Uluru is one of Australia’s most famous landmarks. (BBC)
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NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia – Huge crowds are expected to scramble up Australia’s Uluru on Friday before a ban on the climb takes effect.
The giant monolith – formerly known as Ayers Rock – will be permanently off limits to visitors from Saturday.
Uluru is sacred to its indigenous custodians, the Anangu people, who have long implored tourists not to climb.
Only 16 per cent of visitors went up in 2017 – when the ban was announced – but the climb has been packed in recent weeks.
In recent months, photos circulating of people in lines snaking up Uluru have even drawn comparisons to recent scenes on Mount Everest.
One social media user posted a timelapse, purportedly showing the massive queue at Uluru just one day before the closure.
In 2017, the board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park voted unanimously to end the climb because of the spiritual significance of the site.
One Anangu man told the BBC that Uluru was a “very sacred place, [it’s] like our church”.
“People right around the world . . . they just come and climb it. They’ve got no respect,” said Rameth Thomas.
There are several signs at the base of Uluru that urge tourists not to climb, but some said they would “do it anyway”.
“It’s because of my ego I want to climb it,” said Pamela, a tourist from Queensland.
“I have two replacement knees and I want to see if I can do it.”
Locals said that tourists had been dumping waste and camping illegally nearby.
Since the 1950s, dozens of people have died on Uluru due to accidents, dehydration and other heat-related events. In 2018, a Japanese tourist died while attempting to ascend one of the steepest parts of the rock.
Uluru is 348 metres (1 142 feet) high, and the climb is steep and can be slippery. Temperatures in the area can also reach 47°C (116°F) in the summer. (BBC)