Point Perpendicular Closure Access Alert

[update 1 November 2022: the access issues described in the below article have been partially resolved thanks to a massive climbing community letter writing campaign, mainstream media attention and a large community meeting that was held in the town of Currarong with the Defense department top brass. For more info read this ABC news story. More media stories related to this story are end bottom of this page]

This article was first published on October 23, 2022

Public access to world class climbing at Point Perpendicular on the Beecroft Peninsula is under threat due to recent changes to entry procedures and safety concerns from the land manager, the Australian Department of Defence. Anyone who has climbed at Point Perp over the last couple of decades has seen the slow erosion of access to this area year on year – from gates, guards, area closures, night curfews, only weekend access, user number limits and now it appears compulsory inductions and restrictions to all areas outside of the lighthouse enclosure. It is getting to be a bureaucratic nightmare for anyone who wants to visit. To get a glimpse into the endless closures check out their Facebook page.

Point Perpendicular contains over 700 established climbing routes across a vast 80m high cliff-line that stretches 14km along the northern side of Jervis Bay. The majority of routes are single pitch trad and mixed climbs – approached by rapping from the top down to ledge belays and climbing back out again. It is one of the great sea cliff climbing destinations in the world – an international draw card that should be on every climber’s wish list. 

Over 100 routes have been off-limits since the 1990s, when access was removed due to perceived safety risks associated with unexploded ordnance (UXO). A small area (10% of the total park) is used by Defence for testing bombs, missiles and other explosive devices. This is not at any of the current popular climbing areas.

The lighthouse area at Point Perpendicular. Visitors must now stay behind the white fence – climbing is prohibited as of . © A Richardson

This week’s surprise announcement of an access ban to almost the entirety of Point Perp seems to be a rehash of these old concerns around unexploded ordnance. Climbers are not the only target, access is currently denied to any member of the public unless they agree to only stand behind the fence in the lighthouse enclosure and stay away from beaches or other areas in the park. Visitors now have to agree to this in writing and attend a compulsory induction before being allowed entry through the guarded security gates. This induction process needs to be completed every day you visit the site – it is not a one off. Climbers have been turned away in recent days as their activities were deemed not appropriate to the new rules. Imagine Xmas holidays when 100 cars can be lined up to get into the park and each and every one of them has to do a 15 minute personal induction?

Paperwork and permit given out when you attend the induction at the ranger station – at minimum a 15 minute process if no one else is in the queue.

The reason for this recent wholesale closure we have been told is a newly commissioned survey for unexploded ordnance. ACANSW have not been able to find out the timeline for this survey, whether there are plans to sequentially open areas as they are cleared or whether any other user groups were informed of this process. We don’t even know if the cliff face is actually in any danger from unexploded ordnance. Climbers certainly haven’t been communicated with nor has the local community. Other warnings about UXOs already exist and have been considered sufficient for years. 

Post on the Beecroft Weapons Range Facebook page about the closure.

One direct question we have is – why, if the lighthouse precinct is considered safe enough, cannot climbers access the cliffs in that area? Climbers have been safely using this area for decades and these cliffs are no longer in the live firing range. The decision to prevent access to these cliffs seems to be an administrative overreach by an overly cautious land manager. The lack of public consultation, work plans and timelines is disturbing.

The land is under control of the Department of Defence ie federal jurisdiction. We would encourage everyone to email the Federal member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP (fiona.phillips.mp@aph.gov.au), the Minister for Defence Richard Marles (richard.marles.mp@aph.gov.au) and their local federal member outlining: 

  • Their love of recreation, especially rock climbing, on the Beecroft Peninsula and Point Perpendicular.
  • Concerns that access has been progressively diminished over the past few years. 
  • That the current access restriction is excessive, and that the cliffs in the lighthouse precinct be reopened immediately.
  • The induction process is onerous and unnecessary when existing warnings are clear and unambiguous.
  • That the Defence Dept needs to consult with the climbing community via ACANSW on any closures and changes to management plans that would affect access.
  • The Defence Dept needs to publish clear timelines and plans for this UXO survey.
  • And ask what assurances can be provided about ongoing public access.

Thanks for helping to restore climbing access to such a significant climbing area. Contacting politicians and land managers has been a proven and effective way to change our climbing access at several other sites in NSW. The more feedback they get from the general public the better chance we have of changing the outcome.

Enjoy the magic that is Point Perp in the photo gallery below. Don’t let it slip out of reach!

Media Articles

Update 1 November 2022 – Letter writing works! Due to hundreds of emails being sent from ACANSW members to politicians and other recreational user groups (fishing, boating, bushwalking, conservation etc) the media published significant articles and news stories about this issue. Below is a selection of these media stories.

ABC News – Defence denies it plans to block public access to Beecroft Peninsula

ABC News – Defence Department reveals unexploded ordnance to blame for closures at Beecroft Peninsula

WIN News – Public to enjoy Beecroft Peninsula once unexploded ordnance has been removed

Illawarra Mercury [paywall] – What’s going on at Beecroft Peninsula? Rumours of closure quashed by Defence

Daily Telegraph [paywall] – Shock reason climbers fear world class site could close

Outdoors NSW & ACT – Active recreation gets turned away

Blue Mountains Flood Access Update

A once in a lifetime flooding event in March 2021 has caused considerable access issues at Blue Mountains climbing areas. Please read this important information about what crags are closed and what you can do to avoid damaging climbs and approach tracks at our special climbing areas. This post will be updated regularly as events unfold.

This was last updated at 8.00pm – 15 April 2021

This natural disaster is on top of previous massive flooding and the Black Summer bush fires from last year that had already damaged many climbing areas. The advice given here is advisory only – if in any doubt take the cautious approach and stay at home. If you know better information than what is on this page please get in contact and let us know!

Camping in the Blue Mountains

Mt York & Megalong Campgrounds are OPEN. Perry’s Lookout Campground is temporarily CLOSED due to falling tree danger. Big Top is also CLOSED permanently.

Megalong Valley Rd washout 21 March 2021 (has now been partially repaired)

Crag & road closures

The Blue Mountains National Park, Gardens of Stone National Park and Kanangra-Boyd National Park have now reopened – but some access roads in these parks are closed due to flood damage which restricts access to climbing areas. There is also likely to be considerable damage to access tracks, falling trees and high water levels in canyons and creek crossings. Walkers and cyclists may be permitted on closed roads.

OPEN – Bells Line Road between Mt Wilson and Mt Tomah (Pierces Pass, Bowens Creek, Banksy, Mt Banks) has reopened as a single lane 40km/h road. Expect delays during weekends.

CLOSED – Pulpit Rock Road (Bellbird Wall – full closure due to fire and flood damage)

Erosion on tracks

With half a metre of rain pouring onto the mountains in a week we have seen huge damage to approach tracks to many crags. Please avoid crags that do not have “official” hardened tourist tracks to them for at least a week. If you are walking in mud then it’s probably a bad idea to be on that track. It only takes a few people to ruin an approach track for decades to come. Avoid driving on dirt roads – walk if you have to. Consider donating to Crag Care to help finance the inevitable repair of climbing area tracks.

Walking track to Centennial Glen 21st March 2021

Wet rock – stay off!

Blue Mountains rock is incredibly fragile when wet. Climbing on wet rock can break key holds and cause grooves to be worn into the rock from ropes. Please allow our crags to fully dry before pulling on. This extraordinary rain event has dampened every piece of rock – even the caves. Expect to wait for at least a week of good sunny weather before the rock will be fully dry and ok to climb on. If a hold is oozing water on an otherwise dry section of rock please avoid using it. Pick another project. Trad gear is also greatly compromised when placed into wet rock. This applies to all NSW sandstone cliffs including Sydney and Nowra crags.

Shipley is a wet seeping mess

Don’t be a statistic

Local emergency services, including NSW Police Rescue and the SES, are hard at work dealing with flooding and cleanups in the town areas and don’t need the additional strain of rescuing injured or trapped rock climbers in remote areas. We have already seen reports of bushwalkers & kayakers having to be rescued and the public outcry from wasted resources is not a good look. Reconsider visiting remote areas and choose routes that are safe and easy to get to for rescue personal if your day goes pear shaped.

Flash flooding

As the ground is 100% saturated any further heavy rain will cause immediate flash flooding. Some climbing areas are approached via access tracks near waterfalls and canyons. These are not safe areas to be in during flash flood events. You can easily become trapped if rain fall causes flash flooding on the approach trails (in particular Porters Pass is a very susceptible to flash flooding).

Steps down to Porters Pass hit by flash flooding 20th March 2021

Falling trees, landslides and rockfall

As dirt turns to mud the usually solid structure holding everything together is gone. Trees topple when their roots can no longer hold them up in the mud. This is not only a direct danger to your head, but a fallen tree can also block roads and bring down powerlines across paths. Just because you managed to drive into that sneaky crag doesn’t mean you will be able to get out again. We have seen several minor landslides this week, including at Shipley, and there will be plenty more to come. Last years floods saw huge slips at Narrow Neck and Wentworth Falls that removed tracks, ladders and other infrastructure. Who can forget when the whole cliff fell down at Medlow Bath a few years back? Wet weather is what triggers these events. Rock fall is also common for months after fires/floods – even at popular crags. Consider wearing a helmet.

Rockfall damage to walking tracks during floods March 2021
Landslide on ledge below Shipley Upper 23 March 2021

Landslide damage on walk in along Shipley Lower 23 March 2021