Access & Environment Report January, 2015

I seem to have the same kind of news each time I come back after the Christmas New Year break. Fires, heavy rains, closures. And no different this year. Black Hill was hit pretty hard by fires in early January. I have left it up to Steven Wilson (who is the club’s eyes and ears of all things Black Hill) to give you a rundown on the area and you can get a good idea just by looking at the photos. The post following this report contains Steven’s report. There are more on the clubs photo site so check these out also. Current situation is that Black Hill is closed. I plan to be in contact with Macedon Ranges city council to chat further on reopenings and how we might help out.
The Grampians as well as Arapiles was hit from a number of sides although all fires at Araps were contained in a short time. Areas that include climbing sites still closed due to fire:

Black Range State Park
Mt Talbot Scenic Park

Following the fires, we received some much welcomed rain. As often happens, these rains were quite heavy and impacted on a number of roads and areas in the Grampians. Due to it’s fragile state, some parts of the North Grampians suffered a little more from the rain with washouts.  Summerday Valley had a couple of sections of track blow out. A part of the new access track in took a blow. This was a section of the track that was being monitored already because of erosion. This will need to be assessed as to whether it can be rebuilt or the track needs to be slightly realigned.  Hardest hit in the valley though was the access track around to Main Wall. This small track  followed closely to the creek and unfortunately when the heavy rains hit, the creek rose and completely washed out the track. This again will need to be assessed as to the best course of action.

There has been some confusion over a number of climbing areas in the Northern Grampians as to whether they are open or not, such as the Ravine and other crags  along the Pohlner Road. Also the Asses Ears. By default, these areas no longer fall into the  closed and no access category, as the roads have now been opened. As there are no real visitor sites in these areas, the concern of human traffic is not so high but this doesn’t take away from the fact that the areas are still really fragile. After having conversations with the PV team at Halls Gap, it is worth noting that giving these areas a wide berth for a while yet would be the right and  sustainable thing to do. Many of our climbing areas are not official visitor sites. This means that they are not always included in every single communication so it gets a bit difficult sometimes to ensure that climbers are not putting these areas at risk from further damage. This is something that will definitely be a future discussion with PV.  The term ‘sustainable climbing’ is something that all climbers need to take on board and understand that because many of the areas in which we climb are not always  an  ‘official visitor site’, we need to take some responsibility for doing the right thing, thereby ensuring that any environmental damage is limited.  Take a closer look at some of these areas if you are visiting them and make the call yourself. Is there limited vegetated ground cover? Loose soil? No distinguishing original tracks meaning new ones (and often, less sustainable ones) appearing. Multiple tracks.  These things are noticeable if you actually look for them rather than just making a beeline to the cliff to climb. The other concern that isn’t so noticeable in the early days, is the transporting of outside weeds and pathogens into a fragile and bare area that has little or no natural vegetation system happening. With no other plant life competing with them, weed seeds and pathogens can take hold and forever alter the environment in which native flora used to thrive.
For many people, maybe these things aren’t really a concern, but I would hope that many of the things that you love about the Australian bush is the flora and fauna. Would be a shame to see this diminish over time.

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Overlooking Summerday Valley and recovery progress. 6-7th December VCC trip. Trial reopening program. Photo Ben Wright

Grampians closure updates -Fire and Rainfall events. Black Hill closed

Hi All,

‘Tis the season and all…..

Along with some fairly major fires in the Grampians over the last two weeks, it was further topped off by 100mm of rain in some areas of the Grampians. The North Grampians with its fragile and fire damaged environment didn’t fare so well with the flooding and consequently there are some closures around the Mt Zero Road due to this rainfall.

Please take note of the road closures as well as the climbing area closures that are noted in the PV update I received.  In short:

Black Range State Park closed due to fire. No climbing
Mt Talbot Bushland reserve closed due to fire. No climbing

Please see the following closures for Mt Zero Road due to flood damage

  • Flat Rock intersection to Roses Gap Road
  • Roses Gap Road to Heatherlie Quarry

This closure will be in place until the area dries out and machinery and crews can enter the area to repair the damage.

Parks Victoria Fire and Rainfall Event update 13/1/14

Late last week the Rocklands -Rees Rd Fire impacted on a large area within the Black Range State Park (west of the Grampians) and the Mt Talbot Bushland reserve north of the Black Range. The fire has now been contained and heavy rainfall has assisted with this. Fire crews will continue to work in the area as fire response moves into fire recovery. Unfortunately the fire impacted on walking tracks, picnic areas and climbing sites in the Black Range and at Mt Talbot.  There will be temporary closures in place for the next few months while fire lines are rehabilitated and recovery works are undertaken.

On January 13 areas within the Grampians received nearly 100mm of rain. This caused widespread damage to roads and walking tracks, particularly within the fire affected are of the Northern Grampians. Parks Victoria will be working to assess the damage and undertake repair works over the coming months. Fire closures remain in place but there are new temporary road and visitor site closures along the Mt Zero Road, between Flat Rock Road, Roses Gap and Heatherlie Quarry.  

These new closures in the Northern Grampians will have an impact on the Summer Day Valley Pilot reopening trial for LTO’s.   For the time being there will be a temporary suspension of the trial until assessments have been done and repair works undertaken.

Black Hill Bushland Reserve

Please note the the Black Hill Bushland Reserve is still currently closed due to the fires. I hope to have more information on this soon.

Victorian Fires Jan 2015 affecting climbing areas

There are currently fires in a number of areas that could impact climbing. At this stage there are fires in the Grampians, Black Range and Black Hill and while some of the fires are now under control, the areas are either closed or care should be taken. The latest updates are as follows:

Black Range

Due to a fire which started on 3 January following a lightning storm the following parks are closed:

Henty highway was closed yesterday but is now open.

There were also a number of other smaller fires in the Grampians including one near Syphon Road.

These fires are close to the Victoria Range climbing areas so if you had been planning a trip for this weekend, it would be advised to postpone.

Black Hill Bushland Reserve

There is currently a fire in the Black Hill Bushland Reserve. The area is closed. Will hopefully have more information on this after the weekend but it looks like the park has burnt quite hard.

If you haven’t already got the Fireready App, please do so. If you are going to be travelling to and around many of the climbing areas it makes sense to have relevant and timely information. You can download it here http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/fireready-app/

North Grampians climbing area updates 23/12/2014

The following is the latest update from Parks Victoria with regards to open and closed climbing areas in the North Grampians. As noted below Mt Difficult Range, Wartook basin,  Hollow Mountain, Summerday Valley and Coppermine Track areas – there is a good chance that these particular areas will remain closed until Spring 2015 in order to allow them to regenerate. I will be involved in a site visit early in the new year to look at a number of other sites, in particular bouldering to see how these are faring and whether some early reopenings may be possible. Parks Victoria has asked for it be noted that thanks are to go out to the climbing community for supporting these closures and supporting environmental recovery for the long term.

You can see some pics out and about in the North Grampians from a number of field trips I attended this year as well as some from the recent Summerday Valley LTO pilot reopening trial, of which the VCC was involved in. Here

Grampians National Park Fire Recovery Update For Rock Climbing and Bouldering
 Friday 19 December 2014

In January 2014 a large bushfire swept through the Northern Grampians causing widespread damage to visitor sites, roads and walking tracks. Many popular rock climbing and bouldering sites were also impacted including the Hollow Mountain, Summerday Valley and Mt Stapylton areas. We are now approaching twelve months since the fire and there have been many significant fire recovery projects completed. Some projects will continue into next year with the planning and rebuilding of visitor sites, infrastructure and experiences particularly across the Mt Difficult Range.

However, environmental recovery in the Northern Grampians has been slow to recover and vegetation will continue to take time to regenerate; in particular the rocky outcrop environments where soils are shallow and steep slopes exist. In addition, the north of the Grampians has received substantially less rainfall than usual, which has further slowed the regeneration of vegetation. The landscape is still very fragile – any off track walking, climbing and bouldering can cause these areas to take much longer to recover. Personal safety must also be considered with tree risk and unstable soils being present across all fire affected areas.

As a result, Parks Victoria will continue to keep some popular rock climbing areas closed to visitation to provide the chance for ecological recovery. This includes most of the Mt Difficult Range, with particular reference to Hollow Mountain, Andersons and the Kindergarten, Summerday Valley, North of Mt Stapylton, Van Diemen’s Land and Cut Lunch Walls, the Coppermine Track and Mt Zero road areas.

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 areas.

Open Rock Climbing and Bouldering Areas Northern Grampians (Flat Rock and Stapylton Amphitheatre areas only):

Central Buttress
Grey & Green Walls
Taipan Wall (Upper and Lower)
Spurt Wall
Epsilon Wall

Other accessible rock climbing in and around the Grampians area:

  •   Victoria Range (Please respect cultural heritage and recovering fire affected areas)
  •   Serra Range (Including Bundaleer and Mt Rosea)
  •   Mt William Range (Seven Dials area)
  •   Wonderland Range
  •   Mt Arapiles
  •   Mt Talbot
  •   The Black Range

*Fore detailed information on open and accessible climbing areas please refer to relevant guide books or websites.

Please remember your climbing etiquette when in the National Park:

  •   Only climb in open and accessible areas
  •   Stick to formal tracks – don’t create short cuts or new tracks
  •   Respect fragile environmental areas and cultural heritage
  •   Keep an eye out for aboriginal art sites – report to Parks Victoria if you find anything new.
  •   Be mindful of cleaning
  •   No chipping or bolting
  •   Avoid excessive chalk
  •   Take your rubbish home with you.

For fire recovery updates, maps and further information on activities, campgrounds and car touring options in the Grampians National Park please visit http://www.parks.vic.gov.au phone 13 1963 or call into Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre, Halls Gap, open 9am-5pm daily.

Access & Environment Report, December 2014

Feedback from members of the climbing community has been positive in regards to the reopenings in the Northern Grampians.

I have contacted Tammy Schoo to discuss ball park opening times for some of the other areas. We are hoping to get a meeting squeezed in before Christmas to look at some other smaller areas including bouldering sites. Whilst originally there was some hope for a Christmas reopening for some of the other major areas ie Hollow Mountain, this is unlikely to happen. Rainfall has not been good and with the Northern Grampians one of the driest, it doesn’t make for good groundcover regeneration. I will know more once I meet up with Tammy and we look and discuss the situation. The biggest problem is while a particular area might be on the way or even in a state to handle some traffic, opening up the area in order to access it causes huge problems. Much of the area around Hollow Mountain is still in a very fragile state. Opening it up in order to get to some area is a certainty that people will head off track to search and develop new areas, or just shortcut to get to a particular cliff they can see. I am only talking on the climber side of things. There are also walkers who would head off track to see an area they may not have seen before because of the bush.

There are definitely areas that are bouncing back but some areas still look completely annihilated. At the recent Grampians Advisory Group meeting, we drove along the Mt Difficult Road – it was a very sobering experience in certain sections. We also had discussions around the Brush Tailed Wallaby program – I will have more on this very soon. We visited the new hikers camp near Rosea. This one is to be a test case for the other 11 camp sites which are part of the Grampians Peaks Trail. Looks very exciting and will be a great experience for those walking the trail.

I attended the recent Arapiles Advisory Group meeting which I thought was a very productive meeting. We discussed many things but one of the main discussions was around the campground itself and especially the issue with decreasing shade due to loss of trees. We have started a sub committee and have given ourselves a deadline date of planting season next year when we WILL get plants in the ground. The native pines that were planted a couple of years ago was a step forward but unfortunately that particular species is extremely slow growing and isn’t really classed as a good shade tree. There has been some research of various species and we will decide on this in a meeting in February. A survey will be put together and this will also be put out to the climbing community for feedback. Also some leveling of the campground was discussed. This would help in the long term for even distribution of campers across the whole campground. Currently people chase the shade(trees) as well as even ground. The long term effect of this is that compaction and erosion occur and further trees are put under stress.

I also recently attended the Grampians Roundtable and Fire planning forum. Much of the meeting was a field trip where we were visiting fire affected areas to either look at damage and recovery or to hear how the fire fighting or planned burns helped, didn’t help etc. I hope to have some information on these processes soon to put up on the website. Understanding how the burn program works, the improvements that are being made to managing landscapes via burning is an interesting, albeit controversial topic. The more informed we are makes it much easier to provide knowledgeable feedback to those who handle the burn programs. It is a complex and tricky business.

The following  images were recently taken in the Summerday Valley area that show some of the regrowth occurring. Thanks to Liam Beasley for the photos. You can also see some pics out and about in the North Grampians from a number of field trips I attended this year as well as some from the recent Summerday Valley LTO pilot reopening trial, of which the VCC was involved in. Here

wall of fools 2 08 by liam

sdv firescape 03 by liam wall of fools 99 by liam

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dsc_0068 dsc_0067

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carpark view 85 by liam mt stapylton 82 by liam Back Wall 1.1

Access and Environment Report, November 2014

Following the working bees in August and the opening of Stapylton Ampitheatre for recreational climbers, Summerday Valley has been closed to the general public whilst the area and surrounds is given a little more time to recover. Opening this whole area is still a little way off – December is a month being thrown around at the moment. In the meantime, some Licensed Tour operators have been able to access just the Summerday site in a controlled opening. This allows PV to keep an eye on the impact of users on the area before a general opening. LTO’s are only interested in being able to use the specific site of SDV therefore there is no risk of other areas that are still very fragile, being accessed. In order to allow some recreational climbers to attend the area as well, The VCC has been invited by Parks Victoria to participate in a restricted trial reopening of climbing in Summerday Valley. The club will be running two trips to Summerday Valley in the Mt Stapylton area.

As this is a trial reopening for this year, the total number of participants on each trip will also be limited.

For details on the trips and to register your interest, see the club trip page. Many thanks to Parks Victoria for allowing the club to be part of the trial reopening, and for Ross Timms who attended the induction program and Michael O’Reilly our new Club trips Coordinator.

FALCONWATCH

Following some information he received from a climber at Mt Arapiles, Kieran Loughran has informed me of two falcon and kestrelw nestings at the Mount. As per usual, this is nesting time, and it is hoped that all climbers will respect the birds and give them a wide berth.

These are their regular nest sites and have returned once again.
Above Cassandra , which is near Flight Deck. They generally nest near the rap anchor area Eurydice on Bard Buttress.

When birds are nesting, your presence can impact hugely on their breeding and survival of chicks. It may be annoying that you can’t do the climb you had planned but it will always be there for another day. If you do the climb, there’s a good chance that the Peregrine won’t be there for another day. It’s not worth it.

Access & Environment Report October 2014

Following the working bees in August and the opening of Stapylton Ampitheatre for recreational climber, Summerday Valley has been closed to the general public whilst the area and surrounds is given a little more time to recover. Opening this whole area is still a little way off – December is a month being thrown around at the moment. In the meantime, some Licensed Tour operators have been able to access just the Summerday site in a controlled opening. This allows PV to keep an eye on the impact of users on the area before a general opening. LTO’s are only interested in being able to use the specific site of SDV therefore there is no risk of other areas that are still very fragile, being accessed. In order to allow some recreational climbers to attend the area as well, the VCC has been invited by Parks Victoria to participate in a restricted trial reopening of climbing in Summerday Valley. The club will be running two trips to Summerday Valley in the Mt Stapylton area.

As this is a trial reopening for this year, the total number of participants on each trip will also be limited.

For details on the trips and to register your interest, see the club trip page here

Many thanks to Parks Victoria for allowing the club to be part of the trial reopening, and for Ross Timms who attended the induction program and Michael O’Reilly our new Club trips Coordinator.

FALCONWATCH

Following some information he received from a climber at Mt Arapiles, Kieran Loughran has informed me of two falcon and kestrel nestings at the Mount. As per usual, this is nesting time, and it is hoped that all climbers will respect the birds and give them a wide berth.

These are their regular nest sites and have returned once again.
Above Cassandra , which is near Flight Deck. They generally nest near the rap anchor area Eurydice on Bard Buttress.

When birds are nesting, your presence can impact hugely on their breeding and survival of chicks. It may be annoying that you can’t do the climb you had planned but it will always be there for another day. If you do the climb, there’s a good chance that the Peregrine won’t be there for another day. It’s not worth it.

Adult female peregrin falcon - photo Victor Hurley

Adult female peregrin falcon – photo Victor Hurley