To climb Uluru or not?

He wanted to…I didn’t…insert heated discussion and a confused 8 year old here!

As a child, whenever I dreamed about visiting Ayers Rock it always included me climbing to the top.  When I grew up, this didn’t change.  I figured if I was fit enough, I would give it a go.  When I met Wayne, he felt exactly the same and we couldn’t wait to tick the Climb off our bucket lists.

But something changed! When we began to research our Red Centre Adventure, I read so many articles and found myself diving into Aboriginal history.  Ashlee was learning about our land, the ‘white man’ and dream time and I found myself wanting to know more.  The more I read about Uluru and the makings of Yulara, the more I started to sway against doing the climb.

A few months before we left I broke the news to Wayne.  I will not be climbing the Rock…and…I don’t think you should either! Well, you can imagine how that comment went down.  What followed were some heated conversations which struck a chord for both of us. Despite being confronting, I loved that we could communicate how we felt.  We listened and we respected each others opinion.

My belief was based around a gut feeling and all the information that Dr Google had given me, the Aboriginal people didn’t want me to climb it and I respected that! It was dangerous, 36 people have died…I got it and my decision was made.

Wayne’s belief was very simple:

“I have always wanted to climb it so I will” “The Rock is Australian and I am Australian so I have a right to climb it”

In the end, he was very firm with his decision and I with mine.  All good… until… Ashlee decided that she wanted to climb it with Daddy!! My stomach lurched….crap!

He said YES…I said NO!  I am not sure why, but this thought made me feel sick to the tummy.  After everything Ashlee was learning at school I really thought she would decline.  However, the idea of doing this with her Dad outweighed any argument I might have.  Her young mind was set – I believed it was set on making her Dad proud, she was 8! This had nothing to do with the Aboriginal people, this was a little girl who wanted to do something with her Dad. Geez…this was a tough one.

I put forward my case:  “She is too young, it is dangerous, I really don’t think she should, when she gets older she can decide”

So did he: “She will be fine, I will be with her, our friends younger than Ash have done it”

This went around and around right up to us arriving in Yulara.  I told Wayne that I wanted her to read all the signage at the rock BEFORE she climbed and I voiced very strongly that I was not happy.  Wayne wanted her to make the decision, so right up to getting out of the car we were not too sure which way this could go. (I think in the back of my mind I would pull the MUM card if I needed to…lol )

I got out of the car and saw all the people clambering up the rock face and my heart sank.  My gut feeling was right, I really was dead against climbing.  We wandered over to the massive signs at the base of the climb and I made Ashlee read it all. “Mum, can you really die?” “Why don’t they want us to climb”.  The more we talked about it all, the more upset I found I was getting.  Uluru is truly the spiritual heart of our country and I FELT IT.  Very hard to explain, but I was surrounded by it and the tears began to flow.  This overwhelming feeling was bizarre.  I had come to terms with Wayne wanting to climb, I understood why he did and there was a part of me that was happy for him to be doing something that he had always wanted to do.  But as I watched people climb up the initial steep face, some on hands and knees,  the danger element of this exercise kicked into gear.  Was I being ridiculous? Oh geez, my emotions kicked in and there was nothing stopping me now…

“Yes darling, it is very dangerous – look at the people there struggling”

What a confusing time for her.  Her will to be with her Dad won and with the look of fear and confusion in her eyes she said she was going up.  At this point, despite her determination, I knew she would not go far.  Call it Mother’s intuition,  I saw in her eyes a look.  It broke my heart.  On one hand, she wanted to make her Dad proud.  On the other, she was scared and confused.

I watched her walk away, once again, tears streaming down my face.  Kate was by my side and at 5 years old, she was unaware of all the kafuffle. She just wanted to know when we could get an icecream!

Ashlee made it about 30 metres up before she came running back to me.  I grabbed her in my arms and deep down I was so proud of her.  We were both crying now and the words that came out of her mouth made me cry even more.

“Oh Mum, the Aborigines…the Aborigines…Oh Mum, they really don’t want us to climb, we shouldn’t climb…Oh Mum…”

At this point, I was glad the message had sunk in… but then it turned…

“Oh Mum…Daddy’s gonna die!! It’s so steep, I couldn’t do it…people die Mum…Why did Daddy go?”


The next hour was spent consoling my poor emotional little 8 year old daughter, loving her so much at this point because of all the pulls and tugs on her emotions, all the processing of information was just too much for her but at the same time she was learning so much!  We called Wayne on his mobile a few times and finally she relaxed.  Kate, Ashlee and I took our time and enjoyed the Marla Walk along the base.   They both soaked up all the stories and culture.  They loved seeing the ‘school’ and we all discussed how life might have been.

Daddy called from the top and we all enjoyed listening to him explain what he could see.  “Miles of nothing!”

Just over 2 hours later Wayne made his way down the rock.  He was exhausted and the girls raced to him with arms wide open, gushing all over him. He was safe! He was happy! Despite my emotionally draining morning, I was happy for him to…and so glad that it was all over.

There is not a moral to our story, no lessons for others to be learnt.  This little one is about US, what we felt and how we managed the age old question: To climb or not to climb?

Will you be climbing?

{UPDATE} The Climb will be CLOSED in 2019 – read more here

Here is our RED CENTRE ADVENTURE Itinerary

Here is our review of YULARA & ULURU

Read about Kings Canyon too


This all made some great pages in our Travel Journal – get yours today!

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