'Sucked in': Uluru climb cancelled
Tomorrow's Uluru climb ban has sparked frenzied scenes at the landmark as scores of visitors queue for their last chance to scale the rock.
From tomorrow - exactly 34 years since the land was handed back to its traditional owners - climbing the sacred site will finally be outlawed.
But wild weather lashing the Red Centre has reportedly closed the climb early - with rangers forced to shut down the chain trail to the summit.
To all those people trying to climb #Uluru today before it closes permanently, who’ve been delayed by strong winds this morning and may miss their chance entirely... I say to you, from the bottom of my heart, sucked-in. pic.twitter.com/XEvW9IYPOg— Dr Natali Pearson 🧜🏼♀️🎓💦 (@sea_greeny) 24 October 2019
The climb was scheduled to open at 7:00am local time, but according to the ABC, it was soon closed after rangers deemed conditions too dangerous with winds lashing the western face of the rock.
While the climb is expected to be permanently close at 4:00pm ACT this afternoon, authorities will inspect the conditions at 10am, 12pm and 2pm - meaning visitors could still be able to reach the top before the ban is enforced.
The controversial ban is the result of a unanimous vote by the board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in 2017.
Uluru is considered to be a place of spiritual significance by its indigenous custodians, the Anangu people, who have pleaded with tourists not to climb it for many years.
As the deadline for the ban loomed, there had been a sharp spike in the number of people arriving to hike up the monolith, with a number of photos showing lengthy lines up the trail going viral.
According to the BBC, only 16 per cent of visitors to Uluru actually climbed it in 2017, when the upcoming ban was first announced, but that number has surged as the deadline drew nearer.
In fact, the ABC reports there were an extra 10,000 visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park per month in the six months leading up to the climb's closure.
Yesterday, a clip posted on Twitter by ABC journalist Oliver Gordon showed crowds waiting at the base of the site at 7am.
The video revealed the queue snaking from the carpark all the way to the beginning of the climb, with commenters likening the crowd to a "conga line".
One day out from Uluru climb closure, this is the line at 7am. pic.twitter.com/fxs344H6fV— Oliver Gordon (@olgordon) October 23, 2019
It attracted thousands of views and comments, with some describing the final mad rush to conquer Uluru as "disgusting", "selfish" and "disrespectful" to the traditional owners.
"You'd have to be really, really keen to insult and offend Traditional Owners to even consider climbing in such crowded conditions," one Twitter user posted, while another wrote: "Can any one of these climbers give me a good and valid reason why they feel they must do this? Why should you not be utterly ashamed and embarrassed? Anyone?"
Oliver, thank you for sharing. There you have it Twitter. A conga line of schmucks and dolts.This is the Coalition’s ugly Australians. Emboldened & unrepentant.May they tear their hamstrings in the course of the climb and wait hrs for medical help to get access.— Cara Mia (@CaraMia200) October 24, 2019
The climb was established in 1964 on the steep western face of the rock, and from October 28, the chain handhold that guided tourists up the rock for decades will be dismantled.
From tomorrow onwards, heavy fines of up to $10,000 will be introduced for anyone who ignores the new law.
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Over the decades, dozens of people have died while climbing Uluru for a range of reasons, including falls, dehydration and health issues.
In 2018, a Japanese tourist died while trying to climb one of the steepest parts of the rock, and last month, One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson got stuck while climbing Uluru in protest against the ban.
Earlier this month, a young South Australian girl fell at least 20 metres while descending from the summit after visiting the site with her parents and younger brother.
The 12-year-old lost her footing and fell on the lower section of the climb, near where the chain is located.
This month, Central Land Council chief executive Joe Martin-Jard told Sky News tourists had been increasingly using Uluru as a toilet.
He said that was one of the reasons behind the decision to outlaw the climb, along with the site's cultural significance and safety concerns.
"They've wanted to see it closed for a very long time, for spiritual reasons, for cultural reasons, but if you speak to them they'll also tell you that it's for safety reasons, they've had to take down bodies off the rock, people have fallen off the rock and it really hurts them when they see visitors being hurt," Mr Martin-Jard told Sky News.
"They're a bit disappointed with people going to the toilet once they're up there and leaving things like children's kimbies (nappies) behind, and when we have the rare event of rain that pee and crap flows down the rock into very fragile water holes and rock holes that animals drink from."
Uluru is closed for climbing because of strong winds. Don't mess with Anangu Tjukurpa.— Simon Thomsen (@SimonThomsen) 24 October 2019