Last summer we reported that the Australian national parks service had recommended to the government that Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, be closed to climbers. Officials reasoned that climbing on the giant monolith was a safety risk and increased traffic there was causing accelerated erosion. Even more importantly, Uluru is held as a sacred site to the Aboriginal tribes in the region, and they have been very outspoken against allowing climbing there.
At the time of our original story, the proposal was going to be open for public discussion for two months before getting passed on to the Australian Parliament, who would make the final decision on the future of the Rock. Last week, the government handed down their decision, allowing climbing to continue on Uluru for now, but saying that it could yet be closed off in the future.
Uluru is a World Heritage Site and one of Australia’s most recognizable natural resources, rising 1,142 feet above the desert that surrounds it. Every year, more than 350,000 visitors flock to the monolith, with 100,000 of those electing to scale its sandstone walls. All of those visitors has caused environmental issues however, with trash and human waste littering the area.
The Australian government set down three very specific criteria that need to be met in order to ensure that Uluru remains open for climbing. First, they want to see the number of visitors who climb the rock drop from its current 38% down to just 20%. They also want to discourage climbers from coming to the place for the sole purpose of making a climb, and finally, they want to develop new experiences for visitors to experience, including ones that highlight the Aboriginal culture.
So, for now, climbing on Uluru is safe, and Parliament has promised that they will give at least an 18-month notice before they decide to close it in the future. Adventure travelers who still want to go to the top of the monolith are allowed to do so, but they should be prepared to tread lightly and expect to see fewer people on the routes to the summit.