Access & Environment Officer report April 2014
As the hot weather draws to a close, it’s time to start organising the work days ahead for the year. I recently had a conversation with Walter Braun, our stonemason who has been working on the Pharos Gully at Arapiles.
It was only last week, that for the first time he stood on the track where he was working and he could see the section where the downhill part of the track ends. The two ends are now both in sight and the weeks can be counted off as he draws closer to connecting them. At this stage he still has enough rock up there that he can work with as he is digging up quite a lot of useable stone so there will be no need for a working bee come this Easter.
Walter will be giving me a heads up when it comes closer to needing some bodies to haul up rock from below. At least it will be cooler by then. I know many of you are hanging out for your yearly weight lifting session – don’t worry, I won’t disappoint and forget you all : ).
So….what’s happening in the Grampians. It may not seem like much but there is work and discussions going on. The job and road ahead is massive and I am in constant contact with those at PV to see at what stage the works are and how the climbing community can be involved. I have to say the feedback and suggestions from many in the climbing community has been brilliant and all of these are taken on and has definitely informed many of the processes. While the work involved to manage the park after a major fire like the Northern Grampians and the previous Vic Range one, is extensive and time consuming, it has also meant that PV are able to look at the bigger picture when it comes to repairing and realigning visitor areas in the Grampians.
Rather than just fix up things exactly as they may have been before, the closures and work involved enable them to reassess as to whether the original may have been the best option or it was merely a best at the time/situation. It is an opportunity to start afresh. Obviously this is not just limited to the climbing aspect of the park – there are many user groups to consider as well as the conservation values of the park. This should give you some idea of the grand scale of works that need to be considered. I am with many of you when it comes to frustration at areas being closed for long periods of time.
I am in the better position though to actually see and hear much of the work that is going on and is needed to get areas open again. Not forgetting of course that many of the areas are closed because they are environmental unstable and sensitive. For most in the climbing community out there, it must seem often like nothing is happening because all seems to be quiet on the western front. Believe me, the work is going on and bubbling away but the list is so very long. I have outlined a few points of discussion I have had recently with my PV contacts:
• Another site visit will be occurring soon to Summerday Valley. This will confirm the realignment of the access track in and the loop track within the valley. A quote on work costs has now been received by PV. After funding has been established work will start on these jobs. Summerday has an approximate closure time of a year in order for it to recover from the fire but in the meantime the work that needs to be done to make it accessible will be ongoing over the year. Previous to the fire, the VCC were successful with a grant to help harden up the Main Wall area. Around near Waxman, the ground was particularly eroded and suffering from the heavy traffic it receives. Dates will be organised soon to undertake this job – most likely towards mid/end of May. I will be confirming these dates shortly.
• Now that Mt Zero car park and Flat Rock are open, this has thrown up the issue of cliffs and crags in the vicinity being accessible. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that they should be accessed yet. Having said that though there are more than likely some cliffs which may be okay for climbing as they weren’t impacted by the fire much. I will be attending a site visit next week to help assess the general area and work out what cliffs will be good to access and those that need to stay on the closed list. The important thing to note here is that the closures relating to those cliffs that are deemed to be in a closed area, need to be respected. If certain cliffs are opened and lead the way towards other climbing areas, the concern is that many climbers will head off to the closed areas regardless. Signage has been noted to be lacking by many in the climbing community. While I personally don’t think that we should be littering every single closed and open track in the Grampians, there is definitely a need to temporarily highlight some of the areas and tracks into climbing areas with climbing specific info. Respecting these closures goes a long way to showing that the climbing community is onboard when it comes to looking after the park.
• The current closure to the Emu Foot Track (Jananginjawi) still stands and it is important that climbers respect this by only walking into the cliffs accessed along it. Cars must be parked outside of the gate. I recently reported that due to feedback from sections of the climbing community, that PV were willing to look at the situation again and see whether something a little more conducive to climbers accessing the cliffs may be found. To confirm – this is still on the table but like many things, it is not simply a matter of one person saying yay and then all is well. As I noted, this decision was one that involved Aboriginal Affairs and local indigenous groups and was decided on before the fires. There is a process that needs to be undertaken, discussions had with a number of groups and then a suitable outcome reached. And to put it into perspective time wise, this doesn’t sit at the very top of the list of things to do – considering the recent fires and the amount of new work that has been generated because of it. The Vic Range is a sensitive area with sensitive issues and must be respected and handled accordingly. I say this with a strong reference to climbing and indeed any other recreational pursuit that occurs within this area. Be patient and we will work through any issues bit by bit.
Safe climbing to all, Tracey