Best ways to learn the ropes

IT'S late afternoon in Launceston's Cataract Gorge and, 10 metres above the tourist walk, a man is spreadeagled across a cliff face.

That man is Gerry Narkowicz.

Gymnastic chalk coating his palms, veins pulsing on his forehead, Mr Narkowicz stretches and clips a carabiner on to a metal bolt invisible to the uninformed below.

His route is called The New Move, a grade 20 sport climb of about 10 metres, and one of about 900 climbs between Kings Bridge and the Trevallyn Dam.

"I first did this one about 30 years ago," Mr Narkowicz yells from above, bracing himself for the crux. "But I didn't have any ropes back then. It was a bit hairy."

Mr Narkowicz has been on the Tasmanian rock climbing scene since the early 1980s - one of a lunatic fringe of bushwalkers "after an extra adrenaline hit".

The PE teacher has been on the first ascent of about 800 climbing routes, particularly in Northern Tasmania, while also co-authoring a number of guide books. This month he rereleased the most recent and popular of these tomes: Climb Tasmania - Selected best climbs, a guide to 850 routes at Tasmania's 25 best crags.

Mr Narkowicz said much had changed in Tasmanian rock climbing since the original edition was released in 2005, including the passing of perhaps the sport's greatest advocate.

In fact, the book is dedicated to his "best mate" Bob McMahon, who passed away suddenly at his Exeter home last April.

"It was an obvious choice to dedicate the book to him," Mr Narkowicz said.

"He was the most important figure in the history of Tasmanian rock climbing - he pioneered a lot of the state's routes and introduced thousands of people to the sport.

"It's an honour to have known him but it's also pretty sad, because we miss him a lot still."

Mr Narkowicz said the revised edition of Climb Tasmania included new climbs and was in full colour, with the route diagrams more easily deciphered.

He said he hoped the book would help people realise the true potential of Tasmania's climbing environment.

"What we've got here is pretty unique, and some of it is truly world-class," he said.

"Right now our cliffs are packed with mainland tourists and international tourists. The word is already out that it is a place to head for climbing."

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