To Climb Uluru or Not to Climb Uluru?

That is the question.

Did We Climb Uluru (Ayers Rock)?

First, I need to explain a thing or two. I’m not a very spiritual geezer, I don’t “feel” things much. I mention this because, in hindsight, my post on Monday about Uluru was very matter of fact, in a way. But then, I see these things and sometimes I just don’t get it.

Example: In 2002 the BBC compiled a list of 50 places to see before you die. I travel as much as I can and I am very lucky to have seen quite a few of these places. I’ve reprinted the list at the bottom of this post, but top of their list, and I mean the number one place in the world to visit, is The Grand Canyon which I have been privileged to see. But when I did see it, all I thought was

“Gosh, what a big canyon!”

Grand CanyonI wasn’t stunned at the time. But more than five years later I still find myself thinking about it. Its awesomeness has been growing on me ever since.

Now I find the same thing happening with Uluru. On my first sighting, I was relatively underwhelmed. But the more I saw of it, the more awesome it became until I was yearning with a passion to see the sun bring out that famous red glow. Now my disappointment at not seeing that is growing whilst at the same time I keep thinking about the greatness of that rock.

My wife too was hugely disappointed not to see its true colours and she said “it’s a great shame because we won’t be going back.”

But I think we just might. I can sense a pull. I have already mapped out a very long road trip which just happens to swing by the rock. But don’t tell Mrs BobinOz.

Anyway, did we climb it?

Let me put Uluru into perspective. In 1931 construction of the Empire State Building was completed and it stood as the world’s tallest building for more than 40 years. The roof of that building is 381 metres high. Uluru is 348 metres high. This is the route you take to get up it……

Climbing Uluru

I took hundreds of photos of Uluru and over one hour of video footage, but none of it can do justice to what Uluru is really like.


At this point I could easily tell you that I did not climb Uluru because it was closed for climbing due to the rain. It is true that it was closed and it always is if there is a chance of rain, because the rock does become too slippery and dangerous.

Or I could tell you that I didn’t climb Uluru because I wanted to respect the wishes and the laws of the traditional owners. Whether or not to climb Uluru is a big debate on its own and one I do not want to get into here. But I will say that it seems when the climb is open it is not illegal to climb it, but it does go against the wishes of the aboriginal people.

But that said and weather conditions aside, the reason I didn’t climb Uluru was because I was SCARED!

As I understand it, about 250 people a day climb Uluru and since records began sometime in the 1950’s, there have been 37 recorded deaths of climbers. Without being disrespectful to those who have lost their lives, my question is…

Is that all? Only 37!

Looking at it, I’d have given climbers no more than a 50-50 chance of survival. So according to my maths 250x365x60 divide by two, well, that’s just over 2.7 million potential deaths yet only 37? Perhaps that says more about my sense of balance than it does about anything else.

Luckily I didn’t have to climb it to give you the experience of reaching the summit. Because thanks to the instant gratification of YouTube we can join a guy called CarnegieUK and his pals who climbed it back in 1989….

Make it look so easy don’t they?

Apparently lots of people do make it to the top but then get stranded, because the descent is even more frightening than the ascent. So they have to be rescued by the rescue team who, get this, run up there with a stretcher. Okay, at this point I’m realising it must be me that has the problem here. But I can assure you I am truly not scared of heights but I do have a big fear of falling, based on my shocking sense of balance. Anyone who has witnessed me try to stand up and balance on a surfboard will know all about that.

Anyway, these people made the climb down from Uluru look like a stroll down the hill by the Teletubbies. You really should watch all of this splendid video, but if nothing else, watch from around the 2 minute mark.

I am in awe of not just Uluru, but those climbers too. So no, I didn’t climb it, but I did walk around it, all 9.4 kilometres. A magnificent 2 and a half hour stroll. Each turn revealing more of Uluru’s amazing character. That’ll do for me.

But we did see some red stuff.

Like this…..

Standley Chasm

and this……

Red Hills

and this…..

Red Sky

More about those on Friday. Meanwhile, here’s that BBC list of 50 places to see before you die. The BBC archive webpage for this article can be seen here, but I had trouble loading it, so here’s the list in a simple form…

1 The Grand Canyon
2 Great Barrier Reef
3 Walt Disney World, Florida
4 South Island, New Zealand
5 Cape Town
6 Golden Temple, India
7 Las Vegas, USA
8 Sydney, Australia
9 New York, USA
10 Taj Mahal, India
11 Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies, Canada
12 Uluru, (Ayers Rock), Australia
13 Chichen Itza, Mexico
14 Machu Picchu, Peru
15 Niagara Falls
16 Petra, Jordan
17 The Pyramids
18 Venice
19 The Maldives
20 Great Wall of China
21 Victoria Falls
22 Hong Kong
23 Yosemite National Park, California
24 Hawaii
25 North Island, New Zealand
26 Iguacu Falls Argentina / Brazil border
27 Paris
28 Alaska
29 Angkor Wat, Cambodia
30 Mount Everest
31 Rio de Janeiro
32 Masai Mara, Kenya
33 Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
34 Luxor
35 Rome
36 San Francisco
37 Barcelona
38 Dubai
39 Singapore
40 La Digue, Seychelles
41 Sri Lanka
42 Bangkok
43 Barbados
44 Iceland
45 The Terracotta Army
46 The Matterhorn, Switzerland
47 Angel Falls, Venezuela
48 Abu Simbel, Egypt
49 Bali
50 Bora Bora, French Polynesia

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • BobinOz September 22, 2010, 9:43 pm |

    I take my hat off to you (3 times) for your climbing skills, you obviously don’t suffer from my perfect sense of imbalance.

    I am sure the view is stunning from up there, and the colours…. we, unfortunately, only saw grey. We really enjoyed our walk round the base though and agree entirely, it’s also something I’ll never forget.

    Especially as I videod almost all of it…..

  • Wanderer September 22, 2010, 12:02 am |

    I climbed Ayers Rock three times while I was there, and felt extremely safe, even one day when there was alot of wind. The view from the top is something that you have too see. I saw all the different colours, Sunrise, sunset ect. Even the silver glow from the rain. Walked right around the base, Something that I will always remember.

  • BobinOz June 8, 2010, 8:58 pm |

    It’s more commonly known as Ayers Rock so perhaps you know it as that. It sure is an interesting place to say the least.

  • BobinOz May 29, 2010, 4:52 pm |

    I was thinking more in terms of a tunnel to the middle where there would be an elevator. Just not sure how that would sit with the spiritual nature of the rock.

    But climbing down? I’d be on my backside ALL 348 metres of it!

  • Steve Povey May 28, 2010, 4:06 pm |

    Now then, i’ve just had a brainwave, why doesn’t someone operate a helicopter to transport people up and down all day? They’d make a killing!

    Great pics again Bob, i would most certainly be in your camp when it came down to climbing it. Waaaay to steep for me.

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