Interested in knowing more about the current park management plan?
Head here https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/
Interested in knowing more about the current park management plan?
Head here https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/
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 Many codes of conduct, any operational guidelines or policies soon become outdated as the activity outgrows the very guidelines put in place to protect it or the space in which it exists.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
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.
VCC Access & Environment Officer
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
On Saturday 3rd March, CliffCare took part in CleanUp Australia day at the Grampians. Along with Parks Victoria, Friends of Gariwerd, Halls Gap Primary School and community members, we managed to collect a whopping 64kgs of rubbish. Great work but sad that the public still finds it acceptable to throw that one piece of rubbish……
Rebecca Hopkins, Adam Demmert and Cameron Abraham scored the job of abseiling down some of the lookouts. Because that’s the best place to piff rubbish off. As all are accredited climbers ie guides, rope access, it means their skills can be used to access the hard to get to places. Not being an accredited climber, I scoured the car park areas and walks in to the Balconies. Fellow climber Neil Kelman from Ballarat also came for the day and he joined the Friends of Gariwerd team in and around Halls Gap.
Bec, Adam and Cam scored piles of bottles and cans along with the usual papers and packaging. As well as some randoms such as boomerangs (which obviously didn’t come back), fluffy toys, camera and large bits of metal. I feel I had the choicest finds of which the bulk was….toilet paper. Thank goodness for those large long handled tongs! At the end of our day we had 8 bags of rubbish.
After the work was done, we headed back to Hall’s Gap to a yummy bbq and told our tales of interesting finds, the excited audiences at the lookouts we attended and had a bit of a moan about the laziness of some of the public and what was the world coming to etc etc.
Great day all round. Huge thanks to Conor Smith and Hannah Auld who are Summer rangers with PV in Halls Gap. They organized the event and it worked like clockwork.We had some great convos and laughs with Conor at the Lookouts and Hannah held the fort back at the Gap. Thanks to Rod and Judith for filling the stomachs upon our return.
People, clear your calendars for the date next year – Sat 2nd March.
Biggest thanks to Rebecca Hopkins, Adam Demmert, Cameron Abraham and Neil Kelman who put their hands up straight away and helped out on the day. Thanks also to Kieran Loughran who put his hand up but some unfortunate admin requirement stopped him from attending. Next year Kieran!
CliffCare looks forward to being involved with the event next year. Wouldn’t it be great though if we only came back with a bag or two next time.
VCC Access & Environment Officer
Having just returned from holidays in Spain and Morocco, I’ll be the first to admit that my brain cells are not, firing on all cylinders. I shall try my best though.
Super plans before I left – to write a comparative report on access in the places I travelled to and Australia, has failed to materialize. Seriously, what was I thinking. It’s not like I wasn’t checking things out. It’s just that the information I gathered seems to be floating around, just slightly out of my brain’s processing reach. Never before a sufferer of jet lag, it seems my time has arrived for the experience. So rather than whip together some kind of disjointed, “I feel like I’m on medication” kind of report, I’ll stick with one, less than savoury aspect of my observances whilst overseas. For those of you settling down to read with a nice snack and a cup of tea. Don’t. Best viewed on an empty stomach.
I’m am hoping that the following story doesn’t come across as some slur upon European climbers though I suppose if everyone seems to be doing it so openly, it can hardly be a slur, right? I had heard stories, even from my European climbing friends so it’s not just me right? And gathering by some of the other places I visited, not just the climbers indulge in this activity. Seeing it first hand, en masse was kind of shocking. This then developed into slightly hysterical giggles upon new discoveries. Finally, when I found myself checking the lighting for just the right photo, I knew my job as Access & Environment officer had scarred me for life. I need help.
First up, let me say – it’s really very kind of others to show the way to a crag by means of marking. My preference for this is usually cairns if needed but it seems that white flags of honour are de rigour for many of the cliffs I visited. No ordinary flags are these though, for they hide (well attempt to, I think??) little and actually,more often than not, large, deposits of human visitation. Actually let’s take away that word hide. Cos that’s not what is happening here. More a proud statement of “Look what I did”
After all, the white fluttering ends of a Folder, herald the surprise up ahead. The white and even sometimes, pink castle of a Scruncher perched high on the deposit clearly identify – “check out my skill”.
Now I’ve always been one to speak clearly to my kids about bodily functions. It’s natural, normal and just a fact of life. And no need to be embarrassed about it. And really quite important in the grand scheme of things to get rid of it regularly. But come on, there’s a difference about not being embarrassed about a bodily function and proudly proclaiming it to all the world. And then lining it up comparatively next to a previous visitors. Is this merely to show solidarity or as I suspect in many cases, the warm up competition for the climbing day ahead?
There are of course those who are not ready to stand or squat in the open in the evergrowing line as the case may be and prefer to join others in a little more secluded environment
To those, I salute….well, sort of. At least containment to a hidden area hides the multitude of waving flags until the last moment. The element of surprise perhaps? Although I thought suprises were supposed to be nice.
To state that I haven’t come across any gifts of human nature around our own crags here in Australia would be a lie. Many a time, I have wondered why the ability to dig a hole with a stick seems to be a skill that not everyone is adept at. But on the whole and in it (pun intended), there does appear to be a concerted effort by most people to be modest about their deposits and to resist the urge to show the world. I do so hope that the patriotic flags of Sorbent Super Soft never find their way en masse to the cliffs of Australia (although I have heard some reports….) Climbers…be strong. Retain your secret. Bury your statement.