For a long time, my favourite place to train was the East St Kilda railway bridges, four walls of crimpy bluestone that would mangle fingertips after a few traverses, near the best café in Melbourne and sleepy enough that noone really cared about a lunatic doing laps. When I returned in December last year, I split my time between the bridge and newly-opened Lactic Factory.
This time back though a new place has grown out of the ashes of the way before my time Burnley underpass, an amazing project headed by Jacqui Middleton and the Victorian Climbing Club and a huge number of volunteers. I’ve been going there a few days a week for the last month and there’s always at least a couple of other climbers there, even on weekday mornings (yes, I have no employable attributes). I could easily spend entire days just hanging out there. Most importantly though, I’ve begun my long-dreamed of indoctrination of dancers into the cult of climbing.
In 1993, Chris Shepherd conceived the idea of having a long traverse wall near the CBD. The wall became very famous for its pumpy line. In 2003, risk management concerns highlighted the need for the route to be removed. Transurban offered to sponsor the construction of a new facility, and Parks Victoria offered the location; inside McConchie Reserve in Burnley. A Burnley Project Manager position on the VCC (Victorian Climbing Club) committee was created to oversee the project, and a project team was assembled to commence the planning process.
The VCC Burnley Project Manager rallied the climbing community to create a series of construction teams, leveraging skills climbers had developed in their day jobs. Construction began on January 31st, 2006, and the first routes appeared on April 29th, 2006. Regular internet posts on progress were viewed by other organisations, who came forward and offered their support. Four months and more than 130 volunteers later, the three walls were opened to the public.