Illawarra Escarpment – Draft Amendment to Allow Climbing?

In what appears to be a fantastic win for the climbing community – the extensive 13km cliff-line that runs from Bulli Pass north to Stanwell Park is set to be re-opened to rock climbing according to a draft amendment to the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area Plan of Management. This is great news, as this area has some fantastic climbing at crags such at Stonehaven, Coalcliff, Scarborough Cliffs, Whale Watchers Wall, Scarface and Fear Wall. Lush forest, amazing orange rock and exciting multi-pitch routes – both sport and trad – are potentially on offer. There are hundreds of already established routes in this area that came under a cloud a few years ago when a new Plan of Management was applied that effectively banned all rock climbing outside of Mt Keira. This is set to change.

ACANSW representatives met with the land managers a few years back and lobbied for this area to be open as a recreation area for the local climbing community. It appears these meetings may have hopefully given the green light for such a great area to be recognized for it’s climbing.

The relevant rock climbing sections from the draft amendment are:

Promoting recreational opportunities

The escarpment between Bulli Pass and Stanwell Park has a longstanding history of rock climbing. Rock climbing is currently only permitted on the south- and west-facing cliff lines of Mount Keira under the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area Plan of Management, subject to safety and environmental acceptability. An amendment to the plan of management is proposed to provide additional opportunities for rock climbers by allowing rock climbing in areas north of Bulli Pass.

Plan reference: pages 26-27, under Other activities

Rock climbing and abseiling will be allowed on the west- and south-facing cliffs of Mount Keira and north of Bulli Pass. Basic amenities are available near Mount Keira at the Mount Keira Summit Park, and access is provided via the Dave Walsh Track.

New bolts or anchors may not be installed, and park infrastructure such as safety railings may not be used as anchor points as they have not been designed for this purpose.

Locations where rock climbing and abseiling are allowed may be reviewed to address safety issues, risks to visitors or impacts on cultural values or environmental values.

What does this mean for climbers?

In general, this appears to open up 13km worth of cliff to rock-climbing for the Wollongong and Sydney climbing community. These cliffs are so good they will also attract interest from climbers from further afield. This should be applauded.

A ban on new bolts or anchors hampers vital rebolting work – upgrading old and dangerous safety bolts and chains that may have been in place for 30 years or more. ACANSW suggests that there should not be a blanket ban on new bolts – as this will cause significant safety issues in the long term.

The rest of the amendment seems to be focused on allowing huts and other “roofed” structures and commercial operators into the area as part of the Great Southern Walk – a new proposed multi-day walking track in the area. The document allows groups of 40 people to be in a single group (!) and opens up the public land to commercial interests – it’s best summed up in their own words “NPWS may engage commercial operators to provide support services to walkers on the Great Southern Walk. This could include guiding, food and supply drops, facilities maintenance of walker accommodation and hiker pick-up and drop off services.”. This is the same game National Parks have been playing all round Australia – including the infamous Grampians Peaks Trail. ACANSW does not believe this to be in the best interests of future climbing access as these types of glamping “trails” usually come with trail fees and caveats that make it illegal to walk off them – thus shutting down informal access to climbing areas. There will also be land clearing associated with a proposed new Maddens Plains campground, huts and vehicle service roads. This campground is positioned directly above an established climbing area.

Help us to secure our climbing future!

ACANSW has already sent a detailed submission to National Parks – download & read it here [IESCA climbing submission.pdf]. But we still need YOUR HELP to send an individual submission to make sure this draft amendment regarding climbing is confirmed. The more submissions they receive the better chance we have of gaining access to climbing in this area. It doesn’t need to be War and Peace – just write a few sentences letting them know you think allowing rock climbing in this area is an excellent idea and one you broadly agree with. Mention that safety bolts should not be prohibited due to safety risks regarding lack of maintenance to already existing anchors. If you don’t agree with commercial huts then mention this as well.

Submissions close on the 28 October 2022.

You can download the plan at this link.

You can provide your written submission in any of the following ways:

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