Monday, September 12, 2005

The first women on Crookneck

On Empire Day, 1912, the first women stood on the summit of Coonowrin or Crookneck (see photo above). Three sisters—Jenny, Sara, and Etty Clark—cycled from Brisbane with ‘male companions’ and began their attempt at dawn. They were joined by Willie Fraser, 22, an engineering student, Jack Sairs, a local, and George Rowley, a photographer. Wearing ‘voluminous gym clothes’, the three women began their climb up a new route on the mountain’s southwest corner, today known as Clark’s Gully. It is one of the earliest recorded uses in Australia of the now accepted technique of using a rope to belay climbers. They scrambled through small shrubs until an impasse required the use of the rope, where one of the women had ‘a rather exciting experience’: ‘The rope was let down through a crack in the rock at the side of which she was standing. As she stepped off onto another little corner the rock gave way and left her swinging for a moment in mid-air, some 100 ft above the ground. Fortunately, the rope was good, and in strong hands, and she soon gained a fresh foothold and she soon clambered into safety.’ The descent was uneventful and following a hearty lunch, the women insisted on cycling back to Brisbane—a 70 kilometre trip—arriving at 10 o’clock that night.