The First Ascent of Mount Cougal

The First Ascent of Mount Cougal Saturday 20 October 1928

It’s hard to believe that just beyond the white sands and pounding surf, our cold beers and bottles of wine is a rugged country. On a clear day you can catch fleeting glimpses of this beautiful landscape called the Gold Coast hinterland as you drive along the Gold Coast Hwy.

Just on 83 years ago Mount Cougal was conquered by a man name Vance from the Commonwealth Defence Survey, the account below including the original link to the Brisbane Courier Mail makes for fascinating reading and I’m sure that those of you who have hiked this trail will quickly relate to this account.

Ascent of Mount Cougal – Peak of 2,700ft Highjsw_dad'scougal_073

Article source National Library -Brisbane Courier Mail click here.
MOUNT COUGAL, a peak rising 2700ft” at the head of the Tallebudgera Creek, on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, has been scaled for the first time.
The feat was accomplished by Mr, T. A. Vance, of the Commonwealth Defence Survey, in spite of the statements made by local residents that it was impossible to reach the summit. The story of this thrilling climb is told in simple and telling language by his daughter, Miss Helen Vance, who accompanied him for the greater part of the ascent.

“The Michaelmas holidays having arrived,” said Miss Vance, “Dad, who is carrying out a triangular survey, allowed me to accompany him on a week’s visit to Mount Cougal, on which he intended to erect a trigonometrical station. He had not visited this mountain before, but he warned me to be prepared for a strenuous climb. Leaving Brisbane on the Monday morning, and, after an uneventful run of nearly three hours by motor car, we lunched at Burleigh.
We left the main road here, and followed the old road through Burleigh West station, and on to Tallebudgera Creek. We then took the road up creek. Fortunately, the weather was dry because we had to ford the creek 25 times; but the deepest crossing was scarcely over the running-board of the car.

A delightful spot for a-camp was discovered at the end of the trafficable road, there being only bullock waggon tracks leading on past this. It is a very picturesque drive up this valley, with numerous houses nestling in the slopes of the hills, while the creek is fringed with beautiful weeping willows. After inquiries had been made from local residents our spirits were somewhat damped by the reports that no one had ever been successful in reaching the summit of Cougal owing to the tremendous precipices encircling it.
The reports from the men who had been sent on before hand to try to find a way up the mountain after two days searching were that it was Impossible to reach the summit owing to the sheer cliffs, which rose about 300ft, from the top.
After considering the matter Dad decided to make investigations for him self, so we made a very early start from camp the following morning.

Starting the Climb

Leaving the camp, we immediately began to ascend a grassy ridge, which soon changed to heavy forest country. We followed up this ridge for about a mile, and reached a knob at an elevation of about 1200ft where we were glad to stop for a breath.
From here our first near view of Cougal was obtained. The peak was at a distance of about 1 mile, and towered about 1500ft above us. A scrutiny with the field glasses did not brighten our hopes of reaching the top, as an apparently unbroken line of cliffs encircles the summit. We continued our scramble through the undergrowth-up, ever up. In suite of the fact that the men had blazed a track I left a considerable part of my dress and stockings behind me on the lawyer vines. On reaching the foot of the cliffs we left our lunch and waterbag, taking only the camera and field-glasses with us.
After climbing about 200ft, with the aid of vines and scrub, our progress was stopped by a vertical wall of rock, extending upwards as high as we could see. The only possible means of ascent seemed to be a small crack in the face of the cliffs. After examining this carefully, Dad, by means of a few plants growing out of the crevices, and using precarious foot- holds, was able to reach a small ledge.

The face of the cliff, although it appeared solid, crumbled away when one’s weight was put on it, bringing the stones down in showers, which we, at the foot, had to dodge by getting behind an overhanging boulder. Dad gradually disappeared from sight around the side of the cliff.

Success Achieved

After an anxious wait for an hour in the blazing sun, during which we heard nothing except falling stones, we caught the sound of a cooee from the top. This told us that he had been successful. One of the men attempted to follow him, but did not get far before he was forced to turn back.

After another hour’s wait falling stones indicated that Dad was returning. I was thankful when he reached the foot of the cliffs safely. He described it as a nerve-racking climb, especially when he began the de scent, which he found more difficult than the ascent.
Although the top was found to be unsuitable for an observing station owing to dense scrub and timber, he had found a rock jutting out on the east side, on which he had decided to erect a small flag station. No more could be done that day, as ropes would be necessary to help the men to climb the cliff and to get the tools up, so we returned to camp.

Cairn on the Top

Next morning we set off again with ropes. Dad had to make the arduous ascent again, taking one end of a long rope with him. This time he found it even more difficult than on the previous day.
But, after two hours of hard work, the rope was secured to a tree near the summit, and the end lowered down the cliffs. With the aid of the rope the men succeeded in reaching the top, and Dad returned to help me up.

Alas I after getting within 200ft. of the top I was forced to give up the attempt, as my strength and nerves were not equal to the task. A few trees were felled by the men and a small cairn, surmounted by a white flag, was erected on a jutting ledge of rock. I was very disappointed at not reaching the summit, as Dad said a magnificent view of the Tweed district and the coast from Byron Bay to Southport, including the mountains of the west and north, was obtained. On the New South Wales side the cliffs are sheer for some 2000ft.
No marks or signs of any one having been on the summit could be found, which seems to confirm the reports we had received, that this mountain had never been climbed previously. A long wire rope was left securely fastened near the top, and reaching to the foot of the cliffs, for any adventurous climber who may try to make the ascent.

Article source National Library -Brisbane Courier Mail of Ascent of Mount Cougal click here.

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