President’s Report 2014

Frenchman Cap area, Canada
Frenchman Cap area, Canada

Welcome to the New CAWA Year!

It’s been a pretty hectic but successful twelve months or so. We’ve achieved a lot with a small committee, who all deserve a big pat on the back.  I didn’t write a long presidential monologue for the AGM, instead presenting a slideshow with photos of ticks, chipmunks and poutine. Hazel Findlay’s talk was well received and the photo competition was a huge success. Thanks must go to all of those involved in assisting with not only the AGM but the general workings of the association: my committee; Mandy Bowler and Kate Swain (Western Climber); Ross Weiter (guide book distribution) and the climbing gyms. My friends have also provided invaluable support, for which I am very grateful.

Okay, so what did we do during the last year?

In terms of climbing activities, the usual trips took place. Kalbarri (June) and Wilyabrup (November) probably attracted the most people but Albany (Xmas – New Year) was also heaps of fun. The campground at Peak Charles has been ‘beautified’ beyond recognition, resulting in designated sites and considerably less space, with some of us heading instead for a random patch of scrub. We finally managed to run a trip to Mt Frankland and get reasonable weather this March long weekend just gone. Late last year saw a day trip to Wellington Dam for the first time and as it’s the most attractive quarry that we have access to, complete with free gas BBQs, we’ll definitely do it again.

Overall, gym crashes have been well attended, though a dip was seen during the coldest months. As a result, we decided to run them every two months but with so many new members coming on board and looking for climbing buddies, we have gone back to monthly during the warmer weather and will do them less often over winter. The last gym crash prior to the AGM, held at Rockface in January, was probably the biggest one I’ve ever been to with roughly thirty people rocking up. I would encourage everyone to come along and meet some new people, especially newer members looking to find regular partners. For the ‘oldies’, it’s just a good opportunity to get together and talk about all of our collective injuries.

One of our most significant achievements has been obtaining insurance cover for training and coaching, for the first time in CAWA’s history. We have struggled with this many times in the past, knowing that members wanted training but not being able to provide it due to liability issues. This enabled us to run a technique clinic in November and bring Hazel Findlay out to share her skills. The plan this year is to run more CAWA coaching and training sessions. I suspect the next one we are planning, transitioning from indoors to outdoors safely, will be very popular. There will also be a knot night, where we run through the common knots and their application. We are seeing serious problems with climbers learning indoors and then heading outdoors without undertaking any training and more importantly, completely oblivious to their lack of knowledge and skills. Whilst this is not a new issue, the scale on which it is occurring definitely is, because of the number of people entering the sport and the manner in which they do so. Rather than an apprenticeship commenced outdoors, the majority start indoors in climbing gyms.

Last June we engaged an outside provider to run a basic rescue and first aid course. Even though we hope we won’t need these skills, it’s important to know how to do a cliff rescue and administer first aid that could be life saving. So often we climb in remote locations and yet most climbers are totally unprepared to deal with even the most basic emergencies. I also attended an intense wilderness first aid course which equips you with a range of skills, including coordinating an emergency response as well as advanced first aid. I would strongly recommend that anyone spending time outdoors in remote (more than one hour from definitive help) areas considers this type of training. It is possible that we will be able put together a specifically tailored version incorporating cliff rescue, so watch this space.

Our last training activity for the year was with Hazel Findlay, who ran three coaching clinics for us: general/sport, trad and women’s specific. It was a mix of outdoor and indoor, covering both the physical and mental aspects of climbing. It was great to see people’s confidence improve with challenges like falling, an important thing to practise regularly (in a safe and appropriate way).

Organising social events for climbers is a bit like herding cats. But we keep trying and last year’s winter dinner was held at The Oxford Hotel, where we had a lovely fire and plenty of food. We are about to start organising this year’s one, likely to be scheduled for July. The annual CAWA Xmas BBQ took place at Point Walter as usual. There was more interest in slacklines than bouldering, which kept the masses entertained until food was served. It was great to see many of the new faces in climbing that I have come to know, as well as some of the old faithfuls.

However, CAWA is not a social club. We are the peak body for the sport in WA. So while I wish it was all just about having fun, my role is also to report on the serious stuff and increase general awareness about the issues impacting on our sport.

One of CAWA’s main objectives is to maintain and promote access to climbing locations. The land we climb on is generally managed by Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and sometimes by other government agencies or private owners. A considerable amount of effort has gone into building these relationships. Last year CAWA submitted comments on the Draft Kalbarri National Park Management Plan, which were well received. Climbing is an accepted recreational activity in this park. However, it is always important to make our presence felt as stakeholders so we are not forgotten. One suggestion made was to develop campsites within the park. Providing such facilities would encourage climbers to camp up above rather than down in the gorge, as currently the main alternative is driving into Kalbarri. Given that DPaW would prefer that we didn’t camp at The Promenade, this seems like a reasonable solution. And as we head into Kalbarri season, I need to remind everyone that it would be appreciated if you do not camp in the gorge on long weekends (the June one in particular), that you use the designated tourist track to access the gorge and adhere to ‘leave no trace’ practices. Every time we disrespect the environment (as one group of climbers did year before last) and management policies, it increases the risk of threat to future climbing access. Imagine the ramifications if you or a tourist following you down the old access track has an accident. Camping in the gorge does require registration with the rangers.

In the late 1990s there was a hard battle fought and won to maintain climbing access to Wallcliffe. Since that time, it appears that a local government by law has been passed stating that climbing is not allowed without written approval. CAWA was not consulted for input and it is unclear exactly when this came into effect. The rock face and cave is now also listed as an Aboriginal site of significance and protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. The act states that it is an offence to excavate, destroy, damage, conceal or in any way alter an Aboriginal site in a manner not sanctioned by relevant custom. So there are two separate issues, the latter being a far more complex one to address. While we can’t force people to stay away, CAWA strongly advises that climbing activities at this crag cease until further notice. Keep an eye on the website for updates. Consider that our behaviour in this regard will impact significantly on any negotiations. Please do note that part of our previous agreement was that no new fixed protection was to be placed. We previously benefited from the assistance of a lawyer who was also a climber and any such person willing to lend a hand is encouraged to contact me.

Mountain and Stathams quarries in Perth operate under a booking system for all users. Unfortunately we lost the ability to make quarry bookings on weekends, due to some climbers abusing the system. Phoning the duty officer at 5 am while standing at the gate was never going to win friends and in spite of requests not to do so, it continued to occur. It is now only likely to change with the introduction of fees at some point in the future as the number of users increase and management becomes more labour intensive. We have also seen a huge increase in climbers sharing the gate code instead of making bookings. There is restricted access with a gate and a lock as well as signage clearly stating that you need to make bookings at the entry to both quarries (I have advised DPaW that the signage needs to be updated to reflect weekday only bookings). Many of the offenders know very well that we need to book and should be encouraging responsible practices rather than engaging in behaviour that serves only to harm the sport and reputation of climbers. It is extremely frustrating to be faced with such selfish and short-sighted behaviour whilst giving so many hours as an unpaid volunteer for my sport. This type of behaviour seriously hampers my ability to negotiate with the land managers and is, quite frankly, embarrassing.

While I appreciate that there are many who understand and are doing the right thing, I feel that those who aren’t really need a good spanking. As I said at the AGM, climbing isn’t a team sport, but if we don’t work as a team, then we can expect the whole thing to fall in a hole at some point.

This leads me to another serious topic: succession. We have seen significant growth in membership, with current numbers at an all time high – 184 memberships with 241 members. This is fantastic but we still struggle to fill all ten committee positions, leaving a small group of people working hard for the members and sport as a whole. This is a common issue for all associations but my concern is that when I step down, there will not be an appropriately experienced person to take over. I make no promises about how long I will stay on the committee, this being my sixth year. Ideally, a person taking on the president’s role is already on the committee being groomed for the position and absorbing all of the relevant information, as there is a lot of CAWA history necessary to the job. A solid understanding of climbing in WA is particularly important. So if you are up for the challenge, want to acquire some new skills and make a difference to your sport, please get in touch. We still also need to fill some committee positions and would love to hear from people willing to give some of their time. We need your help!  

We are in a stable position financially, largely thanks to our Perth Rock Climbing Guide. However, in the future, we may not have a guide book to rely on and so even though we have money in the bank, it’s wise to be prudent about how we spend it. I’m also a fan of using other people’s money wherever possible. By that I mean accessing government grants, free training and sponsorship. However, these opportunities are more limited than they used to be. Costs of running the association increase each year and if we want to ensure that we can afford things like the insurance cover required to run training, then we must identify new income streams. We’ve just released the latest CAWA t-shirt so that will help things along. Or rather, you guys will when you buy them!

The constitution, bless its little archaic socks, desperately needs updating and simplifying. But this is a big job and one that it isn’t realistic to undertake without a full committee on board to take care of all the other jobs.

The year ahead will be filled with lots of CAWA activities and administrative fun, hopefully with a bit more climbing (for me) than last year. As always, please feel free to email us with any feedback or suggestions.

I look forward to seeing you out climbing and at the upcoming CAWA events.

Dena Rao

CAWA President

1 thought on “President’s Report 2014”

  1. Given the budgetary cuts this Government is implementing across all departments, I’d be curious to see how they’d justify the expense of wages, workers comp insurance, and administration against any quarry fees they’d collect from climbers. And is that just climbers, or all quarry users? Will this fee be advertised in local papers so the family going for a weekend hike will know to cough up the cash to walk on public land? Another bit of bad press for the Barnett Government, I can’t wait!

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