Monday, 22 April 2019

East Mount Barren (Fitzgerald River NP)

A small mountain walk in Fitzgerald River National Park, this short trail rises to the summit of East Mt Barren. Starting along boardwalk, the trail then rises steeply before a more gentle approach across a number of ridges. Scrambling to the summit, the jagged rocky shards offer commanding views of the Fitzgerald Biosphere. An excellent short walk with great views of one of Western Australia's best national parks

Distance: 2.6 km (return)
Gradient: A continual ascent and then descent, with a short but steep initial ascent and then more gradual gradients before some scrambling near the summit
Quality of Path: A well constructed and maintained single file walk track
Quality of Signage: Generally well signed and clear, with a good trailhead some directional information along the way
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 1-2 Hours
Steps: Many
Best Time to Visit: Spring
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply.
Getting There: The trail starts at the East Mt Barren car park. From Hopetoun, take Hamersley Dr into the national park and follow the road for 12 kilometres to the East Mt Barren car park

Having enjoyed our two nights in Cape Le Grand National Park, Alissa and I worked our way back west. Our next destination was a place that Alissa and I had loved when we first visited it in 2016 and had been wanting to revisit ever since - Fitzgerald River National Park. One of Western Australia's greatest national parks due to its staggering biodiversity, Alissa and I had loved the western side of the park when we explored the Mamang Trail, and were excited to see the more rugged eastern side of the park accessible from Hopetoun. While the multi-day Hakea Trail was our main reason for being in the park, our arrival in the early afternoon gave us time to tick off East Mt Barren before tackling the longer walk the next day.

From the East Mt Barren car park, the trail initially follows a wooden boardwalk through the heathlands of the lower slopes. While visiting in April meant the area was lacking in the staggeringly beautiful wildflower displays seen in the Springtime, the iconic Royal Hakeas were visible all along this first stretch of the walk.

After leaving the boardwalk behind, the trail climbs up steeply. This initial climb is the steepest continuous climb of the walk, and while there is a lot more ground to cover afterwards, it is nice to get this steep climb out of the way quickly.

Along the steep ascent, the 'summit' appears to only be a short way up, however this is very much a false summit with a lot further to go.

From the summit, it becomes clear that East Mt Barren is a series of ridge lines, with the track rising up the first ridge line before cutting across the heath to the next one.

The views of the rugged coastline along the ascent, with the wide bay of Mileys Beach being the dominant feature.

Continuing up to the first false summit, the trail begins to level out before heading across the heathlands to the next rocky ridge line.

Heading through the heath provides for some flat and unchallenging walking. Having visited the western side of the park in spring, Alissa and I could imagine this entire area being absolutely stunning during wildflower season as there were quite a wide diversity of plants even in this small area.

At the next ridge, a rock formation creates a fairly epic looking natural lookout point that reminded Alissa and I of the similar natural grandstand that is along the way to the summit of Toolbrunup Peak in the Stirling Range.

From this higher vantage point, Alissa and I could see even more of the park including the dunes behind Hamersley Beach and the central wilderness peaks of the park.

From the lookout point and over the ridge, the trail headed through another section of biodiverse heath to the next rocky ridge along.

Initially heading through a jumble of massive outcrops and boulders, the trail becomes an easy scramble up through the rocks to the summit.

Passing through a series of passageways between the weather-scoured rock, Alissa and I emerged at the summit of East Mt Barren with its iconic jagged rock formations perfectly mirroring the jagged rocks often seen along the Fitzgerald coastline.

Looking east, Alissa and I could see the Culham Inlet and the construction work being undertaken to replace the road into the park. Serious rains in 2017 had completely washed away the road that passes over the inlet, and one would assume the new road will be designed to deal with any future flooding that may occur. Beyond the inlet, Alissa and I could also see the Hopetoun, the town we would be staying in for the evening before tackling the Hakea Trail.

Having bought some sandwiches from Hopetoun's bakery for lunch, Alissa and I decided to linger at the summit for a little longer while having our lunch. While windy and a bit warm in the Sun, the large shard-like formations on the summit provided a lot of cooling shade for us to relax and enjoy our meal.

After lunch, Alissa and I returned back to the car park as we followed the same route back down the small mountain. The walk back was mostly straightforward and easy, however the descent of the steep section near the start should not be underestimated. The loose scree made the walking even more slippery than the granite of Frenchmans Peak the previous day, and after a few close calls I actually fell over at one point. Luckily, neither I or my camera were damaged in the fall, but in hindsight I would recommend trekking poles as something worth considering for this walk.

As with Frenchmans Peak in Cape Le Grand, the East Mt Barren walk was a short but enjoyable mountain walk - even if we did not experience it with the spectacular wildflowers of the park in Springtime. The fact the walk is pretty easy going after the first ascent makes it a walk with a lot of reward for not a great deal of effort, and it was the first mountain walk since Frenchmans Cap in Tassie that Alissa thoroughly enjoyed. This is a definite must do for visitors to Fitzgerald River, and a great way to get a sense of the unique geology and flora of one of Western Australia's greatest National Parks.


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