The Stirling Ranges is a range of mountains and hills at the bottom of Western Australia and the only place that has regular snowfall.
First recorded by English navigator Matthew Flinders on January 5th 1802, Finders was the first to sight Bluff Knoll which he named Mount Rugged and was first to circumnavigate Australia identifying it as a continent. Aborigines from the Qaaniyan and Koreng tribes called Bluff Knoll Pualaar Miial, meaning “great many-faced hill’.
Bluff Knoll is the thirteenth tallest mountain in Western Australia and is known as the highest peak in South West WA. The top twelve mountains are all in a little group near and around Tom Price. So really, Bluff Knoll is the tallest peak anything south of Newman, WA. Not just in the South West!
The reception at our accommodation gave us an A4 piece of paper with a map on one side and a list of all the mountains you could climb on the other. We picked Bluff Knoll because it was the lowest grade of difficulty, the shortest amount of time to climb it and we thought it would be perfect for our first mountain climb. The caretaker for our accommodation, who must be nearing NINETY!!, said he climbs it regularly and that it’s ‘EASY PEASY!”. With no reception or service since arriving in the Stirling Ranges vicinity, we couldn’t Google it so we just believed the man and the A4 piece of paper!
After sleeping in and having a light brunch, we set off on this ‘easy peasy’ leisurely photogenic hike with thermal socks, a wool jumper and wool jacket, 3 liters of water, a bag of mandarins (from a tree in Nanup) and a bag of chocolates. #preparationexperts This path (pictured above) led off into the mountain as I commented to Nikita that we should have chosen a more difficult hike. Until we came to the REAL terrain…
We took one 15 minute break and then mini breaks after that. I stupidly forgot my asthma puff and was feeling a bit short of breath. It was so busy the entire way up and people were so smart mouthed…
“You’re almost there! Not long now! You’re halfway there!”
Then you would hear them laughing. Near the summit, a girl stopped me and told me I wasn’t far, probably about 10-15 minutes from the summit and how great it was to get this far. 25 minutes later we still weren’t at the summit. Other people we met climbing up asked us if people had been telling us that we weren’t far, that we were almost there and gave us motivating times (‘You’re only 10 minutes away). We were like “Yes! Why are so many people doing that?”.
The air was fresh, it was silent and the view was amazing…
I was sitting on a rock drinking water just below the summit, when a group of Asian girls came up to me and asked if I was okay. I told them I was fine, just resting. Then one of them asked if I needed a chocolate, which I thought was so sweet of them
The track that lead up to the summit was windy and every bend you took, you thought the summit was right around… this bend! No? How about… this bend? No.
Starting our climb at 1252pm, we reached the beautiful summit at 1556.
The summit was such a great experience. The air was fresh, it was silent and still which was my favorite part. A group of people we chatted too at random intervals on the way up, reached the summit and pulled out a perfectly square chocolate cake from a bag, candles, a banner, drinks and held a birthday party! I can’t believe the cake arrived in perfect condition.
It was 1620 when I said to Nikita that we need to be heading down, the sun was going to disappear at 1722. I told the birthday group about the sun setting, they weren’t from Australia and I didn’t want them attempting to climb down in the pitch black because they didn’t realize how fast you can lose light. Quick as sticks they packed up their little party and started heading down with beer and cider in hand.
Climbing up was exhausting and used every muscle in your legs, butt and abs. Besides that, it didn’t take major concentration, you could think about the view, what you wanted to eat for dinner, how much school work you have due and even think about why the remote always goes missing.
On the way down, it took every single part of your brains concentration. We soon learned that your footage was not the same down as it was up. Nikita had quite a great tread on her boots, but mine had no tread on there at all. I had never looked at the bottom of my boots and only guessed they would be great hiking boots even though I didn’t buy them for that purpose.
Due to my lack of tread, climbing down was extremely exhausting and dangerous especially the rocks down from the summit which were really slippery. Due to eight years of netball, I have injuries in my knees, ankles and one of my hips making climbing down painful. I rolled my ankle three times, twisted my knee and fell down a rocky bank. We didn’t take any breaks and full concentration was needed.
But the view down was amazing… until we lost light 2kms from the bottom.
Climbing down in the pitch black with only a small light from an iPhone, was a little nerve racking but a fun adventure. Due to complete darkness, we couldn’t see the labelled stakes leading to the car park and I thought at one point that we had gone the wrong way when after an hour we didn’t see any stake.
Approximately 1.6kms from the car park, the bush next to me started rustling. It kept rustling, then rocks started moving but my light didn’t show anything. I wasn’t worried, I mean, what could it possibly be… a bear? No! A mountain lion? Not in this country! A serial killer? What are the odds two girls are alone, after dark on a freezing cold mountain? Then a cute little figure approached…
This possum zigzagged down the mountain side and up to us to see if we had anything good. It was a curious and friendly little thing as it followed us along the trail for a little bit, then headed down the mountain side into the bush and sat down to watch us. I left the possum a few mandarin segments on a rock <3
At 1827 we made it to flat ground and to the car park, which included walking up an incline and a flight of stairs.
We both had a great time and experience. I was so stiff that I walked like a robot for over a week after the climb. Nikita has a great fitness level compared to me but I haven’t done any training since before mid-terms. Bluff Knoll gave me fabulous killer calves, thighs, butt and an inspiration to get fit again. All I had eaten from 7pm the previous night to 1252pm when we started climbing was one piece of toast with avocado and a hot chocolate which didn’t give me enough energy.
Two things I learned:
- Stretch and warm up before hand
- Eat a nutritious breakfast AND lunch before climbing.
Read about our entire road trip here > Perth – Busselton – Stirling Ranges – Albany – Perth http://myrapeggyrose.com/2015/07/25/perth-busselton-stirling-ranges-albany-perth/
In my next article: Perth winter fitness inspiration
In my last article: #inmyopinion Is Perth losing its uniqueness? https://soperth.com.au/inmyopinion-perth-losing-uniqueness-2942