Launceston and you'll be falling over heaps of little buttresses, and climbers adhered to them, in minutes. Most of the climbing is on the down side of the track, there are eroded foot pads to most of the more popular areas. There are also quite a few routes and boulder problems along the shady side of the Gorge straught off the tourist track.
Duck Reach: To get to Duck Reach get hold of a tourist map and follow it along Corin Street to the old Duck Reach power station. Walk down to the river and upstream to the buttresses.
- Willow Jungle: From Kings Bridge in Launceston follow the signs on Trevallyn Road up to the Trevallyn State Reserve. Once in the reserve take a left on to Duck Reach Rd and follow it to the end. Walk from the hut across the shallow gully and then across the gentle ridge on the other side before dropping down to the river and the two tiered crag. Can be difficult to find.
- Riverbend: Drive out through St. Leonards to the Corra Linn bridge. A couple of hundred metres past the bridge is a gate on the left hand side of the road. Walk from here across the paddock and down the hill via a faint track. Head across the next paddock to the gate in the top right end of the field. Head diagonally left up the hill behind the gate to get to another paddock. Skirt the bush to the left, and then head straight towards the river. You should be able to see a few cairns and orange tapes that mark the decent gullies to the crags. Walking time is about 10-15 minutes. See Craglets for detailed directions.
- Grap Fureau: From the Corra Linn bridge drive 7km to where there is a sign for a water treatment plant. Park 400m past this at the gate on the left side of the road. Follow the track for about 10 minutes until you come to a large concrete water pipe. Turn left for another 100m to a cairn, then drop down the gully and follow that down on the right hand (upstream) side to the bottom of the downstream cliff.
Short dolerite buttresses - mainly cracks with some bolted faces and arêtes. A single rope and a medium sized rack of wires and cams will do the trick. The bolted routes are a mixture of glued in carrots and eye bolts on the newer routes.
Until 2000 there were no guides to these crags - now there are 5.
- Cataract, North Esk and South Esk are excellent comprehensive guides by Bob McMahon and Gerry Narkowicz published by Climb Tasmania.
- Craglets, if you can still get a copy, has good, although not quite comprehensive, guides to several of the areas and is better value.
- Climb Tasmania Selected Best has photo topos and descriptions of the best routes
Climbing is possible all year round, although not every day during the winter. Summer days can quite often be too hot on the sunny side of the Gorge and at Riverbend.
Launceston has some nice parks (including the Gorge - which is quite nice at night). There are lots of high quality vineyards in the Tamar Valley that welcome tastings. The nearest beaches are around 30-45 minutes away at Low Head or Bridport. Cradle Mountain National Park, the northern end of Tasmania's World Heritage Area and the starting point for the Overland Track, is about an hour and a half drive west of Launceston.
Probably the best place to stay is the hostel in Canning Street, only about 5 minutes walk from the Gorge.
Westham (14), Lingham (18), Gabriel (17), Joan of Arc (21), Mac the Finger (22), Ramona (17), Reculer Pour Mieux Sauter (21), Sophies Choice (25)