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Climbing Uluru

Home > Australia > National Parks | Outdoor | Photography | Travel
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published May 14th 2019
Uluru Climbing Ban
In 1873, Englishman William Christie Gosse became the first European to climb Uluru, dually known as Ayers Rock. Nearly 150 years and millions of visitors later, it's become the most famous rock in the world and people flock to Australia's Red Centre to look at and climb the rock.

climbing uluru ayers rock
Climbing Uluru (Špaula mcmanus)

This year, on the 26th of October 2019, the rock climb will close permanently. The date coincides with the 34th Anniversary of the handing back of the rock to its traditional owners.

For many years now, the Anangu have requested that visitors refrain from climbing the rock. There are spiritual and environmental reasons for doing so. The entire area is a sacred site for the local Aboriginal people and the foot of the climb is a sacred men's area.

climbing uluru ayers rock
Climbing Uluru (Špaula mcmanus)

Added to this is the fact that the climb is treacherous. The pathway up the rock is a steep incline with a height that equals a 95 storey high building. The climbing path is 1.6 kilometres long with only a chain to hold on to. It's hard on those whose fitness is not able to cope. To date, there have been 37 deaths on the rock - mostly due to heart attacks or dehydration.

Also - there are no toilets on the top of the rock. People go anyway and, when it rains, there's a large amount of evaporated and concentrated urine and human waste flowing into the waterholes. The precious water that supports many different species of wildlife is at risk of being polluted.

climbing uluru ayers rock
Memorial plaques for some of those who died on the Rock (Špaula mcmanus)

It's amazing to hear that, despite all of the requests for visitors to not climb, there's been an explosion in visitor numbers to the rock. Are they rushing to the rock in an attempt to climb it before the October deadline?

Accommodation places are at bursting point already with peak season about to hit. Forward planning and advance bookings are critical as those who haven't already booked a room or campsite will find themselves turned away from Yulara and Curtin Springs and may find themselves completely stranded on the side of the road.

climbing uluru ayers rock
Climbing Uluru (Špaula mcmanus)

Do you want to climb? Or, do you take pride in the fact that you choose not to? What will your t-shirt say? "I climbed Uluru" or "I didn't climb Uluru".

There is no ban (at least until October 26th), so the decision lays with each individual who visits Uluru.

Traditional owners ask that those who wish to climb, make an informed decision.

Information signs have been in place at the foot of the rock since 1992. The signs explain the sensitivity of the area and appeal to visitors to reconsider their desire to climb the rock.

climbing uluru ayers rock
Climbing Uluru (Špaula mcmanus)

If your main reason for visiting Uluru is to climb the rock, then you may leave a little disappointed. The Ayers Rock climb is closed more than it's open because of strong winds or high temperatures.

climbing uluru ayers rock
Climbing Uluru (Špaula mcmanus)

For many years, the main attraction for tourists visiting Uluru is the climb. But, it appears that our mindset has changed over the past couple of decades and we're listening to the traditional owners. The number of people who climb the rock has dropped to less than 20% - down from approximately 80% in 1990. A visitor survey in 2013 showed that 98% of people would still visit Uluru even if the climb was closed.

These days, visitors are choosing to walk around the base rather than climb it. The beauty of Uluru isn't seen from a worn track in the rock - it's seen by walking around it, being immersed in it and hearing its stories. Every inch of it is different and uniquely beautiful. There's nowhere else like it in the world.

climbing uluru ayers rock
Climbing Uluru (Špaula mcmanus)
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Why? What will your t-shirt say?
Where: Uluru, Northern Territory
Your Comment
Very sensitively handled. Thank you for the update on the rock.
by Michael Genrich (score: 3|1802) 930 days ago
Nicely written Paula. My only visit was in 1967 when we flew in when the dirt airstrip was actually next to the rock. I climbed the rock. It took me an hour. Half an hour to climb and half an hour sitting on what was known as 'chicken rock' deciding up or down. If I visit again I would respect the local traditions. Very nice photos.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|3303) 927 days ago
Great article. Beautiful photos as well.
by Amanda I (score: 2|819) 917 days ago
Excellent article. My husband climbed the Rock in the early 1960s, long before I met him, but I still berate him over it, saying it was a selfish act and he had no respect for the Aboriginal people or the environment.
I never thought about the toilet aspect. People can be such pigs.
by gandk (score: 1|39) 869 days ago
Well written Paula. e often forget that not every place is a play gym.
by Bob Wozga (score: 1|92) 696 days ago
Went to the rock and stayed at the resort. Paid to see an aboriginal dance group which was very good. Asked one of the performers was he from the area and he said no. asked where he was from and he replied Glenelg in South Australia?
by Cine News Productions (score: 1|15) 353 days ago
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