Tuesday, October 04, 2005

'Dirty Don' in the deep north

Greg Sheard moved to Townsville in 1970 and soon tracked down some locals who were interested in climbing. One was named ‘Dirty Don’—that should have raised his suspicions—and the other was Craig. For a reason best known to himself, Sheard decided to abseil down the vertical face of Townsville’s Castle Hill, using two ropes tied together. He went down first, managed to get past the knot halfway and scrambled back to the top of the mountain. By the time he arrived, Dirty Don was on his way down—but he was taking a long time. Too long. Sheard continues the story:
I hooked up another rope and went over the edge and Dirty Don was hanging there—he’d actually unclipped himself and had wrapped his arm around the rope and that’s all that was holding him. It was a bloody long way to the deck from there—70 odd metres off the deck just hanging by his arm wrapped around the rope! I went back and started trying to organise some gear to get down to help him. A crowd had turned up by that stage and one character said, 'Get the rescue equipment, get the rescue team!' Craig turned around and said, 'We are the &*#@*& rescue team!' And he was right, we were! We were the Townsville rock and rescue team! That’s all there was and one third of the team was stuck halfway up Castle Hill about to die because he’d stuffed things up. I got down to him and hooked him up—he’d totally freaked out—and got him to the bottom. By this stage it was well and truly after dark. But Dirty Don never went climbing again.
Picture: Greg Sheard in action on the east face of Maroon in 1970 shortly before moving to North Queensland. Michael Meadows collection.

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