Thursday, 5 December 2013

Australia: Bluff Knoll and my final bushwalk of the trip

Bluff Knoll
Bluff Knoll
My final bushwalk of the trip, and it was one I had finally come to do after first standing at the start 16 years ago. Back then, I was on a coach tour of the South-West, and the car park of Bluff Knoll was merely an attraction that had to be hurriedly ticked off, so there was no walking, just looking up at the 1095 metre mountain before jumping back on the bus for the return to Perth. 

Back in 1997 I hadn't even discovered the delights of bushwalking, hiking, tramping, rambling, or whatever you call it, so I doubt I would have been inclined to have set foot on it anyway!

The Stirling Ranges are about 80 kilometres north of Albany, and forty north of Porongurup, so I didn't have to get up too early to reach the car park. Good job too, because even at six in the morning I took out a rabbit and later narrowly missed a mob of kangaroo bounding out from the safety of the bush and across the Bluff Knoll Road when they heard me coming; Kangaroos really are stupid!

It was just gone seven, and the sun was already high in the sky, but it was a welcome chilly start to the day. Looking up from the car park, it was difficult to see the route the path takes and the terrain looks tough for those with a lack of head for heights like me.

With yesterday's retreat from Castle Rock in mind, I was determined not to wuss out on this one, and I set off.

Walkway from the car park
Walkway from the car park
After the initial drop across the valley, the track began it's climb. A good, but rocky path with some high steps for a short arse like me!
The climb begins
The rocky climb begins
Steep stairs
Steep stairs
It wasn't long before the views began to give you the excuse to stop and take back control of your breathing!

Always impressive views
Always impressive views
Looking back down the track at some of the exposed edges, you can see the car park and gauge how quickly the ascent was being made on the stairs. I consciously kept looking over the edges to acclimatise to the height, and push any negative thoughts to the back of my head. I think it also helped that I wasn't fatigued.
An airy section with view of the car park
An airy section with a view of the car park below
The sign posts every half a kilometre also help spur you on to the top.

1.1km to go to the summit
1.1 km to the summit
After about an hour, the steep edges disappear and you make your way up through heathland, abundant with wildflowers.

The summit is near..
The summit is near..
As you reach the summit, the view of the car park appears again and it's quite a scene. I was at the top in an hour and fifteen minutes, which pleased me as the day before I had read a guide which reckoned it was two hours to the summit. My Bibbulmun legs and fitness had not deserted me.

car park from the summit
Car park from the summit
another view from the summit
another view from the summit
The summit itself is a low key affair. It is only the end of ascent that signifies the top; no man made cairn, trig point or sign (or none that I was aware of!) and I like that. With the prevailing wind coming from the south-west, you can drop behind rocks on the very edge of the mountain for shelter to rest and enjoy the views of the Stirling Ranges and the Whealtbelt Country. For the likes of me to be comfortable so close to the edge was a significant achievement, especially considering yesterday on Castle Rock.

The view south to the coast
The view south to the coast
There is no doubt that the best views are over the precipitous edge, but there is pretty spectacular country to be seen, 360 degrees!

After "lunch" at around 8:30am, it was time to descend and enjoy the scenery and wildflowers with the knowledge the hard work had been completed.

flower lined track
flower lined track
Wildflower
Wildflower
Descent to the car park
Descent to the car park
The walk took me two and three quarter hours in total, under the 3-4 hours estimation; well worth the effort and I was glad I didn't listen to the demon in my head saying "turn back, it ain't worth it!" whenever the edge got close or the breathing got heavier!

Looking back up at Bluff Knoll
Looking back up at Bluff Knoll
It was a satisfying ending to my amazing bushwalking experience in Australia! Next time I venture out it will be a total contrast; the UK in mid December... Brrrrr! :)

Finally, the route! UPDATE 02/07/2014: Geonames had this mountain peak in the wrong place, which I duly informed them about when it failed to appear on my Social Hiking map. Thanks to Phil Sorrell for sorting this out!