PLEASE BE PATIENT WHILE RELEVANT PICTURES LOAD IN.
Main Page.My HistoryLife StoryMystery StoriesAdventure Stories
Truck StoriesPoemsMum's Page.Links
INTRODUCTION.
This is the story of my first climbing weekend with members of the Climber's Association of Western Australia. It is also a copy of the chapter I wrote for a book I've compiled, and have had published, on West Australian pioneering climbers (see main home page).

Even when I arrived in W. A. as late as 1974, there were only a few climbers, no rescue facilities, and no climbing gear shops - we climbed with what gear we brought in with us!

Nevertheless, through their own fierce determination and dogged spirit, the pioneering climbers before my time had done plenty of work around the southern areas of the state (although there was still plenty left for me to do), and for a while I was...

THE NEW BOY.

As a 'new' Australian, what was it like to go on a first trip with some of the original members of the C.A.W.A.?

On one of my shelves here in Hammy Hill, in the middle '90's, I have a coconut and a lump of rock. Both of these items were 'earned' on my first trip with members of the C.A.W.A. and serve as a reminder of some of the great friends I made that weekend, not that I really need a reminder. Although I've moved about a lot over the last twenty odd years, I've still got that coconut (it cost 29c in 1975) and the lump of rock. This is the story of how I earned those two items.

I'd already had over ten years of climbing, caving and mountaineering experience. I'd done many of the great 'classics' of the time and I was ripe for a change of scenery (my mum thought I was anyway). Most of my family had moved to Western Australia, including my mum and Pop, but I refused to go and leave my beloved hills for a flat and featureless (as I'd been told) country where hardly any hills existed.

Mum was very persistent over a period of two years, sending me pictures of the Victorian Alps, the Snowy Mountains and Ayers rock. But, a friend of mine, who had once lived in Perth and had returned to the U.K. (one of those 'wingin' poms'?), told me that these areas were thousands of miles away from Perth and I didn't want to travel thousands of miles every few weekends.

With every determination to get her 'little boy' over to Australia with her (I was 31 years old at the time, but you know what mums are like), she did a bit of detective work (you had to in those days) and discovered that there was a small group of climbers flourishing in and around Perth. Soon she was in touch with Tony Fowler and Robin McArthur of the C.A.W.A. who gave her all the encouragement and information she needed. Using their information, she wrote me a ten page letter (I first heard of the Stirlings, the Porongurups and Wilyabrup Cliffs through that letter) and I decided to come out for a three month holiday and see things for myself.

I was keen on doing a bit in both Tasmania and New Zealand and thought that W.A. would be a good jumping off point while I was in that part of the world. (I did eventually get to both those countries). But, meanwhile I was very intrigued at the thought of a small group of climbers having the whole western half of Australia to themselves, with some of the more remote areas not having been climbed on at all. It would be a far cry from having to queue up for some of the more popular climbs as I had been gradually forced to do in the U.K. and Europe over the previous couple of years.

City of Darwin pic.
The 'City of Darwin' at Christchurch airport (New Zealand) during 1980.
Being the world's biggest coward when it comes to flying, I spent 24 hours of white-knuckled terror being 'transported out' by Qantas. That airline had given the Boeing 747b, that I flew out in, the name 'City of Darwin' - If I'd known what was to happen to Darwin just over a month later (the town being almost wiped out by Cyclone Tracy), I'd have needed no better omen of my expected doom and wild horses wouldn't have been able to drag me aboard. (A few years later I'd ride that same aircraft from New Zealand back to Perth but, although I'd had one successful flight in it, I still wouldn't feel any better - Click here to read all about my fear of flying, and the amazing things I've discovered concerning my phobia, or go to my Mystery Stories section later).

Qantas did their job well and finally I peeped out of the aircraft window to see golden beaches below with Perth in the distance and, in that quick glance, not so much as a small hump in sight. Doubts began to creep in, even when we circled over the Darling Range and I saw tree-covered slopes just outside of the window (so it seemed to my terrified mind), I still hadn't seen anything to make the 24 hours of pure fear in that aircraft worth it.

Within a week of being in Australia, I'd done the full trip down through the Stirlings [mountain range south of Perth] and Porongurups [range of large granite domes just south of Stirlings] to Albany, gone across to the caving area near Margaret River, and decided to stay in this new country and cut my ties with the old. (Besides, I didn't think my heart would stand the strain of 24 hours in an aircraft again). All I needed was my gear and I wrote away at the end of that first week asking my friend to put my boxes on the first ship bound for Australia.

Not knowing what a friendly, helpful group I was going to join up with, I didn't get in touch with Tony or Mac at the time as I thought it would be useless (and miserable for me) to join the club and not be able to do anything because I had no gear. So I waited with impatience for that ship to arrive at Fremantle.

Meanwhile, I got a job as a motorcycle and car mechanic with a small firm in Victoria Park (although I'd been a truck driver most of my working life, I couldn't get that sort of work immediately as I didn't have any Australian experience) and began learning a bit about the 'Aussie life-style'. Apart from not having my gear, I soon settled in and became quite content with the relaxed atmosphere of Western Australia. (Although I've been back to the U.K. twice since, each time I couldn't wait to get back 'home' to W.A.).

At last, in early February 1975, my gear arrived at Fremantle and I raced down to get it. That very night, after unpacking my climbing gear and giving it a good check over, I rang Tony and he informed me that a trip had been planned to Wilyabrup sea cliffs that following weekend (the 8/9 th. of February 1975) and, if I rang the chap who was organising the trip, John Watson, I'd be well looked after.

I rang John, heard what I thought was an English north-country accent and felt that, at least he and I had something in common as well as climbing. (Curiously enough, most of the climbers were English at that time. When I joined the caving club a few months later (W.A.S.G. with about 80 members then), I'd discover that most of them would be Australian). John arranged to pick me up on the Friday arvo (afternoon) outside of my workplace.

Long-distance pic of Wilyabrup cliffs.
A photo of the main Wilyabrup cliffs. This picture (scanned from a 35mm slide then extensively cropped)
was taken from some miles up the coast to the north, using a 600mm telephoto mirror lens. Left arrow
points down to the Banana Split area, and right arrow points down to the Harry's Crack area (both areas
partly hidden by nearer slope).

Although I'd been confident in my own U.K. environment, knowing all my climbing partners and the areas very well, this would be the first time (apart from my first introduction to mountaineering) that I would be meeting a climber 'cold', without having helped plan the trip and having the confidence and knowledge that went with that planning. I was very apprehensive as I waited at the appointed time and place for John, this stranger, to pick me up. I was certainly hoping that he would be a nice chap.

John easily spied me as I stood on the pavement with orange rucksack and box of food propped up beside my leg. I became suddenly aware that a fawn-coloured Volkswagen had stopped in front of me. The door opened, a black fringe rose above the roof of the car, then a pair of glasses and a grinning, bearded face. As the face moved around the rear of the car, a great outstretched hand appeared followed by a tall, slim body. The handshake was very firm and I liked John straight away, relaxing quite a few notches in the meantime. My gear was soon stowed and we headed south, chatting as if we'd known each other for years.

As we travelled on past Armadale, Bunbury and Busselton, I heard mentioned such names as Mike Adams, Pete Riddy, Gerry MacGill, the Kornweibels, Dave Pullin, Dave Plues-Foster (Dave Foster now), Mike Smith, Richard Rathbone, and a couple of others. At the time, these names meant nothing to me but, I heard some of their stories and was looking forward to meeting them. The C.A.W.A. sounded a very nice group to be mixed up in to me.

In those days we used to camp at Juniper's Farm, a bit to the south of the cliffs. It was at this campsite that John and I arrived on the Friday evening and I was soon being introduced to everybody. If I recall rightly, 'Mac' McArthur was there along with Steve Lumsdaine, Jan Elliot, Kingsley Palmer, Penny Taylor, Anne and Terry Sweet, Lynette and Ian Abbott, Richard Barnes, four or five other people (identities forgotten now) and a lovable old man named Harry Kershaw. It was with this small, friendly crowd that I began, what has now been, more than twenty years of adventure and sport in and around Australia.

But meanwhile, over the weekend I was to learn a few very enlightening lessons regarding the Australian environment and way of life. The first of those lessons cropped up during that first evening.

It was dark by the time I'd pitched my tent and, while my new friends got a roaring fire going, I sorted out my sleeping bag, clothes, and food, setting it all around the tent floor in convenient piles. It was a very large tent and, although I'd offered to let John share it with me, he had decided to use his own tent (I feel that he may have seen the 'food' I'd brought with me for the weekend!!!).

Finally, I was satisfied and threw the tent flap open to go out and join the group. In a flash, after a fraction of a glance outside, the tent flap was back in place with myself still inside the tent. The scene that I saw in that fraction of a second is still etched in my mind. Others will recognise that, through my own personal up-bringing, I had caused my own embarrassment.

The fire outside of my tent was very bright with flames, throwing light on the bush all around. Right opposite, on the other side of the fire, two of the young ladies were standing, naked from the waist up.

Even as my eyes were dropping away from the scene in surprise, I had time to notice that none of the males seemed to be taking the slightest interest in the two young ladies. I didn't want to take any interest either (well, not too much anyway!). I sat back in my tent feeling very uncomfortable and at a loss as what to do.

Questions raced through my mind. Was this just normal here in Australia? The chaps sitting around the fire didn't look at all bothered. But then, they were all friends, had they forgotten that they had a stranger in their midst? What about the boyfriends (or husbands?) belonging to these young ladies? Would they be annoyed if I just walked out, joined the group around the fire and ignored the girls as well? Would they think that I'd only come out to ogle their women? Maybe I'd even embarrass the young ladies by suddenly appearing from my tent right in front of them?

I wanted to peep out and see if everything looked normal, but I didn't dare just in case somebody heard the zip, saw me peeping and thought that I was spying on the two girls. I wondered if I should give a discreet cough. I felt trapped, I knew that I couldn't just sit in the tent all the evening, it would seem very rude and unsociable. I sat on, very undecided.

In the end, I heard Mac's voice asking John where I was and knew that I'd have to go and join them. I worked the tent zip up and down a couple of times, then I stepped out. To my relief, everyone was sitting around the fire and the girls were fully dressed. Soon I was cooking my baked beans for dinner, happily wallowing in the warm friendship of that group while John played his guitar and we sang to our hearts content. I quickly forgot my earlier embarrassment and finally went to bed with great expectations.

Enlightening lesson number one. In a new country, expect the unexpected in humans as well as in the flora and fauna.

Being an early riser, I was up at the crack of dawn, had eaten a breakfast of baked beans and was ready to go almost before the other members had emerged from their tents. With great impatience, I sat around while leisurely breakfasts were cooked, then eaten, and gear was sorted out. It was a lot different from the rat-race of getting up and down climbs and mountains before weather changes, etc. that I'd got used to. But, in the end, even impatience is finally rewarded and we set off up the road in a small convoy.

As we hurtled down the old track of Biljedup Beach Road, I was amazed that the car owners would dare expose their cars to such bad conditions as deep, dry, boggy sand with all the hidden holes (believe it or not, the track has since been up-graded), and the thick overhanging trees that sounded as if the branches were scraping every bit of paint from the bodywork. I wasn't looking forward to taking my car down that track (but, of course, I did).

Wilyabrup cliffs pic.
Looking south at the main cliffs of Wilyabrup from
north of the Bay (a few months later and in stormy weather - the wave is breaking on closer rocks (at
the white X in the picture below) not on the cliffs!).
The car park was reached safely and, after the walk across the paddock, a longing glance at the waterfall (the sun was beating down quite hot by that time), the cliffs finally came into view. I recall thinking that, maybe now, I'd see a bit of seriousness creep into the attitude of this group.

Enlightening lesson number two. I was about to find out that these folk treated a day's climbing as if they were on a picnic. They all seemed so calm and unflappable.

Wasn't this the group who had sat around the fire the night before and explained to me that there were no rescue services in the area that could be relied upon to come and get us out of trouble, like there were in the U.K. and Europe? Did I hear right when they told me that, only a few weeks before, Mike Smith had fallen and badly injured his head, causing his friends to get him to the local hospital because there was nobody else that they could rely on? Maybe I'd dreamed that they had said those things. Nevertheless, it did seem as if those folk were treating the day's climbing very casually compared with the way we had approached the climbs back in the old country, even with the support of trained rescue services. Maybe I'd been on too many rescue call-outs myself over the years and seen too many examples of what a bad accident could do to the body.

Before the weekend was out, having watched most of the group leading, I'd see that they climbed as safe as I felt that I did, but had learned to approach their climbing in the same way as they were living their lives, relaxed. When I climbed `Hellfire Gully' a few weekends later, the sheer boldness of the line would cause me to realise that the W.A. climbing pioneers who had gone before me must have been a courageous, determined and experienced group of people to have put up such daring climbs in so remote an area, knowing full well that there would be no hope of outside help if they got into trouble. Meanwhile, if they wanted to see a bit of fear on the faces, I myself, being a real coward, would oblige them.

Cliffs pic.
Looking north from just south of the Bay. The Bay is in the foreground (low tide). The white cross shows where the young ladies played, and a white arrow points to the rock I sat on while cooling my injured ankle (see later
in story). A black arrow points to the upper section of Banana Split (lower section hidden in this picture).
Mac had decided to take me under his wing for my first day's climbing in Western Australia. I feel that, over the years that I've known Mac, he's been one of the main driving influences of West Australian climbing and I have nothing but whole-hearted admiration for the man himself and his efforts. I think that Mac will be remembered as one of West Australia's best and sustained climbers. It was my privilege to climb alongside Mac on that day. But, of course, to me at that time, Mac was only another friendly face in the crowd.

Mac explained that we'd better get something done while it was early and the day was still cool. Early? Cool? As far as I felt, the day was half over and the rock was almost too hot to touch. With a friendly grin, Mac pointed to a climb named 'Banana Split' and suggested that I might like to lead it for a warm-up. A 'warm-up'? Was this another Australian custom that I didn't know about? During my climbing years I'd done many Hard V.S (19-20) grade climbs and a few Extremes (21+) and never needed a 'warm-up'. With a smile to myself, I ignored what Mac had said and we roped up.

group below pic.
The group watching from below.
With John and a few other members of the group lounging around on the rocks below watching my ascent, I scrambled up until I was standing just under the banana-shaped crack. After slipping a runner in, I set off up the crack with a will.

Thoroughly enjoying myself, I'd just placed another runner in at the top of the banana, when John called up and asked me if I could see the sharks swimming by in the sea behind him. Hanging by my two arms, with slipping feet, I swivelled around and, sure enough, there were the sharks, complete with fins sticking up out of the water, in the waves nearby. I was thrilled to see sharks for the first time in my life. The wonder of this new country never seemed to end.

But, suddenly, with a surprised shock, I realised that something was going to end very quickly if I didn't get a move on. My arms had began to tire so fast that I could hardly believe it. With a few straining moves and one last desperate pull, I was standing at the top of the climb feeling a bit relieved.

My new friends were all laughing up at me. I thought that they were laughing because I'd had to race up the last few feet of the climb and I laughed happily back down at them. Having seen that I was no 'Joe Brown' or 'Don Whillans' (top English climbers at the time), the others wandered along to Bay Buttress where John put up 'Sharkfin' in memory of the easy way that he had just fooled me.

Enlightenment lessons numbers three and four. Have a decent warm-up if you haven't been near a rock-face for five or six months and don't believe anyone if they point out a pack of 'sharks' playing in the surf - it will more likely be dolphins.

John confessed to how he'd tricked me just as we were arriving back in Perth. No wonder the people down below 'Banana Split' were laughing. I didn't even catch on when we all sat around the camp fire later and the whole group burst out laughing when I mentioned the wonder of seeing sharks for the first time. What a right 'greenhorn' I must have been!!!

Me climbing Banana Split pic.
18 years after the time of this story, I actually had my photo taken while again leading Banana Split - I had been just a bit farther up the crack to my upper right when John had nearly caused me to fall off through laughing all those years before!
Mac shot up the climb behind me, seemingly almost not touching the rock. With sweat pouring down into my eyes, he led me around to 'North Wall' and soon I had a second Australian climb under my belt. By the time that Mac and I had finished 'North Wall', the rest of the group had gone swimming. We walked along to the overhang below 'Mob Job' and passed the hot afternoon away, chatting about those cliffs and trying to get cool.

Mac pointed out the line of 'Mob Job' (Wilyabrup's top classic climb in those days) and suggested that I might like to try it with him sometime when I had a bit more strength back in my arms. But, although I've played on the route a couple of times, I never did get around to doing it.

Then Steve came by and asked if I'd like to see how to get some Abalone. There were stacks of them in the small bay in those days and I watched Steve collect half a dozen. Then he scraped some sea salt out of a crevice in a rock, wrapped it up in a piece of paper and put the lot into his sack.

The day's climbing was over. I knew that I was extremely hot and thirsty, but, was I really walking away from those exciting cliffs after only two short climbs? Where had my driving enthusiasm gone to? If I'd been back in the U.K. I would have knocked those two climbs off almost before breakfast. Was I, already, beginning to feel that life in this new environment was meant to be enjoyed? I'd charged at everything I'd done previously. Now, suddenly, with this happy, un-hurried group, I felt very relaxed. The race to 'fill the guide book' wasn't there (in fact, there were only three guide books out for the whole state at that time) and nobody seemed worried whether they put up a new route or helped drag a beginner up an old one. Well, I'd never put up a new route but, I had taken many beginners on trips, so I could relate to that side of it and I felt very content to go along with the flow.

Back at the campsite we all lazed around and chatted until it was time to get the fire going and cook the evening meal. Steve began to prepare the abalone, winking over at me every so often with a face that seemed to tell me that I would enjoy the little treat that he'd collected from the sea. After all his work, did I do it justice? Not one bit. Without so much as a smell, I declined his generous offer and warmed up my own meal - more baked beans. The group was beginning to look at me a bit sideways by this time. I was eating baked beans and drinking bottles of Coke as if those two items were going out of fashion. No wonder John had refused to share my tent.

That evening, we sat around the fire for more entertainment from John and his guitar. Having spent many wild evenings of song up in the hills back in the U.K. I'd learned many good (and bad) songs and I joined in with the songs I knew. But gradually, over the two evenings, I heard them sing Australian folk songs and I knew that I'd have to learn some of them so that I could pass them on to future climbing generations. (Sadly, to my way of thinking now, cassette players seem to be replacing the good old sing-song. I feel lucky to have had the chance of real, live and choice entertainment from people like John.)

Harry Kershaw was about sixty seven years old at the time. Short and thick, with grey hair and a gravel voice, he was one of the nicest people that you could wish to meet. Full of fun, adventure and stories, Harry helped, along with my other new friends, to make that weekend so memorable.

During the evening, Harry asked me if I'd take him up 'Banana Split' the next day. With absolute doubt in my mind and not knowing Harry, I promised that I would and we passed on to other things. Of course, I didn't forget my promise but I thought that Harry would have changed his mind after a good night's sleep. He was more than twice my age and I'd been pulled up a bit by the climb. With no more thought about it, I had my supper - more baked beans - and retired to my tent.

Sunday morning arrived and we leisurely packed up everything as we wouldn't be going back to the campsite after our day's climbing. I had a breakfast of - you've guessed it - baked beans and finally we were off. Down to the cliffs I mean, although, some of my new friends were probably thinking that I was a bit 'off' by that time after all those tins of beans and bottles of Coke.

group pic.
Some of us preparing to climb that Sunday morning.
L to R: Harry, John (almost hidden behind Harry's
left side), myself & Mac.
Harry hadn't forgotten my promise. He was like a little old bull trying to get at a paddock full of young cows for a last fling. Who was I to try and put him off? I'd had my practice run the day before, soon I was anchored at the top of 'Banana Split' and shouting to Harry to climb when he was ready.

Anybody who has read Harry's account of that climb in his book 'Green Daylight' will probably say that he exaggerated a bit. Well, as far as I'm concerned, he earned the right to exaggerate slightly. I peered down from my stance and watched that little old man (as he looked to me then) throw himself at the climb. We used waist-belays at that time and I was ready for the shock around my waist, expecting him to come off any second. He went into the crack, out of my sight and I waited there, ready.

The rope crept in, I heard a few muffled grunts from just below, a hand appeared and urgently felt around for a decent hold. Then Harry's face was there, with the most fierce and determined look that I have ever seen. It was his battle between himself and the rock. I could only take the rope in and wonder.

His body came into view, boots slipping on smooth rock. Then he was on the good holds. After one last screaming grunt, he was up beside me with a calm, satisfied look on his face. I could only stare in admiration and hope that I would be able to do such a thing when I reached his age. The whole group was thrilled at Harry's triumph and we often talk about it when we meet. But, as far as human courage and determination go, I think that I had the best seat that day.

While Harry had a rest, John and I knocked off 'Elephant's Ear' and 'Bonzer Crack'. I noticed that there was a lot of loose rock on the climbs and it reminded me of the days when we used to 'trundle' loose rocks off climbs at the Cheddar and Avon Gorges back in the U.K.

I also recalled how, a couple of years earlier, I'd stood on a ledge with six other climbers waiting to do the last pitch of a climb called 'One Step In The Clouds' at Tremadoc, North Wales. (A hold-up like this was not unusual on the popular climbs if somebody got into trouble above.) Just to the left of us was another climb called 'The Fang', which my friend and I had done a month or so before, and a chap was actually climbing up over the fang-shaped lump of rock (the size of a car) that had given the climb its name. Fortunately, he was seconding. As we watched from that ledge, there was a great snapping noise and the huge fang seemed to jump out about a foot from the wall, then it dropped down to land with an enormous crash amongst the trees below. The climber, visibly shaken, continued the climb, encouraged by our cheers.

The Wilyabrup sea cliffs had only been 'discovered' as a climbing area exactly three years earlier by John Waterfall while out looking for surfing breaks. Although about fifty routes had been put up by the time I arrived, I could see that there were still a few rocks hanging about on the faces just like the fang had once done and I made a mental note to be wary of anything that I grabbed hold of until I was used to this new environment.

After a rest and refreshment, Harry said that he'd be willing to try something else (Was there no holding this bloke back?). I asked John if there was something short that we could try and he pointed out a small unclimbed wall over to the right of Bay Buttress. Soon, we had scrambled up to the base of the climb and were ready to go.

group pic.
The main scene of these next few chapters, with (inside the circle) the easy-descent cracks (left) and the line of Harry's Crack (right).
It looked a 'doddle'. A short, easy-looking wall with two deep cracks above, one going out to the left and one going straight up. With no trouble, I climbed the first few feet, then I came to a stop. The short wall below the vertical crack that I was aiming for, was as smooth as glass. I could see that there was nowhere to get a runner in until I'd be able to reach the crack, which didn't make me feel too happy, and I also knew that only balance and friction from my boots would get me there.

Harry had already run his eye over the short wall, noticed that there wasn't much to use and seen my hesitation. In his slow, English North-country, gravelly voice, he looked up and said "Dave, Think of a hand-hold and double it." I almost fell off as I cracked up with laughter. Now I had to do something. If I was going to fall off through my laughter anyway, then I might just as well add a few feet to the fall and go down fighting to reach that crack. Suddenly, I was at the crack, a runner was quickly slipped in, and a few minutes later the climb was done.

Harry's Crack pic.
A close up view of the circled area. The dotted line shows the route of Harry's Crack, and the black arrow shows where the handhold broke off as I was climbing back down the easy descent cracks.
Somehow, Harry smashed the little wall into submission (did John give him a push? - only joking John) and laughingly swept up the crack to throw himself down beside me with a contented sigh. Shortly, John was up with us and we all had a rest in the hot sun for a while.

I felt absolutely fantastic. The surrounding coastal scenes were beautiful, I was having a wonderful weekend with my new friends, learning something new almost every minute, and now I'd put up my first ever 'first ascent'. Who cared if it was only a short, easy climb? I wasn't looking for fame and glory and neither were Harry or John.

As I rolled up the rope, we tried to think of a name for the climb. Harry suggested 'Shorty' (he is short and so is the climb) but, I wanted something that would remind me of the event. Then I had it. The climb had a notable crack at the top, Harry had 'cracked a joke' while I was climbing, so I'd call it 'Harry's Crack' in his honour. Harry was tickled pink and I was very happy about it all. But, that happiness was about to be shattered.

Just left of 'Harry's Crack' is a short, broken wall that we use as an easy descent. John had pointed it out to me earlier and he led us over towards it. After a short scramble over some rocks, we reached the top of the wall. John climbed down, then I swung myself over and began climbing down, with Harry waiting there for me to get out of the way before his descent. Hanging by my arms, still with legs bent and feet just about to start walking down the face to the next ledge below, there was a quick, scraping noise and I was falling.

In an instant, I'd pushed myself out from the wall as I would if I'd had a rope on. But, this time there was no rope. Quick as a flash, my feet hit a limestone ledge in the bushes below, there was a cracking snap in my right ankle, then I toppled back to roll on down the bushy slope "Like a ball of climbing gear with flailing arms and legs sticking out", as Harry would describe the sight later.

While Harry took a safer way down at the end of Bay Buttress, I sat in the bushes with John and we checked to see if I had any other injuries. Apart from the ankle and a few scratches, I'd got off lightly. The ankle was painful and beginning to swell up but, I knew that I didn't dare take my boot off as I might not be able to get it on again, and there was still the walk out back to where we'd left the cars.

Harry scrambled back along to us and he and John sat with me until they were sure that I was alright. At first we were all a bit bewildered as to what had happened until it was discovered that the handhold I was using had simply come away from the wall. So much for keeping my eye open for loose-looking rocks and handholds! In the end John and Harry wandered off to find the rest of the group.

I hobbled down to the bay and was happy to sit quietly, every so often glancing down at the cool water, thinking that it would be nice to dip my throbbing ankle into it. The desire was very strong and I was just about to move down onto a rock that I'd picked out, when something happened that caused me to hesitate for a while.

I caught the happy chatter of female voices and looked over towards the south end of the small bay, just in time to see three of the young ladies from our group (identities forgotten now as already mentioned) appear - and they were all stark naked.

The full horror (to me) hit once more. There I was, lurking about on a rock at the back of the bay. Nobody else was around and these nude females had began to play in the water just in front of me. Once again, my embarrassment became acute. Again I wondered if they had remembered that there was a stranger in their midst and what they would say if they saw me. Looking everywhere but in their direction, I searched for the easiest way to hobble away from the scene.

All at once, one of the girls casually called out and asked me how my ankle was feeling. Without looking up, I called that it wasn't too bad. Now I knew that Harry and John had talked to them and they had known that I'd be along here somewhere. One of the girls had even called out to me as if she'd expected me to be sitting on a rock just in front of them. I decided to completely ignore them, forget my embarrassment and go about my business.

Enlightenment lesson number five. Ignore what goes on around, even if it's not in your nature, as long as it's not hurting anybody.

I thought that would be it, but I still had one more little lesson to learn.

With the worry of the nude girls out of my mind (well, the 'worry' side of it anyway!), I hobbled the few feet down to the water's edge and sat on the rock that I'd been eyeing for the last ten minutes or so. I still had my boot on but, it didn't matter. With a grateful sigh, I splashed my foot into the cool water, laid back against an upright rock and closed my eyes in pure ecstasy and contentment. My new friends could be as leisurely as they liked now, I was quite happy to fester there with my eyes closed to the world, listening to the faint roar of the waves outside of the bay and the excited chatter of the girls as they splashed around in the water nearby.

Twenty minutes later, enlightenment lesson number six came along.

I was almost dropping off to sleep when I became aware that the girls were suddenly sounding very excited. Their voices had become high-pitched but, I wasn't game to sit up and have a look to see what they were squealing about.

Without warning, I was picked up off the rock in a watery bath, spun around a couple of times and deposited amongst the driftwood at the back of the bay. It was so quick and confusing that I hardly had time to record the sensations. One second I was lounging sleepily on the rock, the next I'd been washed up on the rocks behind and left looking like a half-drowned, stranded whale. With water pouring in streams from my clothes, I climbed up to my sack for a dry shirt. I still didn't dare take off my boot so I just changed shirts then settled down where I was. The girls were still playing out in the bay, I don't think they even noticed my 'fully-clothed' dip.

And so enlightenment lesson number six, keep your eye open for mini King Waves, passed into the annals of history.

The group gradually gathered together ready for the walk out and the trip home. Nobody seemed surprised that I was hobbling and squelching alongside of them, they all seemed to take it as a matter of course. I was happy not to be causing any fuss and it wasn't long before John and I were saying goodbye to my new friends and the pair of us were heading back towards Perth.

It was then that John told me of his trick regarding the 'sharks'. I thought it was a great prank to play and have tried it on a few 'greenhorns' since, but, with never the same results as John got from myself.

Upon arriving at my parent's home at the end of the trip, John was good enough to cart all my gear indoors while I headed for the nearest chair. My sprained ankle soon healed up and I was straining at the leash by the following weekend.

Even at my age now, after over twenty years in Australia and hundreds of 'enlightenment lessons', I realise that there are still plenty of lessons to be learned and, just as I did with that small group on that memorable weekend, I'm still happily learning.

Strangely enough, the only other climbing accident I've had, causing injury to myself, was under similar circumstances. This time on Toolbrunup, after leading a friend, Tony Van Beuningen, up 'Bristolian' a couple of years ago. We'd done the climb and were scrambling up the short walls above to the ridge. Rain had begun to drizzle down, the rock became slippery, a handhold came off, my foot slipped from its hold, and down I went, injuring the same ankle as before. Hmmmm? If I keep on like this, I'll never be as good as Harry when he was sixty seven!

A few days after that first W.A. climbing trip I was invited to a C.A.W.A. meeting where, to my delight at the continuous fun of this club, I was presented, ("For going on my first Australian climbing trip, doing my first ever 'first ascent' and having my first accident, all with the C.A.W.A..") with the famous coconut.

I feel now, that I should have been presented with a 'lemon'!!

A month later, I was back at the Wilyabrup Sea Cliffs where I hunted for, and found, the piece of rock that had been my handhold before it broke off, causing my first injurious fall to the ground.

And that's how those two items came to be on my shelf amongst all the other climbing, mountaineering and caving paraphernalia spread about my place, a reminder of some of the wonderful friends I've made and the great times that I've had with them. Many, many of the hundreds of trips that I've done since have been almost forgotten but, I'll never forget my first trip with that friendly group from the C.A.W.A..

When I look back on the cause of my acute embarrassment that weekend I wonder if there might have been a more subtle trick played on me, for, although I payed my subs and joined the club, I never saw anything like it again, and never discovered who the females were.

As for the six tins of baked beans and six bottles of Coke that I took for food and drink - I must have been stark raving mad!!!

Next story - The Lake Cave Saga.

Back to top of page.