Off the Charts – the real route losses in the Grampians

We have crunched the data on the proposed route closures as detailed in the draft Greater Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan and the results are pretty shocking. Parks Victoria didn’t list individual route closures – instead they used the misleading term “climbing areas” when announcing what was being closed. Why is it misleading? Because each area can vary wildly in how many routes/problems they contain. 32 “areas” on PV’s list contain less than 5 routes, whilst come areas contain over 100 (the average per area is 25). Even worse 26 “areas” out of 86 on their approved list contain less than 5 “ticks” on the crag – a good judge of an area’s popularity (is a crag with 5 ticks even worth assessing for climbers damage?) We extracted data from thecrag.com to get the real figures on the potential climbing losses if this management plan goes forward (which is highly likely).

21% approved – 1887 routes/problems
18.5% closed permanently – 1618 routes/problems
59.2% closed whilst in limbo – 5177 routes/problems
0.7% approved only for Licensed Tour Operators to use – 64 routes

59% In Limbo

You will see in our charts huge slabs of orange – these are the routes that have yet to be assessed and could be permanently closed pending the outcome of these assessments. Parks Victoria has made it clear that these “in limbo” areas are to be closed until these assessments are made. They are temporary bans like we have now seen for almost two years across the Grampians and Arapiles – so much for this management plan bringing any certainty. These areas are vastly more than the 126 “remaining areas” that Parks Victoria mentions in their plan. It’s a simple yet laborious process to extract the real figure from thecrag.com database. Add the open/closed routes then minus this figure from the total in the thecrag.com database to get the result. Sorry about all the maths nerdery.

Parks Victoria proposes closing 66 areas (1618 routes/problems), approving 86 areas (1887 routes/problems) – which leaves a massive 5177 routes/problems outstanding in limbo land. To quote PV “Parks Victoria will continue to seek funding to undertake the outstanding assessments as soon as possible.” Not exactly an inspiring timeline. In short – orange in the charts is effectively red (closed) until they find the money/time to continue this work.

Popularity contest

Another way to look at it is to actually divide up the pie into ascents (ticks on thecrag.com) rather than routes. This shows in a simple way where people are actually climbing regularly. The results are quite interesting – some would say alarming.

The big blue section shows just how popular sections of Summer Day Valley really were before it was locked down into a Licensed Tour Operator only area – the routes there only consisted of 0.64% of the Grampians route total but are 5.3% of the climbers traffic. This also shows what the true impact of the proposed permanent closures would be – wiping out 28% of the traffic in the Grampians immediately. Add that to that the closed pending assessment grouping and it’s a massive 68% of climber traffic gone. That is a good economic argument for halting these bans right there.

Quality has really got the chop

According to PV’s own draft plan of management “Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park is nationally and internationally recognised for its world-class rock climbing“. But will it be after their proposed changes come into effect? We also thought it wise to chart the losses to iconic three star climbing routes and problems – something Parks Victoria’s simple figures can’t convey. We extracted the top 50 three star routes (the top 50 is the most popular according to thecrag.com ascents). Their draft proposal eliminates almost half the three star routes in the Grampians in the first round – and puts another 32% in limbo. Would interstate and international climbers spend thousands to visit when just 22% is what’s left? This is combined figures for bouldering and roped climbing.

Breaking it down by genre

Parks Victoria figures also don’t break down the proposed closures into the all important climbing genres (bouldering, sport, trad) – despite them insisting these are separate “activities” elsewhere in the document. Bouldering and sport climbing have been on the rise, with the former appearing to overtake “roped climbing” in recent years as the most popular climbing activity. So wouldn’t it be prudent for Parks Victoria to make sure there is plenty of available opportunities for this activity? No is the answer they came up with.

Bouldering is decimated

Charting the impact of the proposed changes on the bouldering community is a bleak exercise. What is clear is that bouldering is the most impacted by the proposals with only 6% of previously available problems to remain open. No, that is not a typo.

If you are looking for 3 star boulder problems there are none. Grampians will no longer be an internationally significant bouldering area.

The Grampians is known throughout the world as the home of some of the worlds finest hard boulder problems – problems such as Wheel of Life (V15) and Ammaggama (V13) were ground breaking ascents that put lowly Australia on the intentional map. Sadly those days appear over – these problems will become museum pieces not test pieces for the future generations. Check out the chart below showing losses to three star routes V8+.

Sport Climbing

It’s a sad day when we say this chart doesn’t look initially too bad – lots of losses, lots of limbo but still 29% open is ok isn’t it? But it’s not that simple.

Quality is where sport climbing has really taken a hammering. By closing crags such as Muline, The Gallery, Taipan, Millennium you are closing the actual good sport climbing – leaving a woeful 6% of three star routes open – that is a measly 3 routes.

And if you enjoy hard sport climbing – which is kind of the point of sport climbing when you think about it – it really bites home on what is going to be culled from Victoria’s future. It’s hard to get inspired to climb hard and push limits if the routes just aren’t there anymore.

Trad Climbing

Trad climbing has somewhat escaped the culls we have seen in bouldering and sport climbing but it certainly has not come out unscathed. This is probably because there is less overlap with cultural heritage sites on vertical routes away from caves. But still – a stroke of a pen is removing iconic trad climbing areas such as Emu Rock, half of Bundaleer, Chimney Pots, The Fortress, Hollywood Bowl, and Mt Abrubt. Even worse the “in limbo” orange section is astronomical – 3844 routes awaiting assessment and closed in the meantime. Good luck with that PV.

The once proud bastion of traditional climbing classics is to be a ghost of it’s former self.

Act Now!

Parks Victoria is giving the community 10 measly weeks to give them feedback on this diabolical plan to gut climbing in the Grampians – the deadline is Sunday 24 January 2021. Put that date in your calendar – don’t put this off. If you care about the future of rock climbing or bouldering in the Grampians we really need you to go to the Engage Victoria website and leave your feedback. It can be done as a simple survey or write them an email – parkplan@engage.vic.gov.au . You can agree or disagree with all or parts of their plan – the most important thing is they get lots of feedback from climbers.

It is also important that climbers attend Park Victorias “online discussion forums” about the new Grampians Management Plan and have their say. Because of Covid there will be no “in person” town hall meeting type events. Spaces are LIMITED – only 30 people per online session so register NOW! Don’t leave it for later. This is not a listening exercise – please only register if you think you can put across good, and respectful arguments. If you just want to listen book in for the 19th November session (i.e. today).

The dates and times for the information sessions are:

Online webinars (unlimited spaces):

  • Thursday 19 November, 5.30 – 6.30pm

Online discussion sessions (max 30 people each):

  • Tuesday 24 November, 5.30 – 7.30pm
  • Thursday 26 November, 5.30 – 7.30pm
  • Tuesday 1 December, 5.30 – 7.30pm
  • Wednesday 2 December, 5.30 – 7.30pm

You can register for a community information session online – Eventbrite registration linkYou can also register by calling 13 1963.If you cannot participate online you can call 03 8427 3606, to express your interest for an in-person option in the local Grampians area.The consultation period will run until 24 January 2021, with all feedback received to be considered in the development of a final plan.

4 thoughts on “Off the Charts – the real route losses in the Grampians”

  1. The time for writing and talking to PV might be over.

    I’m not suggesting that anyone should climb on a route that has been closed to protect Aboriginal heritage. I’m thinking the exact opposite.

    The injustice here is the double standards. To protest that, I’d be totally up to “remediate” the Grampians Peaks Trail, and to picket Hollow Mountain cave, Mackenzie Falls, the Pinnacle, and the other lucrative sites that have been trashed by mass tourism. To hold PV to their own standard.

    Save Gariwerd/The Grampians, then save the climbing! Who could argue with that?

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  2. These articles are deeply appreciated and provide critical information to the climbing community. That said, I’d like to ask a question in the interest of bolstering the value and legitimacy of this article: How is possible that there is 0.0% of Three Star Boulders left, but there are 4.9% of V8+ boulders left? Those statistics are at odds with each other. Thanks in advance for your clarification.

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    1. Of the 4.9% of V8+ boulder problem left – none are in the top 50 of three star problems in the Grampians. To put it simply – all the popular areas with the classics are closed. There may be a few classics scattered out there but they are not being repeated due to location/lack of nearby other problems of similar quality.

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