Thursday, September 08, 2005

'The living rock'

The nature of climbing in Australia varies significantly from state to state. Queensland has a climate generally more favourable than most for year-round activity with the exception of a few steamy, sub-tropical summer months. A defining feature of many of the crags that became so attractive to climbers in Queensland was the presence of significant vegetation—from the smallest algae and lichen to large trees, splitting the rock. This ‘living rock’ is a particular of Queensland climbing, particularly on the low-angled cliffs where Queensland climbing culture was created (see ejournalism for a more detailed discussion of this). But regardless of differences in the terrain, there is no doubt that Australian climbing is a product of many different influences, both global and local. A distinctly Australian form of climbing that has developed on crags across the country over the past 175 years has drawn heavily from its European and North American origins. But each climbing community around Australia and beyond has its own stories, its own histories. This story is an attempt to tell the story of one relatively small community in a particular place, tracing the origins of climbing through the eyes of those who ‘invented’ it. I will rely on photographs and observations from almost 100 different climbers—some have passed on, others still feel the lure of the heights, and a handful are still out there climbing.