The great Annual Queens Birthday tree planting weekend is just around the corner. Read the poster. Lock in the date.
Marking and Maintaining Access trails
Keeping on Track. Simple concept hey?
Staying on trail. But which trail? What if there is no trail?
(Established trail) (Multiple social trails) (New climbing and bouldering)
Hmmm….Now it sounds a bit more complex.
As more people take up climbing and bouldering and then head into the bush, the issue of trails – the creation and the maintenance of them, becomes more and more a topic on the land managers blackboard. This then becomes more of an issue that we in the climbing community, need to take on board and work towards resolving. So addressing some of the problems now, hopefully can prevent them into the future as new climbing areas are created.
Why is staying on the trail so important?
Fragile plant life. Walking off trail means you will be trampling vegetation. Much of this is fragile. The parks now more than ever are also at risk of invasive plant species – weeds. Some of the native vegetation is in a struggle to survive as it is. Once it is gone, it basically allows the often stronger invasive species to take over with the indigenous plants never returning.
Erosion and Instability. A domino effect. When you trample vegetation, over time it doesn’t regenerate, leaving the top soil exposed. This is then lost through a combination of foot traffic,rain and wind. The problems with this are multiple. Gullies are formed and become water runnels which further erodes the area. As the gullies deepen, people walk a little further to the side to avoid them and the process starts all over again. Wider and wider sections of vegetation are lost and the trails and surrounding area become unstable.
So, First and Foremost –
Stay on the established trail. That means going into and out of a climbing area. In most cases established trails, whether they are formal ones created by land managers or the informal climbers access tracks, have been created to provide sustainable routes. If the trail is muddy or vegetation grows across, continue to stick to the trail rather than travelling wider to avoid. This just creates a new track or a wider one. Going off trail damages the environment. For all the reasons noted.
Creating New Tracks
The reality of developing new climbing and bouldering areas often means that people will go off track. If there is no way of staying on an established trail, please do this thoughtfully. And minimally. Guidelines to take onboard –
Choose the less steep option. Unless it is on a rock surface, steepness means erosion later on. Switchbacks are better options for steep ground. Going steep because it cuts a little time off getting to the climb isn’t worth the loss of our native habitat.
Gullies aren’t great as access tracks. Gullies are formed by water which means that excessive foot traffic will further speed up the erosion process as the gullies become deeper.
Stay on durable surfaces ie rock whenever possible, to spare fragile plant life.
Digging and disturbing soil – leave the tools at home. All of the parks in Victoria are required to adhere to the Aboriginal Act (2009). And before any soil can be moved, a cultural heritage inspection needs to take place to ensure that no cultural heritage is being impacted by soil being moved. For instance, if Parks Victoria want to put in a new trail, they are required by law to first get clearance to do so and that means getting a cultural heritage inspection along with a variety of other requirements.
Don’t install any infrastructure.
Refrain from cutting or breaking any native vegetation to create a trail.
And lastly – if there are any areas on climber’s access tracks that have issues, be it erosion, fallen trees, new multiple social tracks growing etc, drop CliffCare a line email@example.com and we can go from there. It is up to us to try and prevent and manage issues before they become major but as they are generally in state and national parks, it is also about going about this in a more thoughtful way and working with the land managers.
This can be found here: https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/tracks/
On Saturday 3rd March, CliffCare took part in CleanUp Australia day at the Grampians. Along with Parks Victoria, Friends of Gariwerd, Halls Gap Primary School and community members, we managed to collect a whopping 64kgs of rubbish. Great work but sad that the public still finds it acceptable to throw that one piece of rubbish……
Rebecca Hopkins, Adam Demmert and Cameron Abraham scored the job of abseiling down some of the lookouts. Because that’s the best place to piff rubbish off. As all are accredited climbers ie guides, rope access, it means their skills can be used to access the hard to get to places. Not being an accredited climber, I scoured the car park areas and walks in to the Balconies. Fellow climber Neil Kelman from Ballarat also came for the day and he joined the Friends of Gariwerd team in and around Halls Gap.
Bec, Adam and Cam scored piles of bottles and cans along with the usual papers and packaging. As well as some randoms such as boomerangs (which obviously didn’t come back), fluffy toys, camera and large bits of metal. I feel I had the choicest finds of which the bulk was….toilet paper. Thank goodness for those large long handled tongs! At the end of our day we had 8 bags of rubbish.
After the work was done, we headed back to Hall’s Gap to a yummy bbq and told our tales of interesting finds, the excited audiences at the lookouts we attended and had a bit of a moan about the laziness of some of the public and what was the world coming to etc etc.
Great day all round. Huge thanks to Conor Smith and Hannah Auld who are Summer rangers with PV in Halls Gap. They organized the event and it worked like clockwork.We had some great convos and laughs with Conor at the Lookouts and Hannah held the fort back at the Gap. Thanks to Rod and Judith for filling the stomachs upon our return.
People, clear your calendars for the date next year – Sat 2nd March.
Biggest thanks to Rebecca Hopkins, Adam Demmert, Cameron Abraham and Neil Kelman who put their hands up straight away and helped out on the day. Thanks also to Kieran Loughran who put his hand up but some unfortunate admin requirement stopped him from attending. Next year Kieran!
CliffCare looks forward to being involved with the event next year. Wouldn’t it be great though if we only came back with a bag or two next time.
VCC Access & Environment Officer
CLEAN UP AUSTRALIA DAY
It is fast approaching. There will be a GRAMPIANS CLEAN UP Day on SATURDAY 3RD MARCH and once again, we are looking for some volunteers to help with some areas around the Grampians. As well as regular volunteers, we are also looking for a couple of accredited climbers(guides etc) that will be able to abseil in a couple of tourist locations to get to ledges where rubbish tends to accumulate. Please drop me a line if you can help in any instance. And for those who will be heading out climbing that day, it would be great if you could put aside a little time, take a bag for the walk in and around and clear any rubbish you may find. I’d love some photos!
And if you are city side? Ben Wright has organized a VCC cleanup at the Burnley Bouldering wall environs on SUNDAY 4TH MARCH. Many hands, light work as they say. https://www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au/index.html…
Mt Difficult Access
Following a few queries via both email and on climbing forums, it makes sense to clarify the access situation into the Mt Difficult climbing area via the now closed Troopers Creek campground. You can check out in full, an early announcement I made on this in 2016, via the link at the end, but to summarise –
Access to the cliff climbing area at Mt Difficult from Troopers Creek campground(now closed) is as previous, although the trail is now noted on Parks Victoria website as closed. It is closed as an official walking track due to extensive damage in the North Grampians fire, and a variety of other reasons which include a nearby section of the GPT being planned. The Troopers Creek campground is also now permanently closed. The impetus for this was the GPT with a new campground slated for Dead Bullock Creek that will line up with a Trailhead and the newer section of the GPT. There were also some cultural heritage concerns near the old campground. The trail won’t be repaired so therefore it is no longer an ‘official’ trail that they promote as such to park visitors. After discussions, it was agreed that climbers could access the cliff via the old track but it must be noted that the track is quite damaged in some sections and access may not seem as clear as before. From these discussions, it appears there may also be access near the new campground once finished, but this will be a longer walk in than the present one.
The area is open for climbing now.
The old trail will not be part of the GPT.
I would be really keen to hear from any climbers who have been accessing Mt Difficult via this access point.
A little from a report in 2016 which gives a little more background https://cliffcare.org.au/2016/08/31/access-report-september
This conversation has brought up further ones about climbers tracks, creating them and also maintaining current tracks. I hope to have the CliffCare website updated on some points to take on board soon. https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/tracks/
VCC Access & Environment Officer
Last Access officer report for the year.
Discussions are still ongoing with regards to the Black Range issues. As I noted in previous reports, this has thrown the discussion much wider than just the Black Range. Cultural heritage and how climbing may impact sites, is firmly on the table. This throws up many questions without as yet, answers. These questions are not just limited to climbing but obviously our focus is trying to provide some answers and sustainable options for climbing to co-exist with cultural heritage in the parks. And the Grampians is the top of the list when it comes to climbing and bouldering sites. And top of the list when it comes to cultural heritage. Especially around rock sites. As the sport of climbing and bouldering becomes more and more popular, the growth of gyms in the city increases and the push to get more people outdoors enjoying recreational pursuits – one of the biggest questions is ‘With rock a finite source, and climbers an infinite source, how do we manage this?’ For some, on either side of the table, maybe the answers are very simple – stop the recreational activity and on the other side continue the recreational activity as always. These are both the easiest options in many ways, but neither of them are fair nor sustainable in the long term. The middle ground or somewhere thereabouts is where we need to get to but this won’t be easy. There are a myriad of other queries and issues within the bigger question and these all need to be discussed. In the new year, I am aiming to ramp up these discussions and to get the climbing community asking themselves the harder questions. And coming up with some solutions that are agreeable to the majority.
One of my difficulties with this, is capturing feedback and collating it, and on some kind of platform that requires minimal management. There are numerous avenues such as CliffCare website, Chockstone, Facebook, theCrag that I visit regularly to gather info from the climbing community. But this can be very time consuming and fragmented. Any suggestions as to a platform that could work better in order to present topics and discussion on this subject to the wider climbing community would be great.
In the meantime, throw the question around in your head, discuss with your fellow climbers and come up with some starting point thoughts.
This Parks Victoria community update just arrived with some words on the issue GNP Community Update December 2017
Plenty Gorge Draft Master Plan is now out for community feedback. We have been in communication with Parks Victoria since the beginning of this and it’s good to see that climbing is to be considered. The particular area where climbing used to occur was under private hands and it was eventually banned by the private landowner. It is currently in the process of being handed back, to once again be public land. Once this has officially taken place, we will be able to engage in proper discussion with PV. It would be great if people from the climbing community provide some feedback on this. The link for feedback is below. The area is Middle Gorge. Any positive words with regards to including climbing in the future of the park once acquisition is in hand, would be great. And for those that are into mountain biking, this is also a good chance to be involved in the future of the park.
The photos below show a few moments in the last 2 working bees in Central Gully, Mt Arapiles. Great progress being made getting a decent pile of rocks down the track for Walter to work on. One more working bee to go before the end of the year. This next one is being run in conjunction with a trip so check out the VCC trip calendar if you are wanting to join the trip. Otherwise drop me a line or just rock up. 9.30am 16th December. Meet at the top of Central Gully. Wear closed toe shoes and bring water. Simple as! Think of it as a big Christmas present to the Mount.
Great work all and many thanks for your support in Access work. See you all in the new year.
Tracey Skinner – VCC Access & Environment Officer.
This below wasn’t included in my report for Argus but was in Argus as a small photo essay from Michael O’Reilly on the memorial bench that was burnt in the Northern Grampians fires and it’s replacement. A thoughtful piece that not only shows the bench and plaque replacement for the climber who died at Summerday but also the new growth of the bush. Kind of works well together and I thought it worth showing.
The following is an edited and updated article of an announcement I put out to the general climbing community 3 weeks ago (25th October) https://cliffcare.org.au/2017/10/25/black-range-grampians-cease-bolting-request/ With a little more time, I have added some more information that gives you something further to add into your own conversations and will hopefully inform you better when you climb or when contemplating route development. This focuses heavily on cultural heritage especially given the recent issues noted below. Now, more than ever, cultural heritage informs much of how it can be used – whether you climb with a rope, boulder or develop routes.
Black Range and Black Ians (Lil Lil) Cease Bolting Request
After some concerning emails from cultural heritage teams, traditional owners and Parks Victoria, I am now putting the request out that all further route development requiring xed protection, cease in the Black Range. This Cease Bolting request also includes Black Ians (Lil Lil) in the Red Rock Bushland Reserve.
BLACK RANGE – It appears, the phrase ‘build it and they will come’ has taken o in the general Black Range area with more bolted routes appearing. The most recent was discovered, by cultural heritage teams and other park users in October. This is in the Black Range proper area There are a number of routes, one adjacent to a hand stencil in the cave/rock shelter where a large amount of rock art exists and one which is next to the art site. Actions are being put in place to remove these bolts and look at rock repair. Due to the very sensitive nature of the area, extreme care must be taken in the removal and repair to prevent further damage. This particular shelter site contains a large amount of rock art motifs. There are also also a number of other registered sites in the general area that contain artwork. Whilst specifics aren’t and often can’t be given, it is noted on the Black Range park notes that the area is one of significant cultural values and spiritual connection for traditional owners.
BLACK IANS – As many of you may be aware, there were recent issues with graffiti in the cave at Lil Lil (Black Ians) which also houses artwork. A major graffiti removal workday took place. This required specialist work to look after the sensitive artwork. At the time, there was also concern over the amount of fixed protection that had been placed in the cliff in recent years. One bolted route in particular was directly over another art site. This particular route after discussion with developers, had the bolts removed. There are in fact 5 registered cultural heritage sites at last count at Lil Lil/Black Ians. As noted on the Welcome sign at the site, it contains significant cultural values.
GRAMPIANS – This has brought the discussion of bolting practices in the parks, being the Greater Grampians (this includes Mt Arapiles), firmly back into the limelight, but this time there is a definite push to put some processes in place. This topic is now on the table and I invite you all to think about it. I will be putting out more communications in the very near future and I’m thinking some kind of simple forum platform where the climbing community can provide feedback. For all of those who do engage in route development, I would like to suggest, considering the current climate, to be thoughtful. I am also keen to hear your thoughts be it online or via email.
The Grampians and the parks within that greater area are important to all of us be we climbers, walkers, 4wders or those who work looking after the park as land managers. And we all want to do what we do and how we want to do it. But compromises will be part of this discussion.
For Traditional owners and this land, there is an even bigger spiritual connection. Moving forward, joint management of the parks will take place and indeed already, engagement with the land managers occurs. Traditional owners concerns about this site and others ongoing, need to be taken on board
Please remember, that these discussions will involve a number of parties so respectful conversation is encouraged.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION. EDUCATE YOURSELF.
All of this information is out there. Part of being a climber is being a responsible outdoor user. Do more than just climb or develop a route. Find out about what and where you are climbing and what rules, regulations, guidelines and sensitivities are attached to the site/ park. CliffCare updates information regularly, route databases are starting to contain more access info and Parks Victoria website has park notes for most of its parks. Cultural heritage sites occur throughout the Grampians and although not restricted to just caves and shelters, these locations do have a higher likelihood that some kind of cultural heritage will be found, especially artwork.
All Cultural Heritage is managed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act (2006) which places rules and restrictions around registered sites including Rockart, Shelters and other values(Scarred trees etc). This is on public and private land.
Red Rock Bushland Reserve
Black Ians/Lil Lil is a part of Red Rock Bushland Reserve. This is a Crown Land Reserve which means there is a balance between values and recreation. Cultural heritage within this reserve though, is managed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act (2006) which places rules and restrictions around registered sites – rock art, shelters and other values such as scar trees etc. This reserve has significant cultural values so care and respect should be taken when climbing. Please refrain from developing climbs that use fixed protection. This will impact access. CEASE BOLTING REQUEST currently in place https://cli care.org.au/grampians/black-range/ Please do not camp in the cave. Do not have campfires in the cave. Do not graffiti the rock.
Black Range State Park
Black Range State Park is scheduled under the National Park Act which means it is similar to the Grampians and Arapiles Reservation. These parks have management plans which inform how they can be used.
Significant Aboriginal cultural places including rock shelters, rock art, quarries and scar trees occur here. Traditional occupation centred on natural resources such as water, plant and animal foods and rock outcrops for shelter, artwork and stone tool manufacturing.
Again, Cultural heritage within these parks is still managed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act (2006)
Please do not camp in the caves/rock shelters. Do not have campfires in the cave/rock shelters. Do not graffiti the rock.
Obligations of rock climbers and land managers under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006
For the appropriate protection and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in areas utilised by rock climbers, Aboriginal Victoria considers it crucial that rock climbers and land managers are aware of their obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (the Act). All Aboriginal places and objects in Victoria are protected by the Act. The Act states that a person must not do an act that harms or is likely to harm Aboriginal cultural heritage. It is important that rock climbers realise that climbing related activities like touching rock art panels, inserting a bolt, and lighting campfires in rock shelters have the potential to interfere or even destroy Aboriginal places, especially rock art sites. Very often the rock art is faded and difficult to see and it is very easy to accidentally cause harm to these significant places. The loss of these sites, and the resulting loss of Aboriginal history, culture and heritage, would be a loss to all Victorians and cause great distress to Traditional Owners. Current maximum penalties for harming Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria is $1,585,700 (as of 1 July 2017).
Please contact local land managers at Parks Victoria on 131963 or DELWP on 136186 for further information to ensure that Aboriginal heritage is not accidentally harmed by your activities.