In reply to:
To Climbing club access officers and climbers everywhere, I wish to draw to your attention to a climbing ban on Balls Pyramid and in particular to the LHI-Draft Plan of Management, currently on public exhibition till the Monday 29 June 2009.
For nearly two decades now the NSW Government Dept. of Environment has banned recreational climbing on one of Australia’s only true expedition climbing icons, Balls Pyramid. Located 600 km off the coast of NSW, and accessible only by sea voyage of up to four days, Balls Pyramid has a rich history of climbing from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Since then sadly climbers have been denied access to this 560 meter volcanic monolith on questionable grounds.
Those grounds, as stated in the ‘Lord Howe Island Park Preserve – Plan of Management’ are listed below along with some counter arguments:
1. “Lack of adequate rescue facilities” – This is questionable and only takes into account the Lord Howe Island community. In fact an official rescue would fall to the responsibility of the NSW police, be undertaken with mainland emergency services’ aircraft and has no greater complications than say a rescue from the Warrumbungles, a similar distance from say Sydney. Secondly, the logistical and physical difficulties posed to recreational climbers in accessing Balls Pyramid, by its nature attracts highly experienced climbing parties.
2. “Biodiversity Hot Spot containing endangered species” – This is in reference primarily to the LHI-stick insect, however the insect is now in a captive breeding programme and may now be at expectable numbers? In any case climbers by nature are environmentally sensible stakeholders who would have zero impact on this interesting insect and its natural habitat. Indeed it was rock climbers, David Roots and friends who uncovered the sole remaining habitat of the LHI Phasmid in 1964, 40 years after it was considered extinct!
And finally in support of its current climbing ban, the Plan of Management claims as justification of its ban:
3. “That no applications for rock climbing have been received in recent times” – One can argue that the levels of Bureaucracy and previous failed attempts to gain formal approval in the past – by several parties and at a cost to Australian Geographic in the order of $65k - has simply discouraged recent climbing parties from applying.
4. “And that it is generally believed that the geology of most cliff faces is too ‘unstable’ to permit safe climbing”. – Firstly this is not accurate and secondly the nature of the medium we chose to climb is in part the reason for climbing it, decisions of safety should be left to the individual climbers who endanger only themselves.
I urge climbers everywhere to make there voices heard on this matter, even if you never even aspire to climb Balls Pyramid, or indeed have never even heard of it before today, please just take 2 minutes to voice your opinions by completing this online form : www.environment.nsw.gov.au/parkmanagement/form_LordHoweIsland.htm
It’s simple. Don’t let them arbitrarily deny you access to what is Australia’s Matahorne, Australia’s Everest.
The ‘Lord Howe Island Park Preserve-Draft Plan of Management‘ is currently on public exhibition until the Monday 29 June 2009. During this period, you can comment on the plan both here and most importantly by making a submission. You can make a submission in one of the following ways:
1. Fill in this online form:
2. Write a letter to the following address:
The Planner, Lord Howe Island Board
PO Box 5
Lord Howe Island NSW 2898
If we in the climbing community let this opportunity slip by we will only validate the LHI board’s opinion: “There is no interest in recreational climbing”
Balls Pyramid Climbing chronology
- a work in progress -
< 1964 Several unsuccessful attempts - thwarted by not being able to overnight on the Pyramid – a restriction imposed by charter vessels from L H Island.
1964 Rovers and Syd climbers sail to BP, summit not reached – LHI stick insect rediscovered- Dave Roots.
1965 First ascent SE Ridge, John Davis, Bryden Allen, John Davis & David Witham
1968 J.Davis and others - 2nd assent - filmed
1972 First full traverse, Greg Mortimer & Keith Bell.
1980 January: Joe and Tina Friend, Phil Stallard & Dave McGruther set out to claim Ownership of the Pyramid as a special province for climbers and Naturalists of the world in the name of Climbers International & World Ecology. They were thwarted by heavy rain and gale-force winds. They left a sealed document on the south-east ridge.
1980 20th June, Dick Smith John Worral & Hugh Ward, Plant NSW state flag on summit, claiming Balls Pyramid for Australia as part of NSW. A documentary film was made by the ABC of the combined climbing and scientific expedition.
1982 First solo ascent, Rick White via the South-east Ridge in 1 hour & 45 min.
Climbing banned under amendment to LHI Act.
1986 May 86. Keith Williams, Scott Ruddock and others in 2 parties do the last know officially sanctioned ascent. Via SE Ridge.
All access to Balls Pyramid banned by LHI board
1990 The policy temporarily changed to allow some climbing under strict conditions requiring application to the NSW Environment minister.
today: Total ban imposed.