Sunday, April 21, 2019

The origins of The Living Rock

 The Dugandan 1998: (from left) Bryden Cais, Greg Sheard, Ian Thomas, Wendy Steele (at end of table) 
Trish Hindmarsh, Keith Harper, Carola Henley and Ted Cais. Photo: Michael Meadows

It all began (above) on a warm Winter's afternoon in 1998 at the Dugandan Hotel, near Boonah. I was sitting around a table on the veranda of the pub with a group of friends, climbers, young and old. My school friends Greg Sheard and Ian Thomas were there as was Ted Cais with his son, Bryden. Ted and Bryden were visiting for another stint of climbing at nearby Frog Buttress from Ted's new home in the United States. Greg tossed a copy of Rick White's original climbing guide to the crag onto the table and the young climbers present pored over it as if it was the Holy Grail. It was clear that they valued this moment and the apparently insignificant, hand-stapled collection of words and images. It may have been at that moment that I realised that it was far more than a rockclimbing guide: it represented a historical moment in the origins of climbing in Queensland -- and beyond.

Six months later, I received the news that a small grant application to research Queensland climbing history through Griffith University -- where I worked as a lecturer in Journalism -- had been approved. It meant I could employ a climber as a research assistant to work with me in discovering whether there was any archival material  in local libraries and private collections that would help us to tell this story. I discovered many years later that the assessment committee's reception towards my grant proposal was luke-warm until a former Dean of Arts -- a climber in his youth -- argued strongly on my behalf. And so the search for documentary evidence of Queensland's climbing past had begun.

On my first day at the State Library of Queensland with climber-researcher Wendy Steele, I not only discovered a long lost relativen working behind the reference desk, but also met up with Robert Thomson who overheard our conversation. A cup of coffee later and Robert had offered us access to his own collection of archival documents -- many of them newspaper articles -- a research project he had started independently, eighteen months before. Although our trajectories were slightly different, our focus was identical: to document a history of European exploration of mountain landscapes in southeast Queensland. Wendy soon departed to attend to her own pressing academic studies and Robert became the sole researcher. It was he who suggested we delve into newspaper archives and akin to a poisoned chalice, he has spent the best part of his life since then doing just that. This was well before the National Library of Australia's digital newspapers' archive, Trove. Nowadays, following a few well-planned keystrokes, the digitised Australian cultural resource can reveal in seconds what it took Robert months, years to uncover. But despite the wonders of digital search and discovery technologies, a significant number of the sources Robert located manually still do not appear in the Trove database. It was a effort of monumental proportions.

When we started this quest, I had no idea it would produce the volume of data and publications that have flowed from this rich collection, almost from day one. Perhaps if I had known how much it would impact on my life I may never have started it! But seriously, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my long career as a researcher. And it continues.

Between the persona and the private

John Theodore Comino

Born: Brisbane, 2 June 1929

Died: Brisbane, 16 January 2019

John Comino (left) and Jon Stephenson on the summit of The Thumb, Hinchinbrook Island, following their first ascent in 1953 (Photo: Geoff Broadbent)

It was only recently that I learned of the death of John Comino at age 89, an innovative and pioneering climber-bushwalker, who pushed the boundaries of the possible during an intense period of outdoor activity in 1950’s postwar Queensland. John was an integral part of a small core of adventurers who formed the influential University of Queensland Bushwalking Club (UQBWC) in 1950. Along with my peers and, I suspect, many others, I was lured into the world of bushwalking and climbing by reading the exploits of John and his cohort in the pages of the UQBWC magazine, Heybob. We planned our local forays into the Southeast Queensland wilderness based on the vivid accounts of first ascents and dramatic events, but more often, encouraged by the engaging perceptions of landscape and environment and our place in it.Although I did not know him personally, I’ve drawn together these memories from a series of interviews with him between 1999 and 2003. 
When I first spoke to John Comino 20 years ago about those halcyon years, he recalled the precise set of circumstances that led to the formation of UQBWC. In December 1949, he was attending a UQ Science Camp near Mount Coolum on the Sunshine Coast when a fellow student, Jon Stephenson, asked him if he wanted to climb to the top of the low-lying peak. It was the view from the summit that day that triggered something inside John to pursue the heights with a vengeance.
As a result of that Science Camp and people picking around the bush — and we were happy about the climb up east Coolum — we decided we’d form a bushwalking club. Now I’d heard of bushwalking in 1946 from Ross Barber and Graham Jarrott — a remarkable photographer. They were telling me about how they went bushwalking. And I said, ‘What do you want to walk in the bush for? What’s this in aid of?’ And I thought, ‘What a waste of bloody time.’ That was my first introduction to the name bushwalking.
Despite his early misgivings, in the first few months of 1950, he and others — including Dave Stewart, Stephanie Henson, Ian McLeod, Geoff Broadbent, Bob Waring, Sid Williams and Jon Stephenson — formed the UQBWC. The original idea was to have a small group of about a dozen keen walkers — but the first trip to Mount Elphinstone at Brookfield attracted around 120 people! Jon Stephenson decided to ‘prune back’ the numbers by climbing the mountain at breakneck speed — and it worked as John recalled:
I think a lot of them thought it was going to be little boysies and girlsies holding hands tiptoeing through the tulips but this was not the idea at all from our point of view. So those with the wrong idea found that it was very difficult physically because we were virtually running. We moved very fast and had to deplete them by attrition. That diminished the number from 120 down to about 30, maybe 20.
It was the start of an extraordinary chain of events that set up the framework for the development of postwar climbing and bushwalking in Queensland. Bert Salmon had dominated the climbing and walking scene between the wars but John sensed that a changing of the guard was imminent:
Bertie Salmon used to have the Alpine Journal — he had every issue of the Alpine Journal since it was first published bar one issue and he was quite proud of this. He spent a lot of time and money all his life. It was the pride of his life this Alpine Journal, believe me. He used to sit and read about all of this stuff and I used to think, ‘Well, how bloody dull.’ We were brash I suppose — so I didn’t give Bert his full due, by any means.
It was around this time that his nickname, ‘Johnno’ was coined:
I was always what I would call antisocial. When I started at university, I purposely changed my persona to be ‘Johnno’, the life of the party, instead of the introverted wallflower that I’d been previously all my life. I’m probably about normal now [laughs]. But that was my persona.
On the next UQBWC trip — to Mount Barney’s North Peak — ‘Johnno’ struck up what would be a lifelong friendship with the inimitable Bob Waring. They shared a powerful desire to reach summits in the shortest possible time so when the group stopped for lunch, gazing up at the massive hulk of East Peak, Bob Waring was puzzled. ‘Why are we all sitting around?’ he asked. ‘Aren’t we going up there?’ The group leader, Sid Williams, tried to dissuade them but John and Bob headed off regardless, promising to return in 20 minutes. Perhaps predictably, they were back before the rest of the group had finished their sandwiches!

This no-nonsense ‘just do it’ approach quickly came John Comino’s defining characteristic.

Shortly after the formation of the UQBWC, he was also involved in another Queensland milestone — the Brisbane Climbing Club (BCC), the second such organisation devoted to climbing activities in Queensland [Bert Salmon started the first around 1926]. Although the UQBWC lasted well into the 1980s before being superseded by amongst others, the current UQ Mountain Club, the BCC lasted barely eight months. Its demise had nothing to do with climbing — but Communism! John’s version of the meeting that saw the club torn apart differs in places from others’ accounts but essentially captures the spirit of the times. Essentially, the instigator of the club, Kemp Fowler — a New Zealand radar technician — was accused of having Communist sympathies. An extraordinary general meeting of the BCC called by Bert Salmon, Jon Stephenson and Raoul Mellish (amongst others), asked noted geologist Dr Fred Whitehouse to address the gathering. John rembered the tone of the meeting that evening:
'Can you trust your companion when he’s holding your life in his hands?’ was essentially the précis of what he [Whitehouse] was saying, and if he’s not the same political persuasion as you — namely a Communist — then beware, take care.
John and others claim that Fred Whitehouse had ASIO connections which led him to make the accusations, demanding that club members declare their support either for King and country — or for Communism.
The idea was to expel Kemp Fowler from the club. Kemp walked out, the schism was broad and deep. [Secretary] Shirley [McKenny’s] affiliation in working with Kemp made her walk out. My association with Shirley made me walk out. Waring’s association with me made Waring walk out. So we all walked out down Edward Street, fuming: ‘They can do whatever they like with their club if that’s the way they feel about it.
But while a difference in political ideology may have led to the demise of the BCC, it did little to prevent the climbing activity that followed. Friends split by the incident soon realised that their common love of the outdoors overrode any political differences and climbing activities resumed.

John Comino soloing the first ascent of The Pinnacle, the Steamers, in 1952 (photo: Jon Stephenson)
  John was the first to repeat the exposed traverse above the north face of Leaning Peak soloed by Bob Waring in 1949 and was soon pursuing the last unclimbed summits in southeast Queensland — in the Steamer Formation on the Main Range near Killarney. In 1952, John and Bob soloed the steep north face of The Pinnacle in the Steamers, making the first ascent. In January 1953, John joined with Jon Stephenson, Geoff Goadby, Geoff Broadbent, Dave Stewart and Ian McLeod to make the first ascent of the Thumb — a pinnacle on the side of Mount Bowen on Hinchinbrook Island.
It was three days going up there to do Mount Bowen and for those three days we just about sweated blood. It was right in the middle of summer. It was hot as hell. And when we got up on the top that night we could see in the distance a thunderstorm coming and thereafter it rained and rained. It averaged eight inches a day for 10 days.
It was actually a cyclone and as they approached their objective, John described his plan of attack to climb the steep, weathered granite to the summit of The Thumb:
I was going to take a flying leap at it but they said, ‘No! No! Don’t be silly’ — or something — and dissuaded me from jumping across. It was about from you to here [1.5 metres] away and dropped away to nothing but I reckon I could have taken a running jump — woomph — and stuck. I suppose that would have been foolish but I was quite confident I could do it so I expected I would have. They dissuaded me from doing that.

On the summit of Leaning Peak, Mount Barney, 1954 -- from left, John Comino, Italian Consul Felice Benuzzi, 
Geoff Goadby, Peter Barnes and (rear) Alan Frost (photo: Peter Barnes)

Following their successful ascent on Hinchinbrook Island — and a subsequent escape from the cyclone — John met up with Jon Stephenson and Alan Frost to guide Bert Salmon up the long south face of Mt Beerwah, remembering it as the most enjoyable climb he did: "We were using ropes then. Bert had never used a rope before, or so he said. He was shit-scared to say the least."

Unlike many of his peers, John was not an avid reader of climbing literature nor did he have an interest in climbing history. He heard about Bert Salmon through Jon Stephenson who was keen to maintain contact with the 1930s climbing pioneer but to John, he was just ‘an old bloke who was working at Ag [Agriculture] and Stock’ although he remembered Salmon’s white, curly hair.

In December that same year — 1953 — he joined Jon Stephenson again, this time to make the first (and still the only verified) ascent of Vidler’s Chimney with George Ettershank and Ron Moss. He had few recollections of the challenging climbing conditions:
The idea to get up Vidler’s Chimney is to climb up faster than you’re sliding back. That, in essence, is what it is, but it’s terribly exposed.

 John Comino instructing in climbing techniques at Kangaroo Point circa 1958 (photo: Ron Cox)

In the following years, John became one of the stalwarts — albeit initially a reluctant one — conducting climbing training sessions at Kangaroo Point cliffs for UQBWC members.
They were started off by ‘Cleat’ [Alan Frost] and Peter Barnes because they were boarders at St John’s College in River Terrace. They used to spend weekends mucking around with climbing practice. Alan Frost was a friend of Geoff Goadby’s and that’s how Geoff got to know Peter. The three of them used to do some climbing practice over there. Geoff was keen on showing people who wanted to climb how to climb. I thought this was a dumb idea. I wasn’t very enthusiastic. I think Geoff took the first couple of climbers. We were trying to dissuade people from climbing, let’s say, because it’s a dangerous pursuit because if you think you’re just going to go out and climb solo on something very dangerous, you’re going to have an accident for sure. And it would reflect back on the club. As far as the bushwalking club [UQBWC] was concerned, we weren’t officially into climbing. If there were a few ratbags among us who went climbing, that was OK — they weren’t doing it under the auspices of the club.
It was at one such Kangaroo Point training session that he first met Ron Cox. He learned that Cox had managed to climb a buttress on the lower cliffline — a route that still bears his name — and that it had reputedly repelled all other attempts. A small group of climbers was standing around the base of the cliff, discussing the route.
I don’t know whether they’d been in our class earlier in the afternoon or not. It was just about going home time and I think it might have been Ron who was just about up to the top of it when we went to have a look. That was about 100 yards downstream from where we were. I thought, this fellow can climb alright, he didn’t need any instruction. Then I got baited into having a go at it. I said ‘You insolent little bastards, I’m not going to be dared on this. I’ll take you on!’ [laughs] And so I did. I was belayed from above and it was very safe. Stephanie was there, too, and I think this was after we were married. It was quite a good climb until you get to this Cox’s Overhang and I thought that this was quite difficult and I couldn’t reach the handholds — they were about two or three inches out of reach. I was standing on tippy toes sort of thing and stretching as hard as I could stretch but they were a few inches out of reach.
Describing Ron Cox as being built ‘like a bloody spider’, he decided to make a lunge for a crucial handhold.
I wouldn’t have got over that thing without the rope.Anyway I got up there and after that I think Ron thought, ‘Well, this fellow can climb’ and that’s probably what caused him to look me up about the Crookneck thing some time later.
The ‘Crookneck thing’ was, of course, the first ascent of the East face route in 1959. John had attempted East Crookneck some years before with Bob Waring but had realised it was beyond him.
"I shinned up this column and I’m standing on top of the thing. Bob said, ‘Can you see anything from there?’ As I was standing there — the column’s only about eight inches diameter — I could feel the thing starting to peel off the side. I said to Bob, ‘Get away from down the bottom there, I think I’m coming down. Just get out of the road.’ I don’t know what I would have done if it had peeled right off. I ended up putting my arms around the thing and sliding back down it [laughs]."

John recalled that when he and Bob Waring first contemplated climbing Crookneck, the gear they had was rudimentary, to say the least:
I’ve seen young people out at Kangaroo Point with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment draped over them and I thought, ‘Oh God, climbing was never like this!’ We rappelled over here [the East Face] to see if there was a route that would go. We thought it would from the bottom…We decided that one of these days we’d go back and do that and we reckoned if we took some wooden chocks about 18 inches long down to about four inches long and a big hammer, then we could whop these into places that we could see. They wouldn’t be permanent pitons but they’d more than do the job.
On their recce of the climb, they had abseiled down to a large ledge [the second stance] they dubbed the Eagle’s Eyrie — and then had climbed back up to the summit ridge. But in September, 1959, John found himself standing below the east face with Ron Cox and Pat Conaghan.
So Ron and I went up and we had these etrier things that he and Pat had made up — marvellous things to use — it’s like a hangman’s noose [a prussik knot] that you wrap around the rope and slip up the rope. A good idea but there was only one catch: I’d never used them before. I’d never seen them before and I’m starting up on what I think is the most difficult pitch, the beginning of the thing…Where we started the climb, there was no column and, Holy Mackeral, there was an awful shortage of handholds. As far as I recall, you get up as far as you can and then traverse about 20 feet [six metres], diagonally. That first part there is where we used the etriers, as I recall. Of course, I was swearing about the things but once you got the hang of them they were marvellous to use. But it’s only in the beginning part of the climb we used them. It’s fairly easy up to the overhang but Ron had conveniently put a piton in before the overhang…You’d clip onto them and you were safe.
John reached the Eagle’s Eyrie just before nightfall so he and Ron settled into a bivvy while Pat sheltered at the base of the climb. The slow pace of climbing was testing his patience.
"It wasn’t until after the Eagle’s Eyrie that I led because I was so cheesed off with Ron taking so much time. After the Eagle’s Eyrie it’s just a stroll. Ron was super, super cautious because he hadn’t done that part before. When I got the opportunity — I didn’t like to say to him, ‘For God’s sake hurry up will you?’ I said ‘Look, I’ll do this part’ and he said ‘Righto’, so I went straight off up to the top. We ended up getting to the top of the mountain in darkness, holding a torch in my mouth."

John Comino was from a generation who saw climbing and bushwalking as inextricably linked — and it may explain one of his most enduring memories of his years spent exploring the wilderness regions of southeast Queensland:
It was after the climbing club’s climb of the north of Beerwah — coming back in the truck, the most outstanding thing in any of the climbing was the view at sunset — a red sky and an absolutely full moon beside Crookneck with Beerwah purple-black. In the back of this truck it was the most beautiful scene I’ve ever seen in my life. We’d had a good day climbing Beerwah on the inaugural trip and that scene sticks with me.
He had a strong belief that anyone who ventures into the outdoors should understand their limits — and he had little time for those who indulge in self-promotion based on their climbing achievements:
"I thought that all this self aggrandisement was a lot of bullshit. That’s frankly what I thought then and it’s what I think now. And this is what I see as a danger in climbing — if you have that mentality then you’re going to kill yourself or someone who’s with you very easily. That’s the downside of climbing. The other downside is that if you have such a high opinion of yourself you can over-climb and if you outclimb yourself, you should bloody drop dead or get back your own way, not get a helicopter to help you. You shouldn’t outclimb yourself; you should know your capabilities. That’s what I believe anyway. It worked for me because I’m still alive but a couple of other people aren’t."

John Comino leaves behind a rich personal legacy — a string of daring and sometimes outlandish tales that still hold their own today in terms of achievement, without the fanfare of self-promotion that seems to have become almost de rigueur in today’s social circles. He and his cohort have inspired generations perhaps because his no-nonsense approach seems to better reflect the real world of bushwalking and climbing we have inherited. It brings to mind one of my favourite quotes, entirely appropriate in describing the essence of John Comino’s contribution to the pantheon of Australian climbing history.

The history of mountaineering is about the firsts, mosts, and disasters, but behind the dozens of famous faces are countless mountaineers whose rewards have been entirely private and personal — Rebecca Solnit.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A memorable ascent of the north face of Leaning Peak: 16-17 September 2017

Alan Frost with son Chris on the summit of Leaning Peak -- 16 September 2017. Photo: Chris Frost

This is the story of an extraordinary ascent of Leaning Peak's north face by Alan Frost and his son, Chris. Why extraordinary? Alan was 82 at the time, becoming the oldest climber to have completed the route. He's also the oldest active climber from a postwar Queensland cohort who created a climbing culture that all of us have built on -- and benefited from. Chris has made an enormous contribution to the climbing scene both here and abroad from the late 1970s, following in his father's very large footsteps. As a climbing team, they have made many memorable ascents across Southeast Queensland and look set to continue.

I first wrote about their achievement last year in the online climbing magazine, Vertical Life (No. 23), but space restrictions prevented me from including more detail of this memorable event. I doubt whether anyone will better the ascent age record set by Alan who seems to have lost none of the passion for the heights that inspired he and his long-time climbing partner, Peter Barnes (now 87), to accomplish a long list of first and significant ascents in Southeast Queensland. Although by his own admission, the lightning pace set by he and Peter during their forays from the late 1940s may have slowed a little, he still climbs at a level that would challenge many current climbers. The following are emails sent to me following their historic ascent. I must declare a personal interest here having been part of the first ascent team -- with John Shera and my brother Chris -- on Leaning Peak's north face in February 1968. It was a defining moment in my own life and it seems that the spell of the big face has lost none of its aura. At 410 metres, it is still the longest trad route in Queensland (arguably Australia). I am sure that their experiences on the climb and the memories evoked will inspire you as they did me...

Alan Frost on one of the lower pitches of Leaning Peak's north face. Photo: Chris Frost


Chris has told of our adventure Sat/Sun. It was magic in so many ways, and gave much food for thought, especially as I was the belayer. It was hard to place it all in the perspective of the old days, but my main conclusion was to recognise the amazing achievement of your first ascent in 1968. It is always easier thereafter, knowing it can be done and an approximate idea of difficulty. And you did it in the old trad way with minimal gear (pitons?), static rope and I guess no sticky rubber shoes. After 49 years I felt humbled by your success. You were lucky in your time — the edge of our trad stuff (the leader shall not fall — Frank Smythe) and the beginning of protecting the leader, which slowly changed everything, in which you were much involved. Of course at the time I was well aware of the changes occurring, but let them pass me by: I was too busy at work and with a young family; it was evident that to be involved would take up too much time in mastering the new techniques.

I took up squash for the sharp exercise and played Pennant for many years until I could not see the ball well. When Chris, Paul (Hoskins) and others got serious in the early 80's, I dropped squash and trained with them. But for me it was too late. I fairly quickly got up to leading 21s and a few harder, but never felt myself competent, needing more practice. Then they all disappeared: Paul to Arapiles, Chris married and then took up flying ( as did some others). So I was back to the old scrambling, which I still enjoy, with irregular climbing with Chris.

Back to Saturday: all this stuff was whizzing around in my mind while watching the smoke, the exposure, and Chris seeking runners. Initially I was more concerned about getting a pack to the foot of the climb -- I am slow uphill with a pack (age and cardiac output are not friends, as you will find!!). As it turned out it was no problem, but finding the Gash (as we called it in the old days) in the smoke was difficult as we could not see any part of the mountain.

Eventually the start was obvious, a good angled start that just slowly became steeper. I was unsure at first of the slippers on the rock, and how I would handle the heavy pack, but after a few minutes I felt in my element, and the rock moves were great. Eventually we were over the smoke, but it was still very hazy. The last two pitches were fantastic. Very steep and scary for Chris with the runout on delicate holds. He is the ultimate climber, has been for a long time: relaxed and careful, judgement from long experience, yet once runners are in, graceful and quick. There were a couple of moves on the climb that I thought were around 18, the rest around 12-14, and overall, fantastic rock.

To my astonishment we topped out just on 5 pm, exactly where you exit the ledge [the Waring Ledge, first climbed in 1949 by Bob Waring], a few feet from the top. At the time there was no wind, and it would have been churlish to rush off to find a spot to curl up — so we stayed and watched the sunset, put on some clothes, feet in bivvy bag, and guess what? Chris produced some Talisker Scotch which we supped as the West and East Peaks turned from mellow detail to (West) a giant sombre black pyramid. The clouds of smoke down below from 8-10 fires around Ballow and the north of Barney creek mellowed and disappeared with the light, leaving the bright stark margins of the fires. It was one of the most magic hours I have had in the mountains.

So thanks to you for pioneering such a great climb. As we all know one cannot wax lyric to anyone but a climber, and often even they are not interested; so thanks for listening to my rambling.
PS. Chris just reminded me that I took him up Logan's ridge when he was 8, i.e. 1968, the year of your climb!

 Alan Frost high on the face in fading light. Photo: Chris Frost


Left the car park at 4.45am. There were many fires about with lots of smoke. The smoke even made navigation hard in the scrub leading up to the base of the route. We were slowed by the thick scunge for a while and didn't start climbing until 10am. T'was a bit of a slow start! We did 12 pitches with Dad climbing second on each pitch. He was amazing, climbing the entire route without assistance from the rope. We topped out at 5 pm in the setting sun. I'd planned on a bivi, so had packed bivi bags, a stove and little extra water.

I surprised Dad with a cup each of fine scotch whiskey. We sat and soaked up the moment as the sun set over west peak. After a few brews we climbed into our bivi bags and endured a fitful sleep in the cold. A southwest wind rose considerably overnight making things a little cooler than I imagined. We both had bouts of shivering. Good fun!

The first morning light had us out of our bags and keen to start moving. We were being blown over with the wind! The abseil was fun in the even stronger wind of saddle venturi effect. We scooted up over North Peak and descended Rocky Creek. Back to the car then the obligatory beer at the Rathdowney Pub.

The living rock: the invention of climbing in eastern Australia

The Living Rock has been officially archived by the National Library of Australia. To search the   archive of websites like this one, click on the logo above.

I'm now down to my last 150 (of 1100) copies of The Living Rock. There's been a wonderful outpouring of support and information from readers, buyers, climbers, relatives and others which really has made all of the effort worthwhile. In fact, it's the aftermath of proiducing the book that hasd been the most rewarding. Despite all of that, I won't be embarking on a secondn edition in hard copy format but have decided to pursue an iBook version that I plan to publish later this year. It will include most of the images in the hard copy but with some additional photographs and video clips -- both historical and current -- of climbs and climbing areas, mostly in Queensland. It'll be available through the iBook store and readable only on iPads or Macs, mainly because of the large file size of the document. If you haven't yet obtained a copy of the hard copy edition -- and would like to -- please contact me.

Since publication in September 2015, I've been involved in various promotional events, beginning with a fantastic launch at Mountain Designs' Valley store in Brisbane. It was wonderful to see Donn Groom (with virtually the entire Groom family!) and Paul Caffyn who came from their homes in New Zealand for the event along with about 80 others, including old friends from decades ago. It was an uplifting evening. A highlight was meeting 85-year-old Bernice Manley for the first time. I spoke to Bernie at the very start of my research by telephone from Melbourne where she lives. She happened to be in Queensland staying with relatives and it was wonderful to meet her and to experience her continuing enthusiasm for climbing. Bernie was one of a handful of pioneering women who were climbing in the late 1940s/early 1950s in Southeast Queensland. Peter Barnes who is close to 86 was also there, along with his old climbing partner Alan Frost. Both look incredibly fit and are still active in the outdoors: what wonderful examples for us all. Long-time friend Ian Thomas flew up from Melbourne with the doyen of Australian climbing Keith Bell kindly coming up from Sydney for the event. Ian, Keith and I managed to squeeze in some memorable moments in the Glass House Mountains during their stay.

Mountain Designs has been strongly supportive of the book since the launch and I thank all involved for this. It was very sad to witness the closure of all of its 39 walk-in stores across Australia in February 2018, particularly because of my own brief involvement in the company's first few years. I've also had strong support from other local climbing outlets -- The Far Outdoors (Boonah), Pinnacle Sports at Red Hill and K2 Base Camp in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley -- with the book available at all of these shops along with the following general book stores: Avid Reader (West End), Mary Ryan's (Milton), The Maleny Bookshop, Rosetta Books (Maleny), The River Read (Noosaville), Binna Burra Lodge, Canungra Visitors Information Centre, Rathdowney Historical Museum and Visitor Information, Glass House Mountains Information Centre, Fullers Bookshop (Hobart) and the Hobart Bookshop. I thank all of these outlets for their support.It's also available in selected bookstores in southern Australia thanks to Glenn Tempest who is distributing copies from his Natimuk headquarters.

Below is a Table of Contents to give you an idea of the span of the project. Part I explores the earliest known European ascents in Australia and the emergence of rockclimbing as a recreation before World War II. Part II focuses on climbing in postwar Queensland until about the late 1980s. I stopped at that point because of both the enormity of the project and the diversification of climbing into more specialised categories: sports climbing, bouldering and  indoor climbing, for example. In addition, the most recent stories and images of climbing in Australia -- particularly since the mid-1980s -- have been published in a range of climbing magazines, including Thrutch, Rock, Wild, Crux, and current online offering, Vertical Life.

The price of the book is AUD$39.95 (including postage to most places in Australia).


Living Rock Press
PO Box 52
Rochedale South
QLD 4123

Articles on climbing history from 2013-present: Vertical Life (free subscription).
Climbing wars: or Victoria versus the rest (Crux 2007)
Transport trauma (Crux 2007)
Women with attitude (Crux 2007)
Ghosts and the Glasshouses (Crux 2006)
The origins of Australian climbing (Crux 2006)
Return to the North Face of Leaning Peak  (Wild 2003)
The changing role of QLD newspapers in imagining leisure and recreation (eJournalist 2001)
Close to the edge: imagining climbing in S. E. Queensland (Queensland Review 2000)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Return to the North Face of Leaning Peak

Defining moments: an ascent of the north face of Leaning Peak

Evening shadows creep across Mount Maroon (in the distance) and Isolated Peak...from the summit
of Leaning Peak on Mount Barney, 2003 (Michael Meadows collection).

‘This is not where we were supposed to be,’ I thought, as four of us shivered on a cold August night in a small clearing ringed by huge boulders just below the summit of North Peak. By my calculations, we should have been back at our comfortable campsite at the bottom of the Mt Barney waterfall by now, preparing to walk back to the car. But Mt Barney has a habit of humbling you by its sheer size and majesty. A few hours earlier, Rob Hales, Wendy Steele, Katie Steele and myself had completed one of the longest multi-pitch climbing routes in Australia—the 410 metre north face of Leaning Peak—Wendy and Katie making the first female ascent and Wendy becoming the first person to have climbed both big faces on Mt Barney. As the cold wind suddenly became a lot colder, and the thought of warm clothing, food and water at our campsite 1000 metres below us became more vivid, the box of matches I always carried was suddenly worth more than its weight in gold. So we huddled there—around a fire, this time—a little less cold, a little less hungry, a little less thirsty, still very tired but perhaps secretly not wanting to be anywhere else on earth. Or maybe that was in retrospect.

Rockclimbing 1968-style: (from left) Michael Meadows, John Shera (kneeling) and Chris Meadows on the morning of the first ascent of the north face of Leaning Peak near the Catholic Bushwalkers' Hut, Lower Portals, Mount Barney (Michael Meadows collection).
I made the first ascent of the north face in 1968 with John Shera and my brother Chris. When I had mused about the possibility of repeating it—and climbing it in one day—Wendy Steele and partner Rob Hales had taken me very seriously and in August, 2003, the four of us set off on the long walk in to the bottom of the face. We started climbing in the gully used by pioneering Queensland climber Bert Salmon who was first to climb Leaning Peak in October 1932, alone. The second ascent came four years later when the first women—Lexie Wilson, Mary Hansen and Doris Goy—stood on the summit. We climbed in two ropes of two—Rob and myself, and Wendy and Katie—and Rob led off confidently on the first pitch. The rock was solid with the usual incredible Barney friction and Rob seemed to find gear placements where none was obvious. So far, the climbing was steeper and harder than I remembered—but then I was 19 on the first ascent. Back then, we wore vibram-soled bushwalking boots and, in true Alpine style, each of us carried a small pack with a foam bivvy bag, food and containers of ‘red’—raspberry cordial. On the original climb we carried 12 pitons, a dozen hemp and polyethylene slings, and a handful of mild steel carabiners. We used two brand new nylon ropes—our first.

Wendy Steele at home on the grippy second pitch of the 410 metre north face of Leaning Peak in 2003 (Michael Meadows collection).
By the time I reached Rob on the second stance, the outlook was sensational—we had climbed above a line of low northern foothills and the vista opened up dramatically. Rob, Wendy and Katie were in their element but I still felt a little intimidated—maybe it was uncertainty around my shaky legs, still recovering from the steep scramble to the start. Rob led off on the third pitch—another 60 metre runout—and a positive shout from above suggested some nice climbing ahead. And it was—some easy-angled slabs then steeper rock with adequate protection and as much exposure as you wanted. But the next pitch was even better. Rob thought it might be the best he had climbed in southeast Queensland—60 metres of solid, grippy rock shaped into water worn grooves, ideal for thoughtful jam protection and offering great holds. I had to agree. Wendy was in the groove, too, so much so that she got a gentle reminder from sister Katie to place more protection on the next pitch. We gulped down some water, a nip of ‘red’—back on the face after 35 years—and had a quick bite to eat and Rob set off up a rib above the stance. It quickly became harder than it looked from below but he powered up on loose microholds, well above the only good protection on the pitch. We suggested Wendy try the wall out to the right and she moved easily up this, catching us at the next stance, receiving yet another mild reprimand for her long unprotected runout.

As the rope played out in slow, steady jerks, I was alone on the stance. Wendy was climbing below me and Rob had disappeared around a steep buttress at the start of the 6th pitch. For some reason, I couldn’t get rid of a strange feeling of unease. Maybe it was concern that if something did go wrong—if there was an accident—I’d lured my friends up here to this place. And what a place! An uninhibited expanse to the north, from the now deeply-shadowed Mt Barney Creek 700 metres below, to the horizon, stretching out from ear to ear. You could almost feel the silence of the void.

Chris Meadows (left) and John Shera next morning on our bivvy ledge, 200 metres from the summit on the first ascent of the north face of Leaning Peak in 1968 (Michael Meadows collection).
It was around here that darkness had overtaken us on the first ascent in 1968. Back on that February evening, I had set off from a stance at about this height and in fading light, had hurried to climb a short overhanging corner. I came unstuck, falling a few metres onto a large ledge. With no apparent damage other than to my pride, I had climbed the corner easily the second time. Within a few minutes I had found a ledge big enough for us to sit out the night. The wind rose and had buffeted the face but our foam bivvy bags had worked superbly. It was a crystal clear evening and we could see the lights of Brisbane on the northern horizon. We had managed a few hours’ fitful sleep but next morning, my foot was so swollen I could barely fit it into my boot. It meant that leading was out of the question—and I chose not to think of the long walk out. Neither Chris nor John had led a climb before but John volunteered and for the next two hours, he carefully picked his way through the last 60 metres of steep rock—the most difficult climbing on the face. We stood on the summit of Leaning Peak at 11.00 am—24 hours after we’d started.

Rob Hales leads out on the second last pitch in the late afternoon sunshine (Michael Meadows collection).
These thoughts raced through my head as Rob signalled he had reached a belay stance, again with a few centimetres of rope to spare—one pitch to go. Around the buttress the climbing was superb, the protection dwindling as the climbing became harder and the rock quality deteriorated. Out to my left I could see what looked like a thick hawser hanging from a piton on a steep wall. We had left a peg and sling behind somewhere around here on the first ascent but this rope looked like it could be used to moor a cruise ship! It was after 5.00 by the time I reached Rob. The mental energy he had been expending all day must be taking its toll. He knew what the climb meant to me and without hesitation offered me the lead. It was a generous and thoughtful gesture but my mind was not in the right place—not this time. He had done a superb job in finding a new route up the face and I couldn’t take the last pitch away from him, even if I’d felt up to it. And 30 minutes later as I followed the snaking purple line of kernmantel, I was glad I hadn’t had a sudden rush of blood and taken him up on the offer. A difficult wall on small holds, then a tricky move past a pile of loose boulders, ready to avalanche onto Wendy and Katie directly below. A delicate balance move out left, then back across the corner. One step away, Rob sat almost hidden in low shrubs with his characteristic optimistic grin but this time, with a look of deep satisfaction. I squeezed his shoulder before scrambling up the last few metres to the summit ridge. It was 6.00 o’clock. I watched the colours changing as the sun sank lower. It was a magnificent place and I thought of my brother Chris who was on our first eventful climb here. If he was still alive, he might have been part of this adventure, too. I know he would have been in his element. I felt a shiver and wondered whether he was here after all.

Katie Steele in her element on the north face route with long shadows gathering.
She and sister Wendy made the historic first female and first all-female ascent of the face (Michael Meadows collection).
For me, and I know for many others, climbing is defined by a complex array of experiences—physical and spiritual. Central to it all are people: close friends, partners—and the bond that links us when we share an experience. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, all these elements come together to create something memorable—something that is much more powerful than the sum of the parts. And I’ve been lucky enough to experience this twice on the same climb.

The writer: Michael Meadows began climbing in the mid-1960s and drifted away 10 years later, pursuing a career as a journalist and later as a university lecturer. His reawakening came at the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Frog Buttress in 1998 when he climbed his first route for 20 years. Now he prefers climbing with good friends on quality, multi-pitch routes that capture the essence of the experience. He is completing a book about the origins of climbing in Queensland. Chris Meadows took his own life in 1991.

[Note: This article was first published in Rock, Summer 2006, 36-39]

Close to the edge: imagining climbing in southeast Queensland

Close to the edge: 
imagining climbing in southeast Queensland

Michael Meadows, Robert Thomson and Wendy Stewart 

[Note: We wrote this article based on our first tentative exploration of Queensland newspaper archives, former climbers' diaries, documents and recollections. It was the basis for a conference paper and was subsequently published in a modified form in the academic history journal, Queensland Review 7(2), 67-84, 2000]


In 1992, the Climbing World Finals event in Birmingham attracted around 5,000 spectators watching 24 males and 16 females compete in two separate competitions for prizemoney.  In this entertainment spectacular, super-fit young athletes climb walls using artificial hand and footholds, racing against the clock to determine who will claim the title of the world’s ‘best’ climber.  In the same year, climbing appeared as a demonstration sport at the Albertville Winter Olympics.[i]  In the same year, the first indoor climbing gymnasium in Australia opened its climbing wall.  There are now around 80 operating around the country under the auspices of the Australian Indoor Climbing Gyms Association Incorporated.[ii]

Two years earlier in 1990, the Australian Sportsclimbing Federation was formed.  It is registered with the International Union of Alpinist Associations (UIAA) the umbrella organisation for all mountaineering and rockclimbing associations worldwide.  In April last year at an event in the Blue Mountains called Escalade, 19 of the country’s highest-ranked female and 17 top-ranked male climbers competed.  It was the eighth climbing competition held in Australia since 1996 and some participants went on to compete in the World Cup—an international climbing competition.  A significant increase in female participation in rockclimbing coincides with the advent of climbing gyms in Australia.  Perhaps one reason for this is the central place of fitness in the lives of many young people.  Indoor climbing was quickly adopted as an interesting and effective way of getting and keeping fit—something confirmed by proponents of sports medicine.[iii] The increasing popularity of rockclimbing in its many forms has prompted studies from varied perspectives—for example, analysis of hand and finger abnormalities specific to climbers;[iv] analysis of rockclimbers’ injuries;[v] climbers’ ability to deal with occupational hazards;[vi] identifying climbers’ higher than average ‘sensation-seeking dispositions’;[vii] and the effects of climbers on the cliffs themselves.[viii]  The growing popularity of rockclimbing has itself presented traditional climbers with the contradiction that their very presence in wilderness locations acts to ‘transform, tame, and degrade nature’.[ix]

At one climbing gym in central Brisbane, an upstairs section of the building features a room where climbers can relax, hang out, shoot some pool and listen to music—an Internet café without the Internet.  By the mid-1990s in Australia, climbing had become part of the Extreme Games, a nationally televised event which includes such sports as skateboarding and hangliding.  It regularly features as a ‘cool’ activity in action feature films like The Eiger Sanction, Cliffhanger, where the central character is a climber.  Rockclimbing is an important activity which frames the latest manifestation of Mission: Impossible II.  Secret agent Ethan Hunt’s impossible antics on the huge walls of the Colorado Rockies at the start of the film features rockclimbing in a way which encapsulates the very themes of this conference—ethics, events, and entertainment.  The much publicised involvement of Tom Cruise in his own stunts for the film in turn frames rockclimbing as the cool activity for the new millennium.

From its earliest imaginings as a recreation, rockclimbing now finds itself straddling leisure and sport in the panoply of popular cultural activities.[x]  But it is not only the activity of rockclimbing itself which has moved to centre stage in popular culture.  What began as specialist outdoor equipment—from boots to backpacks—now makes up the wardrobes of generations of people who will never climb a cliff-face nor set foot on a walking track.  But this does not mean that those who climb have ignored this powerful cultural influence—far from it.  Climbers have appropriated aspects of popular culture—like fashion, music, and style—and incorporated these into the discourse of climbing.  Clearly, climbing is cool—a central part of popular culture—and consumer-friendly.  Popular media images from mainstream print and broadcast outlets to those in niche magazines play an important discursive role in ‘imagining’ climbing.  But it is far from being a new phenomenon.  In the second half of the 19th century, as the idea of mountaineering became fashionable in parts of Europe, mountaineering clothing and equipment became especially popular among British tourists ‘even though one in a hundred got close enough to the icefields to make good use of their outfits’.[xi]  As ever, consumer culture remains ‘a culture of the spectacle’ and perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the various modes of modern rockclimbing.[xii]

Alongside what has become the popular face of climbing, are diverse and parallel inflections of this cultural activity, each powerfully defined by sets of ethics that militate against particular practices—even if safety is a consideration.  For example, in climbing competitions, ‘sport’ climbers don’t need to carry some safety equipment because it has been previously placed on the artificial climbing walls they scale.  Citing ethics as a reason for rejecting this approach to climbing, some prefer to climb in places which enable the use of ‘natural’ protection (lightweight devices that can be wedged into cracks and removed without causing significant damage to rock).  This ethical stance is one of the hallmarks of what is now termed ‘adventure’ or ‘traditional’ climbing.  The diversification of climbing has been one inevitable consequence of the complex interaction of market forces and popular demand.  The ‘event’ of the first ascent has given way—in the popular imaginary at least—to events of a different sort, more likely to be featured on national television. 

Rockclimbing as a cultural practice emerged in Europe as a pastime, separate from its predecessor—mountaineering—late in the 19th century.  It began as a peculiarly European and masculine phenomenon with a strong British influence.  Some have described the nature of its emergence as ‘vertical colonialism’ with the idea of climbing being exported by British mountaineers seeking new challenges in the Americas, Africa and the Himalayas.[xiii] But alongside this notion of climbing as a global/colonial phenomenon are other, local influences—as Bricknell reminds us, leisure practices, like climbing, are historically produced and socially constructed.[xiv]  Kiewa takes this further, describing leisure as ‘an interactive process of self-construction’.[xv]  The experience of climbing, like other leisure activities such as tourism—with which it has historically had a close association—takes place in different spatial, temporal and subjective contexts and this has led to the emergence of ‘different imaginings’ of rockclimbing in different sites around the world.[xvi]  We examine one of these sites in this paper.

While the emergence of mountaineering, then rockclimbing, within a masculine framework continues to influence climbing in the new millennium, there have been—and continue to be—some significant challenges to that.[xvii]  Prominent female climbers like Elizabeth Burnaby LeBlond had emerged late in the 19th century at a time when the mountains were considered no place for women.  The Ladies Alpine Club was formed in England in 1907.  Three years later across the Pacific, Australian Freda Du Faur became the first woman to climb Mount Cook in December 1910—and was in the party to complete the first Mt Cook-Mt Tasman traverse.  De Faur followed this astonishing achievement up with several first ascents in the NZ Alps.  An extraordinary movement in southeast Queensland 20 years later saw female climbers playing a major role.  The 1930s might well be called Queensland’s (and Australia’s) ‘golden age’ of climbing.  Our research suggests that it represents a significant moment in the invention of Australian climbing. 

While a dominant figure during that era was the enigmatic Queenslander Bert Salmon, several female climbers emerged at that time claiming first ascents of local and interstate summits.  Muriel Patten and Jean Easton stand out as confident and pioneering in their contribution to this ‘imagining’ process.  Salmon regularly climbed with women and large parties of male and female climbers made numerous ascents of southeast Queensland’s most challenging summits.  Patten was the first woman to climb the First Sister in the Blue Mountains in 1934 and Easton became the second a few months later.  We take a closer look at this important era later in this paper.

Our aim here is to look at some influences on the emergence of the idea of climbing in southeast Queensland.  The examples we use here are drawn from our current research project which has already gathered a rich array of material concerning early climbing history in Queensland and beyond—newspaper articles, newsletters, magazines, historical society journals, climbing guides, letters, diaries, photographs and oral histories.  But we also suggest thinking about climbing as a text—a dynamic process; a set of practices—discursively produced.[xviii]

Australian—and more specifically Queensland—climbing and climbers have been ‘imagined’ in a particular way (Anderson 1984).  While the idea of mountaineering certainly preceded the emergence of climbing in Australia, the very nature of the landscape here meant that climbing was bound to take on a different persona from its European antecedent.  Figuring strongly in this discursive construction was the unique geographical make-up of southeast Queensland—with its diverse collection of volcanic mountain peaks within range of a major population centre[xix]—along with a climate that encouraged the emergence of leisure activities like walking, scrambling and climbing.  This particular combination of discourses played a crucial role in shaping modern Australian climbing.  We suggest that this activity in southeast Queensland in the 1930s played a major role in the emergence of modern Australian climbing culture.

The theme of this conference—ethics, events, and entertainment—suggests ways in which we might understand climbing from its earliest incarnations to its current place in mainstream popular culture.  And we intend to use these themes within a broad cultural studies approach as a framework for our paper.  Here, we draw from Grossberg’s notion of the ‘radically contextual’ nature of cultural studies as ‘a discursive space of alliances’[xx]—important elements which inform much of our understanding about climbing and its place as a popular cultural practice.


Climbing as event—first ascents

It is just over 200 years since the first recorded European ascent of a peak in southeast Queensland.  In general, the record of early Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ascents of southeast Queensland mountains is not easily accessible. Much of the information concerning possible early ascents of the mountains of the southeast is either oral history, recorded by non-Indigenous settlers and academics, or anecdotal as recounted by non-Indigenous sources. Such reports tend to be either unpublished or included in broader histories of settlement and exploration.  While Aboriginal interest in the mountains of the southeast for millennia is undeniable—all of the peaks in southeast Queensland are incorporated in Aboriginal creation stories—it is their interest in climbing them that is problematic.[xxi]

There seems little doubt that Aboriginal people could have climbed all of the mountains in southeast Queensland—if they had needed or wanted to.  There is clear evidence of Indigenous people’s ability to climb trees and vines so there is little doubt that it was physically possible.  But why would they want to? 

Two Aboriginal people accompanied Thomas Archer in 1841 when he climbed Beerwah in the Glasshouses—there is some suggestion that they showed him the way!  But there was a belief at the time that a spirit lived there and local Aboriginal people kept away, fearing that anyone who climbed it would go blind.  This did happen to Andrew Petrie who was the first recorded European to climb the mountain in 1840.[xxii] Various accounts of stories about places like Mount Barney[xxiii] and Mount Lindesay[xxiv] centre on Aboriginal ascents of the mountains—but with dire consequences.  However, there are numerous versions of a story of Aboriginal people climbing Mount Lindesay using vines hanging down the cliffs prior to the 1840s when these were destroyed by a bushfire.[xxv]

Although the first ascent of Mount Lindesay by a non-Aboriginal person has long been assumed to be in 1872, there is strong evidence to suggest that the mountain’s first European climber reached the summit around 30 years earlier.  It seems highly likely from the available sources that William Thornton (later Collector of Customs), J. Kinchela and a third man used vines to reach the summit sometime before the reported bushfire in the late 1840s.[xxvi] 

The mountains of southeast Queensland which attract many thousands of recreational climbers and bushwalkers today were equally attractive to the first non-Aboriginal people to document their presence.  Cook’s sighting and naming of The Glasshouses, north of Brisbane, and Matthew Flinders’s subsequent recorded first ascent of one of the group, Beerburrum, on 26 July, 1799, marked a new age of exploration in southeast Queensland and played a significant role in the process of ‘imagining’ the new colony—and climbing.[xxvii]

Thirty years after Flinders’ ascent in The Glasshouses, the first ascent of Mount Barney by Captain Patrick Logan on 3 August 1828 played an important role in determining that it was not Mount Warning but a separate massif altogether.  This ascent by Logan took place just four years after the establishment of the Moreton Bay penal settlement.  It seems clear that from this that the British invasion brought more to the colony than shipload of convicts and their overlords.  Clearly, the idea of mountaineering was amongst the colonial baggage.  The Brisbane Courier (1872) records the first few ascents of Beerwah in The Glasshouses in 1841 along with the presence of explorer Ludwig Leichhardt (who also climbed Beerwah) in the region a few years later.  Climbing activity increased in southeast Queensland as settlers moved into the area. 

This important period in which rockclimbing could be equated closely with exploration offers an opportunity to investigate the history of the idea of climbing in a local context.[xxviii]  Climbing was well-established internationally at this time, with the first ascent of Mont Blanc in 1787 before the onset of the ‘Golden Age’ of mountaineering (1854-1865) during which around 180 great European peaks were climbed for the first time—the last being the Matterhorn in 1865.[xxix]   This era, and in particular, the reporting of these exploits by the colonial press, played a significant role in the emergence of the idea of climbing—in an Australian sense. 

Climbing as entertainment

At the turn of the 20th century, a number of young adventurers from the Boonah district in southeast Queensland, began scrambling on the nearby peaks and ranges.  Following the lead of Milford school teacher Harry Johns, these early century enthusiasts made numerous ascents of the West Moreton, Main and McPherson Range peaks in the years to about 1918.  There had been occasional climbers and scramblers in southeast Queensland before this time, but the Boonah ‘Wayfarers’, as they called themselves, were a new development—they were regulars who viewed climbing and scrambling as a recreation and a pastime, a point which is quite evident when we read the newspaper and diary accounts of their exploits.

Whilst the ‘Wayfarers’ were significant, it is perhaps more accurate to view them as part of a wider climbing and scrambling culture which emerged in southeast Queensland at this time, rather than as trail blazing pioneers—and here it is worth noting that not long after the ‘Wayfarers’ appeared, other regulars started climbing and scrambling at the Glasshouses, north of Brisbane.

In all, it is quite remarkable that a climbing and scrambling culture emerged in southeast Queensland in the early 20th century.  The ‘mass discovery’ of the countryside, for example, did not emerge until postwar in the UK but there was what the British press described as ‘a hiking boom’ in 1931.[xxx]  Climbing and scrambling were different and so far, our research suggests there were no comparable developments elsewhere in Australia at this time.  It also seems unlikely that local climbers and scramblers had any significant contact with contemporary British and European mountaineers.  Obviously, the ‘Wayfarers’ and the other early century climbers emerged within a context.  In the decade or so before the ‘Wayfarers’ appeared, rambling, cycling and a number of other outdoor pursuits had become popular amongst the Brisbane and provincial leisured classes.

Harry Johns had been introduced to the local peaks by R. A. Wearne, one time Ipswich Technical College Principal and amateur geologist, who took Johns along on rambles in the foothills at Mt Barney and elsewhere.  Throughout the later 19th century there had been a number of notable one-off ascents made in southeast Queensland by adventurers such as Murray-Prior and Pears who climbed Mt Lindesay in 1872.  Before this, in the early 1860s the Roberts /Rowland border survey teams traversed the McPherson Range, climbing all the peaks en route (the exceptions being Mt Lindesay and Wilson’s Peak).  In the early 1840s, the Dixon survey team established a station on Flinders Peak and the Petries and others made a number of ascents of Beerwah in the Glasshouses.  In the early years of the Moreton Bay settlement in 1828, Logan climbed Mt Barney and Cunningham had climbed Mt Mitchell.

There is a sense in which the Boonah ‘Wayfarers’ and the other early 20th century climbers and scramblers extended prevailing European ideas of climbing.

Throughout the later 19th century, mountaineering and climbing received a good deal of coverage in the southeast Queensland press, with numerous accounts of local and overseas ascents appearing in the newspapers.  One of the earliest items, aptly titled ‘The Mania For Alpine Climbing’[xxxi] (a report of a mountaineering disaster at Mont Blanc) appeared in the Queenslander in 1866.  It was followed in 1871 by a brief account of an ascent of Mt Warning[xxxii] and in the following year by an account of the Murray-Prior/Pears Mt Lindesay ascent.[xxxiii]

From about the mid 1880s, mountaineering and climbing articles started to appear in the local newspapers more regularly.  In 1886 there was Grenville Kingsley’s rollicking account of his and the Collins brothers’ Mt Barney ascent[xxxiv], followed a few months later by Thomas Welsby’s remarkable series on his scrambles in the Glasshouses.[xxxv]  In 1890, Borchgrevink’s dramatic Ripping Yarns-style account of his and Brown’s Mt Lindesay ascent appeared,[xxxvi] provoking a Mt Lindesay first ascent debate in the pages of the Brisbane Courier.[xxxvii]  In 1894, John Hardcastle’s account of his Wilson’s Peak ascent was published.[xxxviii] followed in 1895 by ‘Quixote’s’ account.[xxxix]

Throughout this period, there were reports and accounts of ascents in north Queensland—Sayer and Davidson at Bellenden Ker in 1887;[xl] Tyson at Hinchinbrook Island in 1893;[xli] Le Vaux and Moreton at Bellenden Ker in 1897;[xlii] and Le Souef at Peter Botte in 1897.[xliii]  Archibald Meston’s romantic series of Queenslander articles on his Bellenden Ker and Mt Alexandra expeditions appeared in 1889,[xliv] 1892[xlv] and 1896,[xlvi] along with numerous letters disputing his claims and protesting at his hyperbole.

In addition to these local accounts, reports of Meyer’s ascent of Kilimanjaro appeared in 1888[xlvii] and Sir William McGregor’s ascent of Mt Owen Stanley appeared in 1889,[xlviii] and there were accounts of Fitzgerald’s New Zealand mountaineering expedition in 1896,[xlix] Kolb’s ascent of Mt Kenya in 1897[l] and the Duke of Abruzzi’s ascent of Mt St Elias in 1897,[li] to mention a few.

In the early 20th century, the coverage continued, though with a significant increase in the number of local articles.  Accounts of ascents of Mt Lindesay appeared in the Queenslander and Brisbane Courier in 1902, 1904, 1910 and 1913.[lii]   Accounts of ascents at Mt Barney appeared in 1904, and 1914.[liii]  One of the most significant of the early climbers was Boonah schoolteacher William Gaylard.  From around 1910, he added numerous ascents of peaks and cliffs in southeast Queensland the Blue Mountains to his long list of achievements.[liv]

Editions of the Brisbane Courier and the Queenslander regularly reported on climbing exploits at this time and published photographs when they were made available.  The last great challenge to climbers was Coonowrin (Crookneck) in The Glasshouses group.  It was climbed in 1910 by Harry Mikalsen.  Two years later, three sisters made the first female ascent of the mountain and the first ascent of the southern face of Coonowrin (also known locally as Crookneck).  On 26 May 1912, Sara, Jenny and Etty Clark were accompanied by Willie Fraser, George Rowley and Jack Sairs.  Jenny, Etty, Willie and George had cycled from Brisbane two days before.  They climbed Tibrogargan on 25 May and Crookneck the next day.  The women wore ‘voluminous gym clothes’ for the climb and then cycled back to Brisbane afterwards.  These events prompted several articles, including Welsby’s 1911 ‘Crookneck Climbed by Two Sturdy Queenslanders’[lv] (a follow-up on Mikalsen’s Crookneck ascents) and George Rowley’s 1912 account of the Clark sisters’ Crookneck ascent[lvi] that also included summit photographs of the climbers on Crookneck and Tibrogargan.

Throughout this period, accounts of the Boonah ‘Wayfarers’ ascents and rambles appeared in the Boonah and Ipswich newspapers, including William Gaylard’s 1912 ‘Fresh Worlds to Conquer’,[lvii] in which he invited the recently successful Crookneck climbers to try their hand at the Fassifern peaks.  However, perhaps some of the most interesting of the newspaper articles are the exchanges—the 1890 Mt Lindesay first ascent dispute; the various attempts to establish Mt Lindesay ascent chronologies;[lviii] advice for would be climbers;[lix] the 1910 Mt Lindesay ascent dispute;[lx] references to ascents by new routes;[lxi] and local climbing photographs that accompanied the account of the Clark sisters’ Crookneck ascent.  Publication of climbing photographs soon became a regular occurrence in the pages of the Queensland press.

In all, the coverage given to climbing and scrambling in the earlier southeast Queensland press is quite remarkable, and at this point our research suggests that it was unmatched elsewhere in Australia.  Indeed by the early 20th century, it is apparent that the local newspapers had become an established forum, where notable ascents were brought to wider attention and various climbing issues were periodically raised and debated. Clearly, the southeast Queensland newspapers were an important site for imagining climbing, with the press playing an integral  role in promoting and sustaining local climbing discourses. 

There were a number of ways in which climbing was portrayed in the late 19th and early 20th century southeast Queensland newspapers—ranging from folly;[lxii] through Meston’s romantic account of his Mt Alexandra ascent, complete with quotes from Milton’s Paradise Lost;[lxiii]) to various overseas reports where mountaineering was presented within the framework of European exploration discourses and as part of the wider process of defining landscape and making it culturally intelligible.  However with the exception of Meston’s articles, Borchgrevink’s account of the 1890 Mt Lindesay ascent (which in many ways anticipates his later Antarctic writings) and perhaps a few others, the local articles generally approached climbing and scrambling from a different angle.  So by the late 19th and early 20th century, a new idea of climbing had emerged in the southeast Queensland press with local articles portraying climbing and scrambling as something that was possible, as a social activity and as entertainment [lxiv]

The emphasis had shifted from prevailing British and European notions of climbing as exploration, as a specialist activity, or as the domain of an Alpine Club elite.

To an extent, the newspaper coverage climbing and scrambling received was similar to that given to other adventure-leisure pursuits such as sailing and cycling.[lxv]  However it is also clear that climbing emerged in its own right as an established newspaper theme, with the various reports and articles for the most part reflecting local climbing discourses.  Significantly, our research suggests that the late 19th and early 20th century ideas of climbing as a social activity—as entertainment—continued in the southeast Queensland press until about the late 1930s.  So even through the late 1920s and early 1930s, when local climbers such as Bert Salmon and his crowd were regularly making more difficult ascents, climbing was still imagined in the press as a social activity, as entertainment, rather than as a sport or a specialist activity—and we see this in the dozens of climbing articles and reports which appeared in the newspapers in the 1930’s.[lxvi]

It is difficult to quantify the extent to which the press influenced and shaped the development of a climbing and scrambling culture in southeast Queensland in the early 20th century—and this is an issue we are still considering.  Obviously there were other influences, and here we are looking at the role of individuals such as Harry Johns at Boonah in the 1900’s and Bert Salmon in the 1930’s, the rise of leisure and the prevailing leisure discourses, the proximity of the various peaks to centres of population, improvements in transport, the appearance of the National Parks Association in the 1930’s, and so on.

Certainly though, the indicators suggest the newspaper coverage was a significant and at times a leading influence—and the fact that the coverage continued for more than 50 years from the mid 1880’s, that reports and accounts of nearly every notable ascent made in southeast Queensland until the late 1920’s seem to have been published in the local newspapers, and that some of the climbers themselves kept albums of the various newspaper climbing articles, all point to a substantial press influence.  In all, it would be difficult to explain the appearance of the typically southeast Queensland climbing culture which emerged in the early 20th century without the influence of the local press in promoting local climbing and scrambling discourses and forming the way in which local climbers imagined climbing.


Climbing culture in the 1930s—the ‘golden age’

In the first few days of 1929, the press reported the first climbing fatality in southeast Queensland.  The story of the death of the 22 year old Lyle Vidler on Mount Lindesay, dominated press coverage.  Significantly, Vidler, a climbing companion of Bert Salmon, had died in a solo attempt at a new route up the mountain.  Vidler lies buried at the base of the cliff.  Albert Armitage (‘AA’ or ‘Bert’) Salmon began his climbing career in earnest in 1925.  In 1927 he formed a mountaineering club in southeast Queensland with Vidler his protégé.  At least two other climbing clubs formed in Queensland around this time, possibly as early as 1926.[lxvii] In New South Wales, the Blue Mountaineers climbing club was formed in 1929.  By 1930, Salmon had emerged as a dominant and influential figure in climbing in the southeast—and in Australia. 

Salmon’s counterpart, in many ways, was Dr Eric Dark, one-time New South Wales Government Health Officer.  Dark began climbing before Salmon and ventured into Queensland in 1913 to climb both Mount Lindesay and Mount Barney.  While the two climbed contemporaneously, their methods could not have been more different.  Dark adopted the European method of using rope as a safety device on his numerous ascents, climbing some bold new routes in NSW in the Blue Mountains and the Warrumbungles.  He was inaugural president of the Blue Mountaineers, a climbing club based in the Blue Mountains.  Salmon’s climbing ethics shunned the use of rope, except as ‘moral support’.  This approach was adopted by the large parties of men and women who joined him in his many adventures.  They climbed in lightweight sandshoes or barefoot and there are numerous newspaper stories and photographs which bear testament to their unroped ascents of Mount Lindesay and The Glasshouses during this time.  Salmon and his climbing partners left an impressive array of first ascents and new routes across the southeast.  Their 1934 visit to the Blue Mountains made history when Muriel Patten became the first woman to climb the First Sister.  On the same visit, Salmon and one of his climbing companions, George Fraser, scaled the ‘Fly Wall’ at Katoomba without a rope, much to the amazement of Eric Dark who had insisted that they use a rope for safety.  Salmon said that at the time he had ‘tried my level best for the honour of Queensland and my own reputation’.[lxviii]

It was during this period that women made the first ascents of Mount Lindesay and Leaning Peak on nearby Mount Barney. It is clear from the diaries, newspaper articles and photographs of the period that women made up a substantial proportion of climbers in this era.[lxix] One of these was Lexie Wilson, sister of George Fraser who was one of Salmon’s regular climbing partners.  Shortly before her death aged 91, earlier this year, she described how members of her Brisbane climbing group would meet for lunch each day outside Wallace Bishop’s jewellers in Queen Street to plan their weekend’s climb.  The activities of this group was a forerunner of the emergence of recreation as a key cultural activity in Queensland.  Details of their exploits entertained readers of the Brisbane Courier, later The Courier-Mail, until the outbreak of World War II. 

The ‘golden age’ of the 1930s marked the end of a significant era in the development of climbing in Australia.  It had enabled women to take on the most difficult ascents and to claim first ascents of their own.  It had fostered the emergence of a climbing culture which incorporated significant numbers of women.  Kiewa  describes how contemporary female climbers get a sense of empowerment and control from their involvement in climbing.[lxx]  It seems reasonable to suggest that their predecessors in the 1930s experienced similar feelings.  Ironically, it would be another 60 years before women returned to climbing in the same relative numbers.  The idea of rockclimbing had experienced a discursive shift from exploration to recreation—with elements of sport—demanding more of its participants than being first to the top.[lxxi]

This important development in Queensland seems to be unique in terms of its extent and the way in which it attracted so many young women.  Climbing was also popular at the time in the Blue Mountains, largely through the influence of Eric Dark.  Available evidence suggests it was less popular and involved women to a lesser extent than in Queensland.  Nevertheless, climbing in the Blue Mountains was a popular activity and was promoted as ‘a health-giving sport for women’ in one article by the Australian Women’s Mirror:

At Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains of NSW, systematic rock-climbing as a pastime and exercise for women was initiated as a means of encouraging visitors to the mountains to explore their unknown beauties, but it so soon gripped attention that rock-climbing for its own sake has attracted numbers of devotees, enough to establish a rock-climbers’ club which includes both men and women members.[lxxii]

In both Queensland and New South Wales, the idea of rockclimbing had been enshrined in popular culture, well before the war.  For the rest of Australia, it would remain a post-war phenomenon.

Ethics and post-war climbing

By the late 1940s in Queensland, there were few unclimbed peaks or large rock outcrops left.  This period was marked by the emergence of university climbing and bushwalking clubs.  The first named climbs and climbing guidebooks appeared at this time, coinciding with the banishment of climbing articles from the popular press.  This signalled a significant discursive shift in ways of constituting the climbing landscape.[lxxiii]   As theorists like Demeritt argue, it represents a way of conceiving of nature as ‘both a real material actor and a socially constructed object’.[lxxiv] In many ways, control of this process of representation was relegated to the editors of club newsletters and magazines.  Mainstream newspapers were now interested in climbing only when it complied with post-war news values—accidents, deaths and sensationalism.

While the influence of Bert Salmon remained—he climbed well into his 70s—introduction of ropes and other rudimentary climbing equipment changed the face of Queensland climbing forever.  The introduction of ropes as an integral part of rockclimbing practice represented a significant ethical shift in modern climbing in Queensland.  Eric Dark had long used rope as a safety device in his first ascents of rock faces in the Warrumbungles but Salmon’s influence north of the border was profound.  The use of pitons—metal blades hammered into rock crevices for protection—emerged at this time as part of rockclimbing practice.

The University of Queensland Bushwalking Club was host for a wave of young men and women who focussed on remote, wilderness areas like The Steamers—a formation of rock pillars on the Main Range, east of Warwick.  The first of three incarnations of the Brisbane Rockclimbing Club emerged briefly at this time.  Climbers from both clubs set about putting up bold new routes on the steep east face of Tibrogargan in The Glasshouses requiring the use of climbing equipment and sophisticated rope techniques.[lxxv] One member of this pioneering group, Jon Stephenson, went on to lead major expeditions to the Karakorums, near Pakistan, and participated in the 1957 Trans-Antarctica Expedition.[lxxvi]  Apart from New South Wales, climbing began to spread to other parts of the country.  The 1950s seems to have been a catalyst for the idea of climbing to emerge in the southern States and the West.[lxxvii]

At the close of the 1950s, climbers searched for new and more difficult routes.  One of the most significant was the ascent of the east face of Coonowrin (Crookneck) in 1959 by a party of university climbers, led by Ron Cox.  Cox led a number of new routes on major cliffs of southeast Queensland and was the first to descend the huge east face of Mount Barney, using the new rope techniques and equipment.[lxxviii] In 1966, an expatriate English climber, Les Wood, joined with several local climbers—particularly Donn Groom—to put up a series of difficult routes on cliff-faces in the southeast.  Even today, they are rarely repeated because of their technical difficulty and their unprotected nature.  At the same time, Donn Groom, son of the founder of Binna Burra Lodge in Lamington National Park—Arthur Groom—developed a climbing cliff near the lodge and often partnered Wood on his visionary ascents elsewhere.  When Les Wood moved to Tasmania, a brief lull settled on climbing activity in the southeast. 

Late 1960s, a new wave swept through the climbing community, applying a new ethical approach which rejected the use of pitons for protection in favour of wedged aluminium chocks based on the very latest American-designed equipment.  Much of this climbing gear was manufactured locally until the cost of more sophisticated versions of it made in the United States began to fall.  This new wave emerged at the time of the so-called ‘ecological revolution’ of the 1960s which saw mountains and climbing gaining popular appeal.[lxxix] While this was a movement which was of particular significance in the United States, it had a huge impact in Australia.  The influence and power of popular culture at the time is evident in the names of new climbs which emerged.  Especially influential was the popular music scene, with many climbs able to be accurately dated on name alone—Magical Mystery Tour, Badfinger, Electric Prune, Conquistador are all climbs put up at Mount French during the late 1960s and early 1970s and reflect the dominance of rock music culture.  This link between music and the study of social life is another aspect of climbing culture yet to be undertaken although some have recognised its potential.[lxxx]

South of the border, Sydney-based climbers Bryden Allen and John Ewbank had a powerful influence on climbing ethics, particularly railing against the overuse of expansion bolts drilled into cliff faces for protection.  Ewbank and Allen consistently made first ascents of what were at the time, the hardest routes in Australia in the Blue Mountains and The Warrumbungles.  Debates on the ethical dimensions of climbing raged in what was Australia’s major climbing magazine, Thrutch.  Although published by the Sydney Rockclimbing Club, it featured a round-up of climbing news and issues from across the country.  Ewbank’s approach to the use of more ethically- and environmentally-friendly protection was quickly adopted by climbers from the Brisbane Rockclimbing Club, led by Brisbane stalwart, Rick White.  This phase saw the dominance of new jam-climbing techniques which opened up previously unclimbed cliffs and routes.  Jamming involved climbing vertical and overhanging cracks in cliff faces using wedged fingers, hands and feet rather than relying on ledges as hand and footholds.  White started up a climbing importation business which subsequently grew into one of Australia’s largest commercial venture in outdoor recreation, Mountain Designs. Queensland was once again at the forefront of rockclimbing as a recreation in Australia.  This culminated in the discovery and development of Mount French—a cliff near Boonah—in 1968.  Within three years, it had become Australia’s premier climbing crag with climbers from the UK and the USA visiting regularly to test out the many routes. 

Another key ethical shift in the nature of climbing took place in 1985 with the ‘overnight’ arrival of chalk as a climbing aid in Australia.  Popular amongst North American climbers for some years previously, chalk is used by climbers to absorb sweat from fingers and hands, thus improving their grip on rock surfaces.  It was quickly taken up around the country and by the early 1990s, it was rare indeed to see a climber who did not carry a small bag filled with chalk dust. 

Around the same time as the arrival of chalk, the use of expansion bolts as protective devices on climbs in Queensland began to increase.  This, too, represented a shift in the ethical dimension of climbing which had been established since its very emergence in Queensland.  The ethical debate continues.  Climbing as a cultural practice now boasts many thousands of participants Australia-wide and impacts significantly on cultural policy, particular in relation to issues such as tourism and the environment.  For example, the development of Mount French as a rockclimbing cliff was a major factor in the area being declared a National Park in the 1970s.  The links between climbing and tourism have existed since the 18th century when the popularity of mountaineering began to attract tourists to Chamonix in the French Alps.[lxxxi]

By the early 1990s, ‘sport’ climbing emerged alongside ‘traditional’ or ‘adventure’ climbing.  Largely focussing on gymnasiums, this new approach represented an alternative to the dominance of the era of ‘adventure’ climbing—it was a sport which could be undertaken almost entirely indoors.  Equipment developments have continued at an alarming rate, drawing mainly from the technologies of the United States.  Now, rockclimbing has again attracted media interest but relegated to events such as the ‘Extreme Games’ or the Climbing World Finals—a circuit of sports-climbing events held throughout Europe, attracting television coverage featuring participants who are treated (and paid) like rock stars.[lxxxii]

Climbing as entertainment and spectacle has re-emerged, reclaiming media space but this time as a central element of popular culture.  Within climbing discourse, the central place of ethics as a defining characteristic of climbing has moved to centre stage.


Climbing culture emerged in southeast Queensland out of a range of often competing and contradictory discourses—from Aboriginal creation myths, a unique landscape, the influence of the European idea of climbing and charismatic and visionary local individuals.  The role of the colonial press was crucial in this imagining process with extensive reporting of the activities of local climbers, particularly from the turn of the 20th century.  The 1930s, in particular, represent a defining moment in the evolution of climbing culture in Australia with significant numbers of men and women engaging in practices which framed the development of modern rockclimbing.  This climbing culture seems to have had its genesis in southeast Queensland although the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, can also claim to be a centre of activity from the 1930s.  It is clear from the sketchy evidence available, that the use of ropes for protection was more the norm in the Blue Mountains than in Queensland.  The hardy Queenslanders—influenced by Bert Salmon—shunned the use of ropes except in emergencies.  Perhaps it was the case that Queensland climbing culture placed more emphasis on the social rather than the technical side of climbing.  Maybe it was this important difference that contributed to the greater popularity of climbing in southeast Queensland, particularly amongst women.  This high female participation rate in what is still regarded as a high-risk sport ended with World War I and was not to re-emerge for another 60 years.  These ideas resonate with Kiewa’s study of the community of rockclimbers in southeast Queensland.  She concluded that female rockclimbers tended to place more emphasis on relationships inherent in the climbing process—in other words the social—than on the physical challenge of climbing.  This emphasis on the social aspects of climbing was not so strongly present in the attitudes of the male climbers.  However, the more experienced they were, the more they tended to emphasise the importance of the social.[lxxxiii]

By the end of World War II, coverage of climbing had all but vanished from the news pages of Queensland’s newspapers but re-emerged in niche publications catering for the emerging numbers of bushwalkers and climbers.  A post-war focus on consumerism and nation-building by the popular press meant that climbing as a recreation was featured only in sensational circumstances.  Representations of climbing were relegated to the specialist newsletters and magazines of a growing leisure culture.  So as climbing had become more technical and bold, popular media interest focussed on the failures rather than the successes.  First ascents of new routes were significant only if it meant that new summits were reached and as we have argued here, this had largely been achieved by early in the 20th century. 

While the idea of climbing in Australia was produced from colonial histories, it continues to be socially constructed—imagined in a specific spatial, temporal and subjective context.[lxxxiv]  We suggest that climbing should be seen as a dynamic notion—a set of cultural practices which constitutes rockclimbing ‘landscapes’ and enables climbers to engage in interactive processes like identity/self-construction and camaraderie.[lxxxv]

Our project seeks to begin to make sense of the cultural place of rockclimbing in relation to ideas such as ‘exploration’, ‘recreation’, and ‘diversification’.  It has begun to examine the role of men and women in the development of the contemporary rockclimbing industry.  Climbing itself has become a community cultural activity—one might even argue a culture industry—with its own language, signs, symbols and style.[lxxxvi]  It is in this context that the role of the media in this process becomes important to examine.  The media in all their varied forms represent a cultural resource and a primary discursive site for imagining climbing.[lxxxvii]  The oral histories yet to be gathered potentially offer another rich cultural resource and a further insight into how Australian culture is made.



[i] Dan Morgan, ‘It began with the piton.  The challenge to British Rock Climbing in a Post-Modernist Framework’, in Leisure: Modernity, Postmodernity, and Lifestyles, Publication No. 48, ed Ian Henry, Leisure Studies Association, Brighton, 1994, pp. 341-342.
[ii] See the association’s website at
[iii] C. M. Mermier, R. A. Robergs, S. M. Mcminn, and V. H. Hayward, ‘Energy expenditure and physiological responses during indoor rock climbing’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 31, issue 3, 1997, pp. 224-228.
[iv] S. R. Bollen and V. Wright, ‘Radiographic changes in the hands of rock climbers’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 28, issue 3, 1994, pp. 185-186.
[v] J. P. Wyatt, G. W. McNaughton and P. T. Grant, ‘A prospective study of rock climbing injuries’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 30, issue 2, 1996, pp. 148-150; R. Schad, ‘Analysis of climbing accidents’, Accident Prevention and Analysis, no. 32, 2000, pp. 391-396.
[vi] Paul M. Jakus and W. Douglass Shaw, ‘Empirical analysis of rock climbers’ response to hazard warnings’, Risk Analysis, vol. 16, issue 4, 1996, pp. 581-586.
[vii] S. J. Jack and K. R. Ronan, ‘Sensation seeking among high- and low-risk sports participants’, Personality and Individual Differences, no. 25, 1998, pp. 1063-1083.
[viii] P. E. Kelly and D. W. Larson, ‘Effects of rock climbing on populations of presettlement eastern white cedar on cliffs of the Niagara escarpment, Canada’, Conservation Biology, volume 11, issue 5, 1997, pp. 1125-1132; and R. J. Camp and R. L. Knight, ‘Effects of rock climbing on cliff plant communities at Joshua Tree National Park, California’, Conservation Biology, vol. 12, issue 6, 1998, pp. 1302-1306.
[ix] Barbara R. Johnston and Ted Edwards, ‘The commodification of mountaineering’, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 21, no. 3, 1994, pp. 450-473.
[x] Peter Donnelly, ‘Social climbing: a case study of the changing class structure of rock climbing and mountaineering in Britain’, in Studies in the sociology of Sport, eds A. O Dunleavy, AW Miracle, and CR Rees, Texas Christian University Press, Fort Worth, 1982.
[xi] Lynne Withey, Grand Tours and Cook’s Tours: A history of leisure travel, 1750-1915, Aurum Press, London, 1998, p. 214.
[xii] Alan Tomlinson, ‘Consumer culture and the aura of the commodity’, in Consumption, Identity and Style: marketing, meanings and the packaging of pleasure, ed Alan Tomlinson, Routledge, London, 1990, p. 31.
[xiii] Peter Nettlefold and Elaine Stratford ‘The production of Climbing Landscapes-as-texts’, Australian Geographical Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, 1999, p. 132.
[xiv] Louise Bricknell, ‘Leisure? According to who?’ in Leisure: Modernity, Postmodernity, and Lifestyles, Publication No. 48, ed Ian Henry, Leisure Studies Association, Brighton, 1994, p. 45.
[xv] Jacqueline Kiewa, Climbing to Enchantment: A study of the community of traditional climbers in southeast Queensland, unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Business and Commerce, Griffith University, Brisbane, 2000, p. 383.
[xvi] Withey, p. 205.
[xvii] Withey, p. 208; Nettlefold and Stratford, p. 131.
[xviii] Michael Real, Supermedia, Sage, Newbury Park, 1989; Nettlefold and Stratford, p. 131.
[xix] N. C. Stevens, Queensland Field Geology Guide, Brisbane, Geological Society of Australia (Queensland Division), 1984.
[xx] Lawrence Grossberg, ‘Cultural Studies’, a keynote address at the International Communication Association annual conference, Sydney, 11-15 July, 1994.
[xxi] , John G. Steele, Aboriginal Pathways in Southeast Queensland and the Richmond River, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1984.
[xxii] Reginald Wise, ‘A climb up Coonowrim (sic)’, Queenslander, 23 September, 1916, pp. 21, 29; Steele, p. 174; Michelle Grossman and Denise Cuthbert, ‘Forgetting Redfern: Aboriginality in the New Age’, Meanjin, 4, 1998, pp.770-778.
[xxiii] Arthur Groom, ‘Mount Barney’s Legend’, Brisbane Courier, 19 November, 1932, p.19.
[xxiv] J. D. Lang, Queensland Australia, 1861.
[xxv] Lang 1861; Mary E. Murrray-Prior, ‘An ascent of Mount Lindsay (sic)’, Queenslander, 1 November. 1902; William Gaylard, ‘Mount Lindsay (sic): story of a successful climb—some tense moments’, Brisbane Courier, 2 August, 1913, p. 12.; N. C. Hewitt, ‘Mt Lindesay fatality: former ascents recalled’, Beaudesert Times, 25 January 1929.
[xxvi] Murray Prior 1902; ‘Traveller’, ‘Mt Lindesay’, Brisbane Courier, 3 October, 1923.
[xxvii] See F. W. Whitehouse, ‘Early ascents of the Glasshouses’, Heybob, vol. 8, 1966, p. 74; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London, 1984.
[xxviii] This idea of discourse is drawn from Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Tavistock, London, 1972.
[xxix] John Cleare, Mountains of the World, Crown, New York, 1975, p. 16-17.
[xxx] Alan Tomlinson and Helen Walker, ‘Holidays for all: popular movements, collective leisure, and the pleasure industry’, in Consumption, Identity and Style, ed A. Tomlinson, Routledge, London, 1990, p. 233.
[xxxi] ‘The Mania For Alpine Climbing’, Queenslander, 29 December 1866.
[xxxii] ‘The Southern Border’, Queenslander, 1 April 1871.
[xxxiii] ‘Ascent of Mount Lindsay’, Brisbane Courier, 18 May 1872.
[xxxiv] ‘A Trip Up Mount Barney’, Queenslander, 6 November 1886.
[xxxv] ‘To the Top of the Glass Mountains’, Queenslander, 12 June 1886.
[xxxvi] ‘Ascent of Mount Lindsay’, Queenslander, 26 July 1890.  A brief initial report appeared in the Brisbane Courier, 14 July 1890.
[xxxvii] ‘Ascent of Mount Lindsay’, Brisbane Courier, 15 July 1890; Brisbane Courier, 19 July 1890; Brisbane Observer (the evening ‘Courier’), 26 July 1890.
[xxxviii] ‘A Day Amongst the Clouds’, Queenslander, 12 May 1894.
[xxxix] ‘Where Three Rivers Rise’, Queenslander, 28 February 1895.
[xl] ‘Mount Bellenden-Ker’, Queenslander, 9 July 1887.
[xli] ‘A Climb on Hinchinbrook’, Queenslander, 30 December 1893.
[xlii] ‘Bellenden-Ker—A Successful Ascent’, Queenslander, 27 November 1897.
[xliii] ‘The Ascent of Peter Botte’, Queenslander, 1 May 1897.
[xliv] ‘The Bellenden-Ker Expedition’, Queenslander, 12 October 1889.
[xlv] ‘Revisiting Bellenden-Ker’, Queenslander, 27 February 1892.
[xlvi] ‘Wild Country and Wild Tribes XIV’, Queenslander, 10 April 1897.
[xlvii] ‘Kilima-Njaro Conquered at Last’, Queenslander, 14 January 1888.
[xlviii] ‘Ascent of Mount Owen Stanley’, Queenslander, 20 July 1889.
[xlix] ‘Climbing in the New Zealand Alps’, Queenslander, 31 October 1896.
[l] ‘Mountaineering in Africa’, Queenslander, 3 April 1897.
[li] ‘Ascent of Mt Elias’, Queenslander, 4 December 1897.
[lii] ‘An Ascent of Mount Lindsay’, Queenslander, 1 November 1902; ‘Climbing Mount Lindsay’, Queenslander, 23 January 1904; ‘Successful Ascent of Mt Lindsay’, Brisbane Courier, 19 May 1910; ‘Mount Lindsay—Story of a Successful Climb’, Brisbane Courier, 2 August 1913.
[liii] ‘An Ascent of Mount Barney’, Queenslander, 15 October 1904; ‘A Climb Up Mount Barney’, Queenslander, 20 June 1914.
[liv] ‘Alpine Climbers’, Blue Mountain Echo, 17 January 1919.
[lv] ‘Crookneck Climbed By Two Sturdy Queenslanders’, Queenslander, 18 March 1911.
[lvi] ‘A Week-end at Glass-House Mountains’, Queenslander, 1 June 1912.
[lvii] ‘Fresh Worlds to Conquer’, Fassifern Guardian, 14 June 1912.
[lviii] ‘Ascent of Mount Lindesay’, Brisbane Courier, 19 July 1890; ‘Ascent of Mt Lindsay’, Queenslander, 1 November 1902; ‘Mount Lindsay—records of Ascents’, Brisbane Courier, 6 October 1923.
[lix] ‘Climbing Mount Lindsay’, Queenslander, 23 January 1904.
[lx] ‘Ascent of Mount Lindsay’, Brisbane Courier, Queenslander, 1 June 1910; ‘The Ascent of Mt Lindsay’, Queenslander, 4 June 1910.
[lxi] ‘A Week-end at Glass-House mountains’, Brisbane Courier, 1 June 1912.
[lxii] ‘The Mania For Alpine Climbing’, Queenslander, 29 December 1866.
[lxiii] ‘Wild Country and Wild Tribes’, Queenslander, 10 April 1897.
[lxiv] See ‘To the Top of the Glass Mountains’, Queenslander, 12 June 1886 and the various ‘Wayfarers’’ reports, including ‘Ascent of Wilson’s Peak’, Fassifern Guardian, 8 August 1910.
[lxv] Examples include ‘A Cruise Round Moreton Bay’, Queenslander, 29 March 1873, and ‘Cycling Trip—Warwick to Cunnamulla’, Queenslander, 17 July 1909.
[lxvi] Examples include ‘Mountain Climbing is Great Fun’, Sunday Mail, 29 May 1932, ‘Up Among the Peaks—Joys of Mountaineering’, Telegraph, 29 March 1934, and ‘Let’s Go Mountaineering’, Queenslander Annual, 4 November 1935.
[lxvii] Clem Lack, ‘Mountain Climbers of Queensland’, The Sunday Mail Magazine Section, 10 July 1938.
[lxviii] Lack, 1938.
[lxix] C. C. D. Brammall, ‘Australia’s strangest mountains: The Glass House Mountains of Queensland’, Walkabout, 1 February 1939, pp.38-41.
[lxx] Kiewa, 2000, p. 398.
[lxxi] Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Sport and Social Class’, Social Science Information, vol. 17, part. 6, 1978; and ‘How can one be a sports fan?’, in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed S. During, Routledge, London, 1993.
[lxxii] Nina Lowe, ‘Rock-climbing: A health-giving sport for Women’, The Australian Woman’s Mirror, December 22 1931, p. 22.
[lxxiii] Nettlefold and Stratford, p. 137.
[lxxiv] D. Demeritt, ‘The nature of metaphors in cultural geography and environmental history’, Progress in Human Geography, vol. 18, issue 2, 1994, pp. 163-185.
[lxxv] Bob Waring, ‘First ascents of the Steamers’, Heybob, vol. 5, 1963, pp. 3-6.; Alan Frost, ‘Some less frequently tried scrambles in the Glasshouses’, Heybob, vol. 5, 1964, pp. 49-51.
[lxxvi] Keith J Miller, ‘Return to the Himalayas’, Heybob, vol. 5, 1964, pp. 16-19.
[lxxvii] David John James, Climb when ready, Hesperian Press, Victoria Park, 1996; Chris Baxter, Editorial in Rock, no. 40, 1999, p. 3.
[lxxviii] Graham Hardy, ‘A long abseil’, Heybob, vol. 5, 1963, pp. 79-72.
[lxxix] Cleare, p. 96.
[lxxx] L. Kong, ‘Popular music in geographic analysis’, Progress in Human Geography, vol. 19, issue 2, 1995, pp. 183-198; S. J. Smith, ‘Beyond geography’s visible worlds: a cultural politics of music’, Progress in Human Geography, vol. 21, issue 4, 1997, pp. 502-529.
[lxxxi] Withey, p. 205.
[lxxxii] Morgan, pp. 341-342.
[lxxxiii] Kiewa, pp. 412-413.
[lxxxiv] See Withey, p. 205 and Bricknell, p. 45.
[lxxxv] Kiewa, p. 383; Aviv Shoham, Gregory M. Rose and Lynn R. Kahle, ‘Practitioners of Risky Sports: A Quantitative Examination’, Journal of Business Research, no. 47, 2000, p. 248.
[lxxxvi] Dick Hebdige, Subculture: the meaning of style, Methuen, London, 1979.
[lxxxvii] Antonio Gramsci, A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings 1916-1935, ed David Forgacs, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1988; Renate Holub, Antonio Gramsci: Beyond Marxism and Postmodernism, Routledge, London, 1992.