To climb or not to climb? This is the question.
Updated: Jul 1
I know I am one lucky lady. I have been able to visit the Red Centre numerous times and I do truly believe it is the "heart of Australia". The people are the 'salt of the earth' which brings out a 'no mess, no fuss' kind of attitude. It's so far removed from the stresses of the city so it gives you a chance to get some perspective on life.
Unless of course you are on a tour and generally, it is so expensive to stay at Yulara (the main resort area) most companies only stay one night.
Recently I was starting a tour at Ayers Rock so I decided to grab the opportunity to fly in early, slow down the pace and be an actual tourist!! Unfortunately, my plane was delayed and I was full of flu and wished to just curl up in bed and sleep, but no, alas, out to the rock I went. I don't think a lot of people know this, but you don't have to do an expensive tour, you can purchase a ticket on the hop on hop off bus. Okay, you don't get the knowledge or commentary of a fabulous guide, but if you are short on time, or you have already done a tour, this is a great way to spend some extra time at the actual rock. For me on this day, it was winter and I was told that the climb was not open, and to be honest the thought of climbing the rock didn't cross my mind. I had always thought I wouldn't do it, (nor, do we encourage it on tour, and time never permits anyway) as I was sensitive to local aboriginal beliefs and requests not to climb. Do we climb all over other natural sacred monuments around the world?
Imagine my surprise to arrive at the base climb to discover that the climb was actually open. Normally the National Park staff find some excuse to close it; too hot, too wet, too windy etc. They had recently announced that on the 26th October 2019 the climb will be closed for good. I first thought this was an unusual date until I remembered that the land had been handed back to the traditional custodian owners, the Anangu people on this date in 1985. Part of the agreement was the climb had to remain open to the public however 35 people have died to date, either falling off or having heart attacks afterwards.
Now the interesting thing is that now they have put a cut off date for climbing the rock, it now creates a rush of people wanting to do it just because it will no longer be available. I was one of those people. I sat for a good 15 minutes, looking at the climb point having an internal struggle with myself. My inner dialogue consisted of arguments for and against. Did I want to do it for the sake of being able to say that I had done it? Did I truly want to know what it was like to climb it? Am I being a disrespectful human being? Will I regret passing up this opportunity? What if I fall and hurt myself or worse die? I had a tour beginning tomorrow and I was not at all correctly dressed for it.
What people do not realise is just how smooth and slippery the surface is. At the top of the climb point, it can be very windy as you are 348m (1142m) above sea level, and that isn't the tallest section! The chain was put up in the early days, but it only starts part way up and finishes before the top. At the bottom of the climb, there are some rocks (appropriately named chicken rock) and a section of nothing before you reach the chain. Going up is easy, however coming down it is very steep and slippery. The chain is very low down which helps on the way down. The best is to come down backwards as the chain is very low to the ground and is safer, but not many people realise this.
Anyway, as you can see from the photos, I did it. I didn't go all the way to the top, I only went as far as I could tell was halfway, but that for me was enough. I sat and took time to be in the moment. I thanked the rock and the Anangu people for the experience and safely made my way down, partly on my bottom, partly sliding and partly backwards.
Unfortunately the next day a Japanese tourist died on the rock. I'm glad they are closing the climb.