Spittle Hill


Since Castle Hill is known as one of the very best bouldering destinations worldwide, i thought it suitable to do an area-by-area guide rather than a general overview, considering each field has it’s own unique style and character. And since this one is the first you come to, i thought it’d be as good a place to start as any.
If you want to know a comprehensive history of the place, you’d best check the new Castle Hill guide book. Here I’ll wax lyrical about certain boulders i think are worthy of mention, any possible projects and a general opinion of the warm-fuzzies of each area. If you’ve spent time at the Hill you will have come to notice a distinct ‘vibe’, or ‘feeling’, perhaps a ‘sensation’, or even ‘quotation marks’ about each field you visit. While my feelings may not echo your own, it’s a given that the place has a special quality to it that any visitor, climber or not, feels.
Spittle Hill is, as you walk in from the new car park, the big hill covered in boulders on the left. Here you’ll find much of the so-called polish infesting the whole area, and many of the testpieces and classics are so glassed up your shoes will squeak worse than a barrel full of mice and you’ll never want for a mirror ever again. The style is generally short boulders, often slabbed, with technical footwork and body positions, on big sloping dishes and greasy edges. Some of the lines, like those on the Tuppi Master boulder have been around for over 200 years, and still remain top quality  when stacked next to the more modern style problems. Due to the nature of the hill, its steepness ensures many awesome and obscure problems remain well hidden and are thus much less traveled than those on the flat down below. This field retains more of a sense of exploration and discovery than its neighbour Quantum Field, and there is still potential for some very hard lines still to go down.
Back in the day before the swanky new car park was installed, climbers could roam free all over the field searching for things to do, and then a fence was erected with a warning not to enter Spittle Hill, and then some legal stuff happened and the fence was removed. The path that runs along side the paddock fence takes you directly up to the imposing abseil face at the front of Quantum, however the old way took you straight into the path of the first thing in Spittle Hill: Submarine Boulder. Its slightly ironic that the first thing a new climber touches is also the most heinously polished. This has undoubtedly led to many international climbers taking away a slightly distorted view of the whole area, claiming it is ‘polished as all hell’, ‘greasy’, ‘terrible friction with no holds anywhere’, or even ‘not all its cracked up to be’.
To be sure, climbing at Castle Hill requires frequent and sustained use of perhaps a climbers most underused muscle: the bicep in the head. There is very little of the old ‘hands go on crimps, foot goes on hold, body goes up’, and more of the ‘this footer is smaller than a decimal and i have get my fat ass from a slight deviation in the colour of the lichen here, to that tiny flake way over there…hmmmm.’ People either learn how to move, or simply don’t. Spittle  contains many of these types of cerebral problems, and its more about not falling off all the way up rather than sending a nails problem. However its not all like that. If you’re after a bit more of the gnar, steeper and harder lines can easily be found. One of the very best problems in the whole country sits at the back of the field and is called ‘The Joker’. It even has a dyno in it.
A few of the more technical lines include ‘Nasal Slip’, a high slab with tenuous footers and a dubious last move,  ‘Mortal Kombat’, a high vertical problem that looks simple from the ground but requires fine tuned balance and good body placement (see the photo’s section for a pic of old Roland foster on this one), and Yardage, another high technical face with a tenuous top-out. Another similar problem just down and around the slope is Flash Point, and below that again is an unfortunate victim of the insidious polish creep, Beautiful Edges. Obvious, high and satisfying, all you had to do was climb the namesake and do it five times in a row because it was that good. Now the biggest struggle on the line is sticking to holds that feel like they’re coated in baby oil. This is a symptom of limestone’s very nature, a thin patina that wears much faster than most other rock types. Add filthy Euro’s who chalk foot-holds and you’ve got a recipe for Teflon coating boulder problems. Still, there are so many here that you could easily skip all the polished holds and still get tendonitis in your shoulders through climbing so much. Often times you might have ‘Spittle days’, or ‘Quantum Days’, and it pays to spend some quality time in each area rather than scattering all over the place, to get a feel for the style, or find a project so deviously hard that you’ll spend your whole day/trip/season/life trying it and touch absolutely nothing else. Either way is perfectly acceptable.

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