Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pushing the limits

As Cliff Richard and the Shadows burst upon the popular music scene, university physics student Ron Cox launched a three-month siege on a spectacular crack on the imposing east face of Crookneck in the Glasshouses. In doing so, perhaps inadvertently, he set up a template for the development of the next stage of modern Queensland rockclimbing. Formed in a huge rockfall in 1893, East Crookneck is perhaps the most attractive and purest line of any climb in Queensland. It starts from the base of the mountain, weaving through a series of balancing, truncated trachyte columns to the first stance, nestled at the base of a deep, overhanging chimney. The route continues up, with wide bridging moves needed to negate the effect of the relentless overhangs. A final bell-shaped overhang demands a series of delicate, exposed, balance moves to reach the safety of the second stance. A stone dropped from this point lands about three metres out from the base. Climbers in the early 1950s had nicknamed this stance the Eagles Eyrie and had abseiled down to it—and climbed up from it—several times during their early exploration of the route. From the Eagles Eyrie, a short, easier pitch leads to the shoulder below the summit. Every climber in Queensland had mentally climbed the route but none had actually done it. Bob Waring and Jim Gadaloff had first abseiled down the 70 metre face in October 1950
(pictured above). John Comino had made a half-hearted attempt at climbing the first pitch around 1954 and had earlier abseiled down to the Eagles Eyrie. But the full route—particularly the savagely overhanging middle pitch—had never been climbed. Perhaps that was the challenge Ron Cox needed.

Picture: Bob Waring collection.

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