While the VL hierarchy were seeking cooler climes at Mt Buffalo and in Tasmania all hell broke loose in the Grampians on 15 January, with major fires starting in the northern Grampians and burning great swaths of the park and private property.
In the wake of the fires it seems like there is some confusion amongst climbers about what is open and what isn’t, particularly since this is the second major fire in the last year or so, and there are still closures in place for climbing since the big fire that burnt through the Victoria Range in February last year.
To make it clear, the entire northern Grampians is closed at present – for climbers and tourists alike. Extremely popular areas like Summerday Valley, Hollow Mountain and Mt Stapylton (including Taipan Wall and the Amphitheatre) have, from all accounts, been quite heavily impacted. Climbing areas such as Mt Difficult, the Asses Ears, Bundaleer and Rosea are also all closed.
There are still many areas that remain open for people to climb, particularly in the Victoria Range where only those crags that are accessed of the Camp of the Emu Foot Track are closed (the Lost World, Eureka, Weirs Creek, etc, which were all badly burnt, are all off limits). Crags like Muline, Emu Rock, Mt Fox, Red Rocks and the Gallery are all open, although climbers need to be mindful that these areas are still fragile environments (see the photo of the ground at Mt Fox) and make sure that they stick to the marked tracks.
Crags in the Waterworks areas in the southern Victoria Range are also worth a visit, places like Curiosity Crag, Slander Gully, Ruined Castle, the Flatiron, Tortoise Wall and Gilhams Crag offer a great range of grades, and trad and sport climbing possibilities. The Black Range (Black Ians Crag, for instance) and the Wonderland are also open (although there is still an active but under control fire near Halls Gap).
How long the northern Grampians will remained closed is anyone’s guess. Parks Victoria will have to go in and assess the damage and replace any critical infrastructure. In the meantime, it is important that climbers not climb in closed areas. Last year quite a few climbers ignored bans on climbing and bouldering in the Victoria Range, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Parks Victoria, and we have already heard reports that climbers have been found by Parks staff climbing in Summerday Valley.
Unfortunately, the Grampians has suffered a number of major natural disasters that have affected large parts of the park, for instance, half the park burnt in 2006, then there was massive flood damage in 2011, followed by the Victoria Range fire in 2013, which burnt the other half of the park, followed by this year’s fire. Basically there are few parts of the park that haven’t been burnt in the last eight years. On top of these natural disasters Parks Victoria are struggling with ever decreasing resources and funding, all of these factors mean that climbers will need to be patient while waiting for some of these areas to reopen. It may also mean that if we want to see these areas open sooner, climbers will have to volunteer to help with track works.
As areas reopen we will try to keep climbers informed as to what is happening, but also keep an eye on the CliffCare website.