Hundreds of people showed up to climb Australia’s sacred Uluru before visitation bans go into effect on Saturday.
Formerly known as Ayer’s Rock, the formation of Uluru is now closed to visitors who wish to climb the summit.
The ban on climbing the rock was placed in 2017 although it only goes into effect this weekend. The Anangu aboriginal people have considered Uluru a sacred place for thousands of years. It was never meant to be climbed — that only began happening in the early 20th century when visitors started flocking to the rock formation.
In addition to the climb being sacrilegious, it is also dangerous. Dozens of people have died on top of Uluru, with the most recent case happening only last year. Visitors can die from dehydration or slipping while attempting to climb the steeper parts of the 1,142-foot rock.
“Anangu have always been concerned for the safety of climbers and have felt great grief when people have died during the climb,” Clive Scollay, General Manager of Maruku Arts, an Aboriginal-owned artists’ collective based at the site, told Travel + Leisure earlier this month. “This grief is amplified because Anangu feel responsibility is forced upon them to look after the souls of the dead.”
In 1993, the Australian government reinstated the aboriginal name Uluru to the formation. The Anangu have been actively trying to dissuade visitors from climbing the site. For the past few years, there have been signs posted explaining Uluru’s spiritual significance to visitors.
Nearly all the nearby campgrounds and hotels were fully booked this week which, according to the BBC, led to tourists illegally camping and dumping waste.
The entrance gate to Uluru was shut at 4 p.m. local time Friday. Local officials took down a metal chain that visitors were using as a climbing aid.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park doesn’t expect that closing the rock to climbers will affect their visitation numbers.
If you do plan to visit Uluru, there are still many ways to experience the mystical formation without climbing. Here are ways to experience the grandeur of the rock from the ground.
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