Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Porter's Pass climbing meet

With the interstate climbing ‘war’ at its peak, a large contingent of Queensland and Victorian climbers joined their New South Wales colleagues at the Easter 1973 climbing meet at Porter’s Pass. One emerging new climber at the time was Ian Thomas or ‘Humzoo’—the nickname stemming from his early penchant for playing the voice-generated instrument called the ‘hum-a-zoo’. He recalls being aware of the interstate rivalry well before he met any of the protagonists. ‘I remember pissing myself laughing at articles by Greg Sheard about him chopping bolts,’ he recalls. ‘So in ’71 when Squeak [Robert Staszewski] and I went down there, the first thing we did was not climbing, but we got our hammers out and chopped bolts. It just seemed to be the thing to do!’ To the exuberant Thomas and the ambitious Staszewski, it was simply good fun. Thomas recalls the interstate tension at the Porter’s Pass climbing meet when, in front of a highly critical audience, Chris Baxter retreated from Flake Crack, packed up his car and left. ‘That Queensland versus the south is mirrored in the wider community, too,’ he muses. ‘Maybe we were enacting something which is there culturally anyway. I’m not sure.’ With the hostilities at their peak, Thomas delighted in fanning the flames, referring to Grampians’ classics as ‘loose, crumbly lines on Mt Crumblebar in the Crapians’. It did little to improve interstate relations but it was the source of great mirth.

Picture: Ted Cais, Rick White, Trevor Gynther and Rick Jamieson contemplating the great climbs on the steep walls around Amen Corner at Wirindi, 1973. Ted Cais collection.

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