Biggest clue Mt Warning could be closed forever
Safety chains from the top of Mount Warning have been ripped out, sparking fresh fears the iconic Tweed Valley climb may never reopen.
Speculation has been building that the world-famous volcano also known as Wollumbin - which has been off limits since last March, would stay shut with mounting pressure from Indigenous groups for the mountain to be declared a sacred place similar to Uluru, which banned climbers in 2019.
The NSW environment department insists the closure will be reviewed in May, but a leading climbing advocate who visited the mountain this week believes the summit climb's days are numbered after the removal of the chain section that helped hikers negotiate the final ascent to the top.
A spokesman for the environment department said the chains were removed due to safety concerns, but Marc Hendrickx, a qualified engineering geologist and climbing veteran, said that could have been easily fixed rather than removing the entire structure.
"It has been neglected for decades and it seems like they (authorities) are just getting ready to shut it down permanently as soon as possible which would be a terrible shame," he said.
Mr Hendrickx, who has sent a report on the state of the climbing trail to NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, said he believed sensitive issues raised by Indigenous leaders could be addressed without closing the mountain off for good.
"I know they consider it to be sacred - I consider it to be sacred too," he said.
"It's a very special place.
"But this argument about its Aboriginal significance has been around since the 1970s - it's only recently this argument that climbers are somehow causing offence has emerged and as long as people show respect and take their rubbish with them, it should be allowed to continue.
"It is an absolute travesty that National Parks is even considering the notion of closing this beautiful place."
Since 2010, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and NSW Police have responded to 44 'significant' visitor safety incidents on the summit track, including two fatalities.
Rock and mud slides are common with the mountain regularly closed for repairs over the years.
In a statement, an NPWS spokesman said several factors would determine the fate of the mountain trail.
"NPWS understands that locals and visitors may be disappointed by the extended closure however our main priority is to ensure the safety of visitors and staff," he said.
"NPWS will now consider the future of the summit track, in consultation with key community and tourism stakeholders, including local Aboriginal Elders and knowledge holders."
Indigenous stakeholders could not be contacted for comment.
Originally published as Biggest clue Mt Warning could be closed forever