• Uluru (also called Ayers Rock)
  • 865 m
  • Primary factor 345 m
  • 335 km South West of Alice Springs, Australia
  • Location: South 25:20.694, East 131:01.950 (GPS at the summit)
  • Climbed two times on July 18. 2003


How to get there: By road from Alice Springs, the distance one way is 450 km. From Coober Pedy (where I came from), the distance is about 750 km. There is a range of accommodations at Yulara about 20 km from the rock. Advance reservation may be preferable as this is a very popular destination, we called ahead and booked a room two days ahead of arrival.
Drive from the resort area (Yulara) about 20 km to the rock. You will pass the park entrance, they charge 16.25 (australian dollars, July 2003) for entry, this can then be used for three days. After passing the park headquarter on your right the road hits the circular rock road. Make a left and stop at the first car parking, this is the trailhead.
Route description: The route is pretty obvious, a long ridge coming down to the parking area. There is a solid chain between poles leading up the steep ridge. Shoes with good rubber soles are recommended. One can pretty much walk up on dry, smooth rock using normal friction. There are two short sections where holding on to the chain may be the best (and safest) way to proceed. In any event, one should stay close to the chain, any slip or stupid mistake here and that is pretty much the end.. Parents should definitely keep close control on children, this is a dangerous place to make any mistake. Higher up the chain ends and the route is marked with white paint on the rock. The route makes an arc to the left while crossing several smaller features that require more friction walks on dry rock, both up and down. However, there is no longer exposure and in most places a slip or fall would not be fatal. The summit area is quite level and of good size. The route down is just a reversal of your climb.
The trail is generally open from about 30 minutes before sunrise to about 30 minutes after sunset. The trail may be closed for various reasons, Aboriginal people may perform ceremonies, the wind may be unacceptable (it was in the morning), or in all cases if there is rain or thunder. The Aboriginal people do not like that the rock is climbed, however this is clearly ignored as hundreds of people climb this rock every day.
Comments: I climbed this famous rock in the afternoon with my son Pål Jørgen. There were quite a few other tourists as well. It took us 30 minutes up and about 20 minutes down. The view from the summit is very impressive, you see about 100 km in all directions, that is, about 30.000 square km. My GPS showed 864 meter, the official elevation on the top states 865, while the national park guide says 863.
I decided to redo the climb about 2 hours later in order to see the sun set over the desert about 100 km further west. Somewhat surprisingly, I was the only person doing this. Thus, I had this rather remarkable rock all to myself and truly enjoyed it.
One should also see the sunset on the rock, which we did the evening before, as well as the sunrise which I did in the morning.

Special comments on the mountain Kata Tjuta, 1066 meter. The short version is, this peak may not have an easy way up.

Kata Tjuta (also called Mount Olga), is the highest peak among a group of about 16 dome shaped peaks located about 30 km west of Uluru. For mountain interested people, the significant height of 1066 meter of Kata Tjuta as well as its large rise (between 500 and 600 meter) above the surronding terrain must generate some interest in reaching its summit. The Aboriginal people do not want tourists to climb these peaks, however, observing how this is ignored by the hundreds (every day) on Uluru, it seemed reasonable to assume that we could look for a way up.
In preparation for this, we purchased a topographical map (made by the Australian mapping agency), scale 1:100.000 with 20 meter contours. A brief look revealed a rather gentle slope on the south-east side. Further study showed that we could access this side from a hiking trail called Valley of the Winds, by hiking south in a rather obvious valley. Consequently, Pål Jørgen and I set out for the peak by leaving the trail in the identified valley. We continued along a faint trail and soon reached the final slopes of the valley to its crest. At this point I believed that the Kata Tjuta summit was behind the immediate sloping relatively gently up towards the right. We headed up the slope with little difficulty, but near the horizon I discovered to my surprise that there was no further (higher) mountain in the direction we were climbing, a clear view south across the desert confirmed this. We were at only 870 meter, GPS coordinates South 25:18.485, East 130:44.570. There was only one conclusion, the summit of Kata Tjuta was behind us. The higher dome there looked forbidding with a steep wall. How could this be? A closer examination of the map in light of the observed terrain revealed that the Australian map-makers just changed the contour interval from 20 meters to 100 meters above the 700 meter contour. This had escaped our attention when planning the trip. (In all justice, normally one does not change the contour interval just because the terrain gets steeper, this tends to confuse more than enlighten a "normal" map user.)
Well, already here, we should look for a possible route. There was a deep cut further in that might provide us with a route, the chance looked slim, but having invested this much, we better check it out. This cut lead up right next to a steep cliff coming down from the proper summit of Kata Tjuta. Higher up, it provided access to a lower subsidiary platau just south of the summit, after descending slightly on a broad ramp, our last hope was that the ascending slope further onwards would somehow connect with the (gently) descending slope (westward) of the Kata Tjuta rock dome. The single complication here was dense growth of spinifex, a plant that grows where nothing else will (in the Australian desert) full of sharp needles that did their best in tearing up the skin on my legs (I hiked in shorts). In fact, we later learned that this is the most common plant in Australia and that only termites are able to digest it. Anyway, our last hope was quickly killed as this last ramp was climbed. Kata Tjuta sloped steeper and steeper towards the desert plain, our ramp separated from Kata Tjuta by an increasingly deeper cut and there was at least a 30 meter almost vertical smooth rock separating the ramp from the Kata Tjuta upper, more gentle slope. We turned at 970 meter elevation, GPS location: South 25:18.259, East 130:44.149. See pictures below for further details. In conclusion, we did have a good hike all by ourselves and we did settle that this peak cannot easily be climbed without technical means. However, if the Australian map had been like most maps then we would have concluded this back at the hotel and never even attempted the peak.