The massive chunk of red sandstone called Uluru (or Ayer's Rock) in Australia's outback has long attracted visitors to an otherwise remote section of the world. But like Yosemite's Half Dome, seeing it often isn't enough, and thousands of people a year attempt to climb it—despite long-standing protestations from local Aborigines that doing so violates a sacred place.
That could change: The Australian national park service released a plan yesterday that could call for closing Uluru off to climbers. In addition to the cultural desecration, the park service cites concern about safety and environmental degradation. About 30 people have died while trying to climb Uluru.
"For visitor safety, cultural, and environmental reasons the Director and the Board (of the park) will work toward closure of the climb," the plan says. It also points out the environmental impact of climbers, such as erosion along the path and the effect on wildlife from waste left behind.
The Nguraritja tribe regained ownership of Uluru in 1985, but they've leased it to the park service ever since, and while they've always advocated against climbing, the park service advises visitors not too but ultimately lets guests make their own decision.
I can't blame the tribe for wanting to keep people off of their sacred spot. Climbers can be messy and careless—especially British ones. Don't believe me? Watch this video of a British Kilimanjaro expedition:
Image Credit: ernieski