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Climbing Ayers Rock after the ban?

Climbing Ayers Rock after the ban?

Minimum fine likely to be $630 - see below

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.
Leaping the fence to access The Climb after October 26. Watch your back!

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!
Just like Grandma! Sarah Esnouf on the Climb pre-chain as part of the Petticoat Safari Oct. 1957. 

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.

Online mapping tools like Google earth are useful in planning routes and setting up waypoints
If madness prevails following October, the summit monument will have been destroyed but there should remain a survey marker at the location of the highest point, or a series of small holes likely grouted up that mark the monument's former location. If using a GPS the location is at about 52J 704558E 7195307N (UTM).  "A Guide to Climbing Ayers Rock" includes a copy of the directional plaque so the distant geographic features visible from the summit and listed as World Heritage can still be identified. There are also other summit features that might interest including the Uluru Rock Hole and various rock formations noted by anthropologist Charles Mountford in his book Ayers Rock: Its people, their beliefs and their art (see p32). To recreate the actions of early visitors a can or jar of some sort could be cached at or near the summit to hold the signatures or pseudonyms of modern (illegal) climbers. A good spot might be the pile of rocks about 20m northeast of the true summit 52J 704568E 7195325N (UTM).
Ayers Rock Summit 30/6/1946 Mitjenkeri Mick(L) and Tiger Tjalkalyirri(R) look on as Lou Borgelt returns the glass jar with the names of climbers to the then summit cairn. (Borgelt film, restored by Lutheran Archives)

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.

Potential Fines
We are not legal experts so seek professional legal advice on what might happen if you intend to climb or get caught climbing in breach of Park regulations. The following are talking points and are by no means definitive.

The Park is managed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000. Part 12 deals with "Activities in Commonwealth reserves". As far as we can see there are a number of clauses (see below) that might come into play depending on the relevant scenario. More than one may apply depending on the specific events and the views of authorities. There may be other provisions in the regulations that may also come into play. 

There have been reports in the media of fines up to up to $60000 AUD and two years in jail for climbing the Rock after the ban. These are not substantiated.  An un-named inside source within the Department of Environment has indicated the most likely outcome would be an on the spot fine of $630 for breaching clause 12.55 (6) of the regulations (walk or ride where there is a restricted or prohibited sign), or $6300 if the matter went to court. This would be the minimum likely outcome and the exact nature and amount of the penalty would depend on the different circumstances and the discretion of Park Rangers. We are seeking information from the Department of what the penalties will be and will update this post when and if we receive a reply. 

Fines imposed on three men rescued after going off the marked summit path in 2016 give an indication of the fines those caught climbing after the ban may be subject to. The Federal Prosecution Service notes the following outcome for three men found to have breached 12.55 in 2016. The three men "were each charged with one count of walking in a Commonwealth reserve other than on a road or track, contrary to Regulation 12.55 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (Cth). This offence is a fine-only offence. Each defendant pleaded guilty in the Darwin Local Court and were convicted, and each were ordered to pay a penalty of $1,000. A reparation order of $8,785 was granted in favour of UKTNP for the cost of the helicopter and rope retrieval. An additional reparation order was granted for $2,327.50 to the NTES for the replacement of equipment."

At this stage, pending further information from Parks Australia likely fines for exercising your cultural heritage of climbing Ayers Rock in the same way perhaps as your parents and siblings will be in the order of $630 to $1000, but may be higher depending on the discretion of Park Officials. Note that local Anangu will be able to exercise their cultural heritage of climbing without penalty. 

If you do elect to climb following the ban take care, be safe and good luck!

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.

Some Regulations that may be breached by climbing following the ban
Some relevant clauses from Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000. Part 12 (Note that the current value of a penalty unit is $210): 
12.23  Entering prohibited or restricted area
             (1)  A person commits an offence if the person enters or remains in a Commonwealth reserve, or a part of a Commonwealth reserve, in contravention of a prohibition or restriction imposed by the Director under subregulation (3).
Penalty:  50 penalty units.
12.23A  Prohibited or restricted activity in a Commonwealth reserve
             (1)  A person commits an offence if the person engages in an activity, or an activity in a class of activities, in a Commonwealth reserve, or a part of a Commonwealth reserve, in contravention of a prohibition or restriction imposed by the Director under subregulation (3).
Penalty:  50 penalty units.
12.24  Capturing images or recording sound
             (1)  A person must not capture an image or record a sound in or of a Commonwealth reserve in contravention of a prohibition or restriction imposed by the Director under subregulation (3).
Penalty:  50 penalty units.
12.25  Failing to comply with safety directions
             (1)  If the Director, a ranger or a warden believes that the safety of a person in a Commonwealth reserve is, or is likely to be, endangered, the Director, ranger or warden may give to the person or another person directions necessary to ensure the safety of the person.
             (2)  A person must comply with a reasonable direction given under subregulation (1) to the person.
Penalty:  30 penalty units.
12.26  Adventurous activity
             (1)  In this regulation, adventurous activity means:
                     (a)  climbing, abseiling on, or jumping from, a rock face; or
                     (b)  bungee jumping or BASE‑jumping; or
                     (c)  hang gliding or paragliding; or
                     (d)  an activity determined by the Director under subregulation (4) to be an adventurous activity.
             (2)  A person commits an offence if:
                     (a)  the person carries out an adventurous activity in an area of a Commonwealth reserve; and
                     (b)  the area is not provided for the activity in a determination made by the Director under subregulation (5).
Penalty:  30 penalty units.
12.28  Camping
             (1)  A person may camp, in a Commonwealth reserve, only in a camping area or a camping site described in a determination made by the Director under subregulation (3).
Penalty:  10 penalty units.
12.55  Walking or riding on roads or marked tracks
             (1)  A person commits an offence if the person walks or rides in a Commonwealth reserve other than on:
                     (a)  a vehicle access road or a vehicle access track; or
                     (b)  a track for walking or riding provided by the Director.
Penalty:  15 penalty units
           (6)  A person commits an offence if :
 (a)  the person walks or rides on a vehicle access road, vehicle access track or track for walking or riding in a Commonwealth reserve; and
 (b)  there is a sign, erected under subregulation (5), indicating that the person is restricted or prohibited from walking or riding on the road or track at that time.
Penalty:  30 penalty units.
12.60  Removal of trespassers and offenders
             (1)  A warden or ranger may require a person in a Commonwealth reserve whom the warden or ranger finds committing, or suspects on reasonable grounds to be committing or to have committed, an offence against the Act or these Regulations to leave the reserve for a specified time.
             (2)  A person required to leave the reserve must comply with the requirement.
Penalty:  20 penalty units.


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