23 September 2013

East Face of Mt Crookneck, Queensland.

Back in 1962-3 when I was living in Brisbane, my friend Pat Conaghan, suggested that he take me up the East Face of Crookneck.  He, Ron Cox and John Comino had pioneered the first ascent of the face in 1959. I think our ascent was the third. We trundled up to the glasshouse mountains in my old Chevrolet and set off on the climb.  Pat led the climb, I merely acted as a belayer.  The climb took us most of the day.  I don't want to belittle our climb but I often look back at some of the early climbing we did in the 1950s and early 60s - given the primitive nature of our "tramping" boots and the protective gear we had and our fitness for rock climbing we didn't do too badly. What typified the climbing of the crux of the climb was how Pat managed to get up the last overhang.  With me belaying up close behind him I was astounded to see him reach into his pack and pull out a big wooden chock with a rope threaded through it.  This he managed to attach to some etriers he also had in his pack.  But first he managed to swing the chock up into a crack in the overhang until it jammed (somehow!) into the crack.  With huge (I thought) faith he then stepped into the etriers and swung free into the space below to overhang.  With a lot of struggle and effort he managed to get above the overhang and up to a decent belay position.  From there he belayed the nervous wreck that I'd become up to join him.  This was my first experience of Australian rock climbing at the sharper end.  I'd done some rock climbing on the Port Hills near Christchurch and on the long climbs in the Southern Alps but this was something quite different.

East Face Crookneck (Coonowrin)


But it was getting late in the day and, because the rest of the climb was an easy scramble to the top, we decided to abseil down.  I went first.  All went well until half way down from the overhang. While I was hanging free from the face my parka jammed in the carabiner and I was stuck.  It was getting dark and the prospect of hanging there for the night did not appeal. I managed to lift myself up with one hand to relieve the pressure and half tore the parka out of the carabiner.  I resumed my way to the bottom and Pat joined me there. We drove back to Brisbane with some fellow Kiwis who'd, mysteriously, managed to secrete a few pineapples into the boot of my car while Pat and I had been wasting our time up on the mountain.

Have a look at http://climbinghistoryoz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/crux-columns-ghosts-and-glass-houses.html