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Girraween 2002 - Zulus, Campfires and Crystals

posted May 30, 2008, 4:33 AM by Unknown user   [ updated May 30, 2008, 4:42 AM ]

The Zulu drums seemed to echo across the valley as we walked across the dry paddock. My family had come up from the lowlands and was ensconced happily back at the campsite. Heading up into the forest I could feel the tension building like an Englishman’s finger on his Springfield rifle. Then, there it was before me, Rourke’s Rift. The drums were only my heartbeat. This was the “get back on the bike” climb after my big confidence breaking fall at Kaputar, a few weeks before. Jenny was her usual chatty self, not realising that I could have happily thrown up at this point. But it was no use letting the mind demons get in the way of a good climb, so it was gearing up time and lead away McDuff.

It didn’t take long to get into the groove of Rourke’s Rift (bad pun) and the climbing was so enjoyable. 50m up on a thin belay ledge, with the sun shining and a cool breeze blowing across the rock, isn’t life grand.

Graham on Rourke’s Rift

I brought Jenny up and continued on. After topping out, we wandered up to the summit and checked out the views as a chill wind gave us a gentle hint of alpinism. We headed off to the descent route with Jenny increasingly nervous at the potential fall lines on the granite. My navigational skills were spot on once again to Jenny’s disbelief.

It was a motley, but eclectic crew that headed up to Girraween in 2002. In fact we even had an international flavour, with a holidaying Kiwi on board and a returning expat who flew in from Canada, just so he could join the club and go to Girraween. Expat Patrick was the sort of loveable Aussie larrikin that belay bunnies could fall in love with. A been there, done that smile together with a million hilarious stories made for a great climbing partner and campfire raconteur. He was also a damn fine climber.

There was also the sneaky group, those that don’t actually work five days a week, who had got there early enough to head out to Turtle on the Friday and get some climbing in. Although, from the stories that night it was more of Jenny leading and you lot can just second up behind me.

Whilst they Turtled, I kept my promise and Ashley (nearly 6) had her first summit attempt on the 1st Pyramid. For Lauren on her 3rd trip up, it was a case of “over here Ashley, go that way or this is the steep bit." Well Ashley was just fine and gained the summit no problems. Summit fever couldn’t be genetic, could it?

While Jenny and I were climbing Rourke’s Rift on the Saturday, Steve was taking some people up Dead Eagle Crack. His comment on the climb, “the hardest bit was getting round the dead tree branches.” Umm, Dead Eagle Crack Steve, with an emphasis on the Dead Eagle bit. Patrick and his Saturday partner in crime Gunther, climbed up the 2nd Pyramid in fine style only to realise neither knew the way off. After a few abortive attempts of gazing down very, very steep slopes, they eventually found a rap descent gully. Patrick’s description of this descent was somewhat colourful in a truly literary sense. Saturday night was another entertaining star-studded Girraween night, with campfire marshmallows supplied by Lauren.

Patrick on Rourke’s Rift

Sunday dawned fine and the climbing hordes headed off in various directions. It was a case of “Please take a ticket and wait your turn” for Rourke’s Rift and then onto various other climbs on the 2nd Pyramid for most of the group. Meanwhile Michael Freemantle guided the climbers of the future off to find Aztec Pyramid.

The future climbing gang

Patrick was keen to see Turtle so the two of us headed out there. We had an entertaining time playing “find the bolts when you’re already halfway up the climb.” It was a magic morning, with nobody else around and watching a wedge-tailed eagle glide the thermals. Dead tree branches can’t fly, unlike live eagles, hey Steve.

Then it was back to camp, pack up time and back down to the lowlands.

The Zulu war chants seemed to whisper through the gums ‘Come back soon.”

Graham Baxter