David Kitching still remembers the New Year's Eve shindigs he had with hundreds of climbers in his backyard at Natimuk in the eighties and nineties.
It's not that hard, given he's kept the billboard with the instructions for guests, but just as overseas visitors are ingrained in his memory, so they are ingrained in the history and identity of the town.
"Nothing was happening on New Year's Eve, so I talked to a couple of friends. I've got quite nice grounds behind my home, and we decided we'd go ahead do it," he said.
"I made all the hamburgers myself, some girls made salads. We just put it out there and everyone helped themselves. People paid as they went in the gate, and we did it a number of times and 250 or 300 climbers would come along."
Mr Kitching said the parties happened four or five times wrapped up after "it became the same few people doing the work every time".
The first ever roped ascent up Mt Arapiles was on November 16, 1963 by two parties of climbers from Melbourne who both made their climbs below the fire lookout tower.
Doug Angus, Peter Jackson and Bob Craddock pioneered the Introductory Route climb, while Greg Lovejoy and Steve Craddock, Bob's brother, pioneered the climb they named Siren.
Mr Kitching said climbing figures including Tenzing Norgay, the sherpa who helped Sir Edmund Hillary summit Mount Everest for the first time, Peter Hillary, Sir Edmund's son, and world-famous Canadian solo climber Peter Croft had all visited Natimuk for the mountain.
"The social scene at the mountain is just as important as the climbing scene because there is a whole range of different nationalities. It's a bit bigger than what people realise I think: Special forces police, firefighting search and rescue, universities and colleges all come here for training and education camps."
Mr Kitching, a furniture retailer, owns two shopfront on Natimuk's Main Street. He has lived in the Wimmera for all of his 74 years, and in Natimuk for the past 53.
He remembers what the town was like before its reputation as a climbing destination.
"It was local people and there were a fair few businesses, but with the advent of supermarkets it was very hard for little businesses to compete against them," he said.
"There were a lot of retired farmers who lived in the town, and as they left younger people came in and bought the homes as the climbing reputation started to grow."
Mr Kitching estimated 70 homes in Natimuk, a town of 500, were owned by climbers.
One of the first people to move to Natimuk for the climbing lifestyle, Phil Wilkins, owns the Arapiles Mountain Shop in town. This sells rockclimbing equipment and resoles climbing shoes mailed in from across Australia.
Branding himself as Australia's first and best climbing resoler, Mr Wilkins has lived in Natimuk for 30 years, moving from Melbourne.
"It's become the community I always hoped it would be," he said. "Full of people that just love to climb. We've had doctors, solicitors and people move here who have started businesses, become council workers and teachers at Horsham College."
Mr Wilkins said he became a member of the Australian Climbers Association of Victoria as uncertainty over climbing access in the park continued.
ACAV has concerns closures and restrictions at rock climbing areas in the Grampians following a cultural heritage study could set a precedent that could be applied to Arapiles.
"I just don't want to lose the community I'm part of," he said.
"If access to the mountain closed they would be out of there like a shot, because the town has nothing else to offer. It has got to the point where I was going to build a $500,000 house on my land, but I'm putting that on hold until I know what's going on with this survey."
Mr Wilkins said Easter and Spring were peak seasons for climbers, when the skies were clear and weather not too hot.
Natimuk's National Hotel licensee Bill Lovel said climbers from beyond the region comprised close to half his customer base.
"Most people stay in our accommodation for three-to-four days, while climbers from New Zealand will stay for two weeks," he said.
"We employ 15 or 16 staff, a lot of them local kids who don't have to go to Horsham, so any limits on climbing Arapiles could affect staff numbers.
Mr Lovel said climbers made up a significant proportion of the town's football club and arts scene.
"If it wasn't there they would leave," he said. "If Arapiles were to close it wouldn't be the death of the town, but it wouldn't be healthy."
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