Parks Victoria have issued a FAQ page which more clearly states the current status of climbing sites in the Grampians National Park.
Parks Victoria have issued a FAQ page which more clearly states the current status of climbing sites in the Grampians National Park.
On Tuesday 12 February, we attended a meeting with Parks Victoria and representatives from the climbing community and the Western Victoria Climbing club to talk about rock climbing access in the Grampians.
Parks Victoria advised that eight areas in the western Grampians will be closed to rock climbers. The exact locations of the areas were not provided at the meeting, however, we were told to expect this information within 48 hours.
Signage will be put up at the eight closed areas over the next two weeks and people ignoring the closures will be issued with fines.
As soon as we receive information about the exact locations of the closures, we will make this available. We anticipate the majority are located in the Victoria Range.
Parks Victoria are banning climbing in these areas because Aboriginal Victoria—the organisation responsible for cultural heritage management and protection—believes Parks Victoria have failed to protect cultural sites. Aboriginal Victoria can place large fines on Parks Victoria in these cases.
There are ongoing concerns about damage to cultural sites due to the impact of climbing and bouldering. Two cases of bolting occurring close to rock art in the Black Range have added to the problems.
As well as the exact locations of the closures, we asked for information about the size of the closed areas (where the bans will extend to) and the reasons climbing bans are being placed on these particular areas.
With more information, we hope to be able to prevent other areas being closed to climbing and find ways to work together to protect the park.
The potential for more closures is a real possibility and Parks Victoria told us they plan to look at the impacts of climbing and bouldering in other areas.
As well as damage to cultural heritage, Parks Victoria are very concerned about environmental damage occurring in the park, in particular the active removal of vegetation around boulders, impacts due to bouldering mats on vegetation, and the use of fixed anchors and track clearing.
Parks Victoria plans to create a stakeholder group to help develop a state-wide climbing policy. And also provide input to update the 2003 park management plan for the Grampians, which currently doesn’t include guidance for activities like bouldering.
It’s essential that our response is clear, coordinated and respectful.
We are a legitimate user group of the Grampians National Park and climbing, like many other activities, can exist in a way that doesn’t impact negatively on cultural or environmental values.
Please respect these bans as they will be policed and ignoring the closures could jeopardise access to other areas. We strongly encourage you to familiarise yourself with the information Cliffcare has provided to date about access issues in the Grampians. It can be found on the CliffCare website.
Further information about the locations of closed areas will be provided as soon as we receive it.
Vertical Life have also provided a statement https://www.verticallifemag.com.au/?p=9835
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer
Have you signed up to follow the CliffCare blog?
Rather than just one main site where the climbing community goes to collect information, we tend to be a bit scattered in this regards. Be it route info, access info and updates or general climbing articles, the sites we visit are many. And when it comes to social media, getting up to date info can be dependent on whether you check regularly or even if it shows up in your news feed. And that probably won’t change anytime soon.
There are some great sites to visit and many Facebook pages that can give real time feedback. Some of this can have the tendency to wander off track or continue conversations that may not be so well informed. And understandably, sometimes this happens because at that present time, there may not be many hard and fast facts.
As we start down the road of collaborating on a sustainable climbing future in the Grampians National Park, I would like to take this opportunity to ask that people sign up to follow the CliffCare website. What this means is that every time something is posted, especially important now with the Grampians, you will receive an email alerting you to it. Whilst I do share these also via social media – as noted above, seeing it can be dependent on what shows in your newsfeed or how regularly you check it.
This way you get the actual Access details and reports about any current progress. Links to any surveys or calls for help. You get the basics, the fundamentals. And then, after that there are plenty of other avenues and sites to read others thoughts or suggestions.
We think Vertical Life gives some well thought out and balanced articles. Food for thought, ideas for the road ahead.
As always, your feedback to CliffCare is much appreciated. It has all been, and will continue to be, taken onboard. I will endeavour to respond to all, but please understand that this isn’t always possible.
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer
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
This coming Saturday 5th May!
WOD. None of the other Workouts of the Day give you warm fuzzy feelings, or brownies for that matter. Rock up, haul a rock or two, feel pumped, eat a brownie, go climb. Or sleep. Whatever. Let’s do this people! (said in a deep, yelly and authoritative voice. But still a friendly voice:-)
Hmmm….Now it sounds a bit more complex.
As more people take up climbing and bouldering and then head into the bush, the issue of trails – the creation and the maintenance of them, becomes more and more a topic on the land managers blackboard. This then becomes more of an issue that we in the climbing community, need to take on board and work towards resolving. So addressing some of the problems now, hopefully can prevent them into the future as new climbing areas are created.
Why is staying on the trail so important?
Fragile plant life. Walking off trail means you will be trampling vegetation. Much of this is fragile. The parks now more than ever are also at risk of invasive plant species – weeds. Some of the native vegetation is in a struggle to survive as it is. Once it is gone, it basically allows the often stronger invasive species to take over with the indigenous plants never returning.
Erosion and Instability. A domino effect. When you trample vegetation, over time it doesn’t regenerate, leaving the top soil exposed. This is then lost through a combination of foot traffic,rain and wind. The problems with this are multiple. Gullies are formed and become water runnels which further erodes the area. As the gullies deepen, people walk a little further to the side to avoid them and the process starts all over again. Wider and wider sections of vegetation are lost and the trails and surrounding area become unstable.
So, First and Foremost –
Stay on the established trail. That means going into and out of a climbing area. In most cases established trails, whether they are formal ones created by land managers or the informal climbers access tracks, have been created to provide sustainable routes. If the trail is muddy or vegetation grows across, continue to stick to the trail rather than travelling wider to avoid. This just creates a new track or a wider one. Going off trail damages the environment. For all the reasons noted.
Creating New Tracks
The reality of developing new climbing and bouldering areas often means that people will go off track. If there is no way of staying on an established trail, please do this thoughtfully. And minimally. Guidelines to take onboard –
Choose the less steep option. Unless it is on a rock surface, steepness means erosion later on. Switchbacks are better options for steep ground. Going steep because it cuts a little time off getting to the climb isn’t worth the loss of our native habitat.
Gullies aren’t great as access tracks. Gullies are formed by water which means that excessive foot traffic will further speed up the erosion process as the gullies become deeper.
Stay on durable surfaces ie rock whenever possible, to spare fragile plant life.
Digging and disturbing soil – leave the tools at home. All of the parks in Victoria are required to adhere to the Aboriginal Act (2009). And before any soil can be moved, a cultural heritage inspection needs to take place to ensure that no cultural heritage is being impacted by soil being moved. For instance, if Parks Victoria want to put in a new trail, they are required by law to first get clearance to do so and that means getting a cultural heritage inspection along with a variety of other requirements.
Don’t install any infrastructure.
Refrain from cutting or breaking any native vegetation to create a trail.
And lastly – if there are any areas on climber’s access tracks that have issues, be it erosion, fallen trees, new multiple social tracks growing etc, drop CliffCare a line email@example.com and we can go from there. It is up to us to try and prevent and manage issues before they become major but as they are generally in state and national parks, it is also about going about this in a more thoughtful way and working with the land managers.
This can be found here: https://cliffcare.org.au/about/education/tracks/