Access & Environment Officer report April 2014

 

p1040352As the hot weather draws to a close, it’s time to start organising the work days ahead for the year. I recently had a conversation with Walter Braun, our stonemason who has been working on the Pharos Gully at Arapiles.It was only last week, that for the first time he stood on the track where he was working and he could see the section where the downhill part of the track ends. The two ends are now both in sight and the weeks can be counted off as he draws closer to connecting them. At this stage he still has enough rock up there that he can work with as he is digging up quite a lot of useable stone so there will be no need for a working bee come this Easter. Walter will be giving me a heads up when it comes closer to needing some bodies to haul up rock from below. At least it will be cooler by then. I know many of you are hanging out for your yearly weight lifting session – don’t worry, I won’t disappoint and forget you all :)

So….what’s happening in the Grampians. It may not seem like much but there is work and discussions going on. The job and road ahead is massive and I am in constant contact with those at PV to see at what stage the works are and how the climbing community can be involved.
 I have to say the feedback and suggestions from many in the climbing community has been brilliant and all of these are taken on and has definitely informed many of the processes. While the work involved to manage the park after a major fire like the Northern Grampians and the previous Vic Range one, is extensive and time consuming, it has also meant that PV are able 
to look at the bigger picture when it comes to repairing and realigning visitor areas in the Grampians. Rather than just fix up things exactly as they may have been before, the closures and work involved enable them to reassess as to whether the original may have been the best option or it was merely a best at the time/situation. It is an opportunity to start afresh. Obviously this
is not just limited to the climbing aspect of the park – there are many user groups to consider as well as the conservation values of the park. This should give you some idea of the grand scale of works that need to be considered. I am with many of you when it comes to frustration at areas being closed for long periods of time. I am in the better position though to actually see and 
hear much of the work that is going on and is needed to get areas open again. Not forgetting of course that many of the areas are closed because they are environmental unstable and sensitive. For most in the climbing community out there, it must seem often like nothing is happening because all seems to be quiet on the western front. Believe me, the work is going on and bubbling away but the list is so very long. I have outlined a few points of discussion I have had recently with my PV contacts:
• Another site visit will be occurring soon to Summerday Valley. This will confirm the realignment of the access track in and the loop track within the valley. A quote on work costs has now been received by PV. After funding has been established work will start on these jobs. Summerday has an approximate closure time of a year in order for it to recover from the fire but in the meantime the work that needs to be done to make it accessible will be ongoing over the year. Previous to the fire, the VCC were successful with a grant to help harden up the Main Wall area. Around near Waxman, the ground was particularly eroded and suffering from the heavy traffic it receives. Dates will be organised soon to undertake this job – most likely towards mid/end of May. I will be confirming these dates shortly.
• Now that Mt Zero car park and Flat Rock are open, this has thrown up the issue of cliffs and crags in the vicinity being accessible. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that they should be accessed yet. Having said that though there are more than likely some cliffs which may be okay for climbing as they weren’t impacted by the fire much. I will be attending a site visit next week to help assess the general area and work out what cliffs will be good to access and those that need to stay on the closed list. The important thing to note here is that the closures relating to those cliffs that are deemed to be in a closed area, need to be respected. If certain cliffs are opened and lead the way towards other climbing areas, the concern is that many climbers will head off to the closed areas regardless. Signage has been noted to be lacking by many in the climbing community. While I personally don’t think that we should be littering every single closed and open track in the Grampians, there is definitely a need to temporarily highlight some of
the areas and tracks into climbing areas with climbing specific info. Respecting these closures goes a long way to showing that the climbing community is onboard when it comes to looking after the park.
• The current closure to the Emu Foot Track (Jananginjawi) still stands and it is important that climbers respect this by only walking into the cliffs accessed along it. Cars must
 be parked outside of the gate. I recently reported that due to feedback from sections of the climbing community, that PV were willing to look at the situation again and see whether something a little more conducive to climbers accessing the cliffs may be found. To confirm – this is still on the table but like many things, it is not simply a matter of one person saying yay and then all is well. As I noted, this decision was one that involved Aboriginal Affairs and local indigenous groups and was decided on before the fires. There is a process that needs to be undertaken, discussions had with a number of groups and then a suitable outcome reached. And to put it into perspective time wise, this doesn’t sit at the very top of the list of things to do – considering the recent fires and the amount of new work that has been generated because of it. The Vic Range is a sensitive area with sensitive issues and must be respected and handled accordingly. I say this with a strong reference to climbing and indeed any other recreational pursuit that occurs within this area. Be patient and we will work through any issues bit by bit. Safe climbing to all, Tracey

Grampians Fire Reflections

Ross Taylor from Vertical Life recently penned this article and along with an account of how this fire hit quite close to home (his parents home and property is in Wartook) he outlines some of the reasons why things might seem to take so long to be repaired or reopened. While I may not agree with all PV processes or decisions, I work closely with many of the on ground staff who are all dedicated outdoor people who really do try to balance the interests of park care and user groups.  If you think you are feeling frustrated, I can tell you they are feeling it as much and often more. Time and time again, the reopenings are linked directly to the money they have, or more to the point, don’t have. Ross’ piece gives you something to think about and why patience is the name of the game.

Read Ross’ article here

Access & Environment Officer report March 2014

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On the 12th of February, I visited Summerday Valley along with Tammy Schoo, Kyle Hewitt and other PV staff to look at a new alignment for the track into the Valley. Although this is not as yet a confirmed new realignment, there is a strong possibility that the track will now enter in a little further down the carpark track where it will then head up onto rock platforms. The track will continue as a loop around the valley ampitheatre completely along with one track crossing it for quicker access to the busier areas ie from Wall of Fools to Back Wall. The rest of the area will be revegetated. This is a much better long term arrangement for Summerday. With very loose sandy soil, the many tracks criss crossing were starting to eat quite heavily into the vegetated areas.
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With regards to Stapylton area and Taipan, the area coming down off Flat Rock has been blasted fire wise. There is no ground cover and for the most part just blackened spikes that 
used to be trees. Further in towards the cliff line though, the fire has burnt patchily and there is some vegetation which means more than likely that this area is a candidate for earlier opening compared to something like Summerday Valley.
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The main walking track area though will need some repair work from PV. The climbers access tracks will also require some work, realigning and marking and this will be done by CliffCare and the climbing community in conjunction with PV.
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In the last issue of Argus, it was announced that the Emu Foot Track (Janangin jawi)) would now be a Management Vehicle Track only. Cliffs in this area such as Eureka Wall and the more distant Weirs Creek are now open for climbing but would only be accessible by foot. This makes it quite a decent hike in to access the climbing. Following feedback from the climbing community and discussions, PV are now reassessing the situation to come to a better outcome. This may mean there will still be some restrictions when it comes to vehicle access but hopefully a little more understanding of the importance of this climbing area to the community and better access.
As always, please observe all the current closures and restrictions. We are working with PV to help with any reopenings and getting the information out there. People need to make it their responsibility to chase up info on climbing areas and access, especially after any natural event such as fires and floods. Also don’t rely on the fact that you think there should be a closed sign on every road or access point. Reality is, this isn’t always possible as well as the added fact that signs are often stolen. Check on CliffCare, social media, Vertical Life,climbing forums and PV sites.

You can check out more photos of the areas here on the photo site : http://vicclimbingclub-cliffcare.smugmug.com/Access-Environment-at-Climbing/Grampians/North-Grampians-Fires-2014/37166536_wmhJp6#!i=3085608905&k=3x2tTvk

Cheers,
Tracey

Northern Grampians Fire Update 14/2/14 & Victoria Range updates

Having arrived back from Thailand last week it didn’t take long to get right back into the swing of things. I will have more information soon on the closed burnt areas of the Northern Grampians. I visited the sites of Summerday Valley, Taipan and Stapylton Ampitheatre last Wednesday. It is still very early days when it comes to planning openings and work projects – of which there will be many. Once again, patience will be called upon. Bear with me as this post will be a long one and includes some relevant infomation from Parks Victoria.

There are a few more updated areas to those that can be accessed for climbing in the other areas of the park. In the post previous to this from 23/1/14 it notes that the Victoria Range is open to climbing except for those cliffs along the Camp of the Emu Foot Track (note the new indigenous name is Janangin jawi) These cliffs are now open for climbing but there are some changes in the access to them. And these are permanent changes. Access is now only by foot. The track which was previously accessible for vehicles has been given a MVO status. Management Vehicles only. As noted above, this is not temporary, it is permanent. This has been a request by the Indigenous team and community and was a request that was in the pipeline previous to the fires. With the fragile nature of the area along with the high density of of cultural heritage sites in the Victoria Range, this has made it even more relevant.

From a climbers perspective, it does mean that the walk in will be longer. For cliffs further along such as Weirs Creek definitely a fair hike. However it is really important that this change is understood and respected. The cultural heritage team and indigenous groups do want to work alongside other user groups so that we can continue to use these areas. Hopefully most climbers are aware by now that the Victoria Range is an exceptional place when it comes to cultural heritage, it should be protected and I would hope that climbers as a community will respect the measures that have been put in place.

Please park out side of the gate and don’t drive in. If for some reason the gate happens to be open – same thing. It is a MVO track at all times.
And do remember that this area is still very fragile. Take care and treat it as such. Keep to the one track. The same goes with the rest of the Victoria Range. In many of the areas, CliffCare and members of the climbing community have helped repair and mark tracks best that are the most sustainable. It is in everyone’s long term interest that we focus a little more on looking after the areas.

Cheers, Tracey

The following is the latest information from PV in regards to climbing and bouldering:

Grampians National Park Update –  14 February 2014 (Rock climbing and Bouldering)

The Northern Grampians Fire severely burnt the natural environment and much of the park infrastructure in and around Hollow Mountain, Summer Day Valley and Mt Stapylton – this includes many popular rock climbing and bouldering sites; as a result there are many park closures in place. The dry, rocky landscape is now extremely fragile and will take a long time to recover – the fire burnt extremely hot so in many cases regeneration will now occur (very slowly) from seed. Loss of vegetation, loose rocks, unstable soils and loss of access tracks means any foot traffic will have long term impacts on the recovery of the environment. Impacts now will also affect the sustainability of rock climbing sites well into the future.

Please respect the fragility of the environment and support the long term recovery of the Northern Grampians by remaining out of any closed areas. While Parks Victoria regrets the need to enforce closures, substantial fines will be imposed on those found in any closed, fire affected area.

Parks Victoria recognises the importance and popularity of the Northern Grampians to the rock climbing and bouldering communities and will be working closely with industry and community representatives throughout a staged reopening process.  Environmental considerations will largely determine when sites are available to be reopened, and replacement of damaged infrastructure will occur as suitable funding is available.

As part of the recovery process, Parks Victoria will be identifying alternative options for climbing and bouldering, and will closely monitor impacts on these sites as their use and popularity increases. There will also be significant work done on the future experience of visitors in the Northern Grampians.

Parks Victoria is continuing to improve its understanding of the needs of climbers and boulderers and is intent on providing an experience that is well respected, regarded, promoted and understood throughout the Australian and International Climbing and bouldering communities.

Parks Victoria will be relying heavily on the climbing industry to work together to spread the messages about the fragility of the landscape and the long term sustainability of rock climbing in the Grampians. There may be opportunities for licenced tour operators, school and community based groups to become involved in the recovery process.

Due to closures in the Northern Grampians, the availability of rock climbing, camping, car touring and bushwalking experiences is limited. Sourcing information on available campgrounds and other accommodation options is recommended. Please visit www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for park maps and regular Grampians fire recovery updates.

For detailed information on available rockclimbing and bouldering sites in and near to the Grampians please refer to recognised guidebooks/websites. A general list of open and available areas includes the following:

Rockclimbing sites open in the Grampians:

  • Wonderland Range
  • Serra Range (Including Mt Rosea and Bundaleer)
  • Mt William Range
  • Victoria Point area
  • Victoria Range (Including the Red Rock, Muline and the Gallery area. Please respect cultural heritage and recovering fire affected areas)

Limited Bouldering Sites available in and near the Grampians:

  • Victoria Range (Including the Gallery area. Please respect cultural heritage and recovering fire affected areas)
  • Serra Range (Including Mt Rosea and Bundaleer)
  • Mt Arapiles
  • Mt Talbot
  • The Black Range

Please remember your climbing etiquette:

  • Only climb and boulder in open accessible areas
  • Stick to tracks
  • Respect fragile environmental areas and cultural heritage
  • Keep an eye out for Aboriginal Art sites – Report to Parks Victoria if you come across anything new.
  • Be mindful of cleaning
  • No chipping or bolting
  • Avoid excessive chalk

·         Take your rubbish home with you

Burnt Valley near Hlw Mtn - Marty Schoo

Burnt Valley near Hlw Mtn – Marty Schoo

Hollow Mountain Area SMentz

Hollow Mountain Area SMentz

Hollow Mtn Carpark - Simon Mentz

Hollow Mtn Carpark – Simon Mentz

SDV Access - Tschoo

SDV Access – Tschoo

Summerday Valley- SMentz

Wall of Fools - TSchoo

Wall of Fools – TSchoo

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Grampians fire update 23/1/14

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Hollow Mountain carpark

With the long weekend almost upon us, there have been many querying what is and isn’t open in the Grampians. The following is a current update on the situation. As it notes below, there has been significant damage to a number of the popular climbing areas. Please respect the closures .

A lightning event across the Grampians National Park on 15 January 2014 caused a bushfire that swept through the northern end of the Grampians National Park. The fire remains active in some areas but is contained.

There has been significant damage to Summerday Valley and the Hollow Mountain climbing areas and infrastructure. The Stapylton amphitheatre and access to Taipan Wall has also been impacted. All climbing and bouldering areas in the northern part of the Grampians National Park are closed, including the Watchtower.

Parks Victoria will re-open affected areas as soon it is safe to do. This may take some time as there has been significant damage to the environment and infrastructure. Please respect the closures in place and consider alternative climbing areas.

The Grampians still remains a great place to climb and enjoy the outdoors. Below is a list of climbing and bouldering areas, and roads that are open within the Grampians National Park.

Climbing and bouldering areas open

  • Wonderland area
  • Victoria Range – including Red Rock, Muline and The Gallery  (this doesn’t include the cliffs along the Enu foot track such as Eureka Wall, Weirs Creek etc)
  • Black Range (west of Grampians – Black Ians Rock and Mt Talbot)

Open roads

  • Grampians Tourist Road
  • Mt William Road
  • Silverband Road
  • Sundial Road
  • Wonderland Road
  • Serra Road
  • Glenelg Road (from Serra Road to HentyHighway)
  • Mirranatwa Road
  • Yarram Gap Road
  • Jimmy Creek Road
  • Emmett Road
  • Mitchell Road

• Redmans Track (4wd) • Mt Cassel Track (4wd) • Billywing Road
• Emmetts Road

• Geerak track (northern section) • Goat Track
• Harrops Track
• Jensens Road

• Mafeking Road
• Mt William Picnic Ground Road • Syphon Road (to Goats Track) • Victoria Range Track

Grampians Fires January 2014

Hi All,

Just letting you know that the entire Grampians National Park has been closed as of around midday today. This has been done in the interests of public safety and will be reviewed midday Saturday 18th Jan.
With regards to closure signs, the reality is that currently there are only road closure signs in place in some parts of the Northern Grampians – north of Mt Victory Rd. The plan is to work with the various shires and try and get some more signs out for southern parts. Hopefully this will be tomorrow morning.

Please get the word out to all those that you know that the entire park is closed, not just a few roads here and there. I would imagine human resources will be pushed to the limit as they always are in this kind of situation and the more the community can get the word around, the better it will be.
Some of the fires are burning quite hard. The Hollow Mountain area fire falls into this category.

Please share this to all your networks.

Victoria Range Reopening update Jan 2014

It has been a while between official updates posted on the site so see below:

img_4029-1024x683The Billimina Art Shelter was impacted by fire with the complete destruction of the timber boardwalk adjacent to the art site. In consultation with Traditional Owners, a replacement structure will be installed to provide access to the art site. Parks Victoria are currently discussing the type of structure to be installed with the potential to stone pave the area instead of a timber boardwalk to be more in keeping with the setting of the art site. They aim to have this site re-opened prior to Easter. Please note that the walk to Buandik Falls that follows part of the Billimina walking track is open (see below).

Buandik Falls – OPEN
The walking track to Buandik Falls has been re-opened following repairs to the pedestrian footbridge along the path.

Strachans Campground -CLOSED
Plans are in place to repair and re-open Strachans Campground prior to Easter. Quotes are currently being obtained for the construction of a new toilet facility immediately adjacent to the campground, and for repairs and a subtle upgrade to the campground itself.

Chimney Pots Carpark and Walking Track
The Chimney Pots walking track is open for to visitors. However the Chimney Pots Carpark is currently closed to allow some minor works to take place. Visitors are advised to park along the edge of Glenelg River Road or the entrance to the carpark.

Please note that all other visitor sites, walking tracks and roads in the fire recovery area are open, except for Sawmill Track between Glenelg River Road and Victoria Range Track. This road will remain closed until Strachans Campground is repaired.

Update 1st January, 2014 - Access to all  previously closed climbing areas – with the exception of those along the Emu Foot track – are now possible. All the roads are open. Please remember though that these areas have been impacted by fire, so treat and tread in the areas with care. Follow the established tracks, many of which have been marked and delineated. If you do come across and area or track which is severely eroded please email me at cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au. These climbers tracks are maintained by VCC/CliffCare and the climbing community and it helps if we can repair or stabilize a track before too much damage is done. At early stages, the solution is often easily and quickly done.
As noted above, the cliffs along the Emu Foot Track area are still closed due to the area being the most severely burnt. The ground is still very sensitive so we are asking climbers to respect these closures and give enough time for regrowth to establish itself.