ULURU, Australia: Hundreds of tourists flocked to Uluru on Friday for one last chance to climb the sacred site ahead of a ban, despite heavy winds preventing early attempts to scale the giant red monolith.
A permanent ban on scaling Uluru — also known as Ayers Rock — comes into place Saturday in line with the long-held wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu.
This has led to a surge of climbers in recent months.
Hundreds were left waiting for hours early Friday due to safety concerns over heavy winds, before rangers allowed climbers to head up the rock at 10 a.m. local time.
Parks Australia said they would reassess the weather conditions throughout the day to determine if climbers could continue to mount the rock.
More than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park in the 12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year.
Around 13 percent of those who visited during that period made the climb, park authorities said.
Uluru has great spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous Australians, with their connection to the site dating back tens of thousands of years.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt likened the surge of people rushing to climb Uluru with “a rush of people wanting to climb over the Australian War Memorial.”
“Our sacred objects, community by community, are absolutely important in the story and the history of that nation of people,” he told national broadcaster ABC.
Saturday marks 34 years since that the park’s title was handed back to the traditional owners.