Saturday, September 17, 2005

First ascents in The Steamers

Towards the end of August 1950, Queensland climbers Bob Waring and Jon Stephenson set off to climb the first new route in Queensland since Bert Salmon and Cliff Wilson made the first descent of the West Face of Crookneck in 1934. Their destination was a series of rhyolite outcrops in the Main Range near Killarney, southwest of Brisbane, called The Steamers. Waring had developed a reputation for being equally daring either climbing a cliff face or riding his Norton motorbike. Some years after leaving Queensland, he entered a motorcycle TT race around the Isle of Mann and was shattered when he was forced to withdraw with mechanical problems! But back in Queensland in 1950, there was a new challenge for Waring, as he recalled:
The next challenge arose from the rumours that a prize of a hundred pounds had been offered in the previous century by the Emu creek sawmill for the first ascents of the Steamers, and was never claimed. This encouraged Jon Stephenson and I to plan an assault on the Mast, considered the easier one of the three. A few weeks later, carrying my new 3/4" sisal rope and mounted on my 1941 unsprung Model 18 Norton, we rattled up to Warwick and turned left for Emu Creek. Some hours later, after many creek crossings, mostly of the wet variety, we staggered into an abandoned loggers hut, and the following morning proceeded up to its western end. To make any progress this required throwing our ropes down top of the dense scrub and walking on them, as we approached the rock walls from the shaded south side.

Jon Stephenson remembers Waring as a ‘somewhat radical’ engineering student and takes up the story:

One of his youthful pastimes had been climbing trees, and he had amazing agility on cliffs and seemed to be quite unaware of exposure. No one seemed to have climbed the Steamers, including the Mast and the Funnel. So we went up on Bob's motorbike for 2 days. We swarmed up to the Mast, and Bob (pictured above) proceeded to climb to the top at great speed up the west buttress. I followed and felt concern as I got higher. I had an incident with a loose slab but eventually got to the summit to join Bob. I had a rope and he protected me coming down. I recall we startled a rock wallaby which sprang off to its death. In the afternoon we had a look at the Funnel, using a great rock flake with a chimney behind it, north and west of the huge east buttress. At the top of the flake, Bob started traversing along a ledge to the west and believed he could see a good route ahead around the corner. I’d had enough after my scare on the Mast. I seem to recall urging Bob to make a second visit to protect himself with a companion. We returned to Brisbane on the bike.

Picture: Bob Waring on the summit of The Mast, 1st ascent 1950. Bob Waring collection.

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