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Rick Whites legacy

10:05:48 AM

Rick White's legacy [ MANYTHANXTOQURANK.COM...]

Pioneering Australian climber Rick White died peacefully on 26 November 2004 in Winchester Hospital in the UK following a short but determined battle with cancer. He was 58 years old. Rick and his devoted second wife Jane travelled to the UK three weeks ago in a desperate attempt to seek natural treatment for a particularly aggressive brain tumour. As many of you will know, Rick — who is probably best known for his visionary development of Frog Buttress— battled the muscle-wasting disease, inclusion body myositis, for the past 12 years and has been unable to climb since the early 1990s. In recent years, he devoted himself to coaching Australia's top junior sport climbers, Cass Crane, Tiffany Melius, Libby Hall and Thomas Farrell, and worked with Samantha Berry under a Mountain Designs climbing support program. They are some of the many hundreds of young climbers who have benefited from Rick's mentorship over three decades.
Rick's first climb was a scary solo ascent of the exposed Prometheus II on the east face of Tibrogargan in 1967. From 1968, he played a leading role in a new wave of climbers in Queensland who began to push the existing limits nationally. Within 12 months, Rick had repeated all of the toughest known routes in SE Queensland, the Warrumbungles and the Blue Mountains and realised there was only one place left to go: into the unknown. With his climbing partner Chris Meadows, Rick first walked down the scree slope of what would later become Frog Buttress on 9 November 1968 and Australian climbing changed forever. Rick led hundreds of new routes at the Buttress over the next 20 years and many of the guides to those early climbs read invariably...'Second unable to follow'. Rick inspired a cohort of climbers in Queensland as he pushed the boundaries of the known, opening up new routes on the east face of Mt Maroon. In 1972, he put up what was then the hardest route in Australia --Valhalla. He and a small group of hard climbers like Ted Cais, Paul Caffyn, Greg Sheard, Ian Thomas, and Robert Staszewski put Queensland climbing at the forefront of the sport in Australia.
In 1973, Rick made the first Australian ascent of The Nose on El Capitan followed by the Salathe Wall with his long-time friend, Doug Scott. In the Christmas period 1974-1975, Rick teamed up with newcomer Robert ‘Squeak’ Staszewski in a bold attempt to climb the FitzRoy in Patagonia. Thwarted by the weather and tent-ridden on the Torre Glacier, they discussed the possibility of making a living out of climbing by manufacturing quality equipment designed for local and international use. When they returned to Australia, Rick expanded his small part-time climbing equipment import business into a fully-fledged manufacturing venture: the forerunner of Mountain Designs. Although much of Rick’s time was then spent developing his business interests, he maintained his interest in Frog Buttress, Mt Maroon and new areas like Maggie’s Farm (Mt Maroon). In 1979, he made a solo ascent of Ball’s Pyramid. Two years later, he was reunited with Doug Scott and an international climbing team to make the first ascent of the East Pillar of the 6500 metre spire, Shivling, in the Garwhal Himalaya in northern India. Both he and Doug Scott celebrated their birthdays on the climb—Rick turned 33 and Doug, 38. The climbing equipment business was booming and Rick always ensured that the benefits flowed on to his mates, with scores of climbers finding work at Mountain Designs over the years. Some wryly recall that cash-flow crises always seemed to emerge when Rick was on a climbing trip out of the country! Rick began to turn his attention to the international climbing scene and the high mountains and in 1990, organised an expedition to climb the 8000 metre Cho Oyu. Michael Groom joined the expedition and was the only member of the team to summit, climbing the standard route after their attempt to climb a new route was abandoned because of avalanche danger and altitude sickness by most members of the team. Rick returned to the Himalayas in 1991, this time with Everest in his sights. But the collapse of a long-time financier meant Mountain Designs was plunged into crisis. In a devastating set of circumstances, Rick lost control of the company he had started and was left with huge debts. It was about this time that his muscle-wasting disease was diagnosed. Despite extraordinary odds, he was determined to continue his lifetime commitment to climbing and eventually started up a high-end sleeping bag manufacturing business, working from home. By 2001, Mountain Designs’ ownership had changed again and new proprietor Greg Nunn invited Rick back into the fold as research and development advisor, or as Rick described himself, ‘a walking historian’.
Rick maintained his intimate association with Frog Buttress and participated in all of the ‘milestones’ over the years. At the 20th anniversary in 1988, he and Chris Meadows made another ascent of the first route they climbed at the Buttress on 16 November 1968, Corner of Eden. It was their last climb together. Chris took his own life in 1991, the same year that Rick’s illness was diagnosed. In 1998, Rick was back at Frog Buttress for the 30th anniversary and abseiled down the classic ‘jamB’ crack, The Infinity. With his adductor muscles no longer operating, he struggled back up the scree on his hands and knees, denying all offers of assistance. It took him the best part of 45 minutes to make it back to the car park.
All of us who knew Rick as a congenial, loyal friend will miss his incisive, invariably perceptive wit. He was working on a book about his life in the last weeks before his death. In typical style, bedridden, frustrated, he came up with a title just a few days ago: ‘@#%$ the diagnosis!’ Although unlikely to be acceptable to a publisher, it nevertheless sums up the extraordinary determination he showed right to the end. Doug Scott was one of the few climbers Rick ever saw as having a major influence on him — and in Doug’s words: ‘He’s the toughest bugger I’ve ever known’. Ted Cais, too, identifies Rick’s extraordinary mental toughness as one of his most admirable traits.
Perhaps the greatest contribution Rick has made here is his attitude to clean climbing. From the late 1960s, he adopted an approach that rejected the use of anything but ‘jamB’ protection. He always hoped that Frog Buttress would remain a bolt-free zone but the first bolt was placed there in 1981. Just weeks ago, he expressed a desire for Frog Buttress to de-bolted and kept as a bolt-free crag. Many of those who have placed bolts in climbs there have indicated they would be prepared to remove them. What a lasting tribute to one of the great Australian climbers this would be—a bolt-free zone in the tradition of the gritstone crags in the UK. We trust the climbing community to decide how best to honour this enigmatic, inspirational and quintessentially Australian climbing pioneer.
On behalf of all of the climbers and friends who have been part of this story for the past 36 years — we’ll miss you mate…rest in peace.

(Michael Meadows and Phil Crane , )

Dave C
10:10:58 AM
Thanks for posting this Hex.
A sad loss for Australian climbing and an even greater loss for his family and friends. They have my condolences.
A bolt-free Frog would indeed be a fitting memorial.
10:11:43 AM
Ah f---.
I am one of those on Chockstone lucky enough to have known Rick, having looked after the shop in Fortitude Valley one December long ago while he was still running the place and having been fortunate enough to have climbed at Frog with him.
On reading the opening sentences my first reaction was that it was a joke, apologies Hex.
I will contemplate my own memories of his passing.
- Steve

Phil Box
10:11:57 AM
More tributes are flooding in for Rick on qurank.

Personally I am very saddened to hear of his passing. I came to know Rick through having met him in the same circles we mixed in. I will miss his wry and knowing smile. He exhibited a stoic determination unmatched in almost any other person I have met.

Last weekend I was out new routing on the very mountain that saw his first climb. I first learned of his passing from the Sunday Mail that had almost a complete column devoted to him.

He was a giant amongst our fraternity.

Bye Rick, off belay.

9:05:14 PM

A true pioneer. Condolences to Rick's family, friends and the climbing community, within which Rick truely


9:41:11 PM
It's a timely reminder of how young the climbing scene is within Australia that only now are we having to
deal with the mortality of our pioneers.

Someone else who looms large in Oz climbing mythology isn't doing too well health-wise at the moment.
Some of you know who I'm referring to, but I'm not going to make a song and dance of it here. Here's
hoping for a full recovery...


Phil Box
12:02:31 PM
This is a direct quote from the qurank site and I am quoting Mike Meadows.

"A short post to let all interested know that Rick White's memorial service will be held at the Mt Gravatt Crematorium in Brisbane on 14 December...time to be announced soon.

Michael Meadows "

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