We Care So Much

I’ve been holding my tongue a little on this one as it’s so close to the heart. So many of us feel our voices unheard and misunderstood, in general as a whole we are scared to lose access to a place that means so much to us.

This post was written by Ola Page, a Trad climber with deep connections to The Grampians Gariwerd, and who allowed us to share her story.

I’ve been holding my tongue a little on this one as it’s so close to the heart. So many of us feel our voices unheard and misunderstood, in general as a whole we are scared to lose access to a place that means so much to us. The Aboriginal people of this area have felt this type of pain too, their access to their sacred and loved places is limited to this day. I believe that climbers do care about keeping Aboriginal sacred sites protected – we feel this ban has thrown a dark label across our community as a whole: that we don’t respect or care about Aboriginal sites or the environment. This has hurt us so deeply and on such a personal level – because in actual fact WE CARE SO MUCH.

Right now it feels like there is a closed door between park users, park caretakers and aboriginal groups in the region – if only we could open those doors to open communication. The problem here is the lacking of a round-table, because I truly believe we live in a time when we could reach an agreement between all parties that pays respect to everyone’s special connection to the park. Gariwerd has been to so many people, for thousands of years, a place or learning, meditation and living. It is a place so many grew up in (in the truer sense of the word), it has been a rite of passage, an initiation, and for so many climbers: they have cut their teeth there, in climbing and on a deeper level: in life. Gariwerd is not simply just a place to climb rocks, it is a place where we have learnt lessons that we all apply to our daily lives. It has also saved lives on so many different levels, mostly because it has brought us closer to where we all come from: nature. The rocks, flora and fauna in Gariwerd is where we become ourselves in the best possible way. What a privilege it is to have this special place in our lives.

It is just so obvious that the bans applied by Parks Victoria are not the silver bullet to the issues at hand. Yes one of their concerns is the increase in climbers, but to this increase we also have the numbers to have a heard voice. Due to the manner in which these bans were implemented (flippant, rushed and without inclusive consultation), I feel that as the dust settles, climbers, through more open communication, will find clarity on all sides and that we will find a solution that suits most. I feel that people as a whole need a re-education of how to behave within parks and places of nature. Erosion from new paths, destruction of vegetation, destruction (from all types of vandalism) of or near sacred sites and rubbish are all things that have occurred – by ALL park users. Vandalism for one should be treated for what it is, and dealt with via the law. Climber numbers have increased, but so has all-round use of the park by all members of the public. I do feel that we need to have the conversation, most notably with lesser-seasoned park users (weekenders, travelers, those new to outdoor climbing) about human waste disposal, management of their impacts on vegetation, and about leaving no trace. We live in a time when the outdoors unfortunately is used as a marketing campaign for outdoor brands and businesses. Social media is filled with everyones weekend adventures (most of us are guilty of this) and although I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with sharing, it does create its own demons.

There is a type of monetization spreading throughout, quietly seeping through the cracks – this will always create problems without adequate and instant solutions. Put simply parks are getting busier. Nature is our best medicine, and because so many of us in the “real world” are sick we are seeking this medicine – but we are bringing the sickness to the parks and nature as a whole. I am saddened and frustrated at the amount of trash I am picking up lately, in general park and wilderness areas. As a member of the climbing community I would like to vouch that most climbers climb because they have a deep love and respect for the outdoors and nature – and that because of this are very aware of the impacts their activities have on the environment: and act accordingly.

The conversation we’re having now was well on its way, it is not a big surprise. Yes climbers are not perfect, and mistakes have been made. Those mistakes are currently being dealt with in a most rudimentary and reactionary manner. We are in a position now where we must navigate our way through a new world: filled with red tape, formal paperwork and proceeding that most of us have limited experience with – because quite frankly we all prefer to live in a different world. Climbing has become the opposite of what we love most about it, complicated. I’m so proud to be part of this climbing community. It is my true home, and my tribe – if we do this next bit right, and it is going to take hard work, I truly believe we can find a solution. It might not be exactly what we all want all of the time – due to the complexity of the particular issues we are dealing with, but.

We’re here to come to an agreement between each and every person who finds meaning, purpose and identity in a place so many hold dear.

Writing to Emma Kealy and other such members and groups is one of the best things we can do in this moment.

…Where is that round-table?

Ola, caught in a moment of bouldering at ‘The Snakepit’.
Photo Credit: Jai Critchley