Access Report September 2016

On Friday 19th August, I attended a meeting organized by Parks Victoria Halls Gap. I was invited to represent the climbing community and attended with a number of other user group reps. The North Grampians Community Workshop was an opportunity to discuss openly and workshop, possible ideas on future developments in the North Grampians area of the park. Topics would include:

· Grampians Peaks Trail – Opportunities, alignments, camping on offer and planning requirements

· Fire Recovery – campground upgrades, rock climbing, four wheel drive and bush walking experiences

· Day use sites, picnic areas and trailheads – including Coppermine and Golton Gorge area discussions

So the main topic that came up that would primarily interest climbers was camping and campgrounds. And indeed, from many of the other user groups, this seemed to be a big issue. With the extra visitation expected from the Grampians Peaks Trails as well as just general growth in user groups, having enough camping spots to suit all could forseeably be a problem. Be it individual sites, vehicle based sites, bush camping etc and not to mention one of the biggest issues with this – toilet or waste disposal.

TROOPERS CREEK CAMPGROUND

Troopers Creek Campground which is the campground that climbers tend to use if they are climbing at Mt Difficult for the weekend is slated for permanent closure with the GPT being the impetus for this. I have had discussions with the PV team on this a number of times. Amongst a variety of concerns, the campground as it is currently, is a small one that will not be able to cater for the extra people that the trail brings through. It also has some cultural heritage sensitivities close by which add further issues. I explained my concerns re the closure in original discussions on this in an advisory group meeting a while ago. The new campground further up the road, although much larger, would add another 45 minutes on top of the 45 mins it already takes to walk up the track. As I explained, this campground is used by climbers and Mt Difficult is historically an important cliff. After some discussion, I have been assured that climbers will be able to park near the old Troopers and still walk the track up to Mt Difficult as they did before. This track though has been extensively damaged by the fire and won’t be repaired. Whilst I have not had the opportunity to check out the track, climbers in general are not adverse to walking tracks that aren’t maintained. It might be an idea at some point in the future though, to head in and check that the alignment is clear enough for people to find their way to cliffside. The new campground will have more tent sites and group camping areas and some vehicle based camping as well as toilet and fireplace facilities.

Bush camping in the area will also still be available.

STAPYLTON CAMPGROUND

Stapylton Campground is due to open just before the September school holidays. Opening has been held up by the slow supply and delivery of the timber used in the remaining works in the campground. Stapylton was always seen as a group camping site and the new improved one will be no different in that regard. Group camping will have even more of a focus although with some separated communal areas rather than the one main one that was there before. Vehicle based camping will also be catered for.

GOLTON GORGE BUSH CAMPING

This campsite will continue to be available as a bush camping site.

CAMP SANDY AND BUSH CAMPING

Due to Stapylton Campground being closed, a number of bush campsites have been developed and have grown in size. Camp Sandy in particular has been seen and noted by a number of other user groups and park locals. Feedback ranges from just interest to concern. Once Stapylton re-opens, there is a strong feeling that this particular bush camp will be closed down.

BOOKING SYSTEM AND FEES

Following on from this, discussion was then had around the fact that for many the booking system and fee structure doesn’t work for them and the possibility that bush camping will continue to grow be it for financial reasons or the simple requirements that some have in regard to camping. As was noted, the booking and fee system is not a PV strategy and wasn’t actually on the table to discuss at this meeting. This is a State government system. Still, it was an important thing to note, for PV to understand some of the continuing issues and thoughts of visitors to the park. Of note: State government is currently looking at the booking system of the parks so Watch this space!

Space doesn’t permit me to highlight every point discussed at the meeting but other topics did include Bouldering and its sudden growth and what that might mean for the park. The other user groups had the opportunity to learn a little more about it although personally, I think that there is probably room for some more education in this department.

All in all, the workshop was a good opportunity to hear other stakeholders interests and concerns in the park and what their suggestions might be for moving forward. Thanks must go to the Halls Gap Parks Victoria team for continuing to involve the community in discussions around forward planning. It is not an easy process to balance budget and resources with the needs and wants of the many diverse users. I look forward to discussing further many of the topics we broached.

Access Report May

As I noted in previous Access reports, discussions with Walter Braun, VCC/CliffCare, Friends of Arapiles, Mt Arapiles Advisory Group and Parks Victoria have been ongoing regarding the Central Gully Repair Project. Well, I am pleased to now announce that the first official work day will be taking place on Saturday 7th May. This is a collaborative project between Parks Victoria, VCC/CliffCare and Friends of Arapiles.
A little about the project now.

ISSUES: As with the Pharos Gully(PG), Central Gully(CG) gets its fair share of traffic. CG certainly doesn’t have the very steep gradient that PG has, but there are sections that are steeper than others and these are definitely suffering from erosion and track widening and therefore the eventual loss of more vegetation. Coupled with this is the fact that previous work done in the gully many years ago, using concrete and rocks, is now unstable. The upshot of this, is that people walk around sections that have very deep steps where either erosion or loss of steps has occurred. The track then widens or another smaller parallel track happens. The Central Gully track itself is also, from a walkers perspective, not a particularly interesting one. For most people, it tends to be a way to get from one place to another rather than an enjoyable walk.
After numerous meetings and discussions with the above named groups and individuals, a few decisions have been reached. Walter Braun’s insight and knowledge into the best alignments for tracks has been invaluable and all parties are really pleased with how the project will improve the CG track on so many levels, most importantly, its long term sustainability.

SOLUTIONS: The track will undergo some minor realignment which puts much of it back to a very old alignment that followed closer to the cliff rather than directly up the gully which is a water run line. Over the years the track has wandered around to end up eventually as it is now. The lower section until the Mari vicinity and upper section after the climbing areas will remain aligned for the most part, as they are now. Stabilising and hardening work will take place where required. The middle section of the track undergoing some minor realignment, will in fact, require less work than repairing the current track as it is now. It will follow an easier gradient and will also make use of rock platforms.

POINTS OF NOTE:

  • Minimal disruption as old track can be used until newer alignment is complete
  • Better, gentler, gradient
  • Less resources required ie time, labour, finance, due to the gentler gradient and utilisation of existing rocky platforms
  • More scenic walk with better views from the track
  • Reduction of erosion by moving the track alignment away from water drainage line
  • Revegetation of old track when old alignment is closed.
  • Rationalisation and clarification of informal climber access tracks off Central Gully Walking Track.eg One access track to Charity Buttress off Central Gully Track clearly identified etc
  • Central Gully Walking Track will be sustainable for many years to come
  • The project helps protects the natural, cultural and recreational values of the Mt Arapiles-Tooan State Park.

I will soon have a new section up on the CliffCare website regarding the project and further updates, so please check there regularly to keep yourself informed. https://cliffcare.org.au/arapiles/central-gully-repair-project/ Content will be coming.Temporary notices and signage will be placed on site and also in the campground toilets. Please refrain from using any of the new alignment until it is complete and its opening is announced. Please also take note of any guidelines on signage.

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PHAROS GULLY
Now that the Pharos Gully Track work has been completed, we will be working with Parks Victoria in doing a little clean up work around the area where much of the rock was delivered near the Pharos Gully carpark. In order to move the rock up the gully we had to deliver it off the track and therefore we created a temporary track. We knew what the eventual issue would be with this – people would start using it as a track in its own right but it was the only option available to us. The time has come though, to close down this track and revegetate it to get it back to what it was before. On Thursday 5th May, Walter Braun and 4 volunteers from CMA will dig up the track, create some water bars and use many of the rocks that were rejects from the PG project. The fencing that was removed will be replaced and although a date is yet to be set, revegetation will take place by planting some Callitris. These plants have been lovingly grown from seed by a VCC member Ollie Sherlock. Seed was gathered from around the Plaque area in order to produce plants useful for revegetating. Very exciting that these are going in the ground and a perfect spot for them. Zoe Wilkinson has been organizing the volunteer manpower to assist with the workday and I will be liasing with her and Lou from Friends of Arapiles to get the planting happening sometime in the very near future.
There will be some temporary signage in place to alert people to the track closure and work occurring. Please do not use this track anymore. The proper PG track is mere metres away and it takes you no longer to get to where you want to go. Thanks for your care and understanding of this.

Access Report April

On Saturday March 5th, Bec Hopkins was our VCC/CliffCare rep for the Grampians Clean Up day in the Pinnacle area. She was one of a number of volunteers from a variety of groups that regularly use the Grampians National Park. The Pinnacle area near Halls Gap sees a huge number of tourists each year and unfortunately, with that comes quite a lot of rubbish. Some of this ends up being quite inaccessible to later retrieve due to it landing on ledges below. Bec and a couple of volunteers from Absolute Outdoors  donned their gear and abseiled down to the dirty areas to clean up. Six large bags of rubbish later and much sweat lost, the area was once again clean. Thanks to all who put up their hand to help out on the day and Tammy Schoo at Halls Gap PV who organized the event. Thanks also to the volunteers who helped out at Mt Arapiles clean up day – notably Keith Lockwood and Kieran Loughran and Zoe Wilkinson from Parks Victoria who encouraged all to help out with the Summit Road cleanup.

Access Report March: Clean Up Days at Mt Arapiles and The Grampians

With the Clean Up Australia event happening this coming weekend 5/6th March, it’s a great opportunity to do a little cleaning up in a couple of our favourite parks for climbing. CliffCare and the VCC  is jumping onboard and helping out. Have a look at the rubbish we have collected at other times in the photos below.

Tammy Schoo from PV in Halls Gap, The Grampians, is organizing a number of events at various locations around the park. http://www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au/Grampians+National+Park One particular area, The Pinnacle sees a lot of human traffic and therefore collects its fair share of rubbish. Bec Hopkins (who was CliffCare’s 2015 raffle organizer extraordinaire) will be our Rep for the day. Bec will be getting on the rope to get to various ledges to help remove accumulated rubbish.

You can do your bit too. On your way to your favourite crag and at the crag itself – do a rubbish clean up. Take along a bag and fill it with any rubbish you find along the way. At the end of the day either deposit the rubbish in a public bin or take home and deposit with the rest of your rubbish.

At Mt Arapiles, we will also be running a Clean Up day with Friends of Mt Arapiles and Parks Victoria. Details are following

CLIFFCARE/VCC, FRIENDS OF ARAPILES AND PARKS VICTORIA IS RUNNING A CLEAN UP ARAPILES DAY AS PART OF THE CLEAN UP AUSTRALIA DAY EVENT. AND IT’S ON THIS SATURDAY 5TH MARCH STARTING AT 9AM.

We’re not looking for whole day commitments – just an hour or so is more than enough. If you have ever enjoyed Mt Arapiles as a climber, camper, day visitor, please spare this time and join us to give a little back. We will be picking up general rubbish around the campground areas particularly The Pines and also Bushrangers Bluff and along the Summit Road. And following the rains, the dreaded Bindi’s have reared their ugly, spiky heads in a few locations around the park, so we thought we would remove that rubbish as well.

MEET AT THE WASHING UP TROUGH LOWER PINES CAMPGROUND AT 9AM.

KEITH LOCKWOOD IS OUR COMMUNITY REP AND ZOE WILKINSON (AREA CHIEF RANGER) FROM PARKS VICTORIA WILL BE THERE TO MEET AND GREET AND HAND OUT BAGS AND ANY DIRECTIONS THAT MAY BE REQUIRED.

If you aren’t able to attend at this time, take a bag with you and keep an eye out for rubbish on your walk around the park or on the way to the cliff. It would be great to have some kind of tally of rubbish picked up, so if you are able to, take a photo of your collection before depositing in park bins. Any further info required or photos to be sent cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

If you are planning on coming, dropping me a line would certainly help with preparations. Thanks!

AREAS TO BE TACKLED

Pines Campground and general camping areas
Bushrangers Bluff
Summit Road
Bindi (3 cornered jack) picking. Locations to be advised at morning meetup)

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Clean Up Arapiles day 2008

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Some of the rubbish we collected in 2008 on Clean up day. Lots of micro rubbish.

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This was found a number of years ago in the Grampians.

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More recently (2015) at The Gallery, Grampians

VCC Access & Environment Report – February

Earlier last year, after a number of meetings and discussions on the Arapiles Advisory Group, we decided to actively pursue a project on the revegetation of the Pines Campground. The issue of erosion and lack of shade for campers has been an ongoing one. As with any kind of State or National parks, there is a process to go through and while immediate decisions and acting upon it sounds like the way to go, the reality is that it always takes a little longer than hoped for. Our hope to get some plants in the ground last planting season didn’t eventuate for a variety of reasons but in the end, the bad rainfall would have severely impacted our ability to do this. At our last meeting in January, we spoke of the need to get the ball rolling on this project asap. We are hoping that rainfall this year will help us out in order to get plants in the ground. CliffCare also put out a survey to the general climbing community and park users to get their feedback on some of the issues and topics which climbers have certainly brought up to me over the years. There were also more indepth suggestions via the survey and emails that I received and I hope to be able to put these into something a little more readable in the near future. Survey results were actually quite close to the general feedback I have received over the years when discussions like this have come up with various members of the climbing community. Hopefully what this means is that the end result of revegetating the Pines will be an acceptable outcome for the majority of park users. I will continue to fill you in as decisions are made.

Along with the Pines revegetation project, we discussed the next trackwork project for Mt Arapiles. There are many areas requiring a bit of TLC in the park, especially as climbing becomes more popular. Louise Shepherd who heads Friends of Arapiles, Zoe Wilkinson who is Head Ranger at Mt Arapiles and myself, recently got together outside of the Advisory Group, with our whizbang stonemason, Walter Braun to discuss the starting date and course of action for Central Gully track. While this certainly doesn’t have the steepness of the Pharos Gully track and therefore the excessive erosion that often goes along with steep tracks, it does suffer from the same ‘loved to death’ syndrome. It is used extensively by climbers to access various climbing areas as well as walkers. Some sections will require little work whereas others will definitely need stonework to keep the track where it belongs. Some work was done on the track many years ago using concrete. This won’t be removed excepting where it has broken (concrete is wont to do this after time). Any work now done, will work with what was put in place previously. Following our meeting, we have decided that first workday will be sometime in March. Weather will have cooled by then (hopefully). I will be putting out a date shortly so keep an eye on your inboxes and on social media/websites as volunteers will be required. And whilst we are on the subject of volunteers, we have another smaller project that will require a few for a morning. Around the Pillars of Hercules area, between top of Dracula and Preludes,there are a lot of loose rocks and rubble that are starting to come down more often. Louise Shepherd has suggested a date in March and thinks that using a human chain method might be the best way to get the rocks moved. The larger rocks would be moved hand to hand well to the back of the Pillars. The smaller loose rubble could be gathered into buckets and then deposited at the back of Pillars cave. Again, a date will be announced for this shortly so keep an ear open.

There is also a further project around the Dreadnought Gully which has a loose dirt and rock shelf. This will need to be further assessed though and there is a good chance we may need to engage a little more than just volunteers to get this sorted. I will keep all informed as to the situation with this.

Survey results here Centenary Park Campground (The Pines), Mt Arapiles Questionnaire – Google Forms

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Checking out Central Gully with Area Chief Ranger Zoe Wilkinson

 

 

Access report Dec 2015 Part 1. Grafitti at Black Ians

GRAFFITI AT BLACK IANS, GRAMPIANS

At my recent meeting with Parks Victoria on all things rock climbing, this issue came up. Disappointing – I am putting this out there so that people are aware. Although the majority of people out there climbing and visiting are doing the right thing, there are others who may not be thinking, may not be aware or maybe don’t care. This is also not saying that it is necessarily climbers but with Black Ians becoming more popular these days, the amount of climbers heading there means we need to pass the information on, have a word with anyone you either see doing this or have heard about. For many years, Black Ians has managed to have an art site that isn’t behind a cage. After negotiations with the climbing community many years ago, climbers agreed not to climb in this particular area nor camp in the cave. It now appears that this is at risk. I will be having further discussions with PV on how the climbing community might be able to be involved in some way in these work programs. For the untrained eye, indigenous artwork and cultural sites may not be the easiest to pick up. Which is why, following some of the rules and guidelines goes a long way to ensuring that damage isn’t done. I’m sure all of us have come across graffiti drawn on by rock on various walls and caves. Most people wouldn’t know that they might be drawing on something that is a registered art site, or could be. As noted below, there are numerous sites that are not publicly known. And as long as these sites are not being damaged or in danger of being damaged, for the most part the areas won’t be at risk of being closed or caged off. Call it preventative. Is scribbling your name onto the rock worth the fact that an ancient piece of indigenous history is destroyed forever? Or that the climbing area you and others love to climb at is declared out of bounds because of events like this. Below are a few words from Ryan Duffy at PV. Also included is a photo of the recent finding of graffiti.

Red Rock bushland reserve and Lil Lil rock-art site (Black Ians climbing site)

Jardwadjali traditional owners represented by Barengi Gadjin, Parks Vic, and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs (OAAV) will be delivering a works program to help stabilise and protect rock-art sites in the Black Range State Park and nearby reserves. This will include the Lil Lil rock-art site at Red Rock Bushland Reserve, where graffiti has appeared adjacent to and even overlying rock-art (see attached image).

Just to provide some more context, Gariwerd is the traditional land of Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali peoples and protects over 80% of the rock-art found in Victoria with over 100 registered rock-art sites. Rock-art can be created from red, yellow or white ochre’s and may depict hand prints or stencils, animal footprints, human stick-figures (lizard men), parallel lines amongst many other motifs. Many sites are very faint today and can be hard to identify. Concentrations of rock-art can be found in areas that are also popular for rock-climbing, such as the north-western Victoria Range and Stapylton area. Rock-art mostly occurs in shelters or rock-overhangs. A few key points to help protect Gariwerd’s rock-art;

  • Bouldering in shelters and overhangs is the activity most likely to occur where rock-art has been created. Only climb or boulder in established locations. Minimise the use of chalk and don’t clean new routes
  • Obviously never graffiti any rock surface with charcoal, paint or scratch on a rock-surface as there is always a chance rock-art could be underneath or nearby
  • If you find rock-art, please report to Parks Victoria on 13 19 63 so we can determine if it has been recorded or not. Every year un-recorded rock-art sites are re-discovered and many new sites have been reported by rock-climbers.

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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