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Open Spaces Tree Change

Open Spaces and it's new home in Natimuk, with the Natimuk Cafe.
Open Spaces and it’s new home in Natimuk, with the Natimuk Cafe.

It’s been a tough ten years in print publishing as the internet revolution continues to change the way we create and distribute information. Traditional printers across Australia have been putting off large numbers of staff or closing their doors for good. Wholesale distributors and book shops have been similarly affected. The introduction of smart-phones and tablets using e-books cut further and further into the traditional book market.

It’s no secret that we at Open Spaces have not been immune to the tsunami which has raged around us. At times it felt that we were shoeing horses in a blacksmith’s shop, all the while watching automobiles speeding past on the road outside. We changed tack accordingly and provided our newest walking titles with comprehensive GPS coordinates, which were able to be downloaded directly from our website. As far as we know this was a world first. Open Spaces also joined up with iCrag to create Australia’s first interactive climbing apps for both Apple and Android. We were very proud of how our Arapiles Selected Climbs and Rockclimbs Around Melbourne turned out as apps. We even changed the concept of our books, creating smaller print runs of slimmer, less expensive editions (such as our Western Gorges and Victoria’s Goldfields), which gave us the ability to update quickly and regularly. These innovations helped us to stay in business but despite this we at Open Spaces are under no illusions as to what the future holds for many ‘less adaptable’ publishers in the traditional print industry. We don’t believe that the end of traditional books will occur any time soon but we feel that there will be a fundamental shift in how books will be printed. High-quality, fast, digitally printed books that will have very short print runs (usually under 500 copies) will start to make more business sense. Our latest book, Law Unto Himself is a good example of this print on demand style of publishing. In the end though we have to face up to certain truths. More and more people will use the internet as a prime source for much of their information and they will have less need to purchase traditional forms of print media.

Which is why we have made some rather large changes here at Open Spaces. One of our biggest decisions was to drop the publishing and distribution of all our cycling titles. Of all of our books it was our cycling titles which suffered the most. With few book shops able to sell our product (to the general public) and with almost no support from cycling shops we had no choice but to drop them. We have sold the remaining stock of our excellent Bike Rides Around Melbourne to a leading distributor (Woodslane) and we will no longer be stocking it ourselves. We have also dropped many of the smaller less popular titles in our range, simply because we couldn’t justify holding so much stock.

Perhaps the biggest change for Open Spaces was that we have sold our premises in Melbourne and moved ourselves to Natimuk, a small town in the Wimmera region of Western Victoria. Natimuk is within spitting distance of the famous Mt Arapiles and the rugged Grampians mountains are nearby. This change in lifestyle will allow us to do more of the things we love. Tracey Skinner, our office administrator, has followed suit and moved up to near Natimuk with us. In fact, she and my partner, Karen, are now owners of the popular Natimuk Cafe, which is open on weekends for locals and visiting climbers and walkers.

Finally, Open Spaces would like to apologise to any of our customers that may have been inconvenienced by the inevitable chaos involving our move. Things should now be running smoothly again and we look forward to a bright future where we will continue selling and distributing walking and climbing books for many years to come.

 

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The Rust Bucket

This new Grampians sport-climbing cliff is located just near the Mount of Olives, a couple of minutes walk off the trail linking the Stapylton Campground with the Mt Stapylton Amphitheatre (total walk-in time is about 20min). The cliff is very short (only 12m or so) but the climbing is steep on generally good pocketed rock. There should be enough to entertain most climbers here for at least an afternoon’s moderate cranking. At present there are just five routes (not counting variations) as well as a couple of projects.

Echo Beach (22) is probably the Rust Bucket's most popular climb. It doesn't look too bad from the ground but the moves turn out to be surprisingly steep. Here Steve Holloway contemplates the crux.
Echo Beach (22) doesn’t look too bad from the ground but the moves turn out to be surprisingly steep. Here Steve Holloway contemplates the crux.

 

There are probably another six or seven possible new routes waiting to be done. The Rust Bucket is most appealing as a summer destination as it faces west, which means that it is in the shade until about 4pm. It also conveniently catches any cool breezes and has an appealing high aspect overlooking the plains. In winter the Rust Bucket would be a very cold place indeed. A few of the routes require stick clips on the first bolts.

Martin Wood on the second ascent of Echo Beach (22).
Martin Wood on the second ascent of Echo Beach (22).

 

Ian Smith pulling the initial moves on Blink (24).
Ian Smith pulling the initial moves on Blink (24).

 

Glenn Tempest leading the first ascent of African Queen (23).
Glenn Tempest leading the first ascent of African Queen (23).

 

The following PDF topo provides approach and route details. It can be opened up in Google Docs Viewer.

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CliffCare – the lowdown

While much of my working week takes place at Open Spaces (I work here 3 days a week) I also work part-time for the Victorian Climbing Club and CliffCare as the Access & Environment Officer. Some of you may be familiar with what my role entails and what CliffCare is about but there is a pretty fair chance that many of you may have no idea what I am talking about. I did briefly touch on this in an earlier blog

CliffCare is a Trust – The Victorian CliffCare Trust. This is administered by the VCC and in simple terms is the environmental arm of the club.
In short CliffCare’s aims:
Education – promoting ‘low impact’ climbing
Advocacy – negotiating with land managers to maintain access and re-open popular cliffs.
Protection – organizing work parties and raising money to preserve the cliff environment.

CliffCare aims to take a proactive position when it comes to these aims rather than a reactive one which tended to occur in the past. With a strong partnership developing with various Parks Victoria offices, our hope is to be able to look after the areas in which we climb in a way which is more conducive with climbers as well as taking into account other park users and the environmental interests of the parks themselves. Constant budget cuts to Parks Victoria which noticeably affect their resources, including staff, mean that more and more often, these kind of partnerships with usergroups will be required if we want areas to stay open and managed well. Many of the areas in which we climb are often off track as in PV managed tracks. What this means is that as they are not official tracks etc, PV are not required to maintain them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be maintained nor that PV will just turn a blind eye. Considering the fact that for the most part, climbers are the ones that predominantly use these tracks and areas, well – it should be that climbers are the ones to maintain them. All of this though, requires volunteers and that dreaded word…..money. While the VCC might administer the funds and some percentage of membership fees do cover some aspects, the costs associated with having an Access & Environment Officer, materials, tools etc are all dependant on the Annual CliffCare Raffle and enough donations coming in. Some projects have been lucky enough to be funded by a grant but these are getting fewer and far between and it does seem that with the current Victorian government, that anything that has the word ‘environment’ in it, is first for the chop. So now more than ever, donations are a vital component of the continuing success of CliffCare and for the climbing community, the safeguarding of the cliffs access and care.

This year has been a bumper year for works going on at a variety of areas and cliffs.I’ve made a list of workdays so far, some pictures to see some of the work, links to more pictures and if you’re feeling so inclined, the link to the donation site. And if you would like to help out on one of the many working bees we have lined up, please drop me a line and I’ll send you the details cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

Next workday coming up this weekend!

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos Gully project) 10th March,2012

Mt Rosea climbers track repair 14th April,2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 28 Apr 2012

Climb & Repair You Yangs 12 May 2012

The Gallery Track Repair, Grampians 26 May 2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 9 Jun 2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 18 Aug 2012

Mt Rosea landslide gully before

Mt Rosea landslide gully after
Pharos Gully summit staircase
Bundaleer, Grampians. Protecting the Manic Depressive area for cultural heritage

 

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Mt Stapylton Loop Walk

I’d been planning to walk the Mt Stapylton Loop for the last year or so and it was only last week when I finally got the chance to do so. For anyone unfamiliar with the Grampians National Park, this 12.2km circuit walk traverses a series of exposed sandstone peaks and shallow valleys in the parks drier northern extremity. The Wimmera surrounds this rugged massif and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualise how, in the not too distant past, the sea once lapped right up to the cliffs and boulders.

I left the Stapylton Campground at about 8am. It was a little earlier than I’d planned but I hadn’t accounted for nature’s alarm clock; a few dozen screeching cockatoos flying over my tent at 6am. The trail passes through low scrub for about 15min before crossing Pohlner Road. There are great views of the Mount of Olives, a tower of ochre-coloured rock, which reminded me of a rather more sad and weary version of the Pharos at nearby Mt Arapiles. By the time I reached the top of the range the sun had risen high in the sky and I was sweating from the climb. Here the trail reached an intersection and I turned north, a gradual ascent leading up through low bush.

After an hour or so I reached a major trail junction. Here I met a group of walkers who had come up from Mt Zero Picnic Area and were sitting on the rocks trying to figure out which way to go. All of the trail signs were laying in the trees, having been pulled from the ground. Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me. I pointed them in the right direction and they happily set off towards Stapylton Campground. I on the other hand continued on up towards the top of Mt Stapylton. The trail weaved its way up the northern side of the rocks before sidling up to a rocky ridge. Here a metal sign indicated that walkers should only proceed in good weather. No problem today.

The final scramble to the top is easy but exposed. In wet or windy conditions I would seriously think twice before attempting the ascent. A couple of years ago my partner and I arrived on the summit as black storm clouds gathered and a hot wind gusted from the north. Our hair stood on end and we could feel the crackle of electricity in the air. Needless to say we retreated immediately, managing to reach the safety of the trees just as the heaven’s opened up and the rain came pouring down. This time I arrived on top in perfect conditions. Fluffy clouds billowed above me and a lone kestrel danced on the breeze.

Mt Stapylton is only 518m above-sea-level but its isolated rocky mass and commanding position makes it one of my favourite viewpoints in the Grampians. Off the the northwest I could see Mt Arapiles and its distinctive tiny neighbour, Mitre Peak, rising above a sea of wheat stubble. As I turned counter-clockwise I could make out the bluffs of the Black Range and, almost abutting it, the entire backbone of the Grampians National Park as it stretched, broken and twisted, south towards the coast.

After an hour dozing in the sun I reluctantly left the summit and started down. Back at the junction I continued along the trail towards Mt Zero Picnic Area. The walk descends long rocky ramps past Bird Rock and underneath Taipan Wall, a soaring bastion of overhanging red rock, before meandering through the Mt Stapylton Amphitheatre. At the Mt Zero Picnic Area turnoff I pushed on a little further to the top of Flat Rock. This short diversion allowed me to look back into the amphitheatre and view the half-moon escarpment as it started to reflect the late afternoon sun. The final 4.4km of sandy trail led me down from the amphitheatre and back along the range underneath the Mount of Olives to where I rejoined my footsteps from earlier in the day at Pohlner Road. By the time I arrived back at Stapylton Campground the sun was low in the western sky and I was low on energy. Definitely time to warm up in front of the camp-fire and refuel.

Check out my other blog on the Hollow Mountain / Mt Stapylton Circuit Walk and associated images on my SmugMug site here.

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Grampians Trail Updates and Planned Burns March 2012

hollow-mountain

hollow-mountain

Just in time for the long weekend. A number of the tracks previously closed have now reopened and these are listed below. As well as these updates, there are some future planned burns in the Victoria Range. I don’t have actual dates at this stage but at least you can get an idea of the time frame they are looking at and hopefully plan around them. I have been told that during the school holidays, it will be business as usual but the closures will occur before and after this. Sections of the Victoria Range will be closed for a couple of weeks at a time.

Hollow Mountain Walking Track – reopen Tuesday 5 March

The Grampians Flood Recovery crew will be reopening the Hollow Mountain walking track tomorrow after four weeks of construction works. Crews have installed new timber steps and approximately 400m of the walking track has been ‘lifted’ to reinstate the track surface to above ground level.

Bullaces Glen Walking track – reopen Friday 9 March

The Bullaces Glen walking track will reopen this Friday in time for the Long Weekend. This popular track has been closed since the January 2011 flood and storm event. There has been a lot of work done on this track including 200metres of track realignment. The crews have harvested tonnes of rock on site for the creation of over 100 stone steps and have also built a new creek crossing in the Bullaces Glen area. Other works on the track include drain clearing, risk mitigation and vegetation removal along with the replacement of directional signage. The new loop track offers a fantastic option for visitors wanting a 1 to 1 1/2 hour walk with moderate difficulty or visitors can take the longer option to Chatauqua Peak.

Venus Baths Walk Update

There will be access to a small part of the Venus Baths walking track for the Bullaces Glen Walk, however the walk to Venus Baths will remain closed. Concept planning for realignments around land slips and bridge replacement is underway.

Coppermine Road – Reopened

Road crews have repaired the large washout on the road between Coppermine bushcamp and Mt Zero Road.

Grampians National Park – Planned Burn Program 2012

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Parks Victoria will be commencing its autumn planned burning program in the Grampians National Park during April and May. Planned burns have been scheduled a little later this year because of the dryer weather conditions we have experienced locally.

In line with the Wimmera Fire Operations Plan released last September; DSE and Parks Victoria intend to conduct seven separate burns in the Grampians area. Planned burning is part of an integrated plan to reduce the bushfire risk to people, property and communities. Please see the attached map of the Grampians that provides all planned burns for this autumn.

Favourable weather conditions largely influence when particular planned burns go ahead. The final decision around planned burning will be made on the day of the burn and this will be based on the results from the monitoring of the ground and weather conditions. Where possible, DSE and Parks Victoria will provide notification prior to each burn, but it is your responsibility to check the DSE website regularly for planned burns information.

During the burning program, there will be some short term closures of roads, visitor sites and walking tracks for public safety. The burn areas will stay closed until they are classified as safe. This may be up to a week after a burn. If you are planning a camping or walking trip, it is important that you plan an alternative route in case you need to change your trip at short notice.

Some of the areas that will be impacted by closures this planned burning season include:

All walking tracks and access within the Victoria Range (including Manja Shelter, the Fortress, Mt Thackeray, Goat Track and Victoria Range Track)

  • Access to the Red Rock area including all climbing sites
  • The walking track from Plantation to Mt Difficult, Boronia Walking Track
  • Terraces Track to Tandara Road and the Griffin Picnic ground

For more information

To find out where and when planned burns are happening visit www.dse.vic.gov.au, call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667 or listen to your local radio station

Information is also available at www.dse.vic.gov.au/fires and for information about fire restrictions, fire bans and fires on private land at www.cfa.vic.gov.au

For further information on the Wimmera Planned Burns program contact the Horsham DSE Fire Operations Room on 5362 0720 or visit www.dse.vic.gov.au.

 

 

 

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Grampians Peaks Trail (Feb 2012 Update)

mt rosea
mt rosea
The lookout on top of Mt Rosea in the Grampians.

Just finished chatting with David Roberts, Ranger in Charge of the Grampians National Park. Regular readers may remember the piece we did here on the Grampians Peaks Trail in July 2010. The proposed walking trail was to link Mt Zero in the north to the town of Dunkeld in the south, covering a distance of approximately 150km. This was easily the most exciting new walking trail project to have been planned in Victoria since the completion of the Great Ocean Walk in 2005.   Unfortunately nature intervened with the January 2011 floods and many walkers feared that the initial $1.6 million in funding would be withdrawn or redirected elsewhere. Thankfully this was not to be the case. David said that the final alignment of the trail was happening right now and that he envisaged construction of the initial three-day walking loop (from Halls Gap, through the Wonderland Range, across Mt Rosea to Borough Huts Campground and back at Halls Gap) would begin within 3 months. Two hiker camps will be constructed along the way.

This really is great news for what will hopefully become one of Australia’s premier long distance walking trails. The Victorian Government have also approved another $1.4 million for the next stage of the trail through 2012 to 2014.

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Grampians Flood update

Following the recent heavy rains and ensuing floods, many of the parks in Victoria have closures in place. Either full closures like the You Yangs or partial closures such as the Grampians.

In regards to the Grampians, a huge amount of the park took a beating – with landslides and road collapse hitting the top of the list. Some areas, notably in the Northern Grampians have now reopened. These are predominantly concentrated around the Stapylton area. Below is a basic list of open  areas at the time of writing. This will be changing regularly as more areas are assessed and those with the least damage can be repaired and re-opened.  For regular updates always visit the Parks Victoria website.

Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre, and the townships of Wartook, Dunkeld and Halls Gap are all open for business.
Visitors are advised to take caution at this time due to variable track conditions. Drivers should take additional caution at this time.
All other areas in the Grampians National Park are still closed due to widespread flood damage throughout the park.

Open Roads

Main roads into Halls Gap and Wartook.
Grampians Road to Lake Bellfield Picnic Area.
Mt Zero Road (Halls Gap to Mt Zero).
Plantation Road.
Flat Rock Road.
Roses Gap Road.

Open Campgrounds

Plantation and Stapylton Campgrounds. Please note access to Stapylton Campground is via Plantation Road from Northern Grampians Road.
Troopers Creek Campground.

Open Walking Tracks

Boronia Peak, Chatauqua Peak (east side only), Clematis Falls and the Fyans Creek Loop.Hollow Mountain, Flat Rock to Mt Stapylton, Mt Stapylton Loop, Mt Zero, Heatherlie Quarry, Beehive Falls and Briggs Bluff.Mt Sturgeon and the Piccaninny
Art Shelters

Gulgurn Manja
Ngamadjidj

Visitor Sites

Heatherlie Quarry
Mt Zero Picnic area
Summerday Valley climbing area

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Major Mitchell Plateau

I finally ticked the Major Mitchell Plateau walk this weekend. I’ve been meaning to do the trail for some time but we have had a pretty wet and cold winter here in Victoria, which kept me away from the Grampians. Karen was still suffering from a virus she caught earlier in the week and decided she would act as my pickup from Jimmy Creek Campground. This well-known walk traverses the wild sub-alpine plateau linking the two highest summits in the Grampians National Park. Both Mt William and Durd-Durd share the same elevation of 1167m and are subject to the harshest weather and highest rainfalls in Western Victoria. Much of the trail is above 1000m and region bares a striking similarity to the landscapes of central and southwest Tasmania. I didn’t start the walk until midday which, as it was the first day of daylight saving, wasn’t as bad as it seemed. It was still too late for a demanding 19.2km walk however, and I really had to move quickly if I wasn’t to resort to using my headtorch. Continue reading Major Mitchell Plateau

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Mt Rosea and Sundial Peak

Karen and I drove up to Mt Rosea in the Grampians National Park last weekend to complete one of our walking circuits for the forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guidebook. This very scenic loop passes along the southern end of the Wonderland Range via Sundial Peak and culminates in an ascent of Mt Rosea, one of only a handful of mountains within the park that rises to over 1000 metres. Sundial Peak offers thrilling views overlooking Lake Bellfield and Halls Gap while Mt Rosea’s commanding position above the surrounding valleys guarantees one of the most expansive landscape vistas in Victoria.

The storms which blew across the Grampians a few weeks ago had ripped out large numbers of trees and the walking trail to the top of Sundial Peak was a real pain to negotiate. We spent almost an hour climbing over and between fallen timber before we reached the top. Once we left the summit the walking got a lot easier and we descended into the Silverband Valley to start our long climb up the Burma Track. We finally reached the summit of Mt Rosea by about 2pm. It was later than we had hoped and there was a bitterly cold breeze across the tops. The walk down to Rosea Carpark was great, especially in the late afternoon sunshine. Parks Victoria re-routed this walking trail a few years back and it now traverses some pretty spectacular semi-alpine ridges and open tops. We reached Rosea Carpark at 3.30pm and walked up the final steep hill back to Sundial Carpark. A really good day. As soon as the book goes to print we will place the GPS route on our Downloads page.

Distance: 16.3km, 6 hours
Grade: Difficult
Start/End: Sundial Carpark

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Springtime, Grampians and taking care in the outdoors

When heading outdoors, be it for a short time or a more extended period , letting someone know where you are going, should always be a consideration. Many people have something set in place for this, but for those that maybe haven’t given it too much thought, check out the Adventure Pro website. Besides, it being a great website that has listings of most things outdoor, it has these handy Let someone know before you go intention forms to be filled in and left with, as it says, someone you know. The link will take you to the form but you can also access it via Outdoor Education, Education and Training, Adventure Resources, Rescue, Trip Notes, Canoeing, Hiking,Bushwalking,Trekking and Tramping, Kayaking and Sea Kayaking headings on the site.

The Grampians as we all know, is a premier destination for outdoor activities, be it bushwalking, climbing, and camping. Now that the weather is heading towards longer days, and the flowers of Spring will be showing their glorious colours, travelling to the Grampians will be featuring highly on people’s calendars. Spring is a fantastic time to be in the area and the Spring into the Grampians website is a great starting point. It lists a variety of helpful information but for those partial to a bloom or two, this will surely get them packing up a camera and putting on their walking boots to see for themselves.