Thursday, November 30, 2006

[ayer’s rock] always a dangerous climb

An Irish tourist and his 13-year-old daughter were flown off Uluru by helicopter after they became stranded on the landmark rock under a burning desert sun. The 38-year-old tourist's young son yesterday thanked those who helped his family, including a ranger injured during the rescue.

Soaring temperatures forced rangers to close the climb on Uluru about 8am on Wednesday, when the Irish family, who live in London, were already about 100m up the rock. The Irishman, who had taken off his plastic sandals to walk on the rock, was suffering extreme blistering and dehydration while his daughter was having difficulty breathing.

About 200,000 visitors climb the rock each year, ignoring aboriginals who ask them not to. For safety the Uluru climb is also closed when there are strong winds, when it is raining or the climb is slippery and when lightning, storms or other potentially dangerous conditions are imminent.

There’s also a warning: Do not attempt to climb Uluru if you suffer from:

# Heart Condition
# Breathing Difficulties
# Fear of Heights

All of this is very true. Firstly, you can’t get any conception of how vast the rock is from photos. Basically, one climbs up one rock face with the aid of a rope ladder but it’s best in the early morning before the sun comes up. Once it comes up, it’s like that moment in Mummy 2 – it scoots across the land and hits the rock full blast. The other great danger was the rogue wind gust which just bodily picks you up and tries to sweep you over the curved edge.

Then you’re in trouble, with temperatures at the surface around the mid 40s and you’re advised to drink a litre an hour. I didn’t when we visited – I took two pints, not two litres and so I made it up and then, halfway down again my legs buckled under me and I had to go the rest of the way hand over hand on the rail and then baby crawled across to our car, where water and rest restored the balance.

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