NSW & ACT specific bushwalking discussion.
NSW & ACT specific bushwalking discussion. Please avoid publishing details of access to sensitive areas with no tracks.
Tue 30 Apr, 2019 9:56 am
Morning all, I'm hoping that if people know groups who were out at Splendour Rock in the Wild Dog Mountains for the Anzac Day dawn service they can pass this message on. It's not about finger pointing or criticism, but hopefully a chance to highlight a few things and help encourage people to lower their impact in future.
I led a small group through the Wild Dogs over the weekend and we spent Saturday night at Splendour Rock. By the looks of things, we were the first group to do so since Anzac Day. Clearly there had been a large crowd up there this year (or maybe just lots of anti-social individuals) because there were the remnants of campfires all over the place.
There were a few troubling things we noticed. First, the rubbish. We collected quite a few little items of rubbish, including toilet wipes (something you usually only see near carparks). There were bits of packaging around as well. In several of the fireplaces, people had thrown rubbish in, leaving behind burnt foil, plastic, and even some metal items.
The next thing that struck us was that there had been no effort to remediate the many, many fireplaces. Almost all had large stone rings, one had been placed directly on bare rock, and another had been built against a boulder. In an area like this, where it's only once a year that large numbers of groups are present, there really is no justification for leaving some many fireplaces scattered around the landscape. We spent about half an hour taking many apart, spreading the ashes, and covering the area with leaf litter. We didn't get to all of them because we didn't have time.
I'm not sure why people put stones around their fires, other than it's because that's how they see them in old movies. Not only does the proliferation of rock circles scar the landscape, it makes the fire less effective, as it blocks the radiant heat from the embers from reaching people sitting around. It means people end up needing larger fires. It also scars the rocks used. Just clear the leaf litter from the area -- with a little top soil -- and you won't have any issue with the fire spreading. Then the next morning you can just scatted the ashes and cover the area with the top soil and leaf little. Within a few weeks no one would even know you've been there! Also, don't build fires on bare rock or against it. The fire not only scars the surface, it actually damages the rock, breaking up the fragile crust that protects it. I've seen fires like this built on sensitive, unique rock features that took thousands of years to form. One fire was enough to destroy them. Finally, most food packaging includes foil or plastic lining, even if the outside looks like paper. Don't burn it, because these nasties don't get consumed, and you end up polluting an otherwise pristine area.
As I said at the beginning, I don't want to point fingers or upset people, but I think it's a valuable learning experience for some less experienced bushwalkers who made the trip out this year. Splendour Rock has been a really significant place for bushwalkers for the best part of a century, and it's been kept pretty pristine despite that extensive use. I don't want our generation to be the one that trashes it through ignorance or laziness.
Tue 30 Apr, 2019 10:18 am
Good that you cleaned up the mess. Maybe it was just a few "once a year" hikers who don't know that much about bushcraft.
Tue 30 Apr, 2019 12:51 pm
Clarence, that was my thought too. But I'm sure people on here know many of those who head out each year. Maybe next year they can have polite discussions with people, or even say something brief at the end of the memorial service, encouraging people to practice minimal impact bushwalking and fully remediate their campsites. A few words of advice from a respected bushwalker can make a world of difference.
Tue 30 Apr, 2019 1:26 pm
Bushwalkers should know better than to leave such rubbish and create new fire scars. After a solemn service too..
Interesting info about fire on rock surfaces. Id always assumed it was rather minimal impact as any remaining charcoal staining on the rock surface would ‘wash off’ in the rain. (after the ash had been scattered). Glad to learn better.
Thu 02 May, 2019 3:33 pm
wildwanderer wrote:Interesting info about fire on rock surfaces. Id always assumed it was rather minimal impact as any remaining charcoal staining on the rock surface would ‘wash off’ in the rain. (after the ash had been scattered). Glad to learn better.
It's a bigger issue in the Blue Mountains given most of the landscape is sandstone, which is particularly soft and easy to damage. It forms a thin mineral crust on the outside, which protects it from weathering. This is often just a few millimetres thick. Once broken down, the soft sandy rock inside weathers rapidly. We also have lots of fragile ironstone formations. Again, the heat of a fire causes them to break up. Campfires are worse than bushfires too, because rather than the fire moving over rapidly and only burning a small amount of leaf litter on the surface, a campfire builds up hot coals that burn for many hours. It's a very different process.
It is amazing how many little actions can cause significant impacts. I think for all bushwalkers and people who love nature it's important to be forever learning, questioning, and improving our actions. It really is important that we all put in the effort to ensure these places are handed over to future generations in at least as good a condition (if not better) than how we find them. There's so little pristine wilderness left on the planet, and it can so easily be lost.
Thu 02 May, 2019 5:36 pm
Perhaps one approach could be for there to be one moderate sized communal campfire and everyone else be encouraged to use fuel stoves?
Thu 02 May, 2019 6:03 pm
ainemrg wrote:Perhaps one approach could be for there to be one moderate sized communal campfire and everyone else be encouraged to use fuel stoves?
People especially Sydneysiders are quite tribal.. unwilling to mix or even communicate outside their friend circle. So sharing fires might be expecting to much unfortunately.
I always notice when I walk on a track frequented by non bushwalks/city folk (the coast track being a good example). Nobody ever says hello as you walk past. And it's a narrowish boardwalk so your passing close to people.
Though I deliberately say hello anyway
I think it's good for them!
Contrast that with tracks that are in more remote and ruggeded terrain, then everyone says hello and it's often a 5 min chat!
Wed 08 May, 2019 11:25 am
Ainemrg, there is one main campfire near Splendour that is always there. It is a bit big and ugly, but given the popularity of the spot it's probably the best outcome rather than lots of new little fires being created. It would make sense that this be a communal spot where people from different groups can gather.
Wildwanderer, you're probably right. Sydney is not a very friendly city, and that extends into the bush. Even in outdoor circles, most of us are quite insular and just do trips with our own club or crew of people. It's amazing how little crossover there is. Using events like this, where a large group of people from different backgrounds come together, makes sense as a way to build more of a sense of community and get to know new people. But I get the challenge. I'm not a natural people person, so I understand first hand why many people find the idea of being social in the bush a challenge.
Wed 08 May, 2019 2:21 pm
I don’t think you have to be overly social, just being polite would be a good start.
( Oh! Not insinuating you’re bad mannered FC but generally you struggle to get a “Hello” from a passing walker in Sydney.
Wed 08 May, 2019 2:57 pm
Yup. Nothing worse than crossing a grouchy Bushwalker. Lol.
Fri 10 May, 2019 10:39 am
FC and others... I'm sure that the convenor, volunteer Peter Sedgewick, would be very interested to hear your concerns and disappointed in what you report. T, I'll send you an email with his contact details.
As there's no official group/website/FB page organising the service each year or way to communicate with folks, maybe concerned and experienced bushwalkers (cough... isn't that us?) can volunteer to assist. I'm thinking a person each at the 2 main approaches (Mt Dingo and Dingo Gap) to let people know/hand out flyer to explain how things will be run (such as 1 central campfire) and minimal impact.
Tricky thing is, people arrive from lunch time day prior and all through the night up until the service... so that's tricky.
One of the good things of not having info readily available online, is that it helps keeps numbers down. I counted about 80 pax this year. With cliff edges and impacts, I would hate to think that numbers might have to be controlled in the future through a ballot or some such system, but maybe that isn't such a bad idea if numbers increase in the coming years.
Sat 11 May, 2019 9:08 am
Nobody ever says hello as you walk past.
Though I deliberately say hello anyway
I think it's good for them!
I'm usually a 'giday' type myself.
Where they are nattering to each other I nod but don't interrupt.
Some respond with a brief greeting, a few will have more to say.
Fri 14 Jun, 2019 8:21 am
I always say hello.
I completely stopped having campfires a few years ago when solo walking.
Usually do when with a group but happy to go without one.
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