Uluru Climb Closed Forever After Hundreds Scale Sacred Site For Last Time
Rangers have officially closed the Uluru climb forever, meaning anyone now caught scaling the sacred site could face hefty fines.
The closure came after hundreds of people lined up from 4am on Friday to climb the 348-metre high landmark in Alice Springs.
It was the final day they could, but Mother Nature made it clear she had different plans, delaying the climb's open for hours on Friday morning by delivering strong and unsafe winds to the site.
This meant that at 7am, when the rock climb usually opened to the public, rangers put up a sign declaring it was closed instead.
The delay to open on Friday morning was in line with regulations requiring the climb to be closed when strong heat, wind or rain occurs, following numerous deaths at the rock in the past. The wind threshold is 25-30km/hr.
The site did eventually open to climbers on Friday as the winds eased.
At the front of the queue was Adelaide couple Joseph and Sonita Vinecombe, who flew into the area on Thursday specifically to make the climb.
"We just got here early, mate," Mr Vinecombe told AAP.
"We were hoping to get here and there would be no one around, but the rangers beat us, unfortunately.
"We thought maybe we would try and sneak up and back before anyone knew we'd done it.'
Mr Vinecombe said they were aware of the cultural sensitivities around the climb.
"I think it holds you back but whether it stops you doing it?"
"You want to be respectful, and I do respect the issues regarding it. There's thousands of people doing it and it is a conundrum," he said.
Behind them were the Derks family, including mother Kelly and her daughters Madison and Georgia, from Victoria.
Madison, 19, was climbing for the second day in a row.
"It was good to climb it, you feel really proud, and you've got to do it while you've got the chance," she said.
A mild 33-degree forecast for the area on Friday meant the heat wasn't an issue for final day climbers.
On Friday night workers immediately started to remove all evidence that climbing was ever allowed on the red sandstone rock, which is arguably Australia's most famous landmark.
The chain handhold built in 1964, and later extended, enabling visitors to get up and down the sheer western face of what used to be known as Ayers Rock, will also be removed.
The National Park board decided in 2017 to ban the climb from Saturday, which marks 35 years since the land title to the Anangu was given back on October 26, 1985.
Uluru is a sacred site and of great spiritual significance to local Aboriginal groups, including the Pitjantjatjara Anangu traditional owners who live in nearby Mutitjulu.
The Anangu people will celebrate with a ceremony at the rock on Sunday night.
The scarring from millions of pairs of feet scrambling up the rock for decades will take a long time to erode, possibly hundreds of years or even longer.
Aboriginal people have been in Australia for tens of thousands of years, so the brief time tourists have climbed Uluru is tiny, Mutitjulu resident and Central Land Council chair Sammy Wilson said.
"It is just a blip in the middle, this whole climb thing, it is going back to normal by banning the climb."