Access & Environment Report June 2014

Work on the climbing areas in the Northern Grampians is due to start very soon which means that getting access to them to climb is just around the corner. Well, around the Winter corner anyway.
The latest update is that there is some positive progress with the Rock Climbing areas in the Northern Grampians. PV have contractors scheduled to begin works within the Amphitheatre in the next few weeks, with the view to hopefully have the Stapylton Amphitheatre opened by the September School holidays. Summer Day Valley will also have contractors beginning works in the next few days, with the view to have works completed by the end of winter.
At both sites, the contractors will be undertaking short sections of track realignment and stabilisation works. As part of this project Parks will be looking at creating directional signage for the area so that climbing sites are identified at the trail heads (Mt Zero car park, the entry to the Amphitheatre and Hollow Mountain Carpark), and at the site turnoffs on the main walking track.
CliffCare and the climbing community’s involvement will be required at some stage and once some work projects are organized, I will start putting the word out.More than likely there will be some work days planned for August.

The Queens Birthday long weekend is coming up and along with this will come the reopening of  the Northern section of Mt Zero Road. While there are areas that may seem accessible from the road, at this stage all climbing areas remain closed except for those at Flat Rock as previously mentioned in my last report. There will be some temporary signage installed at various sites such as those in the East  Side and Telstra Towers areas, but please understand that just because there may not be signage it doesn’t mean the area is open. The areas that you are able to access  in the Flat Rock area are:
The Play Pen
Wall of Fuel – often referred to as Western Flanks (this isnot Wall of Fools in Summerday)
Bellepheron Wall – Lower (Western End only)

In other news a working bee has been organised for the Queens Birthday long weekend. at Mt Arapiles. This will be to continue work on the Pharos Gully Track.  Walter our stonemason is nearing the end of his pile of rocks near his work area, so it’s up to us to get some more up there. Working bee will be on from 3 until 5 on Saturday 7th June. It would be great to get some more bodies helping out. Drop me a line at cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au  Otherwise if you are in the area, go to the bottom end of the Pharos Track – up the track to where it starts to get steeper. Resident slavedriver Cameron, will be there directing able bodies  to the chosen rock pile. Half an hour is all that is expected.

The Banff film festival is also just around the corner. CliffCare runs the bar and this is one of the major fundraisers we undertake. If you think you may be able to help out on the bar, please drop me a line cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au  I am looking for a few more volunteers for the Saturday matinee and evening shifts.
Safe climbing all,
Tracey

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Red Rocks Road closure – 5/5/14 – approx 2 weeks. Weirs Creek access.

Due to resurfacing works being undertaken on  Red Rocks Road, it will be closed for the next two weeks. Closure is from 5/5/14

For the duration of the works it will be okay for climbers to access the area by parking at the end of Andersons Road where it intersects with Red Rocks Road. This is the same area we used to access the cliffs after the Vic Range fires when the reopenings began. See below for details.

Most of the works will be concentrated between Matthews track and Muline Creek however they may extend south of Muline Creek to Andersons Road.

Note: Because of Matthews Track closure for the next two weeks, this means that the new access in for Weirs Creek is now not possible also.

It is due to heavy vehicles working in the area and because the road is impassable to the north, that people are being asked not to drive through the road works. So this does mean a longer walk in for some of the cliffs in that area.

TEMPORARY (Due to road closures)- From the Henty Highway, take Andersons Road. Follow this all the way through to where it intersects with Red Rock Road. Park up here on Andersons Road not Red Rock Rd. This is closed so please respect this closure even though it may seem super easy to just park on it or drive a little way down.
Red Rocks Pinnacles
Mt Fox
Hollywood Bowl
Turn left and walk a short distance (150m) to a sandy track on the right. This track leads you to all of the above climbing areas and is the permanent access track after the road closures finish. Follow this track for approximately 500m to the intersection. Turn right. Another 70m will get you to the Mt Fox track(cairned) and a further 450m along will get you to the access track to Red Rocks area.

NOTE: In the case of Red Rocks, this access is the new access approach that was established before the fire. Do not cross the paddock – this is private property and no longer allowed. http://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/victoria-range/red-rocks-creek-area/ (scroll down to page bottom on this link)

Muline
Emu Rock/Emu Cave
Muline and environs is as before (some track realignment) but will require a longer walk from Andersons road to get to the start of the access track.

Access & Environment Officer Report May 2014

In early April, I attended an area inspection  with Tammy Schoo and Kyle Hewitt from PV, of Flat Rock and the Stapylton Ampitheatre to help ascertain whether it was possible to open up any of the climbing  and bouldering areas in the vicinity in time for Easter. Also attending were Simon Mentz, Tori who runs a commercial guiding company and Rhys, a local boulderer. We were all really hoping that it would be possible to open up some of the climbing areas off Hollow Mountain for Easter visitation (such as Clicke, Guernica and the Kindergarten). We threw around lots of ideas, trying really hard to find options and reasons why it would be suitable to open up some of these areas but unfortunately try as we might, there were too many  compelling reasons not to.
•    Access through burnt areas
•    Hazardous trees and unstable surfaces
•    Lack of toileting areas
•    The need for extensive signage
•    The need to give the area time to recover environmentally
•    Confusion that may result from opening up only part of Hollow Mountain (the   Kindergarten), the potential overuse of this one popular site and lack of safe access to Guernica and Clicke wall from Flat rock

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Guernica wall area

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View from Kindergarten ledge

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Area surrounding Kindergarten

As you will see by the photos I have included, the area is badly burnt and still very sensitive. While the Kindergarten bouldering area proper is obviously on rock platforms (which is a definite plus for future opening) the area surrounding it is fragile and would not cope well with human traffic and most definitely not from toileting practices. Just this one aspect causes a mountain of troubles – there is literally no where to go without using the fragile areas. Our hopes that we could find a solution to this as well as encouraging people to not do the inevitable wandering off to another area close by (Andersons) by way of multiple temporary signs proved to be just that – hopeful but not realistic.
So for the time being the closures in the area will stay in place. As I noted in a previous report, there is much discussion occurring around the North Grampians as not only a walking visiting area but focusing much more now on the climbing popularity of the area. Looking at the longer term management of encouraging visitors into the area and providing better facilities be it tracks, campgrounds and more suitable access to visitor sites. It is a much bigger picture rather than the very small, immediate fix up of a damaged area. This has been proven to not always  be the best thing for an area. One of the positive things to occur from natural events to visitor areas is that due to the destruction and the need to repair and rehabilitate, it gives land managers a much cleaner slate to work with. To reassess. Much of the visitor infrastructure in place in parks, is there from a time past when requirements and visitation were much different.  A good enough reason to not immediately rebuild as it was before.  Granted, with the Grampians National Park they are still working with a very old Management Plan – which hinders rather than helps but that’s another story. …..
Another positive note to add to this is that the Grampians National Park has just been given $3 million dollars (part of a $13.5 million government funding investment in Victoria’s parks). This starts rolling out in July.
I must say a really huge thanks to the team past and present at GNP. They take all of my (which are yours) thoughts on board and set up meetings and site visits to look at possible options when they have minimal time to spare and long, long lists of challenges to try and get through. In more recent times -3 major events in as many years!
Whilst the following may not be major areas, there are a few sites off Flat Rock that we inspected, that have not been damaged and follow along rock platforms for the most. These are able to be used for climbing with the important note to not access any further beyond them. If this appears to be happening then this will threaten their use.  Please pass the information along if questioned – this does not mean the North Grampians is open for climbing though. These are exceptions to the rule.
These include:
The Play Pen
Wall of Fuels (this is  not Wall of Fools in Summerday. Note it is also called West Flank – noted in Neil Monteiths guide)
Bellepheron Wall – Lower (Western End only)

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