Parks Victoria has just released an official report (which you can read below) on what the January fires will mean for climbers. Given that it is still very early in the recovery effort, the report doesn’t state how long it will be before climbers can start accessing burnt areas of the northern Grampians, but from conversations we have had with Parks, badly burnt areas – including places like Summerday Valley – could be closed for up a year while they recover. Other areas could be open much sooner as they were more patchily burned, but it also depends on whether infrastructure has been damaged. For instance, we understand that Hollow Mountain car park has been damaged but the Mt Zero car park was untouched.
Tracey Skinner from Cliffcare is also reporting (you can read her report here) that the northern head of the Victoria Range is now open to climbers. This is good news. However, in less good news, the Emu Foot Track (now known as Janangin jawi Track), which is used to access all the cliffs – the Lost World, Eureka Wall, Weirs Creek, etc – will be permanently closed from now on. This means that access to all these cliffs will take significantly longer, with a cliff like Weirs Creek possibly taking up to an hour and a half to access. Vertical Life is hoping that perhaps some kind of compromise could be reached, with the gate being moved further down the track to somewhere like the start of the track into Eureka Wall, which still gives a good buffer of a couple of kilometres before you get the caves at the end of the track. However, climbers should respect this closure while other options are negotiated.
Before reading on, it’s important to remember that Parks is still very much in the early stages of assessing the damage to the northern Grampians and climbers will really need to be patient (particularly as Parks will now be giving out fines to those who ignore closures). Looking at the photos included in this article it is clear that areas like Summerday Valley have been extremely severely burnt, which will mean that the environment will need a long time to recover. It’s also worth remembering that the Grampians is a very large park and there are a lot of other areas that it is possible to climb. In fact, it could be a good opportunity to explore new areas of the park. We are planning on releasing an article about other areas of the Grampians that are less well known but are open and are really worthwhile crags – so keep an eye out for that.
Parks Victoria Update
The Northern Grampians Fire severely burnt the natural environment and much of the park infrastructure in and around Hollow Mountain, Summerday Valley and Mt Stapylton – this includes many popular rock climbing and bouldering sites; as a result there are many park closures in place. The dry, rocky landscape is now extremely fragile and will take a long time to recover – the fire burnt extremely hot so in many cases regeneration will now occur (very slowly) from seed. Loss of vegetation, loose rocks, unstable soils and loss of access tracks means any foot traffic will have long term impacts on the recovery of the environment. Impacts now will also affect the sustainability of rock climbing sites well into the future.
Please respect the fragility of the environment and support the long term recovery of the Northern Grampians by remaining out of any closed areas. While Parks Victoria regrets the need to enforce closures, substantial fines will be imposed on those found in any closed, fire affected area.
Parks Victoria recognises the importance and popularity of the Northern Grampians to the rock climbing and bouldering communities and will be working closely with industry and community representatives throughout a staged reopening process. Environmental considerations will largely determine when sites are available to be reopened, and replacement of damaged infrastructure will occur as suitable funding is available.
As part of the recovery process, Parks Victoria will be identifying alternative options for climbing and bouldering, and will closely monitor impacts on these sites as their use and popularity increases. There will also be significant work done on the future experience of visitors in the Northern Grampians.
Parks Victoria is continuing to improve its understanding of the needs of climbers and boulderers and is intent on providing an experience that is well respected, regarded, promoted and understood throughout the Australian and International Climbing and bouldering communities.
Parks Victoria will be relying heavily on the climbing industry to work together to spread the messages about the fragility of the landscape and the long term sustainability of rock climbing in the Grampians. There may be opportunities for licenced tour operators, school and community based groups to become involved in the recovery process.
Due to closures in the Northern Grampians, the availability of rock climbing, camping, car touring and bushwalking experiences is limited. Sourcing information on available campgrounds and other accommodation options is recommended. Please visit www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for park maps and regular Grampians fire recovery updates.
For detailed information on available rockclimbing and bouldering sites in and near to the Grampians please refer to recognised guidebooks/websites. A general list of open and available areas includes the following:
Rockclimbing sites open in the Grampians:
- Wonderland Range
- Serra Range (Including Mt Rosea and Bundaleer)
- Mt William Range
- Victoria Point area
- Victoria Range (Including the Red Rock, Muline and the Gallery area. Please respect cultural heritage and recovering fire affected areas)
Limited Bouldering sites available in and near the Grampians:
- Victoria Range (Including the Gallery area. Please respect cultural heritage and recovering fire affected areas)
- Serra Range (Including Mt Rosea and Bundaleer)
- Mt Arapiles
- Mt Talbot
- The Black Range
Please remember your climbing etiquette:
- Only climb and boulder in open accessible areas
- Stick to tracks
- Respect fragile environmental areas and cultural heritage
- Keep an eye out for Aboriginal Art sites – Report to Parks Victoria if you come across anything new.
- Be mindful of cleaning
- No chipping or bolting
- Avoid excessive chalk
- Take your rubbish home with you