Arapiles, 1980. It was early summer and the days were growing hotter. A group of us headed into Yesterday Gully to search out some fingers of shade. We climbed Snow Blind (23, 5.11b), In Lemon Butter (22, 5.11a) and No Quarter (23, 5.11b). I still have a few blurry pics, but these are best left to the creeping fungus that is slowly destroying my old b/w negative collection. Later on we scrambled into the upper reaches of the gully. Jeff Lamb jumped onto Black Spasm (22, 5.11a) on the left side of Fever Pitch Wall. Mike Law put up this intimidating overhang in 1977 and it had probably not seen a second ascent until that day. Jon Muir and Mark Moorhead were repeating Grand Central (22, 5.11a) on the same wall and there was a party atmosphere.
This great photograph (top) by US climber Peter von Gaza shows Jeff Lamb having pulled over the overhang on Black Spasm (on the left) and Jon Muir on the crux of Grand Central (on the right). Mark Moorhead is belaying Jon but I can’t remember who it was belaying Jeff. I’m in the middle, perched on the ledge and shooting images with my Olympus OM1n. I must have been fairly comfortable as I’m not even tied in. This is an interesting photograph for a variety of reasons. Most of us are wearing home-made harnesses, mine having been made by Mike Law on his sewing machine. I think Jon is wearing a Whillans Harness, the only commercially available model available in Australia at the time. I also love the fact that while Mark is belaying with a Selewa sticht plate (which were becoming increasingly common by then), the guy belaying Jeff is using a waist belay. All of us are wearing EBs. The EB Super Gratton was the best climbing shoe of its era but within a few years of this photograph they would vanish forever and the Boreal Fire would become the shoe of choice. It’s interesting to compare the angle of Peter’s image with the following photographs that I took at the same time.
Here’s Jeff monkeying around for the camera. In 1984 Jeff died tragically when he fell while soloing at Frog Buttress. It was a very sad loss to both the UK and Australian climbing community.
I love this image of Mark Moorhead. I feel it captures something of his whimsical nature but also the underlying seriousness with which he approached his climbing. Mark was one of the most impressive climbers of his generation and now something of a climbing legend. His premature death on Makalu in 1984 was a shock to us all. I’ve always believed that Australian climbing had been robbed of its greatest future talent.
Interestingly, I found two more images taken on the same day as all of the above photographs. When I looked closely I saw it was me leading a route called Yesterdays Rooster (21, 5.10d). This climb is just a few metres uphill of Fever Pitch Wall and according to the current Mt Arapiles guide Yesterdays Rooster was first climbed in January 1999 after two bolts were placed for protection. Looking at the photograph above it’s obvious that I lead it in 1980 (without the bolts), although I have absolutely no memory of doing the climb, who seconded me or who took the photographs. I suspect the images were taken by Peter von Gaza and it was probably him who seconded me but I really can’t be sure. Perhaps wearing a headband affected my long-term memory.
Most of these images appear in my Climbers Portraits collection on my SmugMug site here. These images cover Victorian climbing from 1975 to the present and is an ongoing project.