Sunday, 16 October 2016

Mt Trio (Stirling Range National Park)

Known as the 'wildflower mountain', the trail to Mt Trio's peak is one of the best places to see wildflowers in the Stirling Range. Initially ascending steeply through beautiful flowering heath to the mountain's saddle, the trail evens out for a gentle finish towards to summit. Featuring an abundance of Mountain Bells, Banksias and Grass Trees and excellent views, this is a must do for those with an interest in botany. 

Distance: 3.5 km (return)
Gradient: Continually uphill with some very steep sections to the saddle, then a relatively gentle ascent to the summit
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and straightforward, though the section leading up the saddle has suffered from erosion, making the trail more difficult
Quality of Signage: Good and informative trailhead, though there are no signs along the relatively clear and obvious route
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended. Highly unsuitable for those with known knee problems 
Time: 2.5 Hours
Steps: Many formal and informal steps
Best Time to Visit: Autumn and Spring, and milder Winter days. Spring would definitely be the most spectacular time however. 
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: Access to Mt Trio is via Mt Trio Rd, which runs south off Formby Rd South. Formby Road is easily reached from Chester Pass Rd between Moingup Springs and Bluff Knoll Rd. 

After a restful night at Moingup Springs, Alissa and I got up early for another day of hiking after having completed the Woylie Walk in Dryandra Woodland and Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Range the day before. We had selected Moingup Springs as our overnight campsite given its convenient location within Stirling Range National Park, especially since our next walk - up to the summit of Mt Trio - is only a 12 minute drive away.

Unlike the more well known Bluff Knoll, the road to the Mt Trio car park is unsealed, and is very similar to the road that leads to the excellent Toolbrunup Peak. Although a lot of visitors tend to climb Bluff Knoll and seem to forget that there are other mountains in the range, walkers in the know have long considered Mt Trio a favourite in the Stirlings due to the fact it is considered the best place to see many of the region's wildflowers. As with all six mountains in the Stirling Range opened to the public, Mt Trio has a very clear an informative trailhead, with the start of the trail just to the left of the sign. 

Immediately upon starting the trail, Mt Trio's reputation as the 'wildflower mountain' became fairly self-evident, with an explosion of colours throughout the low heath. We had not seen anything quite like this at Bluff Knoll just the day before, and we were immediately impressed. 

Just about every colour could be seen along the trail, and in such abundance that you really didn't have to look very hard to find every colour of the rainbow. 

The beautiful wildflowers make the walking very engaging, which is just as well as the trail is very steep, heavily eroded and a bit of a constant uphill slog from the car park to the mountain's saddle. Its pretty obvious that a lot more money and effort goes into maintaining the tourist friendly Bluff Knoll compared to these less visited peaks, and the experience of the walk to the saddle was very similar to the first part of Talyuberlup's eroded path. 

Looking down to the car park, Alissa and I could clearly see a large boulder just beyond it. This was apparently part of the mountain top a long time ago before it fell with some force and was thrown clear of the mountain's valley. The ranger had told us that the large rock was a landmark that leads to a section of Mountain Bells at the foot of the mountain. Making a mental note of this rock, Alissa and I decided to check this lead out on our way back down. 

Heading up the mountain, the purple and blue flowers seen early on gives way to red and pinks. Red flowers that appear superficially similar to Mountain Bells are fairly common along the middle third of the climb. They are actually unrelated and are known as Mountain Peas. These plants are apparently fairly susceptible to Dieback, and are listed as 'near threatened'.

All the way along this ascent, the summit of Mt Trio can be clearly seen. The cliff beneath the summit shows signs that chunks of the mountain have fallen off through the centuries, with a mass of debris filling the valley below. 

At the trail continues, it becomes increasingly rocky, with the metamorphic rock of the region being used as steps. 

At around the halfway point up to the saddle, the track passes by a towering crag to the left of the trail, and I can imagine boulderers would find this a lot of fun, although there are several better and more discrete locations nearby. 

Past the towering crag, the Mountain Bells can be found in abundance all the way up to the summit. These are the Common Mountain Bell, and can be found on many of the peaks within the Stirling Range. 

Banksias were also very common along this ascent, with many stunted, woody shrubs proudly displaying their beautiful flowers. 

Just before reaching the top of the saddle, the trail becomes fairly dense with mallee Eucalypts. Once through the mallee the track opens up, providing walkers with expansive views to the north beyond the park boundary. 

From here, the walking gets a lot easier, being on a slowly ascending gradient rather than the steep uphill it had been leading to the saddle. The area is filled with even more Mountain Bells and many Grass Trees, with the Kingia genus being particularly common. 

As we continued up to the summit, we were gifted with superb views across to Mt Trio's Southern Buttress and, beyond it, the Eastern Peaks. The squarish cliff face of Bluff Knoll is clearly visible above and while slightly foggy in the photo, many of the Eastern Peaks were could be seen in detail from this vantage point. 

Just a short distance from the actual summit is a large cairn near a nice and open lookout point. This is an excellent location from which to see many of the Western Peaks. The tall mountain in the middle is Toolbrunup Peak (my favourite of the Stirling Range mountain walks), with the smaller mountain just to the left of it being Mt Hassell. Talyuberlup Peak and Mt Magog are to the right. 

A few metres on, Alissa and I reached the actual summit. 

Surrounded by heath, the view from the summit is a bit less spectacular since it is less open. That being said, Mt Trio's location as a northern outlier of the Western Peaks gives it the distinction of being the best summit to see both the Western Peaks...

... as well as the Eastern Peaks. From here, walkers simply return via the same trail that they used to climb to the summit, with the walk down from the saddle being particularly taxing on the knees. Having regretted not taking trekking poles up Bluff Knoll, we were glad to have them with us for Mt Trio's descent. 

Back at the car park, Alissa and I decided to check out the Mountain Bells located in the valley. These are accessed via a discrete, unsigned but nevertheless distinct trail to the right of the main trailhead. 

The trail runs around a series of large boulders known as the Pied de Monte Boulders. 

An unfortunate sight in this area was the remnants of a camp fire that had been lit within a cave in one of the boulders. Although it may seem fairly innocuous, the susceptibility of the surrounding heath to fire and the rare and endangered nature of the flora in the Stirling Range makes this a completely thoughtless thing to do. 

Just beyond the cave is a wall with a number of sport climbing routes (identifiable by the bolts drilled into the rock face). These are apparently popular for lazy days of climbing when climbers can't be bothered to get to the more remote crags. Anyone undertaking climbs in the park are required to register at the entry station near Bluff Knoll, so don't just climb these without signing in first. 

Beyond the climbing wall, a large number of Mountain Bells can be found. Apparently Mountain Bells are not normally found this low, and the story goes that a chunk of Mt Trio fell down into the valley many years ago, taking a small colony of Mountain Bells with it. They now thrive down here in the valley, providing an easy access point for those wanting to see Mountain Bells without actually climbing up a mountain!

This old trail apparently used to go all the way up the mountain, but it has become very overgrown. We had seen what we had come to see so we turned back before the trail become completely indistinct. Before heading back to the car, we checked out the large rock closest to the car park as the trail loops around it. This rock did not seem to have sport climbing routes and would probably be more likely to be used by boulderers.

All the mountains in the Stirling Range have their own unique charms, and Mt Trio definitely lived up to its reputation of being the 'Wildflower Mountain'. Although not as high as Bluff Knoll, Alissa and I found My Trio to be a more engaging climb due to the profusion of wildflowers all the way from the trailhead to the summit. With its excellent views of the Western and Eastern Peaks, Mt Trio is definitely worth checking out - especially if you have a strong interest in botany. 


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