Luke Napper scales a cliff at Yeppoon.
Luke Napper scales a cliff at Yeppoon.

Rock solid and climbing the ranks

MARK Napper loves his rock climbing as much as any enthusiast - just don't stick him in front of a crowd.

Mark, 24, and brother Luke, 21, take their weekend sport to new heights, quite literally.

On most weekends you can find the pair scaling sandstone peaks around the Central Highlands, always on the lookout for the next cliff challenge to test their skills.

Having climbed for only the past four years, Mark has already become a fairly adept indoor competition climber as well - placing third in the Open B Speed Final at the National Championships in Sydney.

More recently he finished third in the Open B at state level in Brisbane, enough to secure his first piece of climbing silverware for the trophy cabinet.

"I've been competing for two years now and this year is the first year I got on the podium, so I'm pretty happy with that," Mark said.

But climbing on a man-made indoor wall in front of a grandstand audience is completely different to climbing in the isolation of the great Australian bush.

"You've got to get used to people watching you," Mark said of the competition experience.

"That's hard because they bring you out on your own from behind the wall and there is this grandstand full of people, and you're just on your own climbing … it's just weird.

"It's a lot of pressure."

Unsurprisingly, fear of heights has never been an issue for this weekend adventurer whose employment as a local crane technician allows him ample time to live out the recreational pursuit, to some degree at least.

When the Napper brothers go climbing, they use a technique called lead climbing.

Bolts are slammed into the cliff and wedges are lodged in cracks and crevices to secure the climbers to the cliff face.

With arms straining and adrenaline pumping, Mark said nothing could beat the euphoria of reaching the summit after a climb.

"It's the best feeling," he said.

"That's part of the rush of it. It's about mind over matter when you're at heights and controlling your body when you're scared s***less," he said.

For younger brother Luke, he said the hardest part was keeping track of fleet-footed Mark.

"He sets the pace, so keeping up with him is tough enough," Luke said.

The family duo also enjoys kayaking and the odd hit of social squash.

But as Mark explained, it wasn't a sport they expected to be winning medals for any time soon.

"We're not really any good at squash, we're just here for the beers," he joked.

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