Remembering Donn Groom

Written by Binna Burra

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June 24, 2020

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“I will always think of you standing, with supreme ease, grace and balance, on top of something – a rock wall, a mast, a mountain top.” – Tony Groom.

Marjorie Groom (1911-1998) with Richard Groom, Donn Groom & Tony Groom. Photo circa 1940s.

Binna Burra Chairman, Steve Noakes, writes:

We’re saddened to learn this week of the passing of Donn Groom in New Zealand. Many shareholders will know that Donn, one of the children of Binna Burra co-founder, Arthur Groom, was a pioneer of rock climbing in Australia and New Zealand. He made many first attempts of the sheer rock faces in well-known south-east Queensland locations such as the Glass House Mountains, Lamington National Park and Mt Barney. He also had considerable experience in New Zealand, with ascents of Mount Tasman and Malte Brun, and involvement in a difficult rescue on Mt Cook.

In the July 1967 edition of ‘Walkabout’ magazine, Donn wrote about his exploits scaling Tasmania’s mountain peaks. One expedition included traversing Mount Cradle. At the end of that climb, he wrote: ‘A feeling of satisfaction began to grow at this stage. We bagged most of the peaks we had aimed for, and although low on funds and with only return tickets in our pockets, we were rich with the rewards of a successful two weeks climbing in the mountains.’

Earlier this year, his brother, Tony, a former Binna Burra Lodge Manager, Board member and Chairman, penned the following words to Donn who had been ill at his home in New Zealand. Tony has approved our use of his words …

 

“Dear Donn,

Sorry to hear you are having a rough time. I will not think of you in a hospital bed. Instead, I am thinking of all the things you are. The elder brother that every family needs but few are lucky enough to have.  A pioneer, adventurer, innovator, an inspiration to others and a rare combination of a mountain man AND a sailor.

You were the one who invented the wooden sleds (with brakes even!) that allowed us to fly down the grassy slope to Bellbird, the one who made the blow-guns and darts – but maybe the less said about them the better. You were the one that led us on all kinds of expeditions. – Mt Barney, Straddie, Lost World, Coomera Crevice and, unforgettably, the south side of Egg Rock.

You were the first one to get a job, have a girlfriend and buy a car – the fact that it conked out in the gully below Errington Street was just another challenge that you overcame. Probably much to your surprise, you were the one who introduced me to classical music – a journey that started with Beethoven’s 5th on the floor of Lola’s house and led to singing the Ode to Joy in Sydney Opera House with 800 singers a couple of years ago.

You were the first one to pioneer many rock climbs including the east face of Barney – a feat which still makes my hands go clammy.

You helped me and Mum bring Binna Burra back from the brink and a big part of that was making abseiling a sport in itself – a world first, I believe.  In doing so you changed the lives of thousands of people by showing them how to overcome fear.  That is still happening and will continue as long as there are cliff faces to drop over.

You helped raise four amazing sons including one of Australia’s most successful mountain climbers who is still inspiring people the way you have.

Few people are lucky enough to have monuments to themselves all over the world. The rock walls of Alcheringa, fireplaces and chimneys in Alaska and the amazing Taheke Mud house are the physical ones. They add to the invisible ones that people hold in their memories and still talk about when they come to Binna Burra.

Wishing you comfort and courage as you face your current cliff face and mountain top.

I will always think of you standing, with supreme ease, grace and balance, on top of something – a rock wall, a mast, a mountain top.

With love. Tony.”

 

Donn lived a life rich with the rewards of climbing in mountains surrounded by pristine natural environments. May he rest in peace.

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