Sweet Dreams is a rite of passage for rock climbers in Sydney looking to enter the world of the multi-pitch. Here’s what you need to know.
If you’ve recently taken up rock climbing and live anywhere near Sydney or the Blue Mountains, at some point someone will say, ‘Hey, you should totally climb Sweet Dreams!’
Sweet Dreams is an epic, 120-metre multi-pitch climb at Sublime Point in Leura. A multi-pitch, for the uninitiated, is a climb so gloriously and terrifyingly long that it has to be done in multiple sections, or ‘pitches’. You climb one pitch at a time, belay your partner up, then repeat until you get to the top. Sweet Dreams has five or six pitches – there are a couple of different options of which way to go towards the end.
At grade 14, it’s one of the easier multi-pitches accessible to Sydney. It’s also a mixed climb, meaning a mixture of sport and trad (shorter for ‘traditional’) climbing. Sport climbs are all bolted, and trad climbs require you to place all your own removable protection in the rock. Sweet Dreams has a bit of both, but can be done mostly as a sport route.
If this sounds like a perfect first multi-pitch to you, you’re not alone. It’s a popular climb and on the weekend – or even during the week – you might have to wait your turn. But don’t worry, the base of the climb is a pretty nice spot to chill out, have a chat and eat all your muesli bars.
I recently headed out for my fifth run up Sweet Dreams, with an experienced friend Kate, and our respective partners, Peter and Ash, both multi-pitch virgins.
The walk in is an adventure in itself, and can take nearly an hour, depending on how many photos you take of the views across the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters in the distance. Follow the track from the Sublime Point car park, but instead of heading to the lookout, veer off on a track to the left that heads steeply down. You’ll need to navigate some slippery scrambles and go down through a cave holding onto a fixed rope.
Follow the path as it takes you along the cliff line where eventually you’ll reach a steel cable. Put on your harness and clip in your safety line as you cross the ‘traverse of death’. Shortly after you will reach the start of Sweet Dreams, usually identifiable by the queue of newbies lined up to give it a go.
Pitch three is the money pitch – a long, easy traverse, high above the ground and across the middle of the cliff. If you’re at all nervous about heights it’s terrifying, but definitely exciting – classic Blue Mountains exposure all the way to the valley floor. It’s also a great pitch for a newer climber to lead because on a traverse, the fall is exactly the same on lead as on second, so, hey, you may as well lead! Ash led this without batting an eyelid.
There’s double bolt belay at the end of the third pitch, but can also just continue on a few metres to a second belay station. From here you have some options. You can follow a line of bolts to the left and finish with a 17 and a 15 pitch (technically these are the last two pitches of a different climb, Saccharine Nightmare, completing a climb known as Sweet Nightmare), or continue up one pitch to a ledge, where you have a new range of options – a couple of bolted or partially bolted 17s, or a grade 14 sport pitch followed by a grade 10 trad exit (if you’re confident with trad climbing).
We took the Saccharine Nightmare route, and consensus was that the 17 pitch was a little stiff for the grade. Although this may have been influenced by the sun hitting as we began it, meaning we were squinting into the glare and feeling around for holds.
Don’t forget to check out the views from the top, before your walk out. It’s only ten minutes back to the car park.
If you want to start your multi-pitch career on something with a little less traffic, other awesome options for beginners are:
- Whale of a Time – a three-pitch, grade 16 sport climb just north of Wollongong.
- Tom Thumb – a six-pitch, grade 13 mixed climb a little north of Leura, in the Blue Mountains.
- Climbing rope (50 metres or longer)
- Climbing shoes
- Belay device (with guide mode)
- Safety line
- Bolt plates!
- Slings, tape or cord for anchors
- A small trad rack (I take three or four cams and a few slings, but opinions differ. You can ask advice from any local Facebook climbing group, but be sure to ignore all the Alex Honnold wannabes who insist you can skip the trad placements and just run out the rope. Don’t do this. Really don’t.)
- Sunscreen – once the sun hits the rock around midday, you can’t escape it. Aim to climb it before this.
How To Get There
Drive to Sublime Point in Leura, just over an hour from Sydney. The walk-in starts at the car park.
Intermediate – basic climbing skills, and confident rope and safety skills.
- Basic climbing skills (goes without saying, really)
- Belaying, including lead belaying and top belaying (this is different to top rope belaying at a gym)
- Building an anchor on bolts
- At least one person needs to be able to lead climb and place trad gear
- Abseiling. If all goes well, you won’t need this; if it doesn’t, you’ll want to know how to get to the ground.
- Patience. It’s a popular climb remember, and the party ahead of you are undoubtedly also newbies so may take some time.
If any of the above sounds mysterious, get an experienced friend to teach you or take a course. It’s all easy to learn, but make sure you do in fact learn it, because getting stuck or (gulp) falling when halfway up a 120 metre cliff would be just as horrifying on a grade 13 as a 30.
Time Taken / Distance Covered
Around six hours including, climbing, walking in, walking out, and waiting for other parties. You’ll ascend 120 metres straight up.
One last pro tip: Pee before you start climbing.