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Climbing Tales #4 The school excursion 1976

Special Australia Day Post 
Climbing Tales This series celebrates Uluru climbing experiences posted online.
School excursions to Ayers Rock have been a feature of tourism to central Australia since the early 1950s. The first excursion took place in 1950 when a group of school boys from Knox Grammer visited Ayers Rock. The trip featured scientific studies of flora, fauna, geology and geography. Anthropologist Charles Montford accompanied the boys and undertook a survey of cave paintings and helped the group witness an initiation ceremony. A group of 23 boys climbed the rock on 7 September 1950 leaving their names in the summit cairn. We'll provide more details about this trip in a later post.
Schools are still journeying out to Ayers Rock and despite pressure from Parks Australia, some groups are still managing to climb it; such as this great group of overjoyed young adventurers from 2014 - below (if you recognise the school let us know, they all deserve a medal, including the teachers).

Without the prospect of climbing due to the proposed ban in 2019, one can't help but wonder if it's worth the cost and effort for students to go all that way just to listen to somewhat dour and simplistic fairy tales, without the happy endings (provided by an indoctrinated tour guide). The scientific education that featured prominently for that first group of young adults in the 1950s seems to have been replaced with superstition. Without the climb, and with science displaced by religious myths there are simply better places to go, where the locals won't make them feel guilty for exploring, enjoying and learning about the natural world. Mt Augustus perhaps a worthwhile substitute that would rekindle the sense of real adventure of that first Ayers Rock school excursion.
For groups heading off over the next 18 months, the photos from this 1976 trip by QLD's Oakey High School tell a wonderful story and give you a taste of what future student visitors will be missing out on. 
Oakey HS at Ayers Rock 1976. Photos by Mike Rimmer*
An absolutely wonderful collection of photos of the excursion are available via Flickr. Thanks to Mike Rimmer for posting these to the world. This photo gallery is very much worth your while and tells its own story of what must have been a awe inspiring trip that provided these students and their teachers with memories and experiences to last a life time. The photos capture the exhilaration of the climb, the joy of reaching the summit and the wonderful views there to behold, along with other amazing places in the National Park. There are also photos of other locations on the excursion including: Alice Springs, Devils Marbles and Mount Isa. Some classic 1970s fashion and hairstyles in their as well. 
If anyone on that trip sees this post we would welcome your thoughts on your visit, and the effect it had on you.
Gallery of shots at the summit. see flickr
Sadly with the looming ban on climbing, these precious experiences and the inspiration they provide will no longer be available to Australian school children. 
Apparently Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Anangu traditional owners welcome schools to Aboriginal land, but Parks Australia and the Uluru-KataTjuta Board of Management are responsible for using cult-like beliefs to put the joy and wonder of one of the world's outstanding outdoor activities, out of the reach of all children, apparently forever. Shame!

Enjoy Australia day. We hope someone had the chance to climb and wave an Aussie flag at the summit (if so would love a photo).

*We were saddened to find out that Mike died in 2015. This tribute piece worth a read: Tribute to popular teacher
See also http://www.northqueenslandhistory.com/
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Indicative Contents History of discovery and climbing Facts and figures Geology and Geomorphology Route Maps Reasons to climb Climbing stories Chronicles of the fallen  Preparations Best time to climb What to wear How to climb What you can see from the summit Things to do at the summit Climbing Trivia Selected climbs and hikes in central Australia
Hoping to hit the internet book shelves in time for Christmas 2018.  In the meantime wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I just want one thing in my Christmas stocking: a ban of the ban!



A pictorial response to arguments against climbing Ayers Rock

A pictorial response to arguments against climbing Ayers RockIt's too dangerous Group of women aged 19-70 climb Ayers Rock as part of the 1957 Petticoat Safari. This was prior to the chains being installed. Since the 1950s over 6,000,000 people of all ages have climbed the rock. In that time there have been a reported 36 deaths mainly heart attacks to older men, not acclimatised to the heat of central Australia. If you are fit and healthy and stick to the marked path climbing Ayers Rock is an exhilarating adventure but a decidedly low risk activity.

Here's Arthur Groom's take on the climbing options: extract from I saw a strange land
Various writers have described Ayers Rock as difficult of ascent, when in reality it is a trained mountaineer's job on the east-south-east corner, a rough and steep scramble up at least two places on its southern side, and nothing else but a strenuous and spectacular uphill walk on its western side It’s a Sacred Site, climbing is disrespect…

The Ban on Climbing Ayers Rock is Immoral and Illegal

The Ban on Climbing Ayers Rock is Immoral and IllegalQuadrant Magazine have placed my recent article online outlining reasons the ban on climbing Ayers Rock is immoral and illegal.

Claims that Aborigines never ascend the monolith are false and the highly sacred nature of the route a recent invention. The cultural-heritage significance of the climb to both Anangu and millions of non-Aboriginal visitors is something that should be celebrated and maintained, not discouraged and condemned.

Read the Article at Quadrant.
“In the realm of ideas there has been no better publication in Australia over the last fifty years than Quadrant magazine.”
— Former Prime Minister John Howard