Monadnocks to Mount Cooke
25th August 2018
The Hike - This is a section that I hold very dear, it was one of the first posts on the website when I came out here for the first time in 2014 to do Sullivan Rock to Monadnocks (by accident) and then again a week later to do Sullivan Rock to Mt Cooke. Over the years I've been out here countless times for many adventures with many great people and I rate it as one of the best day hikes you can do around Perth. Given this is part of a series of posts as part of my sectional end to end, I thought I would change it up and write somewhat of a love letter to this section of the track, talking about various details I really like, stories about different experiences and just reminiscing about the various times I've hiked along here.
My first time at Monadnocks Campsite was the half way point of my first trip out here and apart from the starting section from Kalamunda, was my only other experience on the Bibbulmun Track to that point. Initially hoping to visit Mt Cooke, a navigation early right after Sullivan Rock saw me and my friend Philip follow the waugyls straight ahead and in foggy conditions we ended up continuing on over Mt Vincent and Mt Cuthbert to Monadnocks. We laughed at our error as we were hiking along but were blown away by how spectacular the scenery and the conditions were that it didn't matter. I still laugh now and wonder how current me would have reacted if I met 2014 me at Monadnocks that day given the thousands of kilometres of hiking I've done since. I ended up returning a week later to do the Sullivan Rock to Mt Cooke section and was equally impressed as you'll no doubt read further on this post. It was great to share that first experience with Philip as we were great friends during our 20s, living together in Mount Pleasant, playing basketball (which is the only time I see him now), exercising together and hanging out a lot. As our lives changed and he got married and had kids and I started a long term relationship with subsequent fur babies, we drifted apart but hiking was always a nice way to catch up. The campsite itself is in a very nice location as I discussed in the previous post with great forest all around and some views looking out from the shelter. The Deep South configuration suits this area although the dusty floor isn't great when you are trying to get on and off the sleeping platform.
Leaving the campsite you head back on the path you came in on and cross the 4x4 track that soon appears. If you are doing a day hike in the area and don't want to deal with hiking over the two hills again, the 4x4 track is a good return route that skips the hills and takes you back to Sullivan Rock. I'm here to talk about the two hills and the lovely route the Bibbulmun takes as you heads towards the first of the two hills, Mt Cuthbert. I've always adored this section of forest leading from the campsite to Mt Cuthbert as it has this really spooky and moody vibe to it if you're lucky enough to hike it in foggy or rainy conditions. The main reason for this is the mostly She-Oak forest that you walk through that have these green needle-like leaf structures that turn brown when they are dropped and sit on the forest floor. I liken this area to the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter but without the super massive trees with their giant root structures. Mainly because I'm a big Harry Potter nerdburger but also because it gives off the creepy vibes provided it's not a sunny day. There are a few older examples of some Jarrah trees here that you have to stop and admire as you walk through along with a really nice variety of plants including Snottygobble, Kingia Australis, plenty of sundews and countless wildflowers during the winter and spring seasons.
As you start climbing up to the first of the granite domes that is Mt Cuthbert you start seeing Wandoo and a similar looking trees called Butter Gums that have a whiter colour when the bark is fully shed. After a long downhill from the campsite it's a bit of a shock coming to an uphill bit, the first of two climbs for the section. This first one isn't so bad and there used to an arrow on a bare piece of rock but someone has spoiled the fun and dispersed the rocks everywhere. You exit the forest and are greeted with a large granite dome that you must scale in order to reach some of the best views of the day. Coming down this section on a group hike I was leading someone asked me if I was worried about carrying my camera in case I slipped and it smashed. Not long after I slipped on some black granite and showed them my technique for keeping the camera safe but my arms came away with superficial grazes. If you're wary of the slippery black granite then picking your way up here by following the navigational cairns will lead you all the way to the gnamma pools and expansive views from the granite platform. This is one of my favourite places on the Bibbulmun Track and maybe even in the Perth Hills. Rain, hail or shine I'm always in awe when I reach this bit and as you can see I have a good variety of photos from various times and conditions.
A surreal experience was coming up here in early January to show an international visitor the area and the view back to Mt Cooke was just a white blanket of fog including Mt Cooke itself doing a very good impression of Mt Fuji (see photo gallery above). The tiny speck to the north that I always refer to as Mt Doom is actually Mount Dale that you had the option of visiting a few days prior. It's fun to look back and see how far you've come and also look out towards Mt Cooke and the hills leading into Dwellingup. I've seen sunrises and sunsets from up here and the changing colours of the sky as you stare out to the endless horizon to the north and to the east is breath-taking. Seeing nothing but forest leading all the way out to the horizon is a magical sight, even though knowing the massive land clearing that has occurred in the wheatbelt area ruins the endless forest fantasy. Exploring the gnamma pools in winter and spring is really cool, especially when the sundews are glistening in the moss (please stay off the moss as it is very sensitive). In the warmer months if you're quick enough you'll see the Ornate Crevice Dragons scuttling across the granite from their warm places in the sun to the safety of rock ledges or cairns. They are fast little creatures and it's fun to say that dragons live in these hills, even if they are tiny dragons.