News just in – the popular Arapiles climbing area of Declaration Crag has been closed temporarily to all climbing as of tomorrow due to discovery of significant Aboriginal rock art and quarries. Below is the official press release emailed out from Parks Victoria. Updated commentary has been added below…
This sounds like a significant archeological find and a big congratulations needs to be extended to Barengi Gadjin Land Council who made the discovery. It will undoubtedly have major significance to their community and wider society as a whole. That our favorite climbing area is also home to such historical treasures should be celebrated.
PV have released the following Q&A document about these new restrictions. Download and take a read.
What is Dec Crag?
For those not familiar with Declaration Crag’s climbing significance here is a quick summary. It is an iconic small roadside buttress that punches well above its weight as a climbing area. With 49 routes from grades 2 to 29 it also contains some excellent beginner and intermediate bouldering and all day shade on it’s 4 sides. It is most famous for two routes, Little Thor (grade 20 first ascent 1965) and Steps Ahead (grade 29 first ascent 1984) – both classics at the grade. Little Thor has over 600 ascents marked on thecrag making it one of the more popular routes at Arapiles. But it is the easy beginner routes that receive the most traffic for similar reasons to Summer Day Valley. It has a rare easy walk up access to the top for setting up top-ropes and group abseiling and thus is greatly appealing to commercial climbing operators. Declaration Crag has been many people’s first experience of rock-climbing. Explore the area in detail on thecrag.com
Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council, which co-manage the park, have installed visitor signage requesting people to respectfully avoid entering the area effectively immediately. Park Rangers and Aboriginal Heritage Officers will be regularly visiting the site to help make visitors aware of its cultural significance
To some this may have come as quite a shock, but it was not unexpected. We wrote an article 6 months ago titled Is Arapiles Next? that described how Arapiles was not immune to the exact same issues surfacing in the Grampians.
PV’s Standard Operating Procedure
What alarms us is that some climbers are already celebrating this as a new style of climber/PV/TO relationship – when this seems to have been run exactly to PV’s Grampians Ban announcement playbook.
- Discovery of art site kept secret for weeks/months (leaving climbers in harms way of prosecution for accidental damage)
- Call climbing community to meeting (the Roundtable 3 which was held yesterday afternoon)
- Announce ban to stunned room
- Issue press release to public about ban immediately after meeting.
No climbing representatives were warned in advance, none were invited to the site to discuss ways of limiting such an extreme closure, none were invited to draft the announcement to the public and no further information was revealed about the exact location of the art and quarry site. Once again climbers were excluded from the entire process despite this having a significant impact on their activities. Ban first – talk later.
But Isn’t This Just a Temp Ban?
Don’t forget that the wide ranging bans in the Grampians were only issued for 12 months according to paperwork that Simon Talbot signed. 10 months later and there has been no movement towards reopening any of the 500 square kilometres of climbing. In Victoria, a few decades ago, there was a temporary one year ban placed on the granite sea cliff of Tongue Point at Wilsons Prom. It remains in place. We have seen temporary bans at the 3 Sisters in the Blue Mountains extended indefinitely.
We can be certain that even if this ban is lifted the access we have to Declaration Crag probably won’t be the same. We suspect the Summer Day Valley model could be used as a so called “workable” solution for Licensed Tour Operators whilst excluding all other recreational climbers. Since we don’t know the scale or location of the newly discovered art and quarries it is hard to make an educated guess on how this will effect climbing at Dec Crag. If you managed to climb at Dec Crag in the past we suggest you keep those happy memories.
Behave – Or Else!
There still seems a huge reluctance to trust climbers with these areas, despite no presented evidence that climbers have harmed artwork or quarries at Arapiles. But even more concerning is this ominous quote from ACAV’s news item about this ban.
“We have been forewarned that climbers response to this (maybe try and forget about the Grampians for a moment) will literally impact how future negotiations go.”
This is seems a literal threat to take away other climbing areas if climbers dare to speak up and question this one. This video explains this new state of affairs.
Other Arapiles Sites Closed to Climbing
There is already some precedent for closures such as this at Arapiles. On a much smaller scale the small cave right of the Plaque area is signposted (but not fenced) and well respected by the climbing community. We hope this is the style of mild closure that will eventually come out of the wash after everyone stops freaking out.
Respect the temporary closure while BGLC understand what this means to them, and take measures to protect it. In the mean time, drive a couple hundred metres down the road and go climb the rest of Mt Arapiles.