Most climbers will know that Summerday Valley is the most visited climbing area in the Grampians, and has been for several decades. It offers beginner grades, incredibly easy access via Parks Victoria walking tracks, solid trad protection, simple to arrange top-rope setups and a plethora of wall angles to guarantee shade or sun depending on the season.
Generations of scouts, military personal etc have used the area to introduce their members to the joys of rock-climbing. There are also several Grampians based outdoor education businesses that use the area for guiding tourists from Halls Gap and the region. They even filmed an episode of the Biggest Loser there in 2013! It’s an important place for every climber and one that has been publicly used (and sanctioned by Parks Victoria) since the very beginnings of rock-climbing in the area. Parks Victoria even have photos and text promoting rock-climbing at Summerday Valley in their own online education material.
“Summerday Valley provides an opportunity for introductory rock climbing lessons and a study of recreation and park management strategies.” – Grampians National Park – An excursion and fieldwork resource for schools
Alarmingly it appears that this area, and nearby beginner friendly walls such as BARC cliff are in one of the Special Protected Areas (SPAs) where climbing is prohibited according to the 2003 Grampians Management Plan. Maps supplied by Parks Victoria were not clear for this section but we have now been forwarded an email response from Parks Victoria to a climber who asked what areas in Hollow Mountain were in an SPA. It regurgitated the same form letter many had already received previously, but had this added paragraph.
Not only is Summerday Valley on that list, but many other famous bouldering areas are also included. The biggest name that most international visitors will know is Hollow Mountain Cave, home to Wheel of Life [Video] V15. Sandinista Wall is another area with significant climbing history, including Australia’s first grade 30 outside of Arapiles, Journey through Nicaragua.
It is worth noting that Summerday Valley’s Main Wall has been closed since at least late 2014 after the massive bush-fires of that year. The reason given at the time for the closure was “cultural heritage issues”. According to a post from Cliffcare in January 2017 – “CliffCare is currently in the process of negotiating access. This process involves both Parks Victoria and AV (Aboriginal Affairs)”. There has been no further updates on these negotiations from more than two years ago. Climbers have largely respected this ban since 2015 despite signage falling into disrepair and lack of any updates that were promised.
The Parks Victoria walking trail from the vast Hollow Mountain car-park to the “summit” of Hollow Mountain is by far the busiest area for tourists in the Northern Grampians. Busloads tramp right past Summerday Valley and Sandinista Wall on their way to explore Hollow Mountain Cave. It is a high impact area, literally hundreds of tourists are scrambling up rock in this SPA area every day. This video shows tourists on the walk up past climbing sites. It seems inconceivable that such a place now has a rock-climbing prohibition. Climbers have worked with Parks Victoria in the past to build trails and seating in Summerday and there are several official signs in the car-park that specifically mention rock-climbing is approved. It is these sorts of contradictions in messaging from Parks Victoria that is confusing and alienating climbers.
Despite it not being “enforced” this is an area that climbers need to really apply pressure to Parks Victoria for official permission to climb here. Hopefully this is front and center of any future negotiations and changes to SPA zoning.
At the moment there has been no reports of rangers asking climbers to leave these listed climbing sites at the crags themselves, so we can only presume they are following their recent emails that states:
“We are not undertaking enforcement activity to prevent rock climbing outside the eight focus areas and are only enforcing broader National Park Regulations.” Email from Parks Victoria 25th March 2019
We have heard anecdotal reports of rangers telling climbers camped along Pohlners Road that Hollow Mountain Cave bouldering was banned. Commercial groups have been continuing to take clients to Summerday Valley despite the confusion about the climbing prohibitions. Should you be climbing in SPA areas? Have a read of our list of reasons why this may not be a good idea.
Last week Parks Victoria published a Rock climbing in the Grampians National Park Frequently Asked Questions Page. It didn’t really add much to previously received emails, nor did it directly answer many of the most pressing questions climbers have, but it is a useful read.
As always, if you have experienced any interactions with rangers about these climbing prohibitions or received any emails from Parks Victoria or any other government group please let us know.