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Climbing legends #11 Edna Saunders

Climbing legends #11 Edna Saunders
Series of posts celebrating climbers of Ayers Rock.

In an early post we drew attention to a book by Edna Saunders (Bradley) "A Rock to remember". This post celebrates Edna as a legend of the climb.


During her first visit to Ayers Rock as part of the Petticoat Safari, Edna climbed twice. Her first climb well known as part of the Petticoat Safari group (see earlier post). Edna climbed again the next day to a special location on the Rock that only very few have visited and certainly very few women. An excerpt of her adventure appears below. To gain an insight into early tourism at Ayers Rock we recommend buying Edna's book. She remains active in supporting tourism in central Australia. What a remarkable woman!

Extract from A rock to remember by Edna Bradley (Edna Saunders)
To find out if they made it out you'll have to buy the book!

The Rock Pool 
Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into the next morning, when before the sun had spread its golden glow upon Ayers Rock and the rest of the group had stirred, we hopped into the bus with Ian, Peter and Dave, the driver of the blitz buggy. Driving along, Peter explained that he and Ian had only recently learnt about the rock pools set deep in a ravine high above Maggie Springs on the south side of the Rock and they wanted to check it out. Ian had tried to climb up from the Maggie Springs pool the week before, but the rock face was too steep, so they decided that the only way in was from the top. Not fully aware of how steep and hazardous the climb would be Yvonne and I were taken in by the prospect of the adventure and felt sure that no harm would come to us. Ian drove to the spot where we had climbed the Rock the day before and once again I found myself crawling up its 6o-degree face. This time it didn't seem so bad. At the top, instead of turning left and going across the ridges to the cairn, we went straight ahead walking on the tops of the ridges. So far so good, but then the slope on the other side was much steeper and we all resorted to sliding on our backsides hanging on to whatever hand and footholds we could find. I slid on my bottom for quite a bit of the way, then realised that I had torn the seat of my new jeans. Wondering how I could cover it up I asked Yvonne if the tear was very big, but she was more interested in our safety than my modesty. "Who cares about a pair of torn jeans," she answered, "I just don't want to break a leg or an arm." The last few feet before we dropped onto the shady ravine became very smooth and almost vertical, but somehow we managed to scramble down. I found it easier to turn and face the Rock, not worrying about my exposed undies. At this stage, all I was interested in was putting my feet on terra firma. I knew no one else was looking, as we were all concentrating on reaching the ravine unharmed. There were little bits of shale to hold onto which stopped my downward slide and finally my feet touched some ground. With a sigh of relief, I thought, at least I got this far safely. The boys were already heading towards the end of the ravine. I was surprised at how big it was, it went right into the Rock and was about seven metres wide with the sides towering over us. We were completely tucked away from the ground below; it seemed almost as if we were deep into the centre of the Rock and being there gave a feeling of reverence. So overwhelmed with the knowledge of where we were, when we spoke, it was in whispers. Someone could hide here totally undetected, I thought. The area was bushy with wild fig trees and undergrowth and after scrambling over some large boulders and through bushes for about 55 metres we came to a clear section with two pools surrounded by sand, not the red of the desert, but pale, like the ocean beach. One pool was up against the end of a thirty metre sheer drop.

Edna Saunders (Bradley) 
A true legend of the Rock and beyond!

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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…