Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New waves

in the deep north

Rockclimbing had become firmly established in the eastern states in Australia by 1968. In Queensland, more new climbers began to emerge: Dave Reeve, John Veasey, Greg Sheard and a bloke called Rick White. I first laid eyes on White stuck on a tiny ledge at Binna Burra, 25 metres up Alcheringa—reputedly the hardest climb in Queensland—wearing a pair of Volley OCs. It was an indication of his strong mental resolve to push himself to the limit. Apart from Ted Cais, who had started climbing in the early 1960s, all of the previous generation of climbers in Queensland had moved on when Rick White, Greg Sheard, Paul Caffyn and others stormed onto the scene. White, Sheard and Caffyn moved quickly to repeat the hardest existing climbs in southeast Queensland and then began to look beyond. It was a time when most of the current crop of Brisbane Rockclimbing Club climbers had either moved away or slowed. Ted Cais was still climbing sporadically, balancing time on the rock with the demands of his postgraduate studies. But another generation was emerging. Early in 1968, Dave Reeve climbed East Chimney on Glennies Pulpit and Rick White put up two new routes on the Beerwah slabs, Scotch Mist and Gambier I. Paul Caffyn led my brother Chris and I up a delicate climb on the scaly northern edge of Cave 3 on Tibrogragan. We called the virtually unprotected one-pitcher Superdirettissima, another tilt at the traditionalists. Meanwhile, the number of climbing clubs in Sydney had increased from one to four—and in the previous two years, the number of climbing gear retailers there had trebeled. The Climbers’ Association of Western Australia formed, launching its ‘Golden Era’ which lasted until 1972. Several women were involved from the earliest days there including Jan Kornweibel, Hazel Adams and Helen Harrison-Lever. The association ran training sessions in a Perth quarry and it was characterised by a number of expatriate Europeans as members. At the same time, the first recorded climbs in the Northern territory were put up by Paul and Pam Oates and English expatriate Pauline Mason around Alice Springs.

Picture: Rick White and Paul Caffyn, summit of Crookneck, 1968. Paul Caffyn collection.

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