CANBERRA: The giant monolith, once better known to visitors as Ayers Rock is permanently off limits from Saturday, October 26. Uluru is sacred to its indigenous custodians, the Anangu people, who have long implored tourists not to climb.
Only 16% of visitors went up in 2017 when the ban was announced but the climb has been packed in recent weeks.
On Friday, climbers faced a delayed start to the climb due to dangerously strong winds. After parks officials deemed the climb safe to open, hundreds of people made the trek up.
The entrance gate was due to be closed at 16:00 local time (06:30 GMT) on Friday. Once people come down, officials said a metal chain used as a climbing aid would be immediately dismantled.
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, as well as for safety and environmental reasons.
At the base of rock, crowds gathered on Friday before dawn for a chance to ascend one last time.
Treasured memories for some, but closing the climb will bring to an end years of distress for Aboriginal groups.
Nearby campgrounds and hotels were fully booked this week. This had led to tourists camping illegally and dumping waste, locals said.
The climb’s closure is not expected to significantly affect visitor rates to the national park, officials and tourism operators say.
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 348m (1,142ft) high, and the climb is steep and can be slippery. Temperatures in the area can also reach 47C (116F) in the summer.