Reinventing the heights: The origins of rockclimbing culture in Australia
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Australian rockclimbing culture and climbers have been imagined in a particular way with the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century press playing a key role. Australian landscapes, including mountains, were incorporated into Indigenous cosmology for millennia before Aboriginal people discovered Europeans. But with the colonial invasion, the very nature of the landscape in the new colony meant that climbing culture was bound to take on a different persona from its European antecedent and undergo a rethinking or reinvention process. Figuring strongly in this discursive reconstruction was the particular geography of one region in Australia - southeast Queensland - with its diverse collection of volcanic peaks within range of a major population centre, along with a climate that encouraged the emergence of a set of complementary leisure activities. This article explores the emergence of rockclimbing culture in Australia from a range of often competing and contradictory discourses - Aboriginal cosmology, a unique landscape, the influence of the European idea of climbing and charismatic, visionary individuals. From the turn of the twentieth century, the role of local newspapers and magazines was a crucial element in this imagining process creating briefly a space for female climbers that has only recently been reclaimed. From the late 1880s, and particularly during the 1920s and 1930s, press reports of climbing and associated activities offered new ways of conceptualizing mountains and their place in shaping Australian culture.
© 2013 Taylor & Francis. This is an electronic version of an article published in Continuum, Volume 27, Issue 3, 2013, Pages 329-346. Continuum is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com with the open URL of your article.