Monday, September 19, 2005


Climber Mike Woodrow on the first pitch of the steep, spectacular route, Reptile, on the Funnel in The Steamers shortly after the first ascent by Bill Peascod, Donn Groom and Neill Lamb in 1956. They named it following 'an incident with a goanna'. The creative route entails climbing 30 metres up a steep rhyolite wall before squeezing through a hole, to be confronted by a steep vertical wall (pictured) with a 50 metre drop below. On the first ascent, their abseil ropes jammed and it took Lamb two days to eventually free them.

Picture: Neill Lamb collection.Posted by Picasa

The 1st ascent of Boonoo Boonoo Falls

By 1956, climbing was expanding around Australia with activity in Bungonia Gorge, the Wolgan and Capertee Valleys, Lithgow, Frenchman’s Cap, Federation Peak, and the Glasshouses. Kippax returned to the Breadknife in the Warrumbungles climbing the North Arete with Dave Rootes, Jeff Field and Peter Harvey. That year, the first traverse of The Breadknife was done. Further north, Bill Peascod joined with local climbers Donn Groom, Neill Lamb and L Upfold to put up two new routes on the big south face of Beerwah in the Glasshouses—Pilgrim’s Progress and Mopoke Slabs. While Peascod’s influence on local climbing culture in Queensland was clear, several strong local climbers had emerged. Neill Lamb joined with Julie Henry and Frank Theos, starting the year by climbing the 180 metre high Boonoo Boonoo Falls—calling it the Belvedere Route. Lamb recalls the experience:

I remember when we climbed up the side of Boonoo Boonoo Falls, which had never been done, we just did that on the spur of the moment. It wasn’t a hard climb. The waterfall was thundering down one side of you and the holds were just there and the situation was just magnificant. You’re just there in some of these positions and the goose pimples come out…

The 1st ascent of Prometheus II

Neill Lamb, 19, and Graham Baines, 18, joined up with Julie Henry, 38, Bill Peascod, 36, and his young son, Allan to climb an exposed new route on the east face of Tibrogargan, across the top of Cave Four. Baines was climbing last, this time, and recalls events when he reached a stance below a corner above the cave:

I had a clear view of Neill on the wall above, grappling with almost non-existent holds, his toenails curled over and clinging to rugosities on the rock face. He drove in a piton, to which he attached a carabiner to serve as a running belay. This gave him a slight feeling of security but he still could not progress and returned to the stance where Bill was belaying him. Bill moved out across the face to have a go at it. He had the same trouble as Neill and after a long battle, he, too, returned to the belay stance where he rested and thought things over. As yet undefeated, Bill gave it another go and, after poising precariously on the skyline for about ten minutes, he traversed to the left and disappeared from view. The rope moved forward spasmodically and we knew that he was getting somewhere. We heard a piton being driven in. Then a shout. Bill had mastered the pitch.

Lamb followed and it was clear that Peascod’s son, Allan, would not be able to climb it so Peascod lowered some ropes and slings and the young boy was trussed up in a bosun’s chair and literally hauled up the pitch. Julie Henry was next and she soon ran into trouble and was ‘winched’ from above by Lamb and Peascod.

Picture: Neill Lamb on the 1st ascent of Boonoo Boonoo Falls, 1956. Neill Lamb collection.

A leap of Faith

In 1955 in Queensland, Bill Peascod played a key role in influencing a new approach to climbing. Some called it 'a new ethos', seeing climbing as being in tune with the environment rather than seeing it in terms of 'conquering'. Peascod inspired a teenage Neill Lamb to seek out new routes where few had been before and they climbed a new route on the east face of Tibrogargan, calling it Faith. The route started to the left of Caves Route and picked its way up through a series of overhangs. The first attempt by Lamb, Peascod, Hugh Pechey and Julie Henry, early in the year, turned into an epic, with the trio benighted and having to abseil off in the dark. On 21 May, they returned and completed the climb.

Picture: Bill Peascod on the first ascent, Neill Lamb collection.

Bill Peascod addressing a climbing training session at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, 1955, with an impressive array of carabiners and pitons.

Picture: Neill Lamb collection.Posted by Picasa
The Tigers' rule

Bill Peascod emigrated to Australia in 1952 but climbing was far from his mind at the time. From 1938, he had put up numerous new routes in the Lake District with partner Bill Beck. His most famous route is Eagle Front, ‘500 feet of exploration up and across and again up the face of the biggest mountain cliff in England’. Peascod considered himself and a contemporary, one of a new breed of British climber, not drawn from the middle classes. He recalled: ‘I had come onto the scene before [Joe] Brown and the Rock and Ice, remember. [Jim] Birkett and I—the quarryman and the miner—we were the first of the working class climbers.’ In those days, it was virtually impossible to make a living from climbing and disillusioned with the bleak future ahead of him in England, Peascod emigrated. He would spend 28 years in Australia, developing his skills as an artist. Peascod was from the school of climbing where any form of belaying was unreliable. He and his generation operated on a simple principle known as the Tiger’s Rule: ‘The rule was simple. Never fall off and I never did; well, hardly ever did,’ he recalled when in his early 60s. By then—1982—he felt climbing had become ‘sort of pasteurised’.

The Warrumbungles

Within two years of his arrival in Australia, Peascod’s passion for climbing re-surfaced. He started a rockclimbing group in Woollongong around 1954, using cliffs at Bulli, and he heard about the Sydney Rockclimbing Club. Sydney Rockclimbing Club co-founder Russ Kippax recalls he had just returned from 12 months’ climbing in New Zealand:
Somehow I got in contact with Bill Peascod or he got in contact with me—I forget now how exactly that happened. I’d heard about the Warrumbungles and suggested that we go and have a climb there. We spent a week up there; knocked off all the climbs. Well, Dark and his crowd had already been onto Split Rock [Crater Bluff], of course, but we put up two climbs on that, one of which is now totally forgotten and the other is almost forgotten, although I believe they’re now
repeating it, so that’s quite good. And of course, the Breadknife was totally unclaimed at that time and a couple of other climbs roundabout we tried and a few we failed on. We had a good week; it was a marvellous week.

One of the first climbs they tried was on Tonduron: up the nose and without protection—it was doomed. Kippax continues: ‘Bill was leading and he said: “Well at the moment I’m standing on an inverted pyramid of rocks, loose rocks, clutching onto a clump of grass, my left foot is waving in the air and my right hand is thrutching around—I’m coming down.”’ They eventually climbed a corner to the top and then moved across to Crater Bluff, making an attempt on what is known today as Cornerstone Rib:
We tried to get up this rib but we couldn’t get any pro; we couldn’t make a belay so we came down and went up over here which is now called Vintage Rib. Fairly early in the piece, Bill said, “I’m a crack and chimney man and by looking at you, you’re a wall man,” which I was, so he took all the cracks and chimneys—in some of them you could just lift out the handholds—and I took the walls.

Following their success on Crater Bluff in August, they returned the following month and turned their attention to The Breadknife, as yet unclimbed. Peascod led the first pitch, belayed Kippax to the first stance and he led through to the top—making the first ascent of the South Arete. Peascod climbed with his own makeshift harness—a single strand of rope around his waist linked by a carabiner to a shoulder loop. He always wore a trademark white floppy washing hat. Peascod brought with him a rarity in Australia at that time—a pair of Pierre Allain friction boots or PAs. On one particularly sodden ascent he made in England in 1942, Peascod famously took off his socks and put them on over his boots to negotiate some slippery rock—possibly the first use of that technique in postwar England. After his Warrumbungles’ experience with Peascod, Kippax drifted away from rockclimbing and into caving, returning to the crags in the early 1960s.

Picture: Bill Peascod on 1st ascent of the Breadknife. Russ Kippax collection.