Sullivan Rock to Mount Cooke
Directions - The Sullivan Rock car park is an hour's drive from Perth and is located on the south side of Albany Hwy about 9.5km past the turn-off for Jarrahdale Rd. The trail starts at the red Bibbulmun Track sign on the north side of Albany Hwy.
The Hike - So...Mt Cooke - Take Two. After last week's navigation issues I knew exactly where I was headed for my next hike and was not disappointed. My GPS clocked Mt Cooke at 572m above sea level and that makes it the highest point in the Perth Darling Scarp. Starting from Sullivan Rock again, it loomed in the distance covered in ominous cloud but this would be the last time I saw it until the real climbing began. Taking the correct turnoff this time I ventured down the 4x4 track that serves as the first part of this section of the track. In the shadows of Mt Vincent & Mt Cuthbert, I hiked past remnants of the 2003 bushfires that ravaged this area.
A rusted out car body, fallen trees and open spaces were reminders of the devastation that tore through here. The area is slowly regenerating back to it's former glory but it will take much longer for the tall tree canopies to return. While the trail was relatively flat and the trekking easy going I popped in the headphones, listened to some tunes and pondered life, love and the many possibilities of LeBron James heading back to Cleveland. I liken this section as the road leading up to the Alpe-d'Huez in the Tour de France when there is heavy cloud cover. The road is flat and easy but you know a climb is coming even though you can't see it so you don't push. Mt Cooke isn't exactly the Alpe-d'Huez but being the goal of this day hike, it is certainly on your mind for the 6-7km stretch of flat terrain you must navigate to get there. After 6kms of easy hiking you reach a sign for the group campsite that can be seen from the trail. I was keen to keep going so I didn't check it out and continued on to the Mt Cooke campsite that is 500m down the track. This rebuilt campsite is a typical Bibbulmun Track affair, a simple but quality structure perfect for the job at hand. As I reached the hut there was a young couple packing their last few things before heading up to Mt Cooke. They had camped overnight and were spending the day heading towards the next campsite at Nerang (13.4kms). I let them head off on their own and spent some time looking at the track log in the plastic container located in the hut. Unfortunately while I had stopped the clouds had become thicker and there was some light drizzle falling.
As I inspected the rusted old water tank that is the last surviving piece of the previous campsite from the 2003 bushfires, I finally saw Mt Cooke in the distance under a heavy blanket of cloud cover. With the campsite fully explored I packed up my camera, had a drink and headed back out onto the trail. The climb is steady to start with and has some more technical rocky sections as you get higher up. The further you climb, the better the view gets but I soon reached the level of the clouds and visibility became limited. With no view to distract me at every clearing I powered on to the summit, passing the couple I had met at the campsite. After a 270m vertical ascent I reached the top of the mountain, which is unceremoniously marked by a rock pyramid with a star picket driven through the centre. The view from the top is limited at best (even with clear weather) and even after I climbed some fairly big boulders nearby I couldn't see much. I checked my GPS to find out I had only done 9km so I continued on the trail determined to find some better spots to take photos. Further on I found what I was looking for with some rocky granite outcrops filled with large boulders that must be as old as time itself. The weather on the south side of the mountain was a lot clearer than where I had come from and as I emerged from the boulders and looked east I got the views I was after. Untouched national park as far as the eye can see and endless sky.