President’s Report 2010

I started climbing in 2000, after attending a going away party at Rockface. It seemed like a great new exercise to add to my repertoire. The problem was, on that first day, I could not get more than a couple of metres off the ground before total panic set in. Why I thought I could climb 10 metres up a wall when I couldn’t manage more than the first two rungs of a ladder, I really don’t know. But there was something about it that appealed to me and I was determined to overcome my crippling fear of heights (still a work in progress). I had always wanted to try mountaineering but rock climbing as a sport in its own right had never really crossed my mind. After taking part in a really enjoyable and extremely valuable technique course run by Ben Woods, nothing could hold me back – except for the fact that I was working 7 days a week in my own business.

So, I beavered away in the gym, having fun and getting stronger. My first finger injury was still a long way off. I feel compelled to mention that I am surrounded by people who look down their noses at ‘gym climbers’, an attitude I don’t endorse or particularly care for. Are you a better person because you are out on a rock instead of in a gym? I think not. Some people start in gyms and progress outdoors, others start outdoors and never see the inside of a gym, while some people never have any aspirations to climb on ‘real’ rock because these days gym climbing has evolved into a separate activity of its own. Everybody’s circumstances are different. The key is understanding that rock requires a very different skill set. Climbing outdoors was not a luxury I could afford when I started because it meant employing someone to replace me. I took what I could get and was just grateful to have found a sanity saver. The intense focus required just to get up the wall initially and then progressively tackle more difficult problems, provided much needed stress relief from my business. It was like active meditation. The sense of well being I felt after a 3 or 4 hour session is hard to describe. But I digress – off the soapbox and back to the story.

I first joined CAWA in 2001, because, like so many others new to the sport, I had found that regular climbing partners were hard to come by. I was worried that I seemed to be wearing them out rather quickly, only to discover that many people get into the sport, attack it aggressively for a few months and then leave. This simply would not do. I needed someone (or more than one) who was committed long term and I was also keen to climb on rock rather than just plastic. Whilst I really enjoyed the gymnastic nature of indoor climbing I was getting bored.  ‘Here’, said Gareth Wall, then manager of Rockface, ‘join CAWA’, waving a brochure at me.

My involvement with CAWA was minimal initially because I was still tied to my business. But I was welcomed by Dinah Pantic (committee member and later president) and I climbed outdoors when I could. Certainly some were more helpful and friendly than others. But that applies to all walks of life. I did not expect CAWA (the committee or other members) to be responsible for my climbing career, teach me how to climb or provide me with a climbing partner. I mention this because of the disconnect between what some of our new members expect of the CAWA committee and what the ‘objects’ are, as per the constitution.

Providing an ‘institution…to meet’ is certainly one of those objects, along with promoting and developing rock climbing. However, protecting and promoting the interests of climbers, formulating and publishing guidelines (i.e. desired conduct) as well as encouraging affiliation with like-minded groups are also requirements. All of this to be fulfilled by a small group of volunteers giving up their not so spare and climbing time.

CAWA can’t provide training due to liability issues and participants in activities must be ‘independent’. This means being able to take care of yourself and have an appropriate level of skill. After much debate and research, we discovered that some of the other clubs who offer training to members are taking a significant risk in doing so, because they have no insurance cover for these events.  In order to bridge the gap, we have instead arranged both discounts as well as specific courses for CAWA members through Adventure Out.

Part of CAWA’s responsibility during trips or other activities, is to promote safety. You have to be aware of your own limitations for everyone’s safety, not just your own. When you belay another person, their life is literally in your hands. Many trips are suitable for beginners if they have someone experienced to climb with and some aren’t. But many locations are not suited to ‘group’ climbing. At any one time there are variable numbers of experienced climbers available to help out with trips and we can’t force them to attend. In recent years there have been less rather than more, making the management of trips quite difficult. Obviously not wanting to deter people from attending, we also have to be honest about what is realistic to expect on any given trip. The generosity of experienced climbers (CAWA or not) is also quite variable and unfortunately beyond our control.

We want experienced climbers to share their expertise with beginners. However those beginners must also take personal responsibility for being assertive about gaining knowledge and doing courses to increase their skill level. I saw CAWA as an opportunity to network with other climbers and I would encourage new members to take the same approach.

After defecting to the east in 2003 only to return in mid 2005, I rejoined CAWA. After helping out with the Cape range management plan submission, I realised CAWA’s critical role in protecting the rights of climbers. When I joined the committee as vice president in 2007, I knew I wanted to help and to make a difference, but wasn’t entirely sure how to do that. Particularly as there was no job description to guide me. After a rocky start, I had to get the hang of things quickly, because Toc Foale, then president, was working away from Perth much of the time and I became acting president.

I realised that we needed to put a plan in place if we were to achieve anything and regain the faith of members. After becoming president, I presented my vision and goals to the committee in May 2009, we agreed on a way forward and published the following:

My vision: That CAWA becomes an association that climbers not only want join but want to be actively involved in.

CAWA’s goals:

  1. By the 2011 AGM we will have enough volunteers to fill every committee position.
  2. By the 2010 AGM we will have increased membership numbers by at least 50%, ideally with a large number of younger members who will then continue to support the association and then become involved in its management.
  3. The next edition of the CAWA Guidebook to be on sale by June 2010.
  4. To launch a new CAWA website that is user friendly for both members and the committee by the end of June 2009.
  5. By August 2009 a regular (either two or three monthly) newsletter is to be produced so we stay in touch with members and keep them updated.

I hope that at this AGM we will have enough volunteers to fill every committee position.

During the last 10 years we had the most members (184) in June 2001 (July – June financial year). There was a drop after that but numbers held reasonably steady until 2006 where there was a sharp decline that continued until it hit a decade low of 91 in 2008. Since then, member numbers have improved steadily with this year the best since 2005 (currently 142) and it’s only just over half way through the year! We have also had a large number of younger members join up, which is promising.

One of our main achievements for the year was the long awaited second edition of the Perth rock climbing guide. Due to a few very frustrating false starts beyond our control, it was behind schedule but well worth the wait. It is very comprehensive, providing updated information and photos, with the addition of new areas and many new climbs. Completion of the project required commitment to following through and many hours of hard work. Thanks to the efforts of Ross Weiter, it went on sale in December 2010.

As mentioned in last year’s report, the new CAWA website was launched in 2009. We have used the site to improve communication with members and encourage members to use it to communicate with each other. Mark Weatherill will continue in his role as webmaster.

Since October 2009, we have been producing a three monthly newsletter that is circulated to members by email. It looks fantastic and a great deal of time and effort has gone into designing it. Thanks must go to Megan Morris, Louise Wauge and Brian Tan for their production efforts.

We have continued to build on our relationship with Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and finalised access to Canning Dam Quarry. Access is strictly for CAWA members only as per the Water Corporation’s terms and will initially only be allowed a limited number of times during the year. Hopefully once the land managers understand that climbers will have minimal impact, unrestricted access will be granted. We have worked hard over the last few years to raise our profile with DEC so that they would come to see communication with CAWA as essential rather than optional.

A number of very well-attended trips have taken place during the year, to places such as Kalbarri, Mount Frankland and most recently, Albany. It is great to see increasing numbers of participants and to hear the positive feedback. Thanks must go to the trip organisers during the year – Ashley List, Phillip Calais and Ross Weiter.

The monthly gym crash that rotates around the three climbing gyms has also regained popularity and it has been great to see such a good turnout. I do wonder if the post-climbing pizza is more appealing than the climbing itself. Thanks to Brian Tan for running most of them in the last year.

CAWA members have received discounts at most of the outdoor stores and climbing gyms for many years now. However, this year we have managed to negotiate further discounts at the gyms and the details are on the CAWA website.

It was my hope that we would be able to re-introduce social events and we have managed that successfully, providing great variety through the year. Ross presented a slide show on living and climbing in Oman. This was followed by a ‘knot night’ organised by Phillip Calais, where members took great delight in tying each other up and most recently, a movie night in January which was very popular. Special thanks must go to Ash Morris for the fantastic job he did making the wobble-free movie screen.

And we must not forget about the new CAWA t-shirts. Thanks to Phil for organising these.

It is very important for me to again thank everyone who has supported your committee and myself over the last 2 years and made it possible for us to achieve our goals and so much more. We have worked incredibly hard and put in many, many hours to improve the association for you, its members. With focus and commitment it is possible to do anything. My mission is complete – at least for the time being.

I will be taking a break from the committee to do other things like further study, mountaineering and rock climbing. After learning to ice climb last year I am rather taken with the idea of climbing frozen waterfalls. However, I will ensure that there is a comprehensive handover and assuming I haven’t fallen off a waterfall, will be available to advise and assist where required. I hope that my little story will give members the confidence to step up and do their bit for the association. We are all busy and have other commitments. Even though I had family responsibilities that effectively derailed my climbing career for an extended period, I did not lose interest in the sport and made a significant contribution to the association during some very difficult periods. My point is simple: I did it, so can you. Not everyone on the committee needs to be a really experienced climber. You just need to be passionate about the sport and care about protecting your right to access climbing areas.

Dena Rao
CAWA President

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