The Victoria Valley complex fire fire burnt long and hard, from the 14th of February and was declared officially under control on the 6th March. 20 days of unrelenting fire. Speaking yesterday to someone who was fighting the fire, they noted that it was the most fierce they have ever dealt with. Fingers have been crossed for the best outcome for the myriad of cliffs and climbing areas that dot the Victoria Range.
A meeting was held today between a number of climbing community representatives and Parks Victoria Grampians rangers. Steve Monks, Malcolm Matheson, Simon Weill, Earl from Hanging Out and myself, Tracey Skinner, met with Ranger in Charge Dave Roberts, Zoe Wilkinson and Claire Evans from PV to discuss the outcomes of the Victoria Valley complex fire.The issues that we are faced with and how we can move forward. It is still very early days yet in regards to assessing the areas so the following information is based only on what has been gathered so far and this can be open to change as more information comes to hand. What I can say is that PV staff are really keen to open as much as they can, as soon as possible.
From aerial photographs that were taken of some of the areas last week, it appears that The Gallery, Red Rocks,Millenium Caves and Muline have been moderately burnt whilst Eureka Wall, Lost World and Red Sail areas have been severely burnt. Fortress and Chimney Pots area again look to have been moderately burnt and patchy in areas. There are other areas obviously and as time goes on, more information on these will come to light. There is currently a Rapid Assessment team in place who will be reporting back shortly.
At this stage, the Victoria Range will remain temporarily closed for at least 4 – 6 weeks. Priority for reopening will be for those areas that have been impacted the least which from our early discussions points to The Gallery, Red Rocks, Millenium Caves and Muline. The campground at Buandik has been hardly touched by the fire but the pedestrian bridge that connects climbers to the Gallery is now gone. Keep in mind that as yet, no on site assessments have been made.One of the main concerns with reopenings will be a number of the roads that are needed to access the areas. Red Rock Road, Harrops Track and Syphon Road have all been badly damaged and these will all need to be repaired before access can happen. This can be a lengthy process and will come down to funding but these roads are a priority and Parks staff have them high on the agenda.
As noted Eureka Wall, Tower, Red Sail and Lost World area look to have been severely impacted so closures to these areas will more than likely be in place for a lot longer.
There are a variety of issues which can affect and delay reopenings and need to be assessed – such as soil stability – let’s hope the rains don’t come in one fell swoop when they do.
Over the next few weeks, more information will come to hand and I will also be letting the climbing community know how they can help. We will be looking at recruiting some volunteers to help with onsite assessments of the climbing areas.
Please respect all park closures and know that we will be all working as hard as we can to work together to get some areas opened and back to climbing status.
For those hoping for an Easter Vic Range jaunt – best to plan elsewhere. Rosea and Bundaleer will be open. Redmans road is open which means the Barbican cliff areas are accessible. Campgrounds such as Boreang, Borough, Smiths will be operational. Strachans unfortunately has been completely razed to the ground. And of course Northern Grampians is still accessible with a good selection of climbing areas and campgrounds. Stay tuned for more updates.
Huge thanks to the climbing reps who took part and for the Grampians PV staff who have been hot off the mark and set up this meeting so we can hit the ground running.