Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ethical adventures

Ted Cais with an array of pitons and ‘crackers’—a central element of clean climbing ethics applied in Queensland from the late 1960s. At the close of the decade, debates over a new approach to climbing and climbing ethics swept through Australian climbing circles. One of the most notable and eloquent protagonists was New South Wales climber John Ewbank. Through the pages of the national climbing magazine, Thrutch, Ewbank advocated the use of forms of protection less damaging to the rock than bolts, as well as opening up placements impossible with the limited range of pitons available. Queensland climbers were quick to take up the option, playing a leading role in promoting the application of clean climbing ethics. This helped to set up a strong relationship between Queensland and New South Wales climbing that persisted throughout the 1970s with climbers in the two states often joining forces to resist a growing Victorian propaganda machine. Ewbank started to manufacture his own crude versions of ‘crackers’—essentially hexagonal-section lengths of aluminium rod, drilled to enable threading with a sling. As his manufacturing zeal waned, Rick White quickly followed suit with his own versions. Several local climbers in Queensland—Dave Reeve in particular—took this a step further, borrowing from sailing technology and using swaged stainless steel slings on the hexes, probably the first local application of this technology in Australia.

Picture: Ted Cais collection.

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