Following the January 2020 bush-fires and the ensuing extensive closure of Namadgi National Park, most of the Park was reopened in the week after Easter 2021. CCA members were quick to inspect fire damage to some of the popular climbs at the crag, and the findings are as follows:
- Over 80% of trees at Booroomba Rocks, above and below the cliff, have been killed.
- 100% of the understory has been burnt away, and there is little recovery to date.
- 100% of the ground cover has been burnt away and there has been some patchy recovery to date.
- The loss of vegetation means there is significant loose rock above and below the crags, with the resultant increased risk of ankle and knee injuries and accidentally dislodging rocks on the crags (and potentially climbers) below.
- All the climbers’ tracks, both above and below the crag, have been lost and will need to be remarked.
- It has been suggested that abseiling down may be better than struggling around the base of the crag, but the loss of vegetation and the looseness of the rocky ground has created a new set of problems around safely getting to known fixed anchors above the climbs. The abseil anchors left of Sunstroke can be easily accessed.
- All vegetation, including trees, on the crags has been destroyed or killed. Burnt trees should not be used for runners or belays.
- Natural anchors, such as cracks, boulders and threads, are available to replace dead trees. Cracks may be full of ash and soil.
- Fixed anchors, such as bolts and pitons, are intact and, to date, there are no reports of exfoliation around this gear that could threaten their integrity.
- In zones of exfoliation (usually at the base of the crags) all handholds and footholds must be treated with extra caution.
- The hottest fire occurred at the Central Slabs area, The Terrace, and Northern Slabs, as described below.
- Elsewhere, there appears to be minimal or no damage to the rock and the climbing experience is expected to be unchanged.
There is extensive exfoliation around the first pitch of Outer Limit and, to date, this climb has not been ascended. However, Double Canasta, whose first pitch is about 10m right of the first pitch of Outer Limit, was found to be unchanged. Left of Outer Limit, the exfoliation does not extend up the cliff as far and it appears these climbs are relatively unchanged.
The Terrace (including Snickers Wall)
The rope formerly used to get onto The Terrace has been destroyed by the fire, however it is possible to scramble up to The Terrace about 30m to the left, arriving below Astradyne. There is significant and reducing exfoliation from Snickers Wall to Astradyne and, to the left of Astradyne, the climbs appear relatively unchanged. On Snickers Wall, the exfoliation extends about 10m high and, with one exception noted, exfoliation has not exposed the bolt shafts. The exception appears to have suffered about 10mm loss of rock on one side of the bolt. Vent Crack has not been ascended, however the first pitch chimney appears to have survived the worst of the heat and, above that, the climb looks unchanged.
There is exfoliation along the base of the Northern Slabs from Denethor to Tachyon. Typically, this is up to the first 10m but, between Equilibrium and Sunstroke, exfoliation extends higher up the cliff. Cleaning has taken place around the starts of Tachyon, Sunstroke and Equilibrium but there is a lot of loose rock on Just In Passing, and further work to remove these flakes is required to make it safe for climbers at the base of the crag. Similarly, there are hanging flakes left of Balance Direct Start (but below Balance) that require removing for the same reason. Denethor, Counterbalance, Equilibrium and Sunstroke have been climbed since the park re-opened and the reports are that the grade is unchanged, protection is unchanged, but greater care is needed when climbing through the exfoliated zone at the base of the crag. Carrying a small bar to remove loose rock should be considered.
Many thanks to the following climbers who assisted with this report:
Charles Jenkins, Matt Ryan, Alex Moore, David Cook, Jim Trihey, Nat Walkom, Kieran Lawton, Stephane Armand, Thor Diesendorf, Daniel Nixon, Matilda Elder, Michael Masters, Mark Shorter, Jack Pezzey, Ben Fraser, Robert Douglas, Sarah Todd.
Report compiled by Brian Mattick, May 2021.