Black Hill……literally

As I noted in my previous Access report, Steven Wilson will be filling you in on the fire event at Black Hill. Thanks to Steven and Jayden Andrea for compiling this report.

circuit track 1

Circuit track

On Wednesday the 7th of January 2015, as I was walking into my house, I saw the first lightening strike. As I got inside I saw the second and said to my wife Ann that it had hit Black Hill.  Soon after,  the CFA Fire Ready app started going off:  Three fires, one north of, one south of and one at Black Hill. Time to set up the fire pump and hoses.
As we are 5km from Black Hill and were directly under the smoke column, it became a wait and see game.  Sol Rogowski,who is a fellow climber and area neighbour and  his partner Suzie Hazlam, came around to lend a hand (if needed) and watch from our deck. Around 8pm blackened leaves and bark started to land on our grass. Fortunately none of it was burning.
Photo 1 - Smoke plume

Time to ring Dan and inform him that he may want to move his club trip
Around 10pm the South end of the park went up.
Photo 2 - red glow

1 hour later the wind direction changed and brought some rain with it. Time to relax.
Eight days later Jayden Andrea gave me a call to let me know that he had council permission to inspect the damage to the climbing areas. We headed up that evening.
The fire has impacted all of the climbing areas. Mostly though there has been a loss of vegetation, and none of the climbs appear to have any exfoliation.  A lot of the large old trees have fallen, with quite a few looking like they are also going to fall.
The VCC track repair work below Milawa, which took place in 2011, has been burnt out and will need redoing.
photo 5

The tree that you climb for the start of Pull The Ripcord has been burnt but is still standing, however you wont be able to climb it any more. An alternate start has been partially bolted and will have another bolt added when the park is open again. Alternately you can do a Batman start off the ringbolt.
photo 6

Bicentennial Fa(r)ce  in the Dino eggs area, has lost the dead tree that use to start from. It looks like it is still climbable – although a bit harder than grade 19.
Photo 3
Attack Of The Killer Dunny Budgies has lost its belay tree.
Photo 4

The rear entrance car park has had a lot of damage with a number trees fallen or about to fall.
Considering that Black Hill used to be a quarry, I would be concerned that erosion could prove to be an issue as there is little or no top soil for the plants to get re established in.
Black Hill is currently closed.
Words – Steven Wilson
  Photos – Jayden Andrea

tree stump still burning 9 days later

Tree stump still burning 9 days later

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.


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.

Proposed changes to camping & accommodation fees in Victorian Parks. Please have your say!

Many of you may or may not be aware that there is currently a proposal by the Victorian Government/DEPI to increase camping and accommodation fees in all Victorian parks managed by Parks Victoria. This is not the annual camping fee increases which occurs around November each year and has just seen the fees rise. This is a totally different set of fee increases and changes to the camping and accommodation fee system.  See the following:

Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees – Regulatory Impact Statement
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has released a proposal for a user-pays approach to charges for camping and roofed accommodation in parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria.
The new approach is designed to help fund ongoing maintenance and services to ensure that people can continue to enjoy these special places well into the future. Victorians are invited to provide comment on the regulatory impact statement by 22 November 2013.

The Victorian Climbing Club feels that these changes and increases are exorbitant, unmanageable and rather than encourage people to head out camping to the many parks on offer in Victoria, they make it difficult and for many, too expensive to do so. Another of the many downsides of this, is that for those that will continue to make regular trips, this will push more and more out into the park in search of bushcamps (although bushcamping is also set to be user pays) to avoid the fees. This will surely result in more environmental damage as there will be areas not set up to handle the traffic of many people and long term camping impacts. What their plans are for policing and managing the camp fee system is a mystery. Expecting the already resource (financial and people) poor Parks Victoria to police this is ridiculous and will mean that the important job of conserving the natural assets of the parks will be replaced by, what amounts to a parking officer.

The document is a lengthy one and with the variety of changes, many inconsistent, it can seem confusing to understand what this actually means for you in terms of camping fees.  I have attached the documents and relevant links but below are some salient points. The Victorian Climbing Club will be putting in a submission but this is no way counts for the many voices in the climbing community. What is imperative here is that you send in an individual submission. This is a proposal asking for comment. If you don’t like and agree with what is being planned you will need to say something – otherwise you will have to accept the changes they implement. Submissions by the public are often thin on the ground – people will complain on forums, around campfires but rarely does it make it into physical form to reach the people it needs to. Someone else won’t be doing it for you – the numbers will be less rather than more – so we need to turn this around. If you think this is important, not just for you, but for all those who love getting outdoors and camping now and into the future, you must say something. Submissions are required by Friday 22nd November. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy time consuming submission. A short well thought out one will count. I have also included an example letter of a VCC member here. This may give you an idea on how to write it. Try not to write it word for word. Too many of the same will end up only being counted as one. Besides explaining what you don’t like and maybe why, it can also be helpful for the future to explain what you do like. The current ‘special’ allowance that Mt Arapiles has and its special  individual user low fee should be pointed out as something that works and should continue.  I hope all of this helps and encourages you to put your thoughts forward. We are going to need it.

•    Charges will be introduced for bush camping in the Grampians – payable either per person at 9.70 or per undesignated ‘site’ up to 6 people for $19.30
•    Camping at camp grounds in the Grampians will be charged at varying fees depending on the ‘level of facility and service’

o   Stapylton, Plantation, Smiths Mill and Jimmy Creek are classed as ‘high’ and therefore charges will be $48.70 per site of 6 people plus a vehicle. There is no per person rate for campsites rated ‘high’. Individuals or groups smaller than 6 will need to pay the $48.70.
o   Buandik, Troopers Creek, Wannon Crossing, Strachans, Borough Huts, Boreang are classed as ‘mid’ with charges being $37.80 per site of up to 6 people plus a vehicle or alternative a per person fee of $18.90.
o   First Wannon Remote campground is classed as ‘basic/very basic’ and therefore charges will be 19.30 per undesignated ‘site’ up to 6 people for $19.30 or per person at 9.70
o   Overnight walking in the Grampians will be subject to a special fee of $10 per person per night, $9 per school group member plus a booking fee of $15 for groups or $10 per person
•    All camping in the Black Range State Park will be charged using a ‘camping pass’ that can be purchased for overnight a week, a month or annually. Charges for the pass depend on the vehicle with a standard car rate being overnight  – $17.40, a week – $46.40, monthly at $81.10 or Annually at $121.70
•    Mount Arapiles has been classed as a special camping site with special fees – a simple per person rate of $5, with no separate vehicle charges or options to pay per site
•    Brisbane Ranges and Cathedral Ranges – All camping areas classed at ‘mid’ therefore charges being $37.80 per site of up to 6 people plus a vehicle or alternative a per person fee of $18.90.

Mount Buffalo
o   Lake Catani – classed as ‘High’ so charges will be $48.70 per site of 6 people plus a vehicle. There is no per person rate for campsites rated ‘high’ individuals or groups smaller than 6 will need to pay the $48.70.
o   Mount Mcleod and Rocky Creek Camping areas are subject to a special fee – $12.50 per person, $9 per school group member plus a booking fee plus a booking fee of $15 for groups or $10 per person

Some extra points to note:
•    Traditional owners are exempt from fees. How will this be managed – no description in place?
•    Payment of fees is proposed to be via Online booking system with booking and payment to be made prior to camping
•    For those people who just turn up without booking, you will still be required to book online upon arrival. This probably means that you are expected to use your smart phone and pay by credit card. This is obviously assuming that everyone has a smart phone, that there is phone coverage and that you have a credit card. And that the campground is not fully booked out!
•    For those campgrounds without designated sites, like Arapiles, a capacity would need to be defined. How many this will be, is another question that will need to be answered. And once online bookings reach capacity does this mean the system will not accept your booking?
•    Conversely when you make a booking and then turn up but struggle to find a space – how that will be managed?


Written submissions should be forwarded by 5:00pm Friday 22 November 2013 via either of the following:

Camping and Accommodation Fees
Land Management Policy Division
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Level 3, 8 Nicholson Street


DEPI RIS Page link:

Fact sheet:

RIS executive statement:

RIS statement:

Access & Environment Officer Report Nov 2011

Hi All,

This is actually half of the last monthly access report.  Had already posted the other half in the last post on Rosea and Bundaleer.

Black Hill is seeing much more traffic these days so it is inevitable that the climbers impact will need to be watched and managed. For the most part a small crew of regulars do keep an eye on it and shore up any sections that look like they need stabilizing. Recently though a section required a little more manpower than the usual two so in a small gully section near the route Milawa, some subtle stone steps were put in place. I would imagine that extra bits of work will take place over the next few years as there are a couple of other sections that could benefit from a little stabilizing. For climbers to the area, and to any area in fact, try to stick to the rocky sections on steeper tracks wherever possible. And if you notice any of our climbers access tracks becoming worse for wear, drop me line and I can see what we can do.  Having said that, if you can see that a few wel l placed rocks here and there will help control the situation make the effort. Secondary tracks starting up next to already existing tracks is also a problem   this will eventually cause loss of vegetation between the two as the erosion spreads over a larger area. Placing some large branches/brush on the newly developing track will hopefully deter those who are just absent mindedly walking along wherever a track seems to appear. And this is how many of the tracks will start.  If you do see a large collection of branches that are lying across tracks have a quick look around.  You will most likely see another track – the proper one. As climbers access tracks, for the most part are kept as subtle as possible, sometimes you need to take a little time to assess your surroundings and possibly look at your guide or maps again. All of these small steps help a great deal in preventing extra work, extra impact and in the long run, continued trouble free access for climbers.  It really is a no brainer.