Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bootlaces and Beerwah

Ian Thomas (pictured) and Robert Staszewski teamed up in 1973 and almost immediately took on the hardest classics in southeast Queensland. One of their chosen climbs was a long bolt route Sid Tanner had put up through the Beerwah overhangs in the Glasshouses. It turned into an epic with them spending an unplanned, rainy night on the climb and having to bail out, leaving their gear behind on the face. The recovery process proved to be a challenge, as Thomas recalls:
It led to the singularly most dangerous thing I have ever done in climbing which was abseiling over the whole thing, tying three ropes together and tying them to small bushes at the top—because that’s all there was—and throwing it over, so there’re three rope lengths hanging down. I lurched off the top one—it was my old Miller’s rope—and the friction was incredible. And I sort of ground my way down to the overhang, dropped below the overhangs and you’re way out in space. I couldn’t obviously get back in 50 feet to get the gear so I just had to keep on going down. I went down another 20 feet and suddenly came to a knot and realised I had no idea how to get over a knot. What was this? I was spinning around and around. I didn’t have any tapes to make a prussik loop or anything like that. I didn’t know how to do it. In the end, I took off one shoe and took the lace out of it and made a little loop to stand in and then that took my weight off and I was hanging by one hand from the knot and unclipped the carabiner from above the knot. So I was hanging totally by one hand 300 feet off the ground. But my foolish mistake was that the second rope was a 9 mm and I’d only clipped in one cross crab so I basically fell the next 150 feet down onto the next knot—dong! [laughs] Squeak’s eyes were out on stalks. And mine were as well.
Surviving Beerwah, Thomas eventually moved south to Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains to run a retail outlet for Rick White’s expanding climbing business although strangely, even though it was in the thick of climbing activity there, it never really seemed to succeed. Back in Queensland, Steve Bell and Dave Kahler continued climbing new routes at Mt Maroon, Frog Buttress and the cliffs on Ngungun while more new names appeared on new route descriptions—Kim Carrigan, Trevor Gynther, Rhys Davies and Joe Friend. Meanwhile, Robert Staszewski had turned his attention to Girraween, climbing the first of hundreds of routes there he found over the next two decades.

Picture: Ian Thomas collection.

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