Alexander Beitz, Anthony Borg, Graeme Cheal, June Friske, Neil Halpin and Louis Spann
In darkness, amid lightning strikes, fierce wind gusts, numbing cold with rain cascading off the cliff-face all round them, the six Queensland State Emergency Services climbers struggled on.
It was 3 May 1998, on Mt Tibrogargan in Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains. Four climbers were trapped 120 metres up, on a ledge the size of a doormat. At any moment a torrent threatened to sweep them away.
Despite the treacherous conditions Graeme Cheal - team leader and a highly experienced climber and rescue worker - led the pitch (climb) to a small cave above the site. As they climbed, they could feel the electric tingle of lightning in their harness.
The team managed to get a rope to the trapped men. Alexander Beitz and Graeme then abseiled down the cliff-face and managed to transfer the stranded climbers one by one up to the cave.
‘It was absolutely a team effort, from start to finish. Not just the climbers but all eighteen SES volunteers who were involved in the rescue,’ Graeme recalls. Despite the peril and discomfort, their only thought was for the safety of the trapped men.
For their selflessness and courage, the six climbers have been honoured with a Group Bravery Citation and two received individual awards.
Graeme, who has been performing mountain rescues for 35 years, says the team is grateful for the award but adds ‘None of us do it for recognition. We do it because there are people in trouble and we want to help them.’
Australian Bravery Decorations recognise acts of bravery by members of the Australian community who put themselves in jeopardy to protect the lives or property of others.