Sunday, July 20, 2014

Uluru (Ayers Rock), NT, Australia


2014 July: Climb Uluru (Ayers Rock) - NT, Australia

Prolog

I was here last year. But someone upstairs just didn't like me and poured buckets of rain down on the day I meant to climb the Rock ... which explained why I was here again. This time, not taking any chances ... allocated 5 days for the climb ... surely one of the 5 days must be sunny, right? Well, I was not disappointed. On the day the plane landed at the Ayers Rock airport, I was able to hire a car, head for the rock and climbed it on the first day.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) facts

• It is located in the desert area in the middle of Australia, in fact very close to the geographical centre of Australia.

• The climbing route one way from carpark to the summit is 1.7 km (1.1 miles). Duration one way is about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace (my pace).

• Dimensions:
  - 862.5 metres above sea level
  - 348 metres high (1141 feet)
  - 3.6 km long (2.2 miles)
  - 1.9 km wide (1.2 miles)
  - 9.4 km around the base (5.8 miles). But if you circumnavigate the Rock on the walking track, it is 10.6 km (6.5 miles ). If in addition, you add on side trips to Kantju Gorge and Mutitjulu Waterhole, it is 12 km (7.5 miles). It is well worth taking the base walk when you are there.

• It extends several km into the ground, it is not exactly known how far.

• The Rock is a sacred site to the local Anangu aborigines (native Australians), hence they don't like you to climb it. Currently, you are still allowed to do so. But real soon now, climbing the rock will be permanently banned. No one knows exactly what does "real soon now" mean as the Arangus have been saying this for many years.   :-)

• It is not the world's largest monolith. This title belongs to Mt Augustus in Western Australia.


Activities around Uluru

If you don't like walking, there is not much to do here. It is desert all around, sparsely populated. Best is to hole up in the hotel room and watch TV the whole day.

But if you like walking, you'll enjoy the area ...
  • You can circumnavigate the Rock - on foot of course.
  • Go over to The Olgas (official name is Kata Tjuta) and take the Valley of the Winds walk and also to Walpa Gorge.
  • Drive to Kings Canyon and take some walks there.
  • Heaps of wonderful hikings, on track and off track, in the West MacDonnell Ranges.
  • And of course, there is that well known Larapinta Trail.


Pictures

1)  Uluru (Ayers Rock) at sunset - the icon of central Australia - I took this picture after climbing it. The bottom half of the Rock was darker because the sun was setting on the horizon and only the top half was illuminated by the setting sun. The red colour of the sand/soil is due to high iron content in this part of Australia and is not from reflection of the setting sun.



2)  In the 1970s, there was an airstrip right beside the Rock. One can fly in, then climb it straight away. Nowadays, the airport is located 25 km away by car. My plane landed at 1:40pm. By the time I picked up a hired car; arranged accommodation at Ayers Rock Resort, had lunch, changed clothes, then drove to the Rock, it was already 4:40pm ... just in time for the climb. Any later, the gate to the climb will be shut as the sun would set around 6:15pm.



3)  The carpark is right on the left edge. The route to the summit is marked out in green. From this Google Earth view, you can just make out that the top of the rock is a series of parallel grooves (click on the pic to enlarge it). The route there cuts across the grooves - you go down the trough of one groove, then climb up to the rim; then repeat for the next groove ... etc; quite fun ... more on the grooves later.



4)  From a distance the climbers are like ants.



5)  Zooming in ...



6)  I'm in front of the gate, ready for the climb.



7)  Zooming in ...



8)  Zooming in more ...



9)  This little girl is around 7 yrs old ... if she is able to climb it, so should you.



10)  The area around the Rock is as flat as a pancake.
And considering this is supposed to be a desert, the scenery is quite green. Whatever happens to global warming? Isn't it suppose to cause the middle section of Australia to become dryer?
The bunch of rocks at the left horizon is The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta - its official name ... the last photo in this blog post has a nice shot of the rocks.



11)  I'm half way up the slope, looking at the side of the Rock.



12)  Taking a rest ... I climbed this same Rock about 20 years ago. It was a breeze then. Now it is a harder ... need to take a rest every now and then ... damn ! ... getting old.   :-(



13)  Onward I climbed.



14)  This is the last chain to help you ... after which you are at the top of the Rock. The summit is still quite a fair bit of way to go - this is not yet the half way point.



15)  I mentioned earlier that the top of the Rock is a series of parallel grooves ... here, you can sort of make out the grooves.



16)  More of the parallel grooves



17)  It can be quite a steep climb to get out of the trough of a groove ... like here ... and also the next photo.



18)  Inside one of the many parallel grooves. If you are game enough, you run down one side, and use the momentum to run up the other side ... just make sure you don't fall flat on your face.   :-)
The alternative is to slide down on your bums on one side, and use your hands to haul yourself up on the other side.



19)  The summit is in sight ... it is the little dot on the horizon. The route leading to it is painted as white dashes. The foreground of this pic is one of the grooves, and where you climb out of the groove is marked by the white dashes.



20)  Made it to the summit !
From the carpark, it takes about 45 minutes to reach here at a leisurely pace ... not too hard. The bunch of rocks on the right hand horizon is The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta ... see next photo



21)  Zooming onto The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta - isn't it just beautiful !!!  No one is allowed to climb its rocks ... they are sacred to the local Anangu aborigines. But you are allowed to walk on some really interesting trails in and amongst the rocks.



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