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

gnp image

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 May 2018

Indigenous cultural heritage -As noted in previous reports, the education tab is being updated with info. Here is the latest brief outline on Indigenous cultural heritage. There will be a lot more conversations around this in the future. More info and downloads on the tab itself.

INDIGENOUS CULTURAL HERITAGE
With climbing and bouldering becoming more popular in the cities now – through the growth of climbing and bouldering gyms – it means that more people are heading out to the parks to try it outdoors. On rock. Needless to say, quality rock is of huge importance here.
Rock also plays a huge part in the history of the indigenous people. They used it for shelter. They held ceremonies on and under it and of it. And they told their stories on it. With so much indigenous history now gone, ensuring that what remains is conserved, is of the utmost importance.
And this is where the co-habitation of climbing/bouldering and indigenous cultural heritage can be a delicate and sensitive path that we must tread.
Maybe in years gone by, cultural heritage wasn’t so much of a priority when it came to people getting outdoors and pursuing their activities. But hopefully we know better now. And we know more. Awareness of cultural heritage has been something that, we at CliffCare, have been trying to encourage the climbing community to engage it. With Traditional Owners now in joint and co-management in a variety of parks, the conversation is one that is coming up more regularly.
There will be more discussions on this and hopefully many climbers come to the table to help us progress on workable solutions to use many of the same places whilst protecting the history of the indigenous people. On the Education tab, there are a variety of thoughts, articles and info downloads to start you thinking. A few words below from Gordon Poultney from the first Grampians Bouldering guidebook a number or years ago. Whilst it was written in relation to boulderers and the guidebook, the info is the same for climbing. Bracketed words have been added to the quote. Food for thought.

Picture this. The city that you and your friends and family have lived in for hundreds of generations has just been taken over by other people. Very different people. Massacres, murder, rape and new diseases have decimated your kind to a fringe dwelling existence where once you were free. Your sports stadiums, war memorials, churches and art galleries have largely been destroyed or defaced beyond recognition… There’s no reason for us as boulderers (climbers) to add to this dispossession. Please don’t climb over or near rock art sites. Not only is it illegal but morally wrong to do so. It is culturally arrogant for us to pass ill informed judgement on the quality, merits and value of rock art sites.
No fires, particularly not in caves. If you’re cold put on more clothes or go home.
Wherever you go in the Grampians – if you know what to look for – you will find evidence of the Indigenous peoples who lived in the area, from rock art, tree scarring to the quarrying that you will see at nearly every crag in the Grampians. This heritage is extremely precious, and as boulderers (climbers) we have a particular responsibility to tread carefully because rock art often occurs in the kinds of places where we like to climb – overhanging caves. If you have even a suspicion there is rock art in a cave, don’t climb in it. There is plenty of rock, and no single boulder problem (or rock face/cave) is worth damaging rock art for, or risking our access to these areas.
https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/indigenous-cultural-heritage/

IMG_1425

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.

Fixed Protection & Development Guidelines Grampians

UPDATE: 5/9/17
Conversations via the Chockstone forum have slowed down but discussions are still ongoing. Some are public, some are private so if you have something you would like to provide feedback on, please feel free to comment either way. What are your thoughts on climbing areas in the Grampians? On development of newer areas, trad, sport and bouldering? Do you see any issues? Do you have ideas on solutions. All goes into the pot. A more recent Access report gives a little more on the topic. Give it a read. Link is here: https://cliffcare.org.au/2018/08/01/access-environment-report-august-2018/
A survey is also in the pipeline which will provide some questions for people which will enable us to get a better idea of numbers, thoughts and ideas to work with moving forward. Fixed protection and development is just one element of the sustainable climbing conversation we need to be having but it is one that is perhaps a little more pressing.

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MAY 19 2018. As noted in a number of Access reports last year, the time was fast approaching that the climbing community would need to start asking themselves the harder questions and the new year would see some of these conversations put in place. Following some issues in the Black Range (Greater Grampians area), where cultural heritage was directly impacted by new development and fixed protection, ensuing discussions with Parks Victoria, Aboriginal Victoria and  Traditional Owners involved not only these sites and the seriousness of it, but threw the conversation net much wider. PV’s concerns(which have been ongoing) about the amount of new development in the park, especially that involving fixed protection was much more than a just a passing comment. Solutions would need to be found. Climbing community feedback and involvement would be encouraged.

Fixed Protection and Development guidelines for the Grampians are now being developed by the climbing community and climbers are invited to provide feedback to come up with a draft framework. We can then finesse this further and my discussions with land managers will also shape the final set of guidelines. There are other elements to this and progressions will be updated as this occurs.

Getting the information out there and getting it back in, is in itself, no easy task, being the fragmented lot we are.We are currently using the Chockstone forum to discuss and provide information to develop a draft. I encourage you all to provide some feedback. Please be respectful and keep any personal slanging to yourself so that we can keep the discussion on track. As we all know, this is an emotive subject for many. There are a number of climbers that are trying to collate the information as it develops and finesse the draft further. At least scan through a good section of the conversation that is developing. This conversation will eventually move on from Chockstone when it becomes too unwieldy and I shall keep you informed on this. This draft will be developed and used in future discussions about climbing and it’s sustainable future in the Grampians. As the GNP is where the bulk of issues are coming from currently, and this is a complex process, working on the Grampians is a good place to start. This will then make it much easier to put together an overall one in the future that may have specifics for certain parks.

I will be setting up another section on the CliffCare website to provide ongoing reference material and links. So keep checking back. This one conversation is part of a bigger one.
https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/fixed-protection-development-grampians-guidelines/

Chockstone link – Fixed gear guidelines in the Grampians http://www.chockstone.org/Forum/Forum.asp?Action=DisplayTopic&ForumID=1&MessageID=132730&Replies=118#NewPost

If you feel that commenting on a public forum is not your thing, please feel free to drop me a line cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au