Skip to main content

Climbing Legends #6 Arthur Groom

Climbing legends
Series of posts celebrating climbers of Ayers Rock.
#6 Arthur Groom the walker
Arthur Groome aged about 30. Photo Credit.
Arthur Groome was a bushwalker, conservationist, photographer and nature writer. He was a founder of the National Parks Association of Queensland. He was known for his almost legendary ability to walk long distances, and his sense of humour. He had intended to walk the 550km from Tempe Downs to Ayers Rock and back alone but in the end was accompanied by Tiger Tjalkalyirri and two other Aboriginal guides for much of the journey.
Groome left Tempe Downs for Ayers Rock and the Olgas on 25 August 1947. The route was via Levi Range, Kings Canyon and the eastern end of Lake Amadeus. His party climbed the Rock on 4 September. He returned to Henbury Station via Mt Conner, Angus Downs and Mr Ormerod.

These are his notes on the Climb, 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!' 

Arthur Groome, a climbing legend
Arthur Groome, 1952. Photo credit 

Arthur Groome explores cave at Ayers Rock. From I saw a Strange Land.


Popular posts from this blog

17th death on the Rock

17th death on the Rock
ABC report that a 76 year old Japanese man collapsed on the steep part of the climb and despite first aid, was not able to be revived. The elderly Japanese man likely died as a result of heart complications, probably brought on by existing (perhaps unknown) medical conditions and over exerting himself. He appears to have died revelling in the opportunity life provides. RIP Brother of the Rock.  Our thoughts with his family and the first attenders who did their best to treat him. It's sad, but life goes on, and so should the climb.

His death marks the 17th death ON the Rock since 26 May 1962 when 16 year old school boy Brian Strieff, on a school excursion with Carey Grammar, wondered off the main path in heavy fog on the way down and fell to his death.

ABC's report indicate it is the 37th death, but these figures from Parks Australia have not been substantiated. It seems that many of the deaths Parks Australia claim to have occurred ON the Rock occurred in…

A pictorial response to arguments against climbing Ayers Rock

A pictorial response to arguments against climbing Ayers RockIt's too dangerous Group of women aged 19-70 climb Ayers Rock as part of the 1957 Petticoat Safari. This was prior to the chains being installed. Since the 1950s over 6,000,000 people of all ages have climbed the rock. In that time there have been a reported 36 deaths mainly heart attacks to older men, not acclimatised to the heat of central Australia. If you are fit and healthy and stick to the marked path climbing Ayers Rock is an exhilarating adventure but a decidedly low risk activity.

Here's Arthur Groom's take on the climbing options: 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 It’s a Sacred Site, climbing is disrespect…

Climber's Handbook: A guide to climbing Ayers Rock.

Coming soon... Climber's Handbook: A guide to climbing Ayers Rock. Everything you wanted to know about climbing the rock at the heart of Australia but were too afraid to ask...

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
Hoping to hit the internet book shelves in time for Christmas 2018.  In the meantime wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I just want one thing in my Christmas stocking: a ban of the ban!