While there remains a very remote possibility someone in Parks Australia or some mug sitting on the Park board or in the Minister's chair will see common sense and ditch plans to ban the World's most iconic hill climb, the most likely outcome is that the immoral ban will go ahead as planned on 26 October this year. Without bags of money legal action to prevent the ban is unlikely to proceed. Also, despite being protected by World Heritage provisions and conditions in the lease agreement (17-2), the Philistines that manage the Park will also likely destroy the climbing infrastructure including the life-saving chain, 50-year-old summit monument, memorial plaques and remove the white painted lines that safely guide people across the summit plateau. It's likely that a new fence will be erected around the western climbing spur complete with warning signs (Klettern Verboten!) and fines will be issued to those caught breaking the latest set of uluRULES that only serve to diminish visitor experience in what was once a wonderful National Park. The fence will have all the charm and character of the Berlin Wall.
Anyone caught climbing any part of Ayers Rock will face potential fines or being taken to court following the ban for a range of offences at the discretion of the Park Rangers (see below). While we in no way advocate anyone breaks the law, those still intent on climbing after the ban comes into force may find the following information helpful and potentially life-saving.
Climbing without the chain
The Climb is imposing and strenuous with the chain and trail markers, but without them, it is a different story entirely. Without the chain and markers, it would be very easy for people to get lost on the way up or down and find themselves in very difficult, dangerous, and potentially life-threatening situations. Prior to the chain being installed the climb was undertaken by about 20% of visitors, typically in the company of a guide, an experienced local or someone who had climbed before. These climbers were generally fitter, more agile, more adventurous and accustomed to walking or climbing than those climbing after the chain was installed. Anyone contemplating the Climb after the ban comes into force will need to be similarly fit, agile and very well prepared in order to safely complete the Climb independently. After the ban, it is not known whether Parks Australia will maintain its vertical rescue capacity. Arguably they still have a duty of care knowing people will attempt to climb, even if it's illegal. If something goes wrong you will likely be on your own for some time. You should be prepared for a long wait and the wrath of an angry judge!
Route selection and navigation
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. Arthur Groom - I saw a Strange land 1950.
With the chain and trail markers absent you'll need to navigate your own way to the summit, though the established path is well worn and should be relatively easy to follow even without the paint. If attempting the "traditional" route along the western climbing spur the narrow area below the chain is worn quite smooth and you will find it difficult to climb along it without the chain. If you go this way climb along the rougher surface either side and stay near as possible to the centre of the spur. At least four climbers have fallen to their deaths by falling down cliffs on either side (there are 6 deaths from falls in the history of the Climb the other two fell on the northern side). You'll likely find the chain posts have been cut flush to the surface and have likely been plugged with coloured resin or mortar to mask them.
Online mapping tools such as Google Earth provide a suitable means of planning a route and recording tracks or waypoints that might be stored in a handheld GPS or phone mapping app to assist in safely navigating to and from the summit.
As outlined in our book "A Guide to Climbing Ayers Rock" the person to have climbed the rock via the most number of different routes is reportedly legendary climber and bus driver Graeme Phillips who knew 8 different ways. The near vertical north face is best avoided. The valleys on the south side though provide some alternate routes (see the book for locations) that are less obvious than the main climbing spur. Arthur Groom indicated these involved a rough and steep scramble. While just as steep (perhaps a little steeper) as the western climbing spur these lack the same sense of exposure as they do not have the near vertical drops on either side as the main climbing spur. They are steep for a longer distance and a missed step or slip will still result in falls that could cause serious injury (or death), so they should definitely not be taken lightly. As they have not seen anywhere near the foot traffic as the main spur the rock surface should be rougher and provide better grip but beware there may also be loose sheets of rock on the surface that may detach - so tread carefully, and those following should be wary of falling rocks. We understand that one of these routes (Tjukiki Gorge) was likely used by Allan Breadon in his traverse of the Rock.
Climbing times will vary depending on your fitness and route choice. For fit and experienced climbers allow about 1 hour to climb to the summit and about 45 minutes down. Take care negotiating the undulating plateau and keep clear of the steep edges. The time you spend exploring the summit is up to you and the patience and observation powers of local authorities and their minions. Remember camping will also attract penalties, though the night sky viewed from the summit is perhaps worth the "cost" of entry. Be mindful the summit is a very cold place in winter. Keep an eye on the weather. Avoid climbing when the rock is wet or rain is forecast or winds and temperatures are extreme. If climbing following rain the numerous water holes will contain fresh rainwater that should be ok to drink, but you should be self-sufficient for water and food. Bring a filter or purifiers if you are worried about contaminated water. Remember to take your rubbish and any other waste back with you.
Remember if you climb you are likely to be fined and you do so at your own risk.
Update 24/6/2019: Suzy from Parks Australia provides the following via email:
I refer to your enquiry in relation to the Uluru climb closure that will occur on 26 October 2019.
Park rangers and wardens are able to issue infringement notices in accordance with the EPBC Regulations for suspected contraventions of the Regulations. If an infringement notice is issued the penalty amount can be up to 20% of the maximum penalty that a court could impose for the relevant offence.
If an infringement notice is not paid the Director may refer the matter to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions for criminal prosecution. The penalty amounts listed in the EPBC Regulations are the maximum fine a judge can order if the offence is made out. The actual fine amount is a matter for the judge having regard to the circumstances.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has extensive interpretative signage notifying visitors how they can enjoy the Park, as well as the activities that are prohibited to protect the environment and Aboriginal cultural heritage and the potential penalties that may apply.
Thank you for your interest in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
25/6/2019 I requested clarification as to which regulations would be enforced and got the following reply from Suzy...
Without knowing the exact circumstances of the situation it is not possible to determine what the appropriate regulation is, however it is likely to be one of the regulations you have noted.