As negotiations evolve this information will be constantly revised. Check back every time you plan to climb in the Grampians.
Closed Crags – Fines Apply
Updated 21 April 2019
The 8 focus areas banned by Parks Victoria in February 2019 are all located in the Victoria Range. Do not under any circumstance attempt to climb at these areas. We have been reliably informed that Parks Victoria rangers have been patrolling these areas and have threatened substantial fines if you climb here ($1,611 for breaking the ban, plus anything else they can charge you with regarding environmental or cultural destruction). These areas are also signposted as banned.
The 8 banned crags where fines apply are:
Cave of Man Hands
Little Hands Cave
There are rough maps of these banned areas here.
Closed Crags – Fines Don’t Apply (SPA Areas)
Updated 21 April 2019
The following extensive list of crags are located inside Special Protection Areas (SPAs) where climbing activities are prohibited according to the 2003 Management Plan. SPA areas are extensive and contain 30% of all climbing routes in the Grampians. Even more dramatically, they contain 50% of the bouldering and sport-climbing in the region. Since late 2018 rangers have been telling climbers that these SPA area bans are not enforceable by fines, but have asked climbers to leave crags. Signs have also been installed at carparks and crags stating climbing is banned in the Victoria Range SPAs (Weirs Creek to The Tower). Emails from parks Victoria have confirmed the crags at Hollow Mountain that are a closed.
We recommend no-one climbs at any crag in an SPA for the time being. For more information about why please read our Should You Climb in SPA Areas page. There is a high chance that you will encounter rangers if you choose to ignore this recommendation.
If you do meet rangers either at the crags, campgrounds or car parks, please be courteous but inquisitive about the climbing bans. Ask them what they personally think of the bans and what actions they have been told by management to perform. Be a good spokesperson for climbers and let them know how much you enjoy the Grampians/Gariwerd.
An authorised officer of PV can only ask for your name or ask you to leave if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that you’re doing something wrong. See more info about your legal rights read this.
(This list may be subject to change, and may be conservative as maps supplied by Parks Victoria are vague and do not name individual crags.)
Summerday Valley (confirmed)
Bowler Boulder (confirmed)
Flying Blind Buttress (confirmed)
BARC Cliff (confirmed)
Echidna Wall (confirmed)
Gun Buttress (confirmed)
Sandinista Cliff (confirmed)
Moral Vandal Block (confirmed)
Amnesty Wall (confirmed)
Crank Start Amphitheater (confirmed)
Orange Blossom Wall (confirmed)
Guernica Block (confirmed)
Clicke Wall (confirmed)
Red Wall (confirmed)
Echo Block (confirmed)
Hollow Mountain Cave (confirmed)
Bad Cliche (confirmed)
Cave of Ghosts
Mt Pleasant (confirmed)
Campground Boulders (closed by private property owners)
Pacific Ocean Wall
Wall of the West Wind
Loose Rock Candy Outcrop
Lost & Far Pavilion
Band of Gypsies
Red Rock Pinnacles
Pinnacle of Achievement
Hut Creek Track
Norman Neve Memorial Wall
Sunny Boy Block
Asses Ear Area
The following is the list of 8 banned (blue square) areas and notes about each area. Thanks to Neil Monteith for writing this detail up.
Considered one of the jewels of Grampians climbing, this gem sits discreetly atop a hill above Buandik Campground. Discovered by climbers more than 30 years ago, it has gained a reputation as the first stop for many visitors to the Grampians. It is certainly the most popular climbing area in the Victoria Range. The high quality pocketed rock is not only unique to the Grampians, but also unique in the world. Routes such at Weaveworld and Monkey Puzzle are the benchmarks for quality and attract hundreds of climbers a year. According to thecrag.com database, the route Chain of Fools is the second most popular in all of the Grampians – a significant fact when you consider how many climbers visit the park. When the weather deteriorates, The Gallery is the default place for Grampians climbers to retreat to. A good walking track, partially built by Parks Victoria 15 years ago, leads to a rocky ledge and the cave above. There is minimal erosion issues and the site is in remarkably good condition considering the sheer volume of climbers who venture here. On a weekend it’s not uncommon to have 30+ climbers in the cave enjoying the views and getting fit. Many of the campers at Buandik Campground are climbers heading to The Gallery. There are five iconic routes in the cave and smattering of lesser quality routes on the fringes. Bright white chalk against the dark orange rock is a visual problem that could be solved by cleaning and use of coloured chalk. Fixed gear is of generally good quality with much of it replaced in the late 2000s. There is little chance of casual tourists stumbling upon this area as it is a long and steep walk from the carpark below with no signage. There has been no new routes added to this area since 2012, and the majority of routes were established in the early 90s. This area is unlikely to have any new routes added into the future. There is no known Aboriginal heritage in this cave that climbers are aware of. This area has been climbed on for decades with full knowledge of Parks Victoria, with their perceived approval since they were involved in track work and creating larger carparks & campsites to cater for climbers. There has been no hint in the past that this major area would be banned. The Gallery is significant climbing site and every attempt should be made to keep this area open.
Billywing Buttress & Billimina Area
A very unpopular pure trad area, that was first climbed on in the 80s, had a brief burst of activity in the early 90s and was abandoned shortly after. In the last decade there has been some bouldering development in the region but the scattered nature of the area means the impact is negligible. The ban on the Billywing Buttress probably also includes other nearby crags on the slopes and summit of the hill above Buandik Campground but this requires clarification from Parks Victoria. This is a wonderful area of remote boulders and mini cliffs, and thus is an enjoyable place to explore away from tourists and roads. Just scrambling around is a worthwhile activity. The location of Aboriginal heritage items is unknown by climbers. To close the entire area to people seems like an overreach if there is only a couple of sites amongst the myriad of crags and gullies.
One of the top destinations for experienced climbers, this major cave system contains many of the hardest routes in Victoria and has the additional benefit of complete weather protection. Much like The Gallery, several of the routes here have iconic status and considered to be the best of their style in Australia (roof climbing). The majority of routes were established in the late 1990s, and little new route development has occurred since then. The last new route added was a decade ago in 2009. There is no potential for lots of new routes. Currently the road access to this crag is via the Goat Track that is closed for part of the year (winter). Even when open, the road is only suitable for 4WD vehicles so this reduces traffic considerably. This crag gets 10% of climber visits compared to nearby The Gallery (a few hundred people a year). The track to the crag and the base of the cliff are both not suffering from erosion. Chalk is a visual problem at this crag. The two caves are also used by hikers as camping caves. Large school groups have been seen camping in these caves in the past and are not associated with climbers. There has been reports of aboriginal art in the bottom cave below one route but the art is not clearly visible and this has not been confirmed by Parks Vic. A proposed solution would be to remove bolts on routes where the art is, and discourage any bouldering in the cave. Signage would also be beneficial.
Cave of Man Hands
A recently developed bouldering cave, the majority of problems were established in 2011. This area has great quality steep climbing but its proximity to the Manja Shelter art site is problematic. There are no erosion issues on the approach or the cave itself. Chalk use is a considerable visual problem. With only 16 problems this isn’t an extensive area, but it is quite well known among the bouldering community. Visitor numbers would be less than 10% of The Gallery, totaling a few hundred a year at most. There is a reasonable chance there is Aboriginal heritage value in the immediate area of this cave but it has not been identified by climbers.
Little Hands Cave
A steep sport climbing cave that proves not all caves are equal in the eyes of climbers. The first climbs were done here in 2009 and since then there has been almost no climbing activity. With visitor numbers in the single digits per year the loss of this crag is probably considered ok. There are a lot of bolts but minimal chalk on the routes. Bolts could be removed if that would help return the area to its original state. There is a reasonable chance there is Aboriginal heritage value in the immediate area of this cave but it has not been identified by climbers.
A fairly obscure area tucked away 40 minutes steep walk above the Jananginj Jawi Aboriginal art site on the same road as Eureka Walls. With no caves, or flat ground there doesn’t appear to be any conflict with Aboriginal heritage (apart from walking past the caged and boardwalked art site down low, which is easy to bypass). The crag itself contains mostly trad or mixed routes and is visited very rarely, with the last new route being established in 2002. There is no environmental damage or erosion as there is no track to the crag due to its unpopularity (the most popular route here, Wild Iris, would have had less than 50 ascents in 15 years). The crag is vertical so chalk washes off when it rains. It is unlikely to ever be a popular area due to route style and harshness of approach. It gets less than 1% of the climbers traffic of The Gallery. Wiers Creek and Eureka Towers are a similar distance to the art site and are more significant climbing destinations. The reasons for this ban seem unclear, and the potential for other better crags nearby to be hit with the same ban are a very big worry. The reasons for the ban of Gondwanaland need to be clarified as it appears to be a significant distance from Aboriginal heritage locations. This ban could create a precedent for bans of other more important crags along this ridgeline.
Further summary of the affected climbing areas that are within the ‘Special Protection Area’.
…(Sorry about the cropped size)
Some more background info from Neil:
After the announcement by Parks Victoria on the 15th February 2019 of the closure of 8 crags to climbing I have put my own personal thoughts below in how this affects climbing in the Grampians (and worldwide). I’m particularly concerned about the closure of The Gallery and Millenium, as these two spots are considered icon crags of the Grampians.
The Grampians contains Victoria’s most significant rock climbing and bouldering. The quality of the sandstone rock has given it world famous status. Images of climbers have featured internationally in calendars, videos, magazines and of course social media. The Grampians caves are like nothing else on earth, and there are several individual rock climbs that stand out as iconic among the world’s climbing community. These individual climbs are the reason people save for years to travel to Australia and are the basis for the reason they stay. Many of these climbs are located in the areas that have been banned.
It’s important to note that one climbing area is not comparable to another, they are not interchangeable, especially when it comes to cave areas. Climbers travel thousands of kilometres to the Grampians to experience the physical and mental challenge of climbing upside down across ceilings of pocketed rock. Closing a cave and expecting climbers to climb elsewhere at a more vertical area is equivalent to telling a sprinter he now needs to compete in the marathon. The appeal of the Grampians is its uniqueness. On a more practical side, a cave also offers all weather protection against rain and sun, a key benefit for climbers wanting to climb all year round. This protection is a lifeline to travellers who are staying in the region for extended periods – most out-of-state climbers spend several weeks, if not months in the area when on a rockclimbing holiday (spending money in the region whilst doing so).
It is also important to note that climbers are not deliberately targeting Aboriginal heritage sites for vandalism. The couple of incidents made public recently were accidental damage to art sites unknown to the public. They were a tiny fraction of the thousands of climbers and climbs that exist in the Grampians on a yearly basis without controversy. Climbing has occurred in the Grampians for more than 70 years as a valid recreational pursuit and it should be possible for this to continue with the right management plan and cooperation of climbers.
What can we do? The Victorian Climbing Club’s Cliffcare has taken on the mammoth task of reversing these bans and trying to halt further bans. They need your support (and money). Please help.