VCC/Cliffcare Statement: Potential Changes to Climbing Access in the Grampians

There were some unexpected events last weekend and the community understandably wants clarification and answers. Getting answers and information can take time, and while it can be frustrating, there’s a process we have to follow. We appreciate your patience and support.

We want the climbing community to be involved in any decisions about climbing in the Grampians and this has always been our intention.

Background

Over the past 12 months, we’ve put out reports, shared ideas and suggestions for how to minimise impact. We’ve encouraged discussion about climbing practices and tried to make people aware of the connection to and importance of the area for Traditional Owners. We’ve also highlighted any incidents that resulted in negative impact to the park.

This was food for thought, and the hope was that it would get the community engaged and taking about how we use the park and how these issues might be better managed. We also hoped people would begin to think critically about the issues and to prepare for the road ahead.

Conservation and cultural heritage

There are many reasons behind the current scrutiny of access for climbers and other park users in the Grampians. These reasons include greater engagement from stakeholder groups such as land managers and Traditional Owners in recent years, and changes in community attitudes and government approaches to conservation.

Any decisions about how to manage access will consider the concerns of all interest groups in the context of new and existing legislation. Which is why it is so important to make sure climbers have a seat at the table and we are seen to be a respectful park user group.

This is not unique to the Grampians, and this information was provided to the community both publicly, and privately, where necessary.

Being proactive 

The best way to make sure we get a good outcome for climbers is to engage with other stakeholders proactively and this requires the community to understand the issues we’re facing.

Being proactive means we can’t wait to have explicit instructions in writing before we start to monitor and minimise our impact. If we do, we are compromising our position when it comes time to put forward our concerns.

We’ve had a number of incidents that resulted in serious impact in the park due to climbing. This has informed and changed how we need to approach this and will continue to.

More people are climbing

So far, our involvement with land managers has been positive but this doesn’t mean the road ahead will be straightforward.

There are very real problems with how we use the park now that the number of people climbing is growing. There are very real impacts driving the possible ways to manage this.

For the most part, climbers have the best intentions at heart when it comes to climbing in this unique and beautiful place. But we can’t keep doing things the way we always have.

We also need to think about people who are new to climbing. Education will be the focus of much of what we do, and that goes both ways—helping climbers to understand, and helping other interest groups to understand the concerns of climbers.

CliffCare education campaigns 

CliffCare is working on an education campaign with input from prominent and experienced local climbers and developers. We expect to be ready to launch this soon.

We’re also planning more education campaigns for the future because this will be an ongoing effort to make sure people have the information they need to minimise impact, and to climb safely and respectfully.

We will also release surveys and every campaign will be the result of input and suggestions from the climbing community.

Protecting climbers’ interests

We’re also working to put in place measures to make sure the climbing community has a seat at the table when it comes to deciding on the future of climbing in the park.

Respecting other stakeholders and working collaboratively with land managers is extremely important. We also want climbers to be respected and to have the processes in place that give the climbing community, as an important user in the park, a solid standing.

Getting on board

We appreciate your patience and understanding while we work to gather information that makes sense and gives you a clear idea of the road ahead.

We encourage you to get on board and to support a proactive approach, either through volunteer involvement, feedback or even by considering your actions and the actions of others more thoughtfully when you are in the park.

More information and feedback

Please take the time to read the reports on the CliffCare homepage, especially the reports dating back to start of 2017. Any feedback from the climbing community will be welcomed and appreciated.

Of special importance is:
the proposal for an Updated PV climbing code of conduct/policy
the proposal for a Climbing Management Plan for the Grampians.

These documents were submitted to Parks Victoria. A series of constructive engagements will take place with Parks Victoria post the caretaker period.

Thank you.

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Voluntary CLIMBING ROUTE DEVELOPMENT MORATORIUM – GRAMPIANS NATIONAL PARK

 

VCC CliffCare Climbing route development moratorium letter NSB e

VCC CliffCare Climbing route development moratorium

 

Interested in knowing more about the current park management plan?

Head here https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/

 

 

Access Proposal letters – Parks Victoria GNP Climbing Management Plan Climbing Code of Conduct/Policy Update

As many in the climbing community may be aware, climbing/bouldering in the Grampians National Park has more recently come under the spotlight for a variety of reasons. Recent impacts to cultural heritage in the park may be driving the current push for climbing management, but there are other issues also, that have been building for a long time. Increased route development – both climbing and bouldering, increased use of fixed protection, lack of boundaries, environmental impacts and the increase of people coming into the sport are all concerns to land managers. All the usual issues that impact climbing areas and that the community eventually need to deal with. But now access to many of the areas we climb at is under threat. The Victorian Climbing Club and CliffCare are now engaging in discussions with Parks Victoria, Traditional Owners and other stakeholders. We are concerned that the activity that we love is impacting cultural heritage. We are committed to engaging with land managers to ensure that these values are protected whilst still ensuring that the legitimate activity of climbing in the park can continue sustainably. We look forward to positive engagement with Parks Victoria and ask the climbing community to support us in our endeavours to look after your interests.

On 4th October, we submitted the following letters to Parks Victoria. These can be viewed on the CliffCare website.

VCC/CliffCare Proposal – Climbing Policy Update

https://cliffcare.org.au/current-access-campaigns/parks-victoria-climbing-code-of-conduct-update-proposal/

VCC/CliffCare Proposal – GNP Climbing Management Plan

https://cliffcare.org.au/current-access-campaigns/grampians-climbing-management-plan-proposal/

Ongoing updates on the process will be communicated regularly to the climbing community. Over the next few weeks, more information will be made available.

Thank you

Tracey Skinner                                                            Paula Toal
VCC Access & Environment Officer                       VCC President

Access & Environment Report August 2018

Simple Equations

No-one can deny that the amount of people now heading into climbing and going outdoors has grown since the early heydays of climbing. And by that simple statement, I am sure that the majority of you can relate to the fact that as anything grows, its wants, needs, advancements and issues, grow along with it. Many codes of conduct, any operational guidelines or policies soon become outdated as the activity outgrows the very guidelines put in place to protect it or the space in which it exists.
In more recent months, some conversations around fixed protection and development in the Grampians has come to the fore. Some people are asking why? What’s the problem? Rather than outlining too much here, I will leave it up to the reader to read back over previous Access reports. It is all there.

Fixed protection is one element of the bigger picture. It is not the only one. We will need to deal with all.

The biggest issue though that has an overall impact on all of the issues we need to deal with, whether it be environmental, cultural heritage or sharing the space with others, is growth. The amount of people now climbing, bouldering and accessing the outdoor option is growing and will continue to. Which means that the impact is much greater. How climbing was managed, or not managed previously, is no longer looking after the space and in the longer run, looking after the activity.

A complex conversation. There are land manager and traditional owner perspectives. There are climbing community ethics. There is the evolution of climbing and bouldering. And there are rules and regulations. The reality is all do change over time. Which means that we all need to reassess what works. It is something we do everyday in many aspects of our life and the world we live in. Especially if it’s due to growth. It’s why we re- assess our energy options, why we re-assess the way we package our food, our lives… The sheer volume has an impact.

Climbing/Bouldering is no different. That moment in time and the joy of being on rock both spiritually and physically, simply isn’t the only thing anymore that we have to think about. The sheer volume is having an impact and those impacts are relayed to me directly by those who are tasked with looking after the space, as well as those who also share it.
Victoria has a range of climbing areas across the state with the most heavily visited being the Grampians National Park and Arapiles Tooan State Park.

So why the current focus on the Grampians? Because at this moment in time the impacts via climbing and bouldering are growing and being relayed to me, as now no longer acceptable in the current state of play. So how do we manage this? There are so many questions and there will be many conversations moving into the future. So as a starter, some food for thought, some direction for conversations for the climbing community. On a rope. On a boulder. Or over a beer.

A few points of interest:

The bulk of cultural heritage ie indigenous art sites, sacred locations occur in the Grampians. The Victoria Range in particular has the highest percentage of all known and registered sites in the park. A large amount of these sites are also rock sites.

The majority of Indigenous cultural heritage sites that are known and registered are not known to the general public. It is against the law for Parks Victoria or anyone else with that information, to notify the public of their exact locations.

It is a National Park. It’s main aim is to conserve its natural and cultural values. Any recreational activities need to sit alongside these values but with minimal damage/loss to them. Impacts will differ from location to location

Climbing is a recognised activity in the park and one which is promoted. There are some areas within the park that are particularly sensitive for either cultural or environmental reasons and climbing amongst other activities, is not allowed.

The Grampians National Park is moving towards a Joint Management Plan whereby it will be managed by both Parks Victoria and Traditional Owners.

Land Manager and Traditional Owner Concerns – Grampians National Park

Direct impacts to cultural heritage sites

Route development in known areas of cultural heritage significance and therefore possible impacts to undiscovered sites

Environmental impact to surrounding cliff landscapes due to increased traffic. Excessive social trails especially in bouldering areas

Human waste issues at climbing/bouldering sites/bush camps

Increased use of fixed protection

Chalk impacts

Wire brushing

Vegetation removal to access climbing or bouldering sites or the actual routes

Current management plan boundaries not being followed

Questions & Actions – to ask yourself, your climbing friends, to ponder, to respond.

Climbing and Bouldering Route developers:
Check the park management plans. Understand the environmental and cultural heritage values of the park and the particular areas you are developing. Does the plan prohibit climbing in that area? Is there a high level of sensitive cultural heritage in the area. Rare flora or fauna in a threatened habitat?
Caves and overhangs often have a higher likelihood of cultural heritage. Bouldering development can impact a larger area either directly or indirectly with traffic and multiple social trails, within a location that contains a high percentage of sensitive sites.
Don’t know? Ask.

When using fixed protection:
Alongside the perspectives of land managers and park management plans, this brings up the topic of climbing ethics within the climbing community ie traditional and sport climbing. A complex and often divisive one. And a changing conversation as our sport has evolved. That fixed protection is an element of climbing is not denied, but how and when, is the conversation we will need to have. At this point in time, climbing in the Grampians (and Victoria) has operated on the understanding that if it goes at trad it should remain so. Fixed protection besides the physical impact, can increase the traffic to an area so this should be taken into account. The following points are some suggested already by members of the climbing community that might go some way towards helping to manage this one aspect in the future. Only a guide at this point but something to develop further.

Is the route you wish to bolt in a predominantly sport climbing area?

Is the route in a sensitive area be it cultural heritage or a fragile environmental landscape?

Is the route you wish to bolt naturally protectable?

Is the route visible from major tourist/public tracks or areas?

Do you have sufficient knowledge of and experience in placing fixed gear? Same as in the case of removing it.

If you are considering retro-bolting the route, do you have permission from the person (s) who made the FA?

As noted , climbing is a recognized activity in the park. We are working towards a joint understanding between all parties for a sustainable climbing future. There will be many conversations like this. Throw this info around in your head. Ask the questions in your groups. Your help via feedback, support for closures that may be in place and a little extra care when developing or out climbing or bouldering, can and will make a difference. Any thoughts on this you want to send me? I am very keen to hear. Drop me a line. Any other way you think you can help, maybe a particular issue you feel passionate about – there are always jobs. Drop me a line.

Many thanks to all the people from the many different avenues of our climbing community who have taken the time to provide their thoughts, be it publicly or privately. It all goes into the pot.

Tracey Skinner
VCC Access & Environment Officer

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Impact – Here, There and Everywhere

While the conversation about impacts from climbing and bouldering is always one of the key topics that guides the work that CliffCare does and always will, now more than ever, we need to be open to solutions that will not only conserve the areas we climb and boulder at but in the long run also help to protect what we do. We impact. No denying that. How do we manage it?

Some timely reading. This is on bouldering but the same conversation can be had about roped climbing. Elsewhere in the world – These are all the same issues we are facing now and more so heading into the future. Throw the conversation around in your head and in your circles. https://www.theprojectmagazine.com/features/2018/7/27/magicwoodsconservation

Access & Environment Report December 2017

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.
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/plenty-gorge-park/plans-and-projects/plenty-gorge-park-master-plan

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.

 

Access & Environment Report November 2017

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.
https://wordpress.com/page/cliffcare.org.au/1865

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.
https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/black-ians-lil-lil/

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.

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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.

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One of the many examples of rock art that occur in the Black Range. Some are not so noticeable as this one and are faded and often only seen once one is aware it is there.