Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post Reply
User avatar
T2
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales

Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by T2 » 26 Mar 2019, 13:47

I'm a little late to this, not being a climber, but last month rock climbing was banned in parts of the Grampians National Park. (https://www.thecourier.com.au/story/590 ... onal-park/)

Much of the areas have technically been closed to climbers for years, but those bans are now being enforced, with fines for non-compliance (Parks Victoria document with maps of the closed areas attached).

The key issue has been the rise of sport climbing, and bolting, in sensitive areas. Thousands of bolts have appeared in the park. In two instances, bolts have been drilled through Indigenous rock art. Those incidents seem to be what made authorities gave up on talking to the community about self-regulating, and shift to imposing bans and fines.

Whatever you think about the decision, there's some important things for canyoners to think about. Firstly, National Parks are primarily about protecting natural areas, including plants, animals, and heritage items. Recreational opportunities are secondary to this. Secondly, while a blind eye is often turned to activities like bolting or making tracks -- both of which are generally illegal in national parks -- they can be enforced in drastic ways that close off access entirely. Finally, if recreational communities fail to properly regulate behaviour, the authorities can and will step in.

Parks Victoria have published a document outlining the bans and their reasons here: https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/park ... imbing-faq

It specifically outlines some of the activities that have led to this ban, including "cutting or damaging vegetation" to make tracks, "damage to rock faces such as drilling holes", litter, and campfires in inappropriate places.

In the canyoning scene, the placing of bolts is still limited, but seems to be undergoing a resurgence. I was recently told a spectacular canyon I explored last year in Tasmania has subsequently had several bolts added. I have also heard a number of reports of bolts appearing in canyons in various parts of northern NSW. In one case, involving a regional representative of the canyoning associate, that person wrote a facebook post openly stating that they they had placed the bolts in a National Park.

The bans in Victoria show how easily a few rogue "cowboys" placing bolts in places where they aren't supposed to be can lead to large-scale bans, impacting the entire community.

But more than just bolts, it highlights our broader need to ensure we minimise our impacts on the environment and visual amenity of national parks, to ensure our pursuit can continue to be enjoyed. Ensuring rubbish is removed, avoiding leaving fixed ropes etc (particularly in areas visible to the general public), working to reduce erosion and environmental damage, avoiding damage to rock surfaces (whether from bolts, rope groves, or other human impacts) and avoiding inappropriate campfires (particularly on rock surfaces) will all help ensure canyons remain open well into the future.

Canyoning in national parks is a privileged, not a right. If as a community we fail to care for these places properly, we may face the same situation as climbers are in the Grampians.



dyl_jo
Posts: 11
Joined: 22 May 2018, 20:39
Full name: Dylan Jones
City: Blackheath
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by dyl_jo » 26 Mar 2019, 16:06

" I was recently shown a facebook post by a committee member from the NSW Canyoning Association bragging about placing bolts in a National Park. "
I think it is important to maintain a distinction between the actions of committee members and official statements by the NSWCA. I am not a committee member of the NSWCA, but my understanding is that the org does not currently have a bolting policy. This means that they are unable to have an opinion (positive or negative) on the actions of anyone (committee member or otherwise) regarding bolting in canyons.
Additionally, I don't think it does the canyoning community any good to post things that could be construed as divisive. This comment would have been just as clear and effective if it said " There are numerous facebook posts that brag about or encourage placing bolts in a National Park. "

User avatar
T2
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by T2 » 26 Mar 2019, 16:49

Dylan, not being an active Facebook user I haven't seen "numerous facebook posts". I'm sure that you're right about there being many others, but I've only seen one recently. I was emailed a screen shot of it by someone who was deeply concerned that it came from a committee member of the NSWCA.

I agree that there is a difference between the actions of an individual and an organisation, and I never suggested that those actions were endorsed by the NSWCA. But if someone holds a position through which they claim to represent the broader canyoning community, and that same person openly acts in breach of the rules set by land managers, it is of much greater seriousness than if some rogue individual did the same thing. That said, the actions of either could put at risk our access to canyoning areas.

My concern with all this stuff if that individuals often don't see the broader significance of their actions. Seemingly little things, like a bolt here, a new track there, or simply increasing amounts of rubbish, can build upon each other and have significant impacts. That appears to be what has occurred in the Grampians. Lots of little things over many years culminating in a very substantial access ban.

My point was simply that people need to be aware of what can happen, of the fact that our access to canyons is not guaranteed, and that our actions as a community to care for these special places is an essential part of ensuring a sustainable future for everyone who enjoys canyoning.

User avatar
JulieB
Posts: 10
Joined: 22 May 2018, 18:51
Full name: Julie Burton
City: Bathurst
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by JulieB » 26 Mar 2019, 21:37

The person you have said is a NSWCA committee member is not a committee member. He is a person who has only recently been added as a non office bearing regional representative, and has since made a public statement that his his actions were undertaken as an individual not representative of NSWCA views. I trust you take this correction on board as it is intended.

Julie Burton
President
NSW Canyoning Association.

User avatar
T2
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by T2 » 26 Mar 2019, 23:05

Thanks for that clarification Julie. I hadn't seen his subsequent statement.

tom_brennan
Posts: 31
Joined: 24 May 2018, 06:54
Full name: Tom Brennan
City: Sydney
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by tom_brennan » 27 Mar 2019, 07:57

Tim - not sure if it was intended, but that paragraph seems to come across as an attack on the NSWCA, rather than a criticism of the individual and their actions. Using the word "bragging" is very emotive, especially without the original text for readers to make up their own minds. And obviously there was no mention of the individual's name or other associations - just the fact that they are a committee member of the NSWCA - which they're not. As a (not committee) member of the NSWCA, I certainly don't agree with their actions, but I recommend you edit your original post.

Separately, I'm not sure placing bolts is undergoing a resurgence. There seems to be a bolting "incident" every year or two, but that has been going on since the early 2000s. However, there is a lot more community support for placing bolts than there used to be, despite the fact that it is banned under most (all?) park plans of management. The voices of those advocating against bolts seem to be fewer in number, and probably outweighed by the voices of those supporting bolt placement, regardless of its legality.
https://ozultimate.com/canyoning/bolt_history.htm

User avatar
T2
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by T2 » 27 Mar 2019, 10:48

Tom, that wasn't my intention. My point was merely to highlight a more extreme example, where someone who holds a position that purport to represent the broader canyoning community was not only placing bolts contrary to the wishes of the land manager, but was then publicly highlighting their actions.

I've taken on your feedback, along with the comments from Dylan and Julie, and edited that paragraph. I've also given a few additional examples that I am aware of. Hopefully that will stop people from being distracted by that one point and instead focus on the more important issues I've tried to raise.

My key point was, and remains, that the bans in the Grampians highlight that what may seem like minor actions by individuals can culminate in extremely serious consequences for an entire community. Each of us need to look at our own practices to see if we can reduce our impacts and make canyoning more sustainable. But we also need to call out actions by other people that put our future access at risk and ensure we show proactive stewardship of these areas -- particularly those located in National Parks -- if we want to guarantee ongoing access in the future. Simply sitting back with an "each to their own" approach doesn't work, because when pushed land managers won't differentiate between individuals doing the right thing and those doing the wrong thing, they will see us all as a single group.

Flynny
Posts: 59
Joined: 22 May 2018, 16:10
Full name: Craig Flynn
City: The 'Go
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by Flynny » 27 Mar 2019, 16:02

Tim, officials of NSWCA can and should only represent their members. In doing so, while they can steer and educate they can't dictate and if the majority of members are pro bolt then their stance will need to be pro bolt ie working with land managers to find workable, sustainable solutions that allow bolts to be placed in acceptable locations while discouraging placement elsewhere.

The bolting debate is nothing new, it has been raging since well before Royal Robins and Warren Harding duked it out on the walls of El Capitan. And while the combatants tend to be loud in their support or opposition I think you'll find both camps have always been in the minority with the vast majority of canyoners completely apathetic to the whole saga, neither placing bolts themself nor raging against those that do, and to be honest the more people preach and moan one way or the other the less and less we care.

Personally I think bolts have their place in high use canyons where they can be used to limit rock wear/tree damage (Smooth operators and fiddle stick aside unless they ever become the norm) but dislike them where they dumb the experience down (WoM) or in less visited locations and remoter canyons.

I'm far more concerned about impacts of approach and exit trails then a few measly bolts

For the record I am not a committee member of NSWCA and there is no secret cabal...... or sumfink

Kosta
Site Admin
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 May 2018, 13:35
Full name: Kosta Seiler
City: Sydney
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by Kosta » 27 Mar 2019, 16:26

Flynny, it is one thing to support a currently illegal practice by lobbying for it to be legalised and another to go ahead and do something illegal. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but regardless of that, they are bound by the current law.

I must say, I'm quite disappointed about hearing all this. Given the stated aims of the NSWCA that are shown on the website (https://nswcanyoning.org.au/aims/), I had high hopes for it. Since I joined last year, I haven't heard a single thing from NSWCA. No event. No newsletter. Not even a call for help with doing anything. Not a single email. It's basically a stillbirth. And now, from the first life sigh I hear here, it seems NSWCA officials are supporting and/or tolerating illegal practices.

On a related note, how can the NSWCA committee even know what their members' stance on bolting is if they don't even engage with them in any form whatsoever?

Flynny
Posts: 59
Joined: 22 May 2018, 16:10
Full name: Craig Flynn
City: The 'Go
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by Flynny » 27 Mar 2019, 16:46

Kosta, There was an event on Saturday night. Promoted through their website and various social media thingies. From all reports it was well attended and a huge success.

As to whether they are anti, pro or couldn't careless bolting I don't know, I'm not on the committee and don't speak for them. A bit like the guy fingered in the first post.

An individual, who is not a committee member or as far as I know a delegated official, posted on a social media site (that is in no way affiliated with NSWCA other than members are members and use it to promote stuff) about something he did as an individual. There was an ensuing debate on said social media site on the right and wrongs of it. Not sure how you can possibly tarnish the NSWCA organisation with that and come to the conclusion officials are supporting and/or tolerating illegal practices?

User avatar
Vertical_Wookiee
Posts: 5
Joined: 20 Feb 2019, 19:58
Full name: Chewy Jones
City: Blackheath
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by Vertical_Wookiee » 27 Mar 2019, 23:08

The bolts in question are in Canyons with extremely different conditions and rock than that of the Blue Mountains.
To say that style of Canyon and it's subsequent bolts shouldn't exist outright is to slam a massive amount of Canyoning Globally.

Where there is water, there is bolts, because there needs to be!

Re: Blue Mountains & Grampians- The bolts in the Grampians that caused this whole debacle were just a few placed by an idiot right next to (practically on top of an) Aboriginal heritage site. The subsequent bans then covered a massive area of park that had nothing to do with the site in question nor any other heritage sites for the most part. There are rumors that this ban is more to do with future park plans for money making tourist dollars than for the Aboriginal's who had issue (rightly so) with the actions of one idiot placing bolts where they shouldn't.

They seem to be backtracking slightly in these bans because they are quite obviously ridiculous and not thought out. The global climbing community is against the bans and this collective, loud voice, knows there are better ways to manage heritage areas than total bans.

When it comes to the Blue Mountains, I'd actually like to see NPWS try and close off any given area to recreational activities on the scale that Canyoners undertake. It's a park with literally thousands of entry points, run by an underfunded service which is exactly why almost the entire park is free to access! I think the only place NPWS would actually do something about bolts would be if someone installed a few at Echo point! :lol:

As Flynny mentioned, bolts can be the obvious choice to ensure a given Canyon is being worn less. The anti bolt stance that formed at the introduction of the bolt some 50 odd years ago was not formed when there had been 50 odd years of Canyon descents and environmental impact from a growing population, hungry to experience life in the outdoors. If someone takes the time and care to install a glue in bolt anchor that will last some 100+ years in a place that will then ensure less wear on the Canyon and save who knows how many 100's of meters of plastic webbing from landfill across that time, good on them- it's not 1968 anymore!

User avatar
T2
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by T2 » 28 Mar 2019, 11:07

Well, that escalated a little...

Back to the core point I was trying to make, and what I think the Grampians situation highlights, is that it's not necessarily about what happens, but how it happens.

Whether it's bolting, track making, or other modifications of the landscape, if these things are done in a haphazard way by cowboys who don't understand the potential environmental, safety, sustainability, heritage, and other factors, they can lead to bad outcomes. Enough bad outcomes, and this can lead to closures and bans.

Craig, I think you hit the nail on the head with your line about "working with land managers to find workable, sustainable solutions". This is exactly the lesson I have taken from what has occurred in Victoria.

Where there is a strong argument for people to modify an area, in any way, we need to find ways to negotiate that with National Parks and other relevant authorities. It might take more effort, but it will result in more sustainable outcomes.

At the end of the day, there are rules and laws that cover these areas. They are put in place to ensure these areas are protected in perpetuity. We may not agree with them -- I can think of many examples of National Parks management I disagree with -- but rather than just do our own thing and disregard them, we need to find ways to constructively change the system.

As has occurred in the Grampians, a community of thousands can be seriously impacted by the actions of one or two individuals. People need to understand and consider those potential implications of their actions.

User avatar
T2
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales

Re: Rock climbing ban in the Grampians / lessons for canyoners

Post by T2 » 30 Apr 2019, 07:34

There has been a burst of media coverage about the Grampians climbing bans. Below is an article by Neil Monteith, who is not only an extremely experienced local climber, outlining the communities concerns about the closures.

The ABC has also had a go at bringing together the concerns of climbers, indigenous groups, and Parks Victoria. It's a really even-handed article that seems to cover the issue well: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-29/ ... e/11030190.

Don't ban rock climbing in the Grampians, just manage it better
By Neil Monteith
https://www.theage.com.au/national/vict ... 51iad.html

The newly announced rock-climbing ban in the Gariwerd/Grampians National Park is a sad state of affairs. Why the sudden angst from Parks Victoria towards climbers?
It’s not one thing, but could be simply nailed down to a cultural misunderstanding between climbers, Parks Victoria and the local Indigenous community.
One of the main sticking points is the knowledge about where the park's Indigenous cultural sites actually are. The location register of these cultural sites is kept secret to keep them protected from deliberate vandalism, but in the case of accidental damage this system actually backfires. We need to work with traditional owners to find solutions to this problem.
Parks Victoria claims there has been an extraordinary tenfold growth in climbers from 8000 to 80,000 in the past 15 years – a fact I dispute as I am the author of the current Grampians climbing guidebook and only sell 500 guidebooks a year, every year.
Because of a push by government towards regional tourism, the Grampians now receive a million tourists a year, which vastly overwhelms the impact of small gatherings of climbers going bush. Any lookout or car park is a minefield of human waste and rubbish – and it’s not climbers who dumped it. I presume they will ban tourists then?
The reality is our impacts as climbers are negligible compared with what society considers acceptable in the broad sense of growth and development.
Parks Victoria is currently ploughing a new 144-kilometre walking trail and huts from north to south across the entire Grampians National Park at a cost of $30 million – and then actively encouraging as many new visitors as they can to walk it for a minimum $50 a day. It’s called the Grampians Peaks Trail, a “walking experience with an estimated visitation of 23,000 people per year by 2020”.
Why doesn’t Parks Victoria allocate even 1 per cent of its Peaks Trail budget to manage climbers in a proactive way? Instead of banning climbing, they could build proper trails, revegetate erosion, install signs, and hire a dedicated climber-focused ranger who works only with the climbing community to pre-emptively fix problems.
The climbing community are feeling sidelined by these bans - there was no warning, no public consultation and zero transparency on the process that got us here. We have not had any formal meetings with Parks Victoria since the bans were enacted nine weeks ago.
Climbers are well aware we need to begin a process of self-reflection and re-education to reduce our impact as climbing grows. With 23,000 people signing a petition to reopen the Grampians to climbing, this is a big thing.
Some inside Parks Victoria have mismanaged this in the past and they appear to be continuing to do so now. I hope for future generations of my family, and the other climbers out there who love the Grampians, that we can continue to climb harmoniously in these areas again - with the support of traditional owners and the wider community.
Neil Monteith is the author of the Grampians Climbing guidebooks and has climbed in the Grampians for 25 years.

Post Reply