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Climbing legends #3 Tiger Tjalkalyirri

Climbing legends #3
Series of posts celebrating climbers of Ayers Rock.

#3 Tiger Tjalkalyirri Early guide, a keeper of the rock

The Cairn at the top of Uluru: Tiger Tjalkalyirri standing and Tamalji seated. 

Tiger Tjalkalyirri acted as an early guide and climbing partner to early visitors to Ayers Rock. His name appears twice on the early climbing log. He assisted Cliff Thomson in 1946 and Arthur Groom in 1947. Arthur Groom makes a record of his 1947 climb with Tiger and assistant Tamalji in his book I saw a strange land. It seems Tiger had no qualms climbing the rock or guiding tourists to the summit.
Tiger Tjalkalyirr: an absolute LEGEND!

extract from I saw a strange land 
Various writers have described Ayers Rock as difficult of ascent, when in reality it is a trained mountaineer's job on the east-south-east corner, a rough and steep scramble up at least two places on its southern side, and nothing else but a strenuous and spectacular uphill walk on its western side. On the northern side, the sheer cliffs and hollowed base prevent any reasonable attempt at ascent.
We tackled the easy western route, called Tjinteritjinteringura (Willy Wagtail) by the natives. It is a bare rock ridge, not much steeper than a staircase, rising from a broad beginning to a narrowing ridge of sandstone, surfaced with the rough stucco pink common to the whole Rock. Tamalji soon gave his wild whoop and screaming laugh, and ran barefooted all over the place. His balance was amazing. Tiger grunted and groaned. 'Me getting old in legs,' he gasped; but he was determined. In desperation he turned to me. `You feel all right? You not feel like properly old man?' But I was feeling splendid, and raced after Tamalji, who had taken the steep climb in his teeth. Tamalji was defying all known laws of extreme exertion by gulping several mouthfuls of ice-cold water from each round rock-hole. The man had the energy of a demon, and still found breath to laugh in wild abandon.

Njunowa gasped his way up the rock for perhaps a hundred yards then flopped on the Rock and rolled out flat on his back and lay spread-eagled for our return. Mount Olga's many domes rose above the sea of sandhills; but there were other mountains beyond, a strange, encircling concourse of rocky silhouettes and distant shapes of the far Petermanns to westward, and the Musgrave Ranges in a chain of peak after peak to southward. Some of them had never been trodden by white men. Two days' travel to westward was the lonely grave of prospector Henry Lasseter, who died of dysentery and starvation on 30 January 1931; buried crudely by friendly natives of the Petermann Ranges, reburied by old Bob Buck, Central Australian wanderer, who now lives at Doctor's Stones in the eastern end of the James Range, south-west of Alice Springs. There was no trace of Lake Amadeus to the north. It was hidden in its salty hollow only six hundred feet above sea level. 
The summit, crest, sides, ridges, ravines, shelves, and terraces of Ayers Rock are pitted with hundreds of the rounded rock-holes, capable of holding from a few to several thousand gallons of crystal-clear water from any light passing shower. The recent four inches of rain had filled every hole, until each pool overflowed to the next in a scintillating chain of flashing light. 
Tamalji beat me to the top by a furlong. His time for the ascent was about thirty-five minutes. Tiger was still a dot turning the shoulder a quarter of a mile down. A small pile of broken sandstone has been placed on the summit, and the usual summit tin and bottle of names are there. I took out the pieces of parched and frayed paper. I have been on many a mountain summit, and seen many a cairn of stones and bottle filled with names; but none excited me more than those accounts of the past few who have travelled hundreds and in some instances, thousands of miles, to ascend Ayers Rock. In this lonely land it seemed to give the names written  
in ink and pencil definite reality and personal presence. Goodness knows where they all are now; but here are the names: 
7/3/1931. W. McKinnon. 
19/2/1932. W. :McKinnon. 
July, 1933. W. Fuller. 
28/5/1936. H. N. Foy, Mrs Foy, Tom McFadden, Stan Tolhurst, Gus Schaller, Bill Morgan, Sydney Walker, Bob Buck, Denis Haycroft, Rupert Kathner, Kurt Johannsen, S. Mulladad. 
Nov. 1939. V. Dumas, F. Clune, E. Bails. 
7/8/1940. C. P. Mountford, J. E. Sheard. 
14/8/1940. C. P. Mountford, J. E. Sheard. 
30/6/1946. Lou A. Borgelt, Cliff Thompson, Tiger, Metingerie. 
Tiger arrived and flopped straight into a pool to cool off. 'My legs get properly tight!' he grumbled, and thumped his cramped thighs. Tamalji run about too much like big euro!' 


Rock water hole at base of Uluru, Northern Territory, 1947. 
Tiger on left. Arthur Groom.

‘Tiger’ (T)jalkalyirri (c.1906-1985), Aboriginal guide, elder and land-rights campaigner, was born about 1906 probably at Wintawata, South Australia, in Pitjantjatjara country south of Ayers Rock (Uluru), second of three sons of Kutunari and his second wife Antumara. Also known as (T)jalkaljeri, Douglas Dalgalyerry and ‘Charcoal Jerry’, he was a man of the Nyintaka (perentie lizard) totem. After living a traditional life for two decades, he migrated with other family members to the Watarrka (Kings Canyon) country in the Northern Territory, where his two brothers had been born and with which he had direct ancestral associations. He also had strong claims to the Mala (hare wallaby) totemic sites of Uluru.


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