Three men are stuck on Uluru after ignoring pleas by the site’s traditional owners not to climb it. Late on Monday night, a delicate rescue operation was underway to winch the stranded climbers off the rock.

The three men, aged 23, first got into trouble around midday when they veered off the designated pathway into a restricted zone and became stuck in a crevice.

Police used loudspeakers to communicate with the trio and were able to confirm that they were uninjured and had enough water with them.

About 9pm, volunteers from the Northern Territory Emergency Services’ specialist vertical rescue team were preparing to abseil the men to safety, after many hours working to secure abseiling anchors.

“It could take some time because it’s quite dark,” a Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the “avoidable” incident would be costly for emergency services.

“It is huge effort for the NTES volunteers. It’s wear and tear on equipment and it does cost a lot of money,” the spokesperson said.

While climbing Uluru is not prohibited, the traditional owners of the rock ask that people “respect our law and culture” by not venturing onto the scared site.

Melbourne man David Rowe is holidaying at Uluru with his family and using a camera zoom lens could see the stranded men stuck about 100 metres from the base of the rock.

“They actually got three quarters or even more down the face of the rock in the wrong spot,” Mr Rowe said.

“They got to the point it where it’s too step to do the final bit, but too hard to go up again.”

The technical officer with Telstra said he had chosen not to climb Uluru himself.

“My son is in a wheelchair, which would have made it challenging, but we wouldn’t have wanted to anyway because there are signs there saying the local indigenous people say they would prefer you not,” he said.

“I just think we’re on their turf so if they don’t want me to I’m quite happy not to do it.”