The park pass for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is only valid for three days, and I had got up at 5.30 in the morning and driven into the park three mornings in a row in an attempt to be able to climb Uluru. And for three mornings the climb had been closed due to strong winds at the summit.
So yesterday morning, armed with a couple of extra passes that had been kindly left behind at the campground kitchen by a departing camper, Pam and I headed into the park again. Before dawn it was just as windy as on the previous mornings, but incredibly the gate was open, and the “Closed” sign was nowhere to be seen.
Determined to be well up the rock long before the ranger returned and had a re-think, I quickly applied some sunscreen, grabbed my water bottle, and set off hot on the heels of three Japanese girls.
Halfway up the first section of the steepest part of the climb I passed the Japanese girls, and was now at the head of a growing straggle of climbers slowly ascending. I pushed on in the growing dawn, keen to be the first to the summit. The climb was steep and tough going at first, but levelled halfway up into a much gentler gradient.
Not long after I got started the ranger appeared at the foot of the climb, and it was closed again, and no new starters were allowed, Pam told me later.
Most of the final part of the climb was still in the shade, and the wind was quite strong, but easily managable, and I finally climbed into the sun and reached the summit marker, and admired the vast sweeping view.
I had about ten minutes alone at the summit before the next climbers arrived, and took a few pictures while nobody else was in sight, and then just sat and soaked up the stunning vista. I was incredibly pleased to be able to do the climb, and glad that my persistence had paid off in the end.
I still wonder slightly about the rights and wrongs of climbing the rock when the traditional owners request that people do not do so, but I think for me I made the right decision – it was a wonderful experience.
By the time I climbed back down and returned to the carpark there were several buses and a lot of cars, and many disappointed people who would not be climbing today. Thanks to Pam for pictures taken from base camp of the climbing.
After another relaxing day by the pool we wandered up to one of the lookouts to watch the sun set over the domes of Kata Tjuta in the distance. Absolutely magnificent!
Today I fly back to Perth again, but have had a wonderful time here at Uluru. It really is well worth coming to see. Huge thanks to Pam and Ces for being my Uluru buddies, and for lending me their 4WD every morning to go and see if the climb was open.
I appreciate your internal struggle about the “rights and wrongs” but I think you made the right choice – we’re all just borrowing these pieces of earth while we’re here anyway, and you did no harm, so…congrats!