Parks Vic Frame Climbers – Get Caught Out

On Thursday afternoon, Parks Victoria updated their website about Grampians Rockclimbing. Some of the additional information consisted of several misleading photos from the Buandik area showing safety bolts with one clearly labeled “Bolt in Rock Art”.

Screenshot of website 10.39am 5th April 2019

Eagle eyed climbers quickly recognized this was NOT a climbers safety bolt at all, but instead was the remains of an old anchor bolt that was used to attach a protective cage to the Billimina Art Site at Buandik in the Victoria Range. The bolt is at knee height above the ground – totally useless for climbing. The original cage was removed and replaced around 1991 by Parks Victoria themselves. Talk about shooting themselves in the foot! The original cage probably pre-dated National Parks management of the area (1984). This art was “discovered” by non-indigenous people in the early 1960s.

Cage around Billimina Art Site – remains of old bolts in the art itself

Climbers have consistently questioned Parks Victoria’s numerous statements that climbers have bolted “in” art. As far as we know this has never happened. It is disingenuous at best to paint climbers as people who deliberately vandalize these art sites. Yes, there has certainly been a couple of cases of safety bolts being installed within several metres of art sites by accident, but these have been removed and heavily condemned by the climbing community. There was no damage done to the art itself.

If this is Parks Victoria’s best evidence against climbers, and the reason they have shut down almost half of the climbing in the Grampians (by a secretive process), then we really deserve better transparency. Was this the sort of evidence presented to Parks Victoria head office to justify these bans?

To add insult to injury Parks Victoria has subsequently removed these images from their website offering no explanation on why they were used. Lucky we got the screenshots before it disappeared. The internet never forgets.

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In happier news the Save Grampians Climbing petition was handed to Emma Kealy MP on the steps of the Victorian Parliament building on Thursday. 572 handwritten petition signatures were submitted along with a report drawing attention to the 21,000 online signatories to the Change.org petition organised by the Grampians Access Working Group.

The Victorian Environment Minister Dr Lily D’Ambrosio is due to deliver a directive on Grampians climbing access during the first week of May (soon after Victorian Budget Day, 30th April). We have asked for interim approval to responsibly climb within the Grampians National Park pending cliff-by-cliff reviews to be held in close consultation with the rock climbing community. The environmental and cultural concerns that have been raised are fully supported by rock climbers, whose detailed knowledge of the Grampians has greatly assisted the park management process for over 40 years.

Mike Tomkins hands petition to Emma Kealy MP

6 thoughts on “Parks Vic Frame Climbers – Get Caught Out”

  1. Also – that image of the fireplace is very unlikely to be climbers, as many other parks users visit caves… and PLEASE chalk is not graffiti. Chalk also does not go anywhere near artworks as we don’t climb them!

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  2. I think you have to acknowledge there are different views of chalk to yours. From other perspectives that chalk in the photo from the Gallery is little different to graffiti. It is ugly and detracts from the beauty of the location. Protecting climbing access to the Victoria Range may require some compromise in this matter. I don’t know whether this means coloured chalk or chalkless climbing or cleaning afterwards. The degree of compromise should become apparent after discussion with other stakeholders.

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    1. I think that’s a fair comment about the impact of chalk, but the use of the word ‘graffiti’ unveils the motives of the writer, which are also evidenced by the mischaracterization of the bolt in the artwork.

      It could have simply been written as ‘Damage to rock from the use of climbing chalk’. Use of the term Graffiti suggests that it is of malicious intent, when it’s better described as careless.

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    2. Yes, certainly. The ‘Gallery’ is an extreme example, lots of chalk – and we can only presume it was closed because of the chalk. But it’s just chalk, it doesn’t harm the rock, and in the vast majority of areas chalk is a non-issue… But there’s no precedent for closing an area due to excessive chalk use, and how much is too much? Some use of chalk is really an essential part of difficult climbing (trad or sport), and as long as it’s kept well away from art sites, and highly visual areas, then I can hardly see a problem.

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  3. The continued key error from the climbing community during this whole debacle ( also again in this article)iIs that climbers “deserve” or are entitled to anything.
    We all see the damage at the cliffs. It not me or you but the combination of everyone. I still see no articles or discussions about how we can better manage our impact. It is all stamping the foot or vilifying Parks Vic whom are charged with the care of the park.

    Don’t get me wrong. I would like continued access to the park. However the approach from this community resembles a spoiled child rather than mature adults committed to making their practice better and impacts lessened.

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    1. This is a good point in terms of how we should argue our case.

      The real facts are a little different though. Climbers are far more conscious of the environment and our impact than your average park user. As for entitlement, no park user is ‘entitled’ to the park. Why should climbers be excluded when bushwalkers drop rubbish all over trails and arrive in far higher numbers every day than climbers?

      All park users want access. It’s a question of whether an eco-conscious minority are truly damaging the park as much as we are blamed for.

      There are actually a lot of articles (admittedly more in the US) about minimising our impact. Agree we should all be open to this and ways we can improve. Not fair to be held to a higher standard than your average park user though.

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