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Climbing legends #2 William Gosse - most wonderful natural feature I have ever seen

Climbing legends #2
Series of posts celebrating climbers of Ayers Rock.

#2 William Christie Gosse - first documented climb

Gosse's sketch of Uluru showing SW corner near Multijuju waterhole, drawn from about -25.35376, 131.03281. For recent photo showing similar view click here.

You can read WC Gosse's account of his explorations in central Australia via the Gutenberg Project (HERE). In 1872 Gosse was charged with finding a route from central Australia to Western Australia. He came across the rock he named "Ayers", after the SA governor Sir Henry Ayers, on the 19th of July 1873 and was the first European to scale the summit. You can read more about William Gosse at the ANU's dictionary of Australian Biography

Here's Gosse's diary entry for the 20th of July 1873 documenting his climb to the summit, the first to be recorded:
Sunday, July 20.—Ayers Rock. Barometer 28.07 in., wind east. I rode round the foot of rock in search of a place to ascend; found a waterhole on south side, near which I made an attempt to reach the top, but found it hopeless. Continued along to the west, and discovered a strong spring coming from the centre of the rock, and pouring down some very steep gullies into a large deep hole at the foot of rock. This I have named Maggie's Spring. Seeing a spur less abrupt than the rest of the rock, I left the camels here, and after walking and scrambling two miles barefooted, over sharp rocks, succeeded in reaching the summit, and had a view that repaid me for my trouble—Kamran accompanied me. The top is covered with small holes in the rock, varying in size from two to twelve feet diameter, all partly filled with water. Mount Olga is about twenty miles west. Some low ranges and ridges west-north-west, one of which I think must be McNicol's Range; part of lake visible, bearing north Mount Conner 96°, and high ranges south-east, south, and south-west, with sandhills between. The one south-east. I have named after His Excellency Governor Musgrave; and a high point in same, bearing 141°, Mount Woodroffe, after the Surveyor-General. This is a high mass of granite, the surface of which has been honeycombed, and is decomposing, 1,100 feet above surrounding country, two miles in length (east and west), and one mile wide, rising abruptly from the plain. How I envied Kamran his hard feet; he seemed to enjoy the walking about with bare feet, while mine were all in blisters, and it was as much as I could do to stand: the soil around the rock is rich and black. This seems to be a favourite resort of the natives in the wet season, judging from the numerous camps in every cave. These caves are formed by large pieces breaking off the main rock and falling to the foot. The blacks make holes under them, and the heat of their fires causes the rock to shell off, forming large arches. They amuse themselves covering these with all sorts of devices—some of snakes, very cleverly done, others of two hearts joined together; and in one I noticed a drawing of a creek with an emu track going along the centre. I shall have more time to examine these when the main camp is here. This rock is certainly the most wonderful natural feature I have ever seen. What a grand sight this must present in the wet season; waterfalls in every direction. I shall start back, tomorrow, and trust to finding some water between here and King's Creek, which is now eighty-four miles distant.

William Christie Gosse: an absolute LEGEND!

Some mistakenly think he climbed up above Maggie Springs, but it's clear from the description "Seeing a spur less abrupt than the rest of the rock..." he took the easiest route to the summit which is where the current posted climb is. Pity he got the geology wrong, it's not granite, it's sandstone (arkose), but what a marvellous tale!


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Indicative Contents History of discovery and climbing Facts and figures Geology and Geomorphology Route Maps Reasons to climb Climbing stories Chronicles of the fallen  Preparations Best time to climb What to wear How to climb What you can see from the summit Things to do at the summit Climbing Trivia Selected climbs and hikes in central Australia
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