Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Queensland takes
the lead...again

From the early 1970s, Rick White continued to push the boundaries of hard aid and free climbing in Australia, driven by a strong ego and a powerful drive to reach the top echelons of his calling. By 1972, he was ready to take the lead and with Ron Collett and Ted Cais, they climbed a direct start to Beau Brummell on Mt Maroon's big east face. White wrote: ‘The route is significantly harder than all other routes I have ever experienced. The climb is awkward and sustained jamming up a 30 degree overhanging corner-crack which runs straight into a roof (aid). There are no rests. Once the roof is reached, the idea is to hang off one lousy hand jam and quickly place the first aid—you have approximately 15 seconds to solve the situation.’ They called it Valhalla and graded it 22 M2—the hardest in Australia. A few months later, Bryden Allen eliminated the aid moves from The Kraken at Wirindi (formerly Mt Piddington) in the Blue Mountains, creating Australia’s second grade 22 climb. White made the second free ascent of The Kraken a short time later, confirming that Valhalla was its equal.

Working on Maggie’s Farm

In May that year, Rick White and Ted Cais blitzed a new climbing area on the southeast corner of Mt Maroon which they called Maggie’s Farm. Along with a queue of other top climbers at the time—Coral Bowman, Chris Peisker, Ron Collett and John Hattink—they steadily climbed one new route after another. In a matter of days, White and Cais climbed 23 new routes at the cliff, commuting each day from Frog Buttress where a national climbing meet had attracted about 20 people from interstate and overseas. During that event, White put up Conquistador with Sydney climber Warwick Williams—Queensland’s first and Australia’s second Grade 21. White completed his Maroon odyssey with a solo mixed free and aid girdle traverse of the east face in November, calling it Animal Act, finishing up the classic, Ruby of India. Frog Buttress was not forgotten but climbing had slowed there. Nevertheless, White and Cais led more hard new routes including Elastic Rurp, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Noose, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and Iron Mandible.

Picture: Tony Kelly, Greg Sheard, Rick White and Ron Collett sort gear on Mt Maroon. Within weeks, White and Collett joined with Ted Cais to climb Valhalla. Michael Meadows collection.

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