Home » It’s about time: Uluru finally bans climbers

It’s about time: Uluru finally bans climbers

written by Intrepid Travel November 2, 2017

When you wander around the base of Uluru – in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre – you reach a point that has divided travellers, locals and politicians for decades. A simple sign states: We don’t climb. Behind it, a chain handrail snakes up the rock face. This is the point at which you need to make a decision: do I or don’t I?

On November 1, 2017, that decision was made for you. A management board meeting of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park voted unanimously to ban the practice from October 2019 onwards. If you visit the rock in the meantime, however, you’ll still have the choice. So – should you climb?

Photo by Patrick O’Neill

Since tourism came to the centre of Australia, thousands of people have climbed Uluru; some 35 people have died in the process. But to the local Anangu people, climbing Uluru is a desecration of one of Australia’s most sacred sites. This is why, in 1998 along with our sister company Adventure Tours Australia, we were among the first tour operators to stop climbing the rock, and why we’ve spent nearly every day since campaigning for others to stop as well.

READ MORE: ULURU THROUGH THE LENS

The Anangu people have dissuaded visitors from climbing for decades; as traditional owners of the land they feel a deep responsibility for everyone who travels to the area. So when a visitor climbs Uluru, falls and gets hurt, the Anangu are put in a terrible position; they feel personally responsible. As such, they’ve been asking for years that travellers don’t take unnecessary risks in a harsh landscape they don’t understand.

Why people would even want to climb it is another matter. Sure, the view from the top might be nice, but not nearly as spectacular – and humbling – as the view gazing up from the bottom. The iconic red sandstone of Uluru is easily eroded; it’s not hard to spot the climbing route that twists up the rock. Locals refer to the trail as the scar of Uluru.

Photo by Patrick O’Neill

There aren’t any facilities atop the rock either. Many climbers, not finding any bins, leave their rubbish up there. Food wrappers, batteries – even clothing and cameras – fall down the crevices in the rock, polluting the sacred waterholes below; for wildlife in the area, this is one of their only sources of fresh water, and becomes far less inviting.

And with no toilets, several travellers choose to relieve themselves there and then, which is incredibly disrespectful, and – well – just plain gross.

READ MORE: HOW I FELL BACK IN LOVE WITH AUSTRALIA

In the last few years we’ve seen the numbers of climbers dwindle. There’s a few reasons for this. First, the number of adult park entry tickets has fallen from 480,000 a year in 2004 to about 280,000 now. Secondly, travellers are becoming more sensitive to cultural issues. After all, climbing Uluru is akin to climbing onto the altar in a cathedral, or having a picnic on a grave in a cemetery – not cool.

Director of the Central Land Council, David Ross said of the ruling, “This decision has been a very long time coming, and our thoughts are with the elders who have longed for this day but are no longer with us to celebrate it.”

Intrepid Travel and Adventure Tours Australia are proud to be involved with the local communities in Uluru and to have an ongoing commitment to providing employment for the Anangu people. Our passengers show respect when they choose not to climb Uluru, but walk with Anangu throughout the area and share their stories instead.

To experience the beauty of Uluru for yourself, jump on one of our small group adventures in the Red Centre

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4 comments

Lydia February 7, 2019 - 4:56 pm

I respect the councils decision in behalf of the elders. At least the people are given the time to climb and experience its beauty.

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BRETT ALEXANDER January 17, 2018 - 9:56 pm

I have throughly read the article above. I think it is more than hypocritical. A couple of points I would like address “the trail is the scar of Uluru” so what are the walking tracks around it called??? What about the road into Uluru??? Perhaps the money trail would be a fitting name… “no toilets, travellers choose to relieve themselves then and there” I can’t imagine that a “traveller” would “choose” to defecate on top of Uluru… Strikes me as an being in an unfortunate location when neading to preform a normal bodily function… Given how disrespectful this is, I guess the elders took a casual stroll to the Ulgers for “gross” necessities… If someone gets hurt “They feel personally responsible” That’s white man law talking, you charged them money, knowing that some will be injured or killed climbing and there may be legal ramifications… The view looking up is “Spectacular and humbling” I’m sure that’s what everyone who summits Everest thinks as well… So in closing; if Uraru is truly as important as an alter or a grave, close the entire region, ban all non indigenous people from entering, otherwise enjoy tourist dollars…

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Anonymous November 2, 2017 - 8:07 pm

Ban climbing Uluru! Get over yourselves. It is a big rock. People are not driving spikes into it just walking up. And if you think the aborigines never climbed it your having yourself on. I plan to climb it before the ban. I’m as Australian as any living aboriginal and I say if your not damaging the rock and want to you should be allowed to climb it. If you fall that’s your fault. It is the heart of Australia and as an Australian I have the right to climb up, stand atop of it and look out over our magnificent land. For me that will be spiritual and who is to say any Australian has the right to stop that. We are all Australian with the same rights regardless of colour or heritage.

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rick be November 2, 2017 - 11:46 am

They can ban climbing Kili too-I just wanna look. Annapurna was enough for me…tho I still hanker for Everest,Base Camp that is.

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