Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The times they

were a-changin’

New South Wales climber John Ewbank picked up on a popular Rolling Stones’ hit of the time and penned an article on climbing ethics for Thrutch entitled, ‘Here comes your 19th breaking runner’. Perhaps it was a clue as to the career change Ewbank would take on with gusto within a decade. But he had plenty to write about in 1966—he had just put up the hardest climb in the country at Mt Piddington in the Blue Mountains, a single pitch route called The Janicepts. He used jamming techniques to climb it—an approach virtually unknown in Australia at the time. Although climbers had used jamming moves on routes in Australia before this, no-one had applied the technique in such a sustained way. Most climbing relied on using existing hand and foot holds—jamming moved climbing technique into a new zone and Ewbank quickly became the unrivalled master although he revelled equally on the steep walls of the Blue Mountains. He is pictured (above) making the first ascent of the direct finish to The Eternity, at Wirindi in February 1967. But his activity was not confined to sandstone—in the December heat in the Warrumbungles that year (1966), climbing with partner John Worrall, he made the first ascent of The Crucifixion, a steep, 250 metre line to the right of Lieben on the west face of Crater Bluff.

Victorian milestones

In Victoria at this time, climbers began to use reamed-out nuts threaded with rope slings as protective devices as new routes multiplied on the cliffs of the recently-discovered Mt Arapiles. Two significant climbs done this year included the classics, Eurydice and Watchtower Crack, led by Bob Bull and John Fahey respectively. This was the year that a new wave in Victoria was champing at the bit and names like Chris Dewhirst, John Moore, Chris Baxter, the Gledhill twins—Alan and Geoff—and later, Roland Pauligk (creator and manufacturer of the famed RPs) were starting to appear on new route descriptions. They would dominate Victorian climbing for years. But all the activity in Victoria was not at Mt Arapiles—in February 1966, Ian Speedie, Mike Stone, Ted Batty, and Reg Williams made the first ascent of the huge granite north wall of Mt Buffalo, calling the climb, Emperor. Six months later, Dewhirst, Moore, Philip Seccombe and Philip Guild spent three days on the Mt Buffalo north wall, climbing Fuhrer.

Picture: Donn Groom collection.

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