Bibbulmun Track | Sullivan Rock to Monadnocks
Start - Sullivan Rock - Off Albany Highway
Length - 15.5km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Forest Walking, Granite Slabs
Vertical Climb - 602m
Time - 4-6 Hours
Signed - Yes, follow the Bibbulmun Waugyls
Date Hiked - 5th July 2014
Best Time - Autumn Through to Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
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 - Before I start I will confess that this is not the hike I intended to do when I arrived at the car park. The plan was to do Mt Cooke but a navigational error early in the trek meant we ended up heading north on the Bibbulmun Track instead of south-east but it turned out to be a fantastic day anyway. Joining me today was long time fan of The Life of Py, Philip, who had previously been keen to come out but is extremely time poor.
Note - Do not step on the moss at Sullivan Rock, it is extremely sensitive and will eventually disappear if everyone tramples all over it. Stick to the bare rock and Leave No Trace.
The morning we headed out there we ran into a thick fog just before the car park so had to double back after missing the turn off. With the car parked and our gear ready we crossed Albany Hwy (the trail is on the north side) and headed towards Sullivan Rock. With all the fog around it was an eerie sight when we got to Sullivan Rock (100m from the road). Visibility was limited to about 20-30m and finding our way up the bare rock face wasn't easy. After a while we realised that there was a pattern of pyramid rock formations that had been constructed by fellow hikers over the years and they lead the way over the exposed rock. The landscape was other-worldly in the fog and with blankets of moss covered in sticky Sundew plants it certainly is a special place. You eventually reach the edge of the forest and trundle through the familiar Marri/Jarrah trees of the Bibbulmun Track. When you reach the 4x4 track it is really important to make sure you chose the right direction. Mt Cooke is a right turn and Monadnocks Campsite is to the left (or straight ahead to be pedantic).
We weren't paying attention and chose to continue towards Monadnocks. Be sure to stop at the scrubbing station to clean your shoes and protect the landscape against dieback. There is evidence all along the trail of trees succumbing to this disease so making sure you clean your shoes as it's the least we can do to stop it. The forested area doesn't last long as the path leads out on to more exposed rock and the first real climb of the trail, Mt Vincent (500m). Thankfully the climb meant that we were able to ascend above the fog that had limited our views of the landscape and it quickly became apparent that this was no small hill (by Perth Standards at least). Hiking up the western side of the hill over bare granite the view just kept getting better and better. When we reached the point where we had to turn east into the bush, the view was nothing short of spectacular. We could see the thick fog slowly moving over the forest to the south and looking west there was nothing but forested national park as far as the eye could see. The summit of Mt Vincent is marked with a large rock pyramid that looks like a natural round-a-bout. From this spot you look east and again it is unspoiled bush land until the horizon (on a sunny day).
It also gives you a great view of Mt Cuthbert to the north, which is the next peak you must conquer on the trail. At this stage we were still wondering if Mt Cooke was over the horizon but due to the cloud cover we couldn't see very far so just assumed it was. We ascended down into the valley still anticipating where Mt Cooke would be in the distance but the seed of doubt had been planted as I was sure that Mt Cooke was east of Sullivan Rock and the GPS was showing us going north. Through dense forest we hiked and soon we had reached the valley floor and begun the climb up Mt Cuthbert. Two ascents like this in the first hour of a hike can be tough so if you aren't a seasoned hiker take your time because when you are doing a Hobbit Tale (there and back again), whatever you hike on the way there will be on the way back. The rewards at the top of Mt Cuthbert are worth the pain. More exposed rock, mossy patches and rock pools form a nice area to take in the vistas and once again there are rock pyramids to make sure you don't lose your way. Descending again, the doubts about whether we were heading in the right direction were getting stronger. A quick check of the GPS and it confirmed that there was no way Mt Cooke was in range. At this point though it didn't matter.
We had scaled two hills with impressive views and figured that turning back and hiking to Mt Cooke would mean a 32km total. With a plan firmly set that we would keep hiking until we hit something impressive like the top of another peak or Hogwarts. The terrain was a lot more consistent now but unfortunately it was was a consistent uphill. We hiked on through the forest and past fallen trees that had succumbed to dieback until we reached the Monadnocks Campsite. Set near the top of a hill the campsite has sweeping views across the forest and looks to be a great setup for the overnighters or E2E. Two water tanks - both full when we were there - provide ample water in winter/spring (please only use if desperate so there is plenty for the overnighters/E2E) and there is room for eight people to sleep under the shelter. It's not a bad place to wake up in the morning and I look forward to testing them out in spring. With a small lunch and plenty of re-hydrating we set of again back towards the car. The winter sun was out and the ascents even generated a little sweat on the steeper sections. Taking in the views to the east we missed due to the cloud/fog was a highlight of the trip back and we eventually spotted Mt Cooke in the distance. We found the point where we missed the turn-off for Mt Cooke not far from Sullivan Rock and I took a strong mental note for next time.
Final Thoughts - I had driven past this point countless times as a kid on the way out to the country but would never have thought that there were peaks with such amazing views within walking distance of the highway.
This section of the Bibbulmun Track has shot right up to near the top of my list of great hiking trails in Perth. It combines challenging hills with empty but stunning views and some great photo opportunities.
Once again I can hand out a thorough recommendation for this trail and even though we took a wrong turn it worked out in the end. At least I now get to look forward to Mt Cooke in the future knowing I haven't yet reached the roof of Perth.
Get out there and experience it!
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