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.

 

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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.

IMG_9305

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.

Dogs and Cats at the Crag

We love our pets. So much so that we want to take them everywhere. And therein lies the problem. Sometimes that everywhere includes the cliffs you climb at. In Victoria, most of the climbing areas are in National or State Parks. And apart from a few State parks and reserves that will allow leashed dogs, everywhere else is a no go. And no exceptions whatsoever for National Parks. There have been a couple of reports recently of climbers taking dogs and cats on leashes to the Grampians.

Short and sweet – Don’t do it. Politely – Please don’t do it. Below are a few bulleted points as to why these rules are in place. They are in place for everyone from day visitors to overnight campers to climbers. From a climbing community perspective, and from my perspective as someone who deals directly with access issues and land managers, this is not cool. It does influence non climbers and land managers opinions on the climbing community and it doesn’t bode well when I go in to bat for the community about the responsible actions of climbers. It’s also illegal and worth a hefty fine.

There are many reasons as to why it is not appropriate nor allowed, to bring animals into the park. In most cases, dogs have been the pet of choice to bring but it appears that pet cats have now joined the visitor list. Feral cats are a growing problem in the parks with a number of control programs currently being discussed. Their impact on the native wildlife is extensive. Bringing a pet cat into a park can attract feral cats merely through their scent.

  • Animals are not allowed in National Parks to ensure that the park is managed in accordance with its objectives, which is to preserve and protect the natural environment and to conserve flora and fauna.
  • They can compete with or harass, chase, trample or prey upon native fauna, especially ground-dwelling species.
  • They can also disturb wildlife by their scent, sounds, scratching and digging. They may also transmit diseases and parasites to native fauna.
  • Their urine and excrement can attract wild dogs, foxes and feral cats.

Please don’t think that because your animal is on a lead and well behaved that it is an exception to the rule. And understand that by bringing your pet in, you will have influenced someone else to do the same with their beloved pet.

Note: The responsible actions of fellow climbers were to thank for the reports of these incidents. If you do see a doggie or moggie at the cliff, even if the owner is a friend and a generally all around nice person – please let them know it’s not right and to leave the furry family member at home.

Planned Burns – Mt Arapiles & Grampians National Park

Some of these burns may impact your climbing plans. Info below and maps available for download. Register for the planned burn notification system if you want to be kept up to date. Sometimes burns will occur when a perfect weather window appears which doesn’t always give you much notice.

Planned Burns this Autumn at Mt Arapiles. See info below. Dates haven’t been announced yet but as of yesterday, there won’t be any done in the next 7-10 days at least, due to unsuitable weather conditions. Date will be announced when known.

Download here:

1 Fact Sheet_Mt Arapiles_Autumn2017

2 Community Map_Plan Burning Autumn 2017_Mt. Arapiles -Tooan State Park

Planned Burns in the Grampians National Park for this Autumn

Following is info provided:
A number of burns have been scheduled across the Grampians National Park, please see the map attached. These are planned for the Autumn months but FFMVic work closely with the Bureau of Meteorology to assess suitable weather conditions and burning will only go ahead when the weather conditions are suitable. Plans will often change at short notice.

Planned burning in the Grampians National Park is scheduled to take place this year predominately after the Easter School holidays, apart from the Grampians – Jimmy Creek Fuel Reduction Burn which may be actioned earlier to take advantage of favourable conditions. This burn however will result in very few impacts to visitors with no walking track closures, no impacts to visitor sites & limited road closures.

There are many ways to find out where planned burns are happening in your area. You can sign up online by searching for the Planned Burn Notification System (PBNS), which you can customise to suit your notification needs, or contact the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.  Alternatively you can contact the Horsham DELWP office on 03 5362 0720.

Prior to any burning, notifications will be sent to land holders and stakeholders in the area.  Burn notification signs will be placed around the park and community engagement staff will be available for questions and feedback from the community.

Should you have any further queries do not hesitate to contact DELWP Horsham on 5362 0720.

Grampians CE Map

Download here:

Grampians CE Map

https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/bushfire-fuel-and-risk-management/planned-burns/planned-burning-notification-system

Access & Environment Report April 2017

Drones. Love them or hate them. Love them for their ability to provide some amazing video perspectives. And we have all, oohed and aahed over amazing climbing footage. Hate them for – well, there appears to be a variety of reasons as to why people/climbers hate them. The main one seems to be that they are extremely noisy and invasive. And the privacy factor is also high on the scale. A sure fire way to ruin some quiet enjoyment at the cliff . For those of you who have had the opportunity to have a drone hang around you or nearby whilst leading up a route, will more than likely attest to the fact that it’s not something you can ignore. And more than likely attest to the fact that it pissed you off .

Regardless of personal opinions, the reality of drones in parks is becoming more prevalent as they become more affordable for the general public. Which means that the rules on drones and their usage in parks starts to come into play. These rules – which are highlighted in the poster below – have been in place for quite a while but like lots of issues that have rules attached to them (and there are many) they often won’t see the light of day until it becomes…….an issue. And here we are.

Early days yet, but already there have been unpleasant murmurings from some in the climbing community about the use of drones. And from my interaction with various people – not many are aware that in fact, you can’t just buy a drone and go fly it. As opposed to kites. And certainly not go fly it in parks.

So in the interests of good climber discussion, which is always much better than abusive climber discussion – be aware.

For those who have a professional interest, my advice would be to get the permit and make note at the park, via social media etc that you will be fiming and in what general area. Possibly that way, people can organize their climbing for the day and there will be less pissed off people.

I foresee that there will be more discussions on this via land managers, park users and drone operators. If you have something to say about it – drop me a line
cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

NOTE: THE POSTER BELOW HIGHLIGHTS MT ARAPILES TOOAN STATE PARK BUT THIS IS ALSO INDICATIVE OF ALL NATIONAL /STATE PARKS.

Arapiles DroneUsageSign

Arapiles Rescue Locations

Zoe Wilkinson who is the Area Chief Ranger Wimmera and who is a climber herself, recently put together this article to explain the new Rescue locations system that has been put in place at Mt Arapiles. Whilst we hope of course that this doesn’t have to be used, the reality is that at some point an accident will happen, and knowing the best way to report this can save vital time when it comes to emergency services accessing the injured. Climbers might know where an area is, but expecting emergency services to, without any point of reference is a tricky one. Arapiles now has it’s own system that relates to climbs and staging points rather than the standard Emergency markers that are at many other parks and coastal areas. Take the time to acquaint yourself and then print off a copy. And pass it on.

Arapiles rescue reporting and locations

Improving emergency response

Rock climbing accidents
at
Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park

by Zoe Wilkinson – Climber, VCC Member and Parks Victoria Area Chief Ranger Wimmera

Do you know what to do if you have a climbing accident at Mount Arapiles that requires an ambulance and cliff rescue?

·       Call Triple Zero 000 – clearly stating the need for an Ambulance AND Cliff Rescue

·       Tell operator:

–        Accident location – Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park

–        Name of the climb (For example:- Spellbinder),

–        Climbing Area Name (For example:- Pharos Gully Right Side)

–        If known, name of nearest vehicular access point (For example:- Pharos Gully Carpark)

·       If possible send someone to the nearest vehicular access point to meet and direct the paramedics and other responding emergency agencies. These may include SES, CFA, VicPolice and Parks Victoria.

 

The emergency response problem

Rock climbing accidents requiring an ambulance to Mount Arapiles are fortunately uncommon. When they occur, Triple Zero 000 operators are likely to ask for information to verify the location of the incident to guide the ambulance. This may include the names of the nearest road intersection, the co-ordinates of the incident if known, the name of the climb and the name of the climbing area (eg Pharos Gully).

This is the standard way that the operators at Triple Zero 000 (ESTA – The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority) locate an incident. While effective for road traffic incidents, having the responding paramedic directed to the intersection of Summit Road and Centenary Park Road at Mount Arapiles is not going to be a great help in locating a climber having fallen off ‘Snow Blind’, for example, in the bottom of Yesterday Gully.

All too often the responding paramedics and emergency services providing cliff rescue have to drive around at Mount Arapiles until hopefully they come across the location of the accident or bump into someone who knows where the accident has happened. This is at best frustrating and at worst potentially a matter of life and death for the individual if they are suffering critical injuries.

Emergency Markers – Useful but not considered the best solution for Arapiles

Emergency Markers (managed by ESTA) with a code (see picture below) on them that link to co-ordinates back in the ESTA 000 databases are one response to this problem. You may have seen them in Melbourne, such as around the Botanic Gardens running track ‘The Tan’, or along the Victorian coast where they are used quite extensively. If someone collapses on ‘The Tan’ running track you simply quote the code of the nearest Emergency Marker to the operator when you call 000 and the ambulance will know exactly where to go. There is also an Emergency Marker at the Burnley Bouldering Wall in Richmond

A better solution – Using Climbing Area Names to guide rescue

Detailed location information already exists – the name of the climb and the climbing area itself, as listed in the commonly used rock climbing guide books and on online sites such as ‘The Crag’. Telling any climber who knows Mount Arapiles that there has been an accident up at ‘Beautiful Possibilities’ on ‘Central Gully Left Side’ is as good as giving them a precise GPS co-ordinate. The climber knows exactly where the nearest road access point is for the responding ambulance – at the top of the Pines – and how to get to the accident site from there. The challenge is conveying that knowledge, via the ESTA 000 centralised dispatch system, through to the paramedics and other responding agencies.

So Parks Victoria has been working on an innovative but common sense solution based on a good understanding of how climbers use Arapiles. The aim is to use existing climbing area names, to improve climbing accidents rescue response at Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park. Co-ordinates and names for 57 climbing areas (For example:- Pinnacle Face, Left Watchtower Face, New Image Wall, The Organ Pipes ) and 13 nearest vehicular access points (officially called Rescue Staging Points, for example Pharos Gully Carpark – see Map) have now been collected and uploaded to the ESTA 000 database (as part of the state-wide Common Place Names geo-dataset).

All emergency response and rescue organisations – Victoria Police (who under the Emergency Management Act are legislatively in charge of all rescues in Victoria), Ambulance Victoria, the SES Horsham (which includes members of the former local Arapiles Rescue Group), CFA, ESTA (Triple Zero 000) and Parks Victoria – have been involved and informed about this process. Documentation and maps for incident management purposes have now been completed. Kieran Loughran (local climber and longstanding local rescue group member) has updated ‘The Crag’ (https://www.thecrag.com/climbing/australia/arapiles) to include a specific reference to the climbing area names that has been used in the ESTA Triple Zero 000 database (For example:- Emergency Location – Voodoo Area, Mount Arapiles). Maps and information for climbers on what to do in case of an accident have been made available on the new Visitor Information Boards and in the Toilet Block at Mount Arapiles.

The final step has been the installation at Mount Arapiles of normal low-key park signage (see below) clearly identifying the 13 nearest vehicular access points (Rescue Staging Points) for all 3000 climbs at all 57 climbing areas. The primary aim of these signs is to confirm the location for the responding paramedics and emergency agencies without being too intrusive. On a normal day to day basis the signs will help orientate visitors in the park.

Now the new system is in place, following the notification process at the beginning of this article should lead to a more informed response from emergency services. The next unfortunate climbing accident will test the system and hopefully benefit from improved emergency response times. We would like to be waiting a long time to test it.

ArapilesRescueStagingPointsMap

 

 

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Campfires at Arapiles – Keep it in the campground please.

 

Just another post on that old chestnut – campfires. It’s all been said before. CliffCare and Friends of Arapiles as well as many members of the climbing community are working together to try and get the information out there. This recent campfire was discovered last week at the Good Morning Arapiles boulder. Quite a large and recent campfire as well as a half burnt  log which  I can only assume was removed from the campfire at the end of the evening. Signage is at the campground. But best it be said again. Campfires at Mt Arapiles are:

  1. Only allowed in the actual campground.
  2. Only allowed in the campground and in the official metal fireplaces
  3. Only allowed between 1st May and 31st October. (No fires between 1st Nov & 30th April)
  4. Firewood collection is not allowed in the park.

Put a jacket on if you are cold.

Various reasons as to why – the main one being environmental impact. Especially so in an isolated park such as Mt Arapiles.  At this point in time, people are still allowed to have campfires, albeit in the campground. It would be great if this could continue but if the incidences of campfires around the park continues to grow, we could find ourselves out of luck.

There have been numerous posts on this. A couple that I can link to immediately:

https://cliffcare.org.au/2011/07/30/wood-fires-at-arapiles/