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

Advertisements

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.

p1110253

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

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/

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.

Cheers,

Tracey