Winter Trip to Uluru!

by Paul Webb
(United Kingdom)

Last August I took a break from my business trip to Alice Springs, and a (long) bus tour to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park for a few nights camping in the Outback, and to complete one of my "life ticks"... climbing Uluru.

The dramatic and never-ending scenery and barrenness of the Outback was amazing, with the hilarious (but genuine) "Blokes" and "Sheila's" road stops giving real insight into Australian culture! Three days of travel without mobile signal is unheard of in Europe and gave the trip even more atmosphere and authenticity in this modern world.

Initially I was disappointed when our guide tried to persuade us all not to climb (young, enthusiastic, impressionable and with "Spirit Bird" as his morning alarm), but perseverance got me a break from the tour to do my climb.

So worthwhile... What an amazing experience and I wouldn't have missed it for the world! A very steep (chain assisted) first climb left me breathless in 3 or 4 places, and very glad of the chain when the (quite gentle on the ground!) wind curled around the rock. I imagine when lots of visitors climbed it must have been quite dangerous, as I suspect less than half of the general public could make the trip safely. It's steep, a slip or failure to hold the chain in a gust would see you blown off the side, and if your fitness levels weren't high there is a real risk of fainting or worse!

But what a place! Rough orange sandstone, the deepest blue sky, and a white dotted line fill your vision as you cross over to the summit which gently rises away on the far side of the rock.

I passed perhaps 10 or 11 other climbers in the two hours it took to climb and descend... Two Japanese tourists in the wrong shoes, a pair of keen outward-bound hiker types with "all the gear", a young couple looking a little tired, and a family with two young boys who were romping across like it was their back yard!

The top is broadly flat with transverse ridges across your path from a few inches to 10' high making the white dotted path an obstacle course, but what amazing views to the horizon in every direction!

I climbed in winter with day-time temperatures of 26°C, which was perfect, and a few degrees cooler at the top, but don't forget to take plenty to drink! I imagine in the middle of the Australian summer the trip would be very demanding.

I discussed the climb/don't climb question with many people, and I still stick to the point I made to my guide. The rock is around 600 million years old, and the oldest human fossil in Australia is 40-odd thousand years old. The rock was here before us and it'll be here when we're gone. I understand all indigenous peoples' have their beliefs and I respect that, but I don't ask them to follow my beliefs... and so don't expect them to ask me to follow theirs.

I didn't see a single native Australian at Uluru (at the nearby native Cultural Centre either, which was just white Australians selling ice-creams to white visitors), and I feel I did no harm but experienced some of the awe the Indigenous people must have felt when they climbed Uluru.

It is one of my favourite memories, and although I don't feel a need to do it again, I'm glad I did, and I'm glad we can. Uluru is a National Treasure, and treasure should never be hoarded.

Comments for Winter Trip to Uluru!

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Thank you
by: Birgit

Thank you, Paul, for your detailed account, the great photos and your well worded thoughts.
Sorry it's taken me so long to publish it!

by: Graham

Great article. My wife and I were there in August '18 (probably very close to your time) and agree with all your comments and sentiments... 100%.

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