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Rock climbing in the Grampians National Park

This page will be updated as more information becomes available. Page last updated: 15 Apr 2019 1.17 pm

Summary

Rock climbing is an important recreational and sporting pursuit for many people. We acknowledge the physical, social and economic benefits rock climbing brings to our communities.

Spanning more than 165,000 hectares, the Grampians National Park’s natural beauty has captivated visitors for decades. Its extraordinary diverse landscape is steeped in a rich history and is a place of environmental, historical and cultural significance.

It is important that local national and international visitors can continue to sustainably experience this globally unique landscape into the future. This means protecting the environment and culture that make it so popular.

Parks Victoria is legislatively obligated to protect and manage this land in partnership with Traditional Owners, government and the broader community.

More than 60 per cent of the park remains available for rock climbers, constituting hundreds of sites already popular with the climbing community including Bundaleer, Mount Stapylton Amphitheatre, The Watch Tower, Wonderland Area, and Halls Gap Valley.

Parks Victoria will be conducting a full review of the Grampians National Park Management Plan. This review will involve environmental and cultural assessments of Special Protection Areas. As part of this review, boundaries to the areas may change.

We will be working with key stakeholders and partners throughout the review process. Parks Victoria will meet with affected partners, licenced tourism operators, stakeholder groups and local businesses over the coming months to work through the issues. A stakeholder reference group will be established to involve stakeholders in next steps and to identify where in the Grampians National Park climbing can continue.

More information about the review and more detailed maps will be available in the coming weeks. Please download the fact sheet here and see below for Frequently Asked Questions.

Frequently asked questions:

  1. What is special about the Grampians National Park?

    The Grampians National Park is the fourth largest park in Victoria and is recognised as the single most important botanical reserve in Victoria. It is home to one third of Victoria’s flora – some 800 indigenous plant species. It also supports a wide range of wildlife with more than 40 mammals and an abundance of bird species. Due to its accessible nature, the park enables visitors to enjoy and appreciate Victoria’s natural and cultural values, and makes an important contribution to tourism.

    In addition to its special environmental features, the Grampians National Park and other protected areas - such as Black Range, Mount Arapiles-Tooan, Red Rock and Mount Talbot - contain the majority of surviving Aboriginal rock art sites in south-east Australia, some of which date back more than 20,000 years. In the past seven years, about 40 rock art sites have been rediscovered in the Grampians taking the tally of rock art sites in the area to about 140 - about 90 per cent of all the known such sites in Victoria.

    The Grampians National Park is assigned the World Conservation Union (IUCN) category II of the United Nation’s list of National Parks and Protected Areas. Category II areas are managed primarily for ecosystem conservation and appropriate recreation.

    The Grampians National Park is nationally recognised as being nationally significant for its natural and cultural heritage and is heritage listed under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity legislation. The link below provides some useful additional information on the reason for its national heritage listing. http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/f3faf6b3-fea7-4c97-8483-3d962ad79924/files/grampians.pdf

  2. What do people need to be aware of when visiting the Grampians National Park?

    The Grampians National Park is an ancient landscape that provides shelter for the plants and animals who seek refuge within it. It also holds a special place in the hearts of bush walkers, school groups, rock climbers and people undertaking nature study. The Park contributes to the local economy and provides physical and mental health benefits to local residents and tourists.

    To ensure it is protected and looked after for future generations, all parks visitors should be aware of the National Parks Regulations (2013). Under these regulations it is an offence to interfere with vegetation meaning a person must not cut, fell, pick, remove, take, damage or destroy any vegetation. A person also must not damage, remove or otherwise interfere with any rock or similar natural object in a park.

  3. What is a Special Protection Area?

    Special Protection Areas are places within the Grampians National Park that are particularly special or are at significant risk. This could be because it is a protected Aboriginal site, or have a threatened species of plant or animal that is vulnerable to human activity. These geographical areas protect specific natural or cultural sites where a special management focus is required.

    The Grampians National Park Management Plan outlines Special Protection Areas that cover 33 per cent of the park that have been in place since 2003. Page 11 of the Grampians National Park Management Plan outlines activities that can take place in Special Protection Areas, including bushwalking and picnicking. To protect these areas of significance and ensure they are preserved, some recreational activities are not permitted within their boundaries, such as trail bike riding or hunting.

    In addition to the Management Plan, recent maps released include an additional 29 protected areas making up an additional 1.2 per cent of the National Park that have been assigned due to their vulnerable flora and fauna or cultural significance.

  4. Where is rock climbing permitted?

    Rock climbing has long been a sport enjoyed in the park and is an activity that Parks Victoria will continue to support, along with a range of other recreational activities that are widely enjoyed in the Grampians National Park.

    No trace, low impact rock climbing is permitted outside of the Special Protection Areas for climbers adhering to all National Park regulations. Maps are on the Parks Victoria website and more detailed maps are being developed and will soon be available.

    There are hundreds of known sites in the park that are available to climbers, including those at Bundaleer, Mount Stapylton Amphitheatre, The Watch Tower, Wonderland Area, and Halls Gap Valley. Their unique geological formations provide challenging summits and overhangs for rock climbers to test their endurance and skills.

  5. Will Parks Victoria make any changes to the Grampians National Park Management Plan and the Special Protection Areas outlined within it? How long will the review take?

    Parks Victoria will be conducting a full review of the Grampians National Park Management Plan. This review will involve environmental and cultural assessments of Special Protection Areas. As part of this review, boundaries to the areas may change.

    We will be working with key stakeholders and partners throughout the review process. Parks Victoria will meet with affected partners, licenced tourism operators, stakeholder groups and local businesses over the coming months to work through the issues. A stakeholder reference group will be established to involve stakeholders in next steps and to identify where in the Grampians National Park climbing can continue. More information about the review will be available in the coming weeks.

  6. What are the impacts of climbing on the environment?

    Rock climbing practices can have a negative impact on vegetation, including rare and endangered species, as a result of:

    • The development of informal walking tracks, cutting scars throughout the wilderness, to gain access to hidden crags. This involves everything from breakage of small tree branches to using chainsaws.
    • Clearing away leaf litter and small plants at the base of a rock face to place a drop mat down, which disturbs fragile ecosystems
    • People clearing areas for bush camps and campfires in forested areas
    • Damaging plants by pulling them from cracks in the rock to find better grip
    • Damage caused by climbers scoring the rockface and leaving significant chalk remnants in places where moss and lichen would usually grow
    • Rubbish and human waste, including toilet paper, litter this precious environment

    There is evidence across the park of cleared and compacted areas on the way to or at the bottom of boulders and cliffs. These cleared areas equate to hundreds of square metres of barren hard ground where plants can’t grow and the park ecosystem is lost.

    These actions accumulate as a result of the huge increase in climbing number in recent years and Parks Victoria is implementing compliance measures to prevent further human impact and to conserve the sensitive ecosystem.

  7. What are the potential impacts of climbing on Aboriginal cultural heritage values?

    The Grampians National Park and other protected areas such as Black Range, Mount Arapiles-Tooan, Red Rock and Mount Talbot, contain the majority of surviving Aboriginal rock art sites in south-east Australia. In the past seven years about 40 rock art sites have been rediscovered in the Grampians, taking the tally of rock-art sites in the area to about 140 – or 90 per cent of all the known such sites in Victoria. Some of these sites date back more than 20,000 years.

    This ancient evidence of human presence is incredibly meaningful and is an important part of Australia’s history which needs to be respected and preserved. To protect these visual stories left by the ancestors of the Gariwerd Traditional Owners, it is sometimes not appropriate to publicise their location.

    Aboriginal rock art can be clear and obvious, but some can be very difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye, although it may be visible with imaging technology. Although most often it is unintended, rock climbing can result in damage to rock faces – and this precious rock art - through use of bolts and chalk and from the weight of people putting pressure on small ledges causing pieces of rock to break away.

  8. What compliance activity is Parks Victoria undertaking?

    An increase in activity and changes in climbing techniques have impacted irreplaceable cultural and environmental assets to a level where enforcement is necessary to preserve these special areas. Parks Victoria is currently undertaking enforcement activities to prevent rock climbing at eight key locations marked with blue squares on the maps on our website and signage is installed on access tracks to those eight key locations.

    The eight focus areas where enforcement activity will take place from March 2019 are:

    • Gondwanaland
    • The Gallery
    • Millenium
    • Billimina Area
    • Billywing Buttress
    • Little Hands Cave
    • Manja Area
    • Cave of Man Hands

    In broader Special Protection Areas, Authorised Officers are educating park users by sharing the information materials on rock climbing and advising climbers if they are in a Special Protection Area where climbing is prohibited. They are also undertaking enforcement activity relating to other activities not permitted in any National Park including cutting or damaging vegetation (for instance to make or enhance tracks), lighting fires outside of designated fireplaces, leaving litter, interfering with Aboriginal cultural heritage such as rock art or any damage to rock faces such as drilling holes.

  9. Will I be penalised or fined for climbing in a Special Protection Area or no climb area?

    Signage is installed on access tracks and officers are patrolling at the eight key locations. Climbing in any of the eight key locations could result in fines being issued.

    Across the park, whether within or outside Special Protection Areas, action will be taken against any person breaking the National Park Regulations. This includes littering, destroying vegetation, driving off defined tracks, damaging park infrastructure including signs and barriers, damaging rock faces, illegally camping and lighting fires and disobeying or obstructing Authorised Officers.

  10. Why hasn’t Parks Victoria restricted access to these Special Protection Areas previously?

    Previously, these sites did not experience the high level of visitation and impact as they have in recent years. The increase in activity and changes in technique have impacted irreplaceable cultural and environmental assets to a level where enforcement is necessary to preserve these special places.

  11. What if we climb carefully on these eight areas and refrain from using bolts and mattresses?

    In March 2019, the eight locations outlined above were closed to climbing due to their significant environmental and cultural values. Parks Victoria is committed to ensuring these areas are preserved and protected and has determined that rock climbing has a detrimental impact on these special places, which has resulted in the implementation of enforcement measures.

    There are still hundreds of known climbing areas in the Grampians National Park available for people to enjoy.