Friday, April 23, 2010

Week 17/52 - Climbing in the Stirling Ranges

Welcome to week 17 of our 52 week tour Downunder Western Australia - and thank you for joining me as I take you on a 52 week tour around my beautiful state - Western Australia.

This week we drive north from your last stopover, Albany to Mt Barker, the Porongurup Ranges, and Stirling Ranges - I hope you are ready for an early morning start and have your climbing boots on because we are going to climb the Stirling Ranges highest peak - Bluff Knoll.

The towering peaks of the Stirling Ranges rise dramatically from the surrounding coastal farmland, it is easy to see why the local Noongar Aboriginal people call the Ranges, koi kyenunu-ruff – meaning ‘mist moving around the mountains’.

Here we are driving into the Stirling Ranges.

From Life Images by Jill

Spreading over 64 kilometres, the Park provides some of the best mountain walking in WA and over 1500 plant species. A scenic drive along gravel roads takes you through the Park and well-marked tracks provide plenty for bushwalkers, wildflower and bird enthusiasts to explore.

Here is Bluff Knoll towering over us as we start the climb. The 1095 metre climb to the top of Bluff Knoll rewards you with spectacular 360 degree views from the south coast to the north and across the length of the Ranges. Hope you have a hat and water! and of course your camera!

From Life Images by Jill

A boardwalk around the carpark area enables wheelchair access so that everyone can enjoy the views of the Stirling Ranges.

From Life Images by Jill

Climbing up Bluff Knoll the mist and clouds were swirling around us. In winter it occasionally snows on top of Bluff Knoll - very briefly - you have to be at the top to see it as it snows before it melts. It is the only place in Western Australia to receive snow. That is the walking/climbing track you can see snaking away below us and then near the top of the picture you can see the road.

From Life Images by Jill

Another favourite climb is the 1052 metre Toolbrunup Peak, often regarded as the best in the Park. Brochures are available outlining the climbs and the degree of difficulty, and recommend carrying water, being prepared for sudden weather changes, reading the track information signs, and taking note of the time durations for the climbs. I wouldn’t suggest climbing the mountains during mid summer as summer temperatures can be very hot.

Below is a photo from the top of Bluff Knoll - I wish I could show you a better view. But the last time I climbed to the top when this photo was taken we were up in the clouds - still I think the mist evokes a sense of reminds me a bit of "Wuthering Heights" or is it something from "Lord of the Rings"?

I have climbed Bluff Knoll right to the top twice. The first time when I was much younger. The last time my knees definitely didn't like the climb down. So that may be it. It is one of Western Australia's premier places for mountain climbing. I have also climbed Toolbrunup Peak.

There are lots of walk tracks and the wildflowers are magnificent. It can get very cold and the cloud cover can come in quickly making it difficult to see the track and they suggest starting early in the morning if you are going to climb. The view is certainly worth it. There is also a camping ground for people who want to stay a few days and climb the various peaks.

From Life Images by Jill

Back down on ground level here we are walking along a walk trail in the Porogorup Ranges just south of the Stirling Ranges. The Porongurups offers shaded picnic areas, bushwalks through Karri, Redgum and Jarrah forests on the upper slopes and wineries on the lower slopes, offering something for both casual strollers up to experienced rock climbers. August to October is the wildflower season and during October Mount Barker holds their Wildflower Festival.

From Life Images by Jill

The town of Mt Barker is the centre of the rich agricultural Plantagenet region. Farming began here 1835, an Inn was built in 1871 and by 1880 Mt Barker had become a stopping point for the Cobb & Co coaches between Albany and Perth.

For a historical insight, visit the Tourist Bureau located at the Railway Station, and the Police Station Museum and Historic Precinct. A 30 kilometre heritage drive traces the development of the district. Just out of Mt Barker visit St Werburgh’s Chapel built in 1872 by George Egerton-Warbuton from gravel, straw and clay dug nearby and shovelled into a frame to make the walls. When dry the frame was removed and the windows cut out with a crosscut saw. Set on a hill overlooking farmland and still in use today, the candlelit lit interior exudes a simple charm. The wrought iron ornamental chancel screen and altar rails were forged on the property. The church is on private property, so please remember to shut the gate!

This is St Werburgh's Chapel -

From Life Images by Jill

Just north of Mt Barker is Kojonup. This replica wool wagon piled with bales of wool commemorates the first settlers and the vital part the wool industry played in the history of the Kojonup district. These huge wagons were pulled by teams of horses. The brands on the wool bales are the various properties that raised sheep for wool.

Also in Kojonup you can visit the Military Barracks - Reminiscent of a Scottish highland cottage, the Barricks were established in 1845 to offer protection to travellers and to keep the route open between Albany and the Swan River Settlement (Perth). At Elverd Cottage is a collection of farming implements and machinery.

From Life Images by Jill

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Thank you for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed this tour around Western Australia. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for taking the time to comment.