Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

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T2
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Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by T2 » 30 May 2018, 15:53

The discussion below was initially taking place among the forum moderators in relation to an individual post, but the discussion seemed relevant to a broader audience. I have edited out references to the original post to allow the discussion to focus on the general issue of when we publish canyon details, how much we publish, and what the implications of those decisions might be.



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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by Kosta » 30 May 2018, 16:42

My take is to not add information about little or not described canyons.

If the canyon already has a proper write up in Jamison's book, people can go nuts and add more details as much as they like.

If, however, the canyon only has a grid reference or is completely unknown, I would keep it this way. For these canyons I would suggest a) don't publish any track notes and b) don't publish descriptions/photos of the canyon.

I think, that many people enjoy exploratory trips. And while there are only a few truly undiscovered canyons around, re-discovering canyons without knowing what to expect comes close enough.

For those who like doing canyons with proper track notes, there are a lot of canyons that are properly described already. Thus, by keeping the status quo, both camps are served well.

For deciding which canyons are described, I would use Jamison's book as reference.

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by DaveJones » 30 May 2018, 20:28

kaymes wrote:
30 May 2018, 16:42
My take is to not add information about little or not described canyons.
If the canyon already has a proper write up in Jamison's book, people can go nuts and add more details as much as they like.
If Jamison could publish them, why can't anyone?
I don't buy any argument that Jamison is somehow the reference of what's acceptable and what's not.
If, however, the canyon only has a grid reference or is completely unknown, I would keep it this way. For these canyons I would suggest a) don't publish any track notes and b) don't publish descriptions/photos of the canyon.
I don't see what harm photos and basic descriptions like rope lengths needed etc.
Detailed track notes, ok, an argument can be made for not doing that perhaps.
I think, that many people enjoy exploratory trips. And while there are only a few truly undiscovered canyons around, re-discovering canyons without knowing what to expect comes close enough.
The answer there is easy and obvious, if you are a canyon explorer and enjoy the thrill of discovery, don't read track notes, canyons lists or track reports. No one is being forced to read anything.

I do not see the role of this forum as suppressing information, unless it's something illegal or dangerous etc, it's up to the individual publisher to make their own decision.

And I don't buy any argument based on protection of the wilderness. If you go there then why not shut down the entire forum both here and on Facebook, as it only encourages further use and damage.

Realistically, most of these "unpublished" canyons are unpublished for a reason, usually because they are not easy to get to, which limit pretty much to canyon explorers anyway.

And don't we want to encourage more canyon explorers? If so I see a basic GR, and a photo to entice them as a good step toward that.

But maybe I'm biased because for the last 30 years I have been publishing information and making it freely available?

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by T2 » 30 May 2018, 21:39

Thanks guys. You can see why I wanted thoughts from other people. The feedback has been very helpful (and I like that there's a range of positions. I think that's normal and healthy).

I do think there's a strong argument that grid reference that have been published in a guide book are acceptable to be published here. But I'd also add that I wouldn't want much more info than that available (maybe rope lengths, but to be honest, most of our sandstone canyons can be done with fairly short ropes, so even that isn't necessary).

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by T2 » 31 May 2018, 22:56

I've been mulling this issue and everyone's responses, in particular Dave's questioning about whether we want this forum to be completely open, and if so, how much information that we might personally be uncomfortable or unhappy with we should allow on it.

Finding the right balance between providing a forum where people can openly share information, while also ensuring the protection of the wilderness values of our canyons, is really important. It's part of the reason I was so keen to get a big team of moderators who have put a lot of thought into these issues.

The guiding principle I had in mind in setting up the forum was respect. That doesn't just mean being respectful in how we talk, it also means respecting the canyons, and the broader canyoning community. Getting the balance right so that we protect sensitive areas and retain the wonderful opportunities for exploration are both part of that.

Where I've ended up is that I actually want the forum to be respectful, rather than open. I don't want people to be able to say and do what they want if it is disrespectful to other people. I think that respect for each other extends to getting the balance right between sharing information and retaining opportunities for exploration (requests for info that are then sent via PM are a good example of how this can work). Finally, it also means the forum should be about respect for the canyons themselves, so as moderators we should act in a way that protects and enhances them.

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by Flynny » 21 Jul 2018, 19:20

I'm going to be all wishy washy and end up sitting on the fence...

As someone who does publish a bit of information I feel a bit hypocritical at times when I discourage others from doing so

When you look at the 9 Gardens of Stone and beyond books now published there's not too much Keats and co find that they don't publish (And/or rename). Why is it ok for them to publish "bushwalks" but as soon as we deem it "canyoning" it's all secret squirrel? I enjoy their books immensly and have found some gems I didn't know about previously.

I get their thinking (sort of) let people know what's out there so they care about it.

I also get the other side. You just have to have a look at the fire scars and rubbish at Donkey Mt since it became more widely published...

It's a tough one. I've had the privilege and reward of doing the detective work, putting in the effort and finding my way into canyons and I do see the advantage of leaving some spots unpublished so others can get that same reward but as someone recently said to me as I was swearing him/her to secrecy by sacrificing a rubber chicken to the canyon deities "imagine if tennis players refused to tell anyone where the tennis courts where... Imagine if universities kept everything secret, where they are, what they taught, how to enrol, and they only gace that information to a select elite? If we found out they were doing that we'd tear them down...
DaveJones wrote:
30 May 2018, 20:33
The answer there is easy and obvious, if you are a canyon explorer and enjoy the thrill of discovery, don't read track notes, canyons lists or track reports. No one is being forced to read anything.


It does make it hard to pretend you are exploring after a clear track evolves though. Something that happens with detailed track notes and not so much with just a grid reference.

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by tom_brennan » 22 Jul 2018, 22:05

Flynny wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 19:20
When you look at the 9 Gardens of Stone and beyond books now published there's not too much Keats and co find that they don't publish (And/or rename). Why is it ok for them to publish "bushwalks" but as soon as we deem it "canyoning" it's all secret squirrel? I enjoy their books immensely and have found some gems I didn't know about previously.
Keats et al should be more circumspect with what they publish. They shouldn't be publishing many of their bushwalks, particularly those in wilderness areas. At least, not in the detail that they are. IMHO.

I don't mind them publicising areas outside the current national parks, as part of the campaign for Gardens of Stone Stage 2.

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by marilyn_scott1950 » 23 Jul 2018, 10:07

Had to laugh at Craig F's comment about finding a well worn track on your exploration of a canyon. I went out in May to research an exit of an unpublished canyon (my second attempt at finding the bloody thing), needed to check out the exit to make sure the little old lady wasn't going to be freaked out by the climb out (that you supposedly needed to put a fixed rope at prior to doing the canyon so you could get out). So, found the climb out, but then noticed on my way up the gully that there was a really well-defined "track" which I decided to follow, and sure enough, it led right to the end of the last abseil of the canyon (eliminating the necessity of the climb out). Was surprised that the canyon is well-known enough that a well-trodden track has formed (although these days I shouldn't have been surprised I guess). Mind you, the only reason I knew where the canyon was, was that someone had given me the GR (why should I be given it?).

I agree with Tom's comments (particularly re publishing detailed wilderness bushwalking track notes). Everyone has opinions and the spectrum of to publish and not publish is quite broad. It may be enlightening to us all for the different opinions to be aired.

I don't feel that I have the right to impose "rules" on others. Plus I'm ambivalent about publishing track notes, on the one hand I don't want things published, but on the other hand I know that there's stuff out there that I'd give my left arm to do, but don't want to put someone on the spot by asking for a GR (unless I'm at my wits end and decide to play the "little old lady" and "I only have 2 years of exploration left in me" cards).

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by Flynny » 23 Jul 2018, 16:00

marilyn_scott1950 wrote:
23 Jul 2018, 10:07
(unless I'm at my wits end and decide to play the "little old lady" and "I only have 2 years of exploration left in me" cards).
Damn it! I don't have a little old lady card and my bumbling middle aged git card doesn't seem to work.

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Re: Publishing details of wilderness / remote canyons

Post by tom_brennan » 18 Aug 2018, 17:22

Warning: long and rambly comment, cobbled together from various posts I've made over the years and other bits of text ...
----
Publishing track notes and making route information public has long been a fairly divisive topic in the local canyoning community.

There is a range of views from the publishing of little or no information to that of making just about everything public.

My personal view, which is the position I've taken on my canyoning website, is not to add to the information that is already publicly available. So:
  • where there is significant information already available, you will probably find relatively detailed track notes
  • where there is brief information or just a grid reference, you will probably find a trip report with photos, but no track notes
  • where there is essentially no information, you will probably get some photos and a vague trip report
This attempts to balance the desire of people for information, with the need to minimise impact in less well known areas and to allow opportunities for other people to rediscover new canyons for themselves.

There are 80+ canyons with reasonably detailed descriptions in published guides, and 60 of those are on my website. The vast majority of canyoners will not have done all of these. By the time they have, they should be well equipped to explore for canyons on their own. There is also a wealth of information on the internet, in the form of reports and photos, that provide pointers of where to look for new canyons.

The reasons for my position on publishing/publicising are:
  1. Impacts
  2. Exploration and discovery
Impacts

As far as impacts go, the canyons themselves are often reasonably hardy environments. Being regularly flooded with water tends to make for a certain resilience!

If you took away the slings, the most significant damage you could see in many canyons is to the moss on the rocks, and in some more popular canyons, rope pull damage to the rock itself.

The major impacts tend to come on the way in and on the way out - tracks to the canyon, tracks from the canyon, tracks and erosion along the creek bank. This is where detailed track notes are damaging, as they typically encourage the followers of those notes to use the same route.

The more remote wilderness canyons are reasonably resistant to impact. The difficulty of access means that most canyoners will not bother to visit, and traffic remains low.

Canyons in smaller creeks are more susceptible to damage from canyoners, as they are less exposed to flooding.

There have been a number of canyons in smaller creeks that have become a lot more well-known in the past 10 years. I won't name them, as some still fly under the radar. But the erosion in the canyons and damage to ferns and plants is concerning, and I hope that people refrain from publicising these creeks.


Exploration and discovery

Publishing information and publicising canyons diminishes the opportunity for exploration and discovery.

Discovery is not simply about the canyons. It is also about what you might find on your way there and your way back. Passes, camp caves, rock arches, art sites, waterfalls, cliffs and chasms. If you follow a set of notes then you will find what the author found.

Publishing information particularly diminishes wilderness. One of the ideas of wilderness from a recreation point of view is that there is a bit of mystery left out there. It has not been documented out of existence. This is a particular challenge in the internet age, where once posted, it never disappears.

The Wollemi Wilderness in NSW is the largest declared wilderness area in NSW, indeed, in Australia. This is where the majority of the unpublicised canyons in the Blue Mountains lie, and the lack of published information makes it one of the greatest areas in Australia to explore. Most of the canyons have probably had less visits than the summit of Mt Everest!

One of the beauties of discovery is that even if someone has already discovered something, if there's no information disseminated, then it can be rediscovered by someone else.

A little story from my own experience ...
On a trip one September in the Coorongooba area, on the second last day we dropped into a creek we knew nothing about, late in the afternoon, hoping to quickly find a camp cave. Instead we quickly hit a canyon! Hoping we would make it through fast, we pressed on, abseiling twice in the gloom, finally having to swim (no wetsuits!). With us cold, and it almost dark, we found ourselves facing another drop. Luckily there was an overhang just above the creek, and we set up camp. The rain started to fall, and thunder and lightning crashed around for some time. Fortunately the creek didn't rise, and we were able to complete the canyon the next morning. We had to go to the loo in plastic bags and carry them out in my billy, to avoid polluting the canyon!

The point of the story is that if we had all the beta on this creek, would we have even entered it late in the day? Almost certainly not. While we surely knew we were not the first, we were still able to have a great adventure.

I hope that others in the future will still be able to have similar adventures.

Canyon Names

I generally avoid putting names of new or wilderness canyons on my website. In most cases I refer to the general area (eg Wolgan Canyoning). For easily accessed canyons, I will generally just refer to the trip as "Blue Mountains Canyoning".

This was mainly influenced by an incident quite some years ago.
Rachel and I headed out to look for at that time a relatively unknown canyon in a more popular area. I had a few pieces of beta, including the name. I hadn't left details of exactly where we were going with anyone, so I left the name of this canyon in a logbook near to where we were starting. I was subsequently grilled about details of this new canyon by someone who had found the name in the log book, and I found it difficult to avoid divulging more info than I wanted to provide, without being quite rude.
It is much harder for people to ask "Where is XXX Canyon?" if it hasn't actually been referred to by name.

I generally only put a name for lesser known canyons if I feel the name is sufficiently well known in the canyoning community eg Nightmare.

Policies

The NPWS policy on "adventure sports" includes the following:
Don't publicise "new" canyons or those in wilderness areas to preserve opportunities for discovery and to minimise impacts.
It's worth pointing out that the term NPWS use is "publicise", and not "publish".

The Natural Areas Policy of Bushwalking NSW (formerly the Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs NSW, the parent body of bushwalking clubs in NSW and ACT) includes the following:
Printed guides
Natural Areas - Detailed route guides are permissible so long as they give due regard to protection and conservation.
Wilderness Areas - Limited to general description of the terrain etc, with only broad suggestions concerning route possibilities. Where a well established route passes through wilderness, supportive material should contain sufficient detail to guide the walker through.

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