Monday, October 03, 2005

The east face of Mt Barney

In May 1966, John Tillack solved one of the great climbing challenges in southeast Queensland, making the first ascent of the 300 metre east face of Mt Barney. He and Ted Cais had climbed the first part of the route but Cais decided against continuing the route next day. A week later, 26 May, Tillack returned, this time with Donn Groom and Les Wood. Wood, who was suffering from a hangover, remembers little of the climb, not even mentioning it in his diary. The face had been surrounded by an aura of invincibility ever since Logan and his team first commented on it during the first ascent of Mt Barney in 1828. But fresh from the recce the previous week, Tillack was confident and the team of three were soon at the previous high point below a large cave, as Tillack later recounted:

Unfortunately, I now remembered a trick [Walter] Bonatti used on the Dru, so I made a line of slings weighted with karabiners and flung this out so that the karabiners jammed behind a small tree. After appropriate incantations to the Gods of the mountain, I swing out into space and then, using the rope, climbed up to the tree. I then discovered that the tree was rotten.
The remaining four pitches followed a scrub-filled chimney to the summit. It has become something of a rite of passage for those who value ‘traditional’ or ‘adventure’ climbing, as it is now called.

Pictures: (from top) John Tillack [Ted Cais collection]; Donn Groom [John Larkin collection]; Les Wood [Les Wood collection].

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