Wollumbin Summit track extended closure

Extension of Summit track closure.

Wollumbin National Park, formerly known as Mount Warning National Park, is closed due to significant safety issues on the Wollumbin Summit track.

The park has been closed since March 2020 to comply with COVID-19 rules on public gatherings and physical distancing, particularly related to use of the chain near the summit of the climb.

During this closure, a safety audit and independent engineering assessment identified significant safety issues with the Wollumbin Summit, notably extreme risk of landslide, rockfall and failure of the chain section of the track. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are extending the current closure of Wollumbin National Park until May 2021 to address these concerns.

We understand that locals and visitors may be disappointed by the extended closure however our main priority must always be to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.

We will now consider the future of the Summit track, in consultation with key community and tourism stakeholders including Aboriginal Elders and knowledge holders.

Visitors are always advised to check:

Alerts for NSW National Parks

The Pinnacle walking track and lookout in Border Ranges National Park offers uninterrupted views over the World Heritage-listed rainforest, the crater escarpment, Wollumbin (Mount Warning) and the Tweed Valley. The Best of All Lookout, accessed via Queensland's Springbrook National Park, also provides a stunning view of the mountain.

Byrrill Creek walking track is a short walk in Mebbin National Park that takes you through subtropical rainforest and past large ancient fig trees, ideal for birdwatching.

Other alternatives include the Goorgana walking track, Pholis Gap walking track or Protesters Falls in nearby Nightcap National Park.

The 8.8 kilometre return Summit track is a very steep and challenging track rising 720 metres in altitude to the summit at 1096 metres. It includes a rock scramble section in the final 100 metres of the ascent which requires a high level of fitness, experience and skill, where climbers use chains to ascend a near-vertical exposed rockface.

NPWS has committed significant capital and maintenance funding, resources and effort, to maintain visitor access to the Wollumbin Summit walking track. Despite this, infrastructure is recorded as poor to very poor condition due to the high use, steep terrain, vegetation and impacts of severe storms and very heavy rainfall events.

NPWS and NSW Police have responded to 44 significant visitor safety incidents on the Summit track over the past 10 years, including 2 deaths. These incidents have involved both heli-evacuations and search and rescue operations. The number of unreported injuries is likely much higher.

A recent structural assessment undertaken by a qualified consulting engineer identified an extreme risk of failure of the chain section near the summit.

The report recommended the track be closed as the risk of further accidents or fatalities from a catastrophic failure is very high and there is no possibility of adequately repairing or maintaining the critical parts.

A Visitor Safety Risk Assessment of the Wollumbin Summit track undertaken in September 2019 identified other catastrophic or extreme risks including:

  • extreme risk of rockfall, landslide or slope instability causing serious injury or fatality
  • delays in emergency response to lost or injured walkers endangering patient survival
  • built asset (such as platforms, handrails, pathway) failure causing serious injury or fatality, slips, trips or falls ascending and descending the chain section causing serious injury or fatality.

Wollumbin Summit is a sacred place of the highest significance to Bundjalung people and other Aboriginal Nations. Wollumbin, which means 'cloud catcher' to some Aboriginal People, is a traditional place of cultural law, initiation and spiritual education for the people of the Bundjalung Nation. Under Bundjalung law, only certain people can climb the summit.

Wollumbin summit was declared an Aboriginal Place in 2014 to protect these values, and people have been asked to consider not climbing the summit since then.

There is a high level of community acceptance of the significance of Wollumbin Summit and the message not to climb. Of the 858 domestic participants in a recent visitor research survey, 49% stated they would not climb Wollumbin summit upon receiving the request not to climb, most of the remaining participants were unsure or needed more information, and only 9% still wanted to climb Wollumbin.

The $7.35 million Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails project was initiated to help alleviate the safety and cultural risks at Wollumbin National Park by providing alternative experiences in the Tweed Byron region.

Work has commenced on stage one of that project to increase capacity and enhance visitor access and safety at Minyon Falls lookout and nearby day use area.

The project will also deliver a signature multi-day walk from Unicorn Falls in Mount Jerusalem National Park near Uki to Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park by 2022.