Childhood memories

The MUMC pioneered rock climbing in Victoria, but it always regarded itself primarily as a bushwalking club, and had a rather old-fashioned approach to rock climbing inherited from England. In the Fifties most of its climbing was done at the Sugarloaf, a striking rock peak in the Cathedral Range a few miles south of Mount Cathedral. It was reached by a rough road branching off Keppels Lane south of Buxton. The furniture van would take us to the turnoff for the Sugarloaf, where we would usually camp for the night before tackling the walk up to Sugarloaf Saddle.

There was a good campground in the Saddle, which was about 20 minutes walk from the foot of the face. The rock faced east, so it got the morning sun (if any!). It had an even slope of about 70 degrees, and it was covered with 'jug handles', making for easy and relatively safe climbing, so it was an excellent beginner's rock. From the summit the Razorback led along to the North and South Jawbones, which also offered excellent, though somewhat harder climbing, and then a sawtooth Ridge continued on to the Cathedral.

The Sugarloaf track continued on down to Cook's Mill, a sawmill at the foot of the Jawbones, and round Mount Cathedral back to the Buxton Rd. In the middle 50s Cook's Mill was still operational, with a number of residents in cottages along the road. On Saturday morning the residents would walk up and down the road visiting each other, and then in the afternoon they would all go off to a pub in one of the closer towns.

It was a long (and in summer hot!) days walk from the Sugarloaf along the Razorback, and past the Jawbones to the Cathedral, then down to the road, and back through Cook's Mill to the Sugarloaf. The only time I did it we missed the turn off for the Sugarloaf, and wandered off towards Big Hill, before we realised our mistake and retraced our steps, eventually returning to the Sugarloaf about nine o'clock at night.

There was also some rock climbing at Hanging Rock, near Woodend, but the climbs were all very short, so this was really only suitable for Sunday outings.

In May 1953 we were at the top of the Sugarloaf when someone arrived with the news that Hillary and Tenzing had reached the top of Mount Everest, just in time for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019