We went out to Dyurrite /Arapiles to have a chat (and a climb) with Riley, who started the LGBTQIA+ inclusive climbing group, ClimbingQTs.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk people who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

As we walked into our crag at Dyurrite /Arapiles where we were going to climb, the sun was starting to blaze through the morning cloud and fog, lighting up the mountain.

We’d met Riley at the Pines Campground at Dyurrite /Arapiles, and loaded ourselves up with a couple of ropes, harnesses, shoes, and a trad rack. We were also kitted out with a bunch of new Arc’teryx threads, keeping us cosy on the brisk morning.


A Climbing Frother

To say Riley froths climbing is an understatement. ‘It’s a privilege to climb’ Riley tells us, ‘I’m living out my dirtbag dreams… I climb a lot.’

But it wasn’t always that way, ‘I really wasn’t doing any sports or activities at the time. I knew I loved nature and the outdoors.’

They discovered climbing about six years ago after being introduced to bouldering by a friend, ‘I went outdoor [climbing] after climbing in the gym a bit and was just blown away by how amazing the landscapes were and how I could do an active sport in that space.’

Before finding climbing though, they didn’t have much experience in the outdoors. Or should I say, any experience…

‘I had never even been camping before. I brought a tent and a pillow but nothing else… I didn’t have a sleeping mat… I ended up getting a bouldering mat and sleeping on that. It was better than the ground.’

(Yo! Want to hear the whole shebang? Listen to the podcast episode)



After that first trip though, Riley was hooked ‘I was coming out here on the weekends, I’d get up at five AM, climb at sunrise, climb all day, go eat some peanut butter then run back to the mountain and climb at sunset.’

‘It’s so much more three-dimensional than in the gyms… the rocks form so many features and you just have to look around and almost do a 360.’

We chat in between climbing ourselves, and Riley takes us through the different types of climbing. ‘We’re in a predominantly known trad climbing area. It’s a form of climbing that’s the most leave no trace and you take all your gear up, put things into gaps and holes and cracks in the walls and it protects you if you fall. Ideally, when you leave you haven’t left anything behind. Whereas sport climbing there might be bolts in the rock already.’

After starting off on a cruisy grade 11 climb, Riley steps it up a level and sets us loose on a grade 19 crack. After breezing up it themself, we give it a whirl and find out they absolutely sandbagged us. My arms feel like overcooked noodles trying to get up it.


Building A Community

It took a little while for Riley to find their feet in the climbing community, ‘I didn’t feel like I belonged even though I really loved it and wanted to find more people like myself. Riley is a part of the queer community, identifying as non-binary and using they/them pronouns.

So Riley started ClimbingQTs – an LGBTQIA+ rock climbing social group and advocacy organisation. It started off with just Riley and a friend running queer-friendly meetups at a bouldering gym in Melbourne and has now grown to five states and territories, and almost 1,000 members.


‘There were so many times I could have stopped [ClimbingQTs]… But I kind of just let it snowball.’

‘It just grew and grew and grew into this massive thing. It started in Victoria and now we have meetups in Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and [ACT] as well.’

They’re a social-climbing club where the social aspect is really emphasised. They want to create a safe space for anyone, but especially the LGBTQIA+ community, to meet others, come and try climbing, and get outdoors to experience the beauty of nature. A big part of that is the meetups, workshops and camps that ClimbingQTs runs.



‘In June we host a pride party in each state… But we do a lot of behind-the-scenes work as well. Working with different people in the climbing or outdoors space to help them create more inclusive spaces.’

When I asked ‘Do you need to have any experience with climbing or with the outdoors?’ Riley said ‘Nahhhh’ and laughed. For some people on the trips, it’s their first time camping just like Riley’s first outdoor rock climbing experience.

‘Something we do at ClimbingQTs is trying to make sure people have access to the outdoors. But also not assuming people know all this stuff.’

‘I heard people say it’s life-changing. It’s the best thing they’ve ever done.’

‘Having that impact on someone is really meaningful.’

As ClimbingQTs has grown, it’s gathered more and more support, ‘Arc’teryx have been great, they’ve been with us for a little while now and supported us financially, with gear, and at events… It’s great to have the support of brands that align with our way of thinking and our values.’


Finding Home in Natimuk

ClimbingQTs isn’t the only community that’s close to Riley’s heart though. They live in Natimuk, a town at the heart of the Australian climbing community.

‘There’s just one main street, and it’s called Main Street… And there’s a post office, a pub, a cafe, and a little deli. And not much else.’

‘There are book clubs, film nights, board game nights. Last week there was a chess tournament at the cafe. There’s always something going on. You think it’s a quiet week and there are actually three pot lucks happening. You just need to walk across the road and someone’s got their door open welcoming you in.’

Climbers have been in Natimuk for a long time now, going back to the OG days of climbing. The climbers here literally wrote the book on climbing in Australia.



‘They were the first people to do it and figure it all out… They built the community that exists here as it is, wrote the book… and they still live in town and climb and they’re my neighbours.’

‘I just love that these Australian climbing legends are my neighbours.’

After a big day of climbing, we hit the Nati Pub for a feed and you can just see how strong the climbing community is here. Half the people still have chalk on their hands or their face, everyone is in outdoor gear and looks a bit shattered after a big day on the rocks, and there are even some 70s climbing outfits of fluro lycra and vintage jackets.

‘We’re all drawn together because we love climbing, but we’re different ages, nationalities… Maybe different ideas about life and politics, but we all agree on climbing.’

Climbing has exploded in popularity in the past few years, but for a long time, it was a pretty outsider sport. It has a history of misfits and dirtbags who didn’t care about being part of mainstream society and just wanted to climb.



‘That’s what I liked about it, it felt a little bit like an outsider sport, and I see myself as a bit of an outsider.’

It’s now grown so much much bigger than that, with climbing gyms popping up all over the place, a spot in the Olympics and famous climbers on the red carpet and winning Oscars. But climbing has always celebrated the outliers.

‘Everyone’s bodies have different capabilities and strengths and weaknesses and I think that’s what I love about climbing.’

Living, working and breathing climbing, you might think that Riley would get sick of it. They’re working on a project climb that would be the hardest they’ve ever sent, ClimbingQTs wants to expand to more states, and their advocacy work is growing by the day.



After a day on the rocks with them though, slowing down with climbing sounds like the least of their priorities. And it’s so refreshing to spend time with someone who’s just so passionate and single-minded about what they do, making sure as many people can access it and feel comfortable in the climbing world as possible.

‘I think there’s worse addictions to have,’ says Riley.


Photos by @patcorden