You can’t walk to the “summit” of the 348 metre high Uluru (Ayers Rock) anymore: the Uluru Climb was closed in October 2019. Being the world’s largest single rock monolith and offering great views over the surrounding desert, climbing to the top has been a popular walk since the late 1930s. The local Anangu Aboriginal people have long asked tourists not to climb, as the rock is a sacred site. It was agreed that once the number of tourists who climbed Uluru decreased to less than 20%, the route to the top would be permanently closed. On 26 October 2019, the 34th anniversary of the Handback of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to the Anangu people, the Board of Management voted unanimously to close the climb.
There is some evidence suggesting that behind the decision to close the Uluru Climb was a number of fatalities (which the Anangu people are said to take personally) and reports of people urinating and defecating on top of the rock. There’s also a view that the discouragement of climbing Uluru is a more recent phenomenon, with Paddy Uluru (a fully initiated Anangu man who was recognised as the principal owner of Uluru in 1973) stating” “if tourists are stupid enough to climb the Rock, they’re welcome to it” and “the physical act of climbing was of no cultural interest” (Alice Spring News and interviews with Derek Roff, Head Ranger of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park from 1968 to 1985, accessed via the Northern Territory Archives Service).
Altough you can no longer undertake the Uluru Climb, visitors are encouraged to do the Uluru Base Walk, and there are many other walks you can do in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park that offer equally stunning scenery.)
The Uluru Climb route went up one of the ridge on the rock, and as the ridge gets steeper there’s a metal chain which defines the path. You don’t really need the chain, which was installed in 1964, although it gives you a sense of security. I try not to touch it. While I find it difficult to assimilate the religious aspect of a natural landmark being sacred, I also feel that it’s wrong to deface the rock with a man-made structure.
As the track gains height, Kata Tjuta can be seen in the distance (where Valley of the Winds is another walk worth doing).
At the top of the steep ridge, the track veers left (to the north), and undulates over a Mars-like landscape. The path is marked by white lines; not as intrusive as the chains, and unfortunately a necessary blight on the rock as there’s no obvious summit in sight. Just what seems to be an endless series of red undulations.
Although it hasn’t rained for a while, a number of rock pools still contain water from the last storm (there’s an average of 308mm rainfail per annum).
The last section to the highest point of the Uluru Climb (at 863m above sea level) is almost flat, and is the easiest part of the walk.
The descent, as you’d expect, is much easier than the ascent – although it feels steeper as you head down the rocky incline back to the carpark below.
Accommodation near Uluru
There’s a range of hotels near Uluru, in the town of Yulura, but they are all managed by a single operator (Voyages Hotels & Resorts) so you’ll pay a premium for accommodation.
More information on Uluru Climb
- New York Times – A Climbing Ban at Uluru Ends a Chapter. But There’s More to This Australian Story
- Parks Australia – Uluru climb closure