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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… 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

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 Arapiles – Taking care of the magic

As many of our readers will have noted, the staff at Open Spaces are involved in various aspects of the outdoor industry.  Whilst OSP is a big part of our lives, the reason why we are here in the first place is because of our  interest and experiences in that area.  Besides climbing, one of my other jobs feeds very well into my OSP role.  Working as the VCC Access and Environment Officer for the climbing community allows me to get involved not only in helping to maintain access for climbers at the many parks but also to work on projects at the cliff environment.  One such project that I am working on currently has been ongoing for about 4 years now.  The Pharos Gully Repair project is a labour intensive one – to dry stonework the entire Pharos Gully Track from bottom to summit.  The track is used by climbers and walkers alike and due to its steep nature, the erosion is quite severe with further loss of vegetation creeping out wider and wider. So with the help of some funding from Parks Victoria, CliffCare and Friends of Arapiles have rounded up regular volunteers to help out at the working bees to move  rock up and down the track so that the stonemason can work his magic. We employed Walter Braun, who is a climber himself and an experienced stonemason to dry stonework the track. At about 2/3rds completed, the track is looking great and some of the sections completed a few years ago are now ageing well with vegetation growing in and around the stonework.  And this is exactly what we want and why dry stonework is the way to go.

Arapiles has had a great last year and a half.  Of course we are heading into winter now and at this time of the year, everything usually is starting to look green.  What was amazing to see though was the greenness that continued throughout summer this year.  Granted the floods brought a huge amount of water to the area but before that Arapiles and its surrounds were still getting a regular fall.  In previous years, throughout the drought, the mount had lost a lot of older trees. They held on for as long as they could, but there were many that were stressed to the point of no return.  With the rains, came the opportunity for new vegetation to get a good watering in.  CliffCare and Friends of Mt Arapiles revegetated a number of areas with plants supplied by Iestyn Hocking and Heather Phillips who collect seed and grow indigenous plants and grasses from the area.  Many of these plants are now thriving and can be seen along the lower part of the Pharos Tourist track.  As the old pines are dying in the Pines campground at Mt Arapiles, they are being removed. Rather than replant with the original Radiata pines, native callitris pine seedlings were planted in 2008.  These are all healthy young plants now.  To protect them further as they grow, stakes and chicken wire were placed around them to ensure that they can stand up to the many campers that the campground sees.
Even if you don’t climb, Arapiles really is a magical place to visit.  From its birds of prey to the small robins and bee eaters.  Shinglebacks and frilled neck lizards and occasionally a goanna or two.  Wallabies, cockatoos, lorikeets.  And with 500 native species in the park, you could certainly tick off a few sightings in your flora book.  It has them all really.  It really is a special place and one that needs to be carefully preserved.

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Mt Arapiles Climb and Repair Weekend

As the VCC Access and Environment Officer, many of my climbing jaunts will often include a working bee. While the Arapiles Climb and Repair Weekend has been an ongoing feature of the Victorian Climbing Clubs trip calendar for a number of years, the Queen’s Birthday weekend up at Arapiles was a particularly productive one. Working with Community Group grants from Parks Victoria and collaborating with the Friends of Arapiles, CliffCare is ensuring that the Pharos Gully Track will be able to handle the heavy traffic it receives not only from climbers, but also the walkers. On the Queens Birthday weekend we finally managed to move all the rocks from the top section down to the areas where our stonemason, Walter Braun is working on building up the track using dry stonework. No matter how many working bees I have organized, there always seems to be a huge pile of rocks that seems little diminished. Finally, it’s gone. Many of the rocks still need to be moved into place, but at least the transportation has been done. Now for the lower section….

But the weekend was only dedicated to a small percentage of work. The rest of the time was taken up with climbing. Perfect weather blessed us and we all managed to get a few more ticks under our belt. I had a great weekend, teaming up with Norma and Mike. To be honest, it’s pretty difficult not to have a good weekend at Araps. Has to be one of my favourite places to climb.

If you want to have a look at more of the work that has been going on at Mt Arapiles, visit the VCC smugmug site here for more pics and info and the VCC website

Stay tuned for the new CliffCare website which will have all the up to date access info for all Victorian Cliffs. Coming soon.