Tuesday, October 04, 2005

'Paradise found'

It was a Saturday afternoon—9 November 1968—when Rick White and Chris Meadows on the spur of the moment decided to take a closer look at a low line of cliffs on the northwest slope of Mt French. They drove up a rough track to the top of the mountain from the west and walked to the edge of the cliff—the explorer Patrick Logan had stood there 141 years ago. White recalls the moment: ‘We walked along the cliff and thought we’d found a lot of good aid climbs.’ My brother Chris confirmed this when he arrived home that day, raving about the 50 to 60 metre high cliffs of columnar trachyte. He was more impressed by the geological formation they had discovered than by the potential it represented as one of Australia’s foremost climbing areas. They returned the following Sunday—17 November—and climbed the first route, Corner of Eden; a week later, Liquid Laughter Layback, naming it after my brother’s near out-of-stomach experience. The name ‘Frog Buttress’ did not come from the mass on which it is located, Mt French—it was a less obvious derivation. White initially called the cliff ‘Paradise Lost’, but the presence of several abandoned contraceptive aids (or ‘French Letters’) in the locally-frequented car park at the top of the cliff prompted Chris Meadows to suggest the name ‘Frog Buttress’—and it stuck. A handful of people were let in on the discovery of the cliff and over the first month or so, Rick White and Chris Meadows climbed Satan’s Smokestack, Witches’ Cauldron, Pirana (pictured), Clockwork Orange Corner, Strawberry Alarmclock, Orchid Alley, and Chunder Crack. News of the cliff lured Ted Cais away from his studies to second White up Infinity—the first real jam climb on the cliff.

Picture: Michael Meadows collection.

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