Mt French is also known as Frog Buttress, and is the starting point for many aspiring lead climbers … including me!
Many moons ago, I stood below the towering red cliffs of Indian Creek, Utah. This special place is regarded as the premier crack climbing destination in the United States. Set against an inspiring desert landscape, the walls are punctuated by cracks known as “splitters” – perfect fissures without any holds, edges or weaknesses on the outer face.
Climbing splitter cracks demands a unique skillset that many climbers lack, and when I visited Indian Creek, I was one of them. I picked a climb at a grade that I felt like I should be capable of climbing and quickly realised that I wasn’t. Not only was I incapable of finishing the climb, I couldn’t even get off the ground. It was totally and utterly demoralising.
I left Indian Creek humbled but determined to master the art of crack climbing. Luckily, I live in close proximity to Australia’s premier crack climbing destination – the Scenic Rim’s very own Mt French, or as climbers know it, Frog Buttress. Here, I found the perfect training ground for the art of crack climbing. It soon became my favourite crag.
With more than 400 routes crammed into less than 500m of cliff line, one need not walk far to discover a veritable smorgasbord of high-quality lines. Cracks of all sizes can be found, from the impossibly small with barely any room for your fingertips, to the outrageously wide which you can cram your entire body into. Unlike Indian Creek, many of the cracks are not true splitters and feature variety of face holds, meaning they are much more forgiving for those hoping to ease into the style.
On my first visit to Frog Buttress, I started at the very bottom and worked my way up. I had a background in traditional climbing, but no guidance or mentorship in crack climbing itself. Over the years, I worked my way through the grades and developed various arcane skills – the handjam, the fingerlock, the butterfly stack. Those might mean nothing to you right now, and I assure you that when I started crack climbing, I was in the same boat. Most of these I learned by the simple process of trial and error, and by degrees I gained confidence in cracks. You can watch and learn more about my climbing interest on this recent Channel 9 “My Way” episode.
Crack climbing takes time to master. You won’t become a rope gun overnight, but you can definitely get a headstart by taking advantage of our experience. Between the guide team at Mt Barney Lodge, we have well over 20 years of climbing expertise… much of it devoted to Frog Buttress! We invite you to pick our brains for technique tips, tales of adventure, or just some good old-fashioned climbing psyche over a series of climbing outings.
Get started at our Beginner Crag, located on the flanks of Mt Gillies just behind Mt Barney Lodge. Here, you’ll tackle a series of low-angled routes which will teach you the importance of footwork and the use of friction.
From there, your second session will take you to our Advanced Crag, a little higher up the mountain and definitely more demanding. Work your way up to our hardest route where pulling through the steep bulge will demand balance and precision.
Finally, you’ll be ready for the main event – a day at Frog Buttress. Join your guide at Mt French for a day of crack climbing par excellence. Here you will learn about the gear we use for traditional lead climbing, develop new techniques for ascending cracks, and most importantly, have a ripper of a day at one of Australia’s finest crags.
I will be taking on a series of beginner and advanced climbs at Mt Barney Lodge this autumn, which will all lead up to a day at Mt French to experience the amazing climbing options there and to get a taste of the lead climbing style.
Here are some forward dates I will be leading:
Beginner Rock Climbing $60pp – 7 May, 23 May
Advanced Rock Climbing $60pp – 9 May, 14 May, 22 May
Mt French $110pp – approx June/July, expressions of interest for those who have done Advanced Rock Climbing with us.
The Beginner and Advanced Rock Climbs can now be booked online.
-by Ryan Siacci – Senior Outdoor Leader at Mt Barney Lodge and and is author to the popular climbing blog, Zen and the Art of Climbing.