Mount Chance to Woolbales
5th June 2018
The Hike - After a pretty cool sunset on top of Mount Chance I enjoyed a restful sleep that night apart from the moment a branch crashed down on top of the shelter (who thought burning extensively around the shelter with tall trees would be a safe practice?). I woke up at first light and scrambled out of my tent inner because all around was an amazing pre-dawn light show that I didn't want to miss. Impressed with the colours from within the cover of the shelter area I scrambled up the side of the granite hill leading up to the summit of Mount Chance to get the full 360 degree experience. This was by far and away the best sunrise of the whole trip with fairy floss skies all around flashing a range of colours from pink to yellow to blue, all in vivid contrast to each other.
If the sunset turned out to be a bit muted because of the haze from more burnoffs then the sunrise more than made up for it. With a fairly warm morning for this time of year I was able to perch myself up on the summit and stay there for the entire show. Looking out towards where I'd come from the previous day and then on towards my planned route for the day, I was loving being high up and imagining the track winding through the Pingerup Plains. Despite purchasing a new memory card before the trip that would allow me over 4000 shots during the trip I was at danger of exceeding that so had to show some restraint. I couldn't stop taking photos as the colours changed and the sun began to peak out over the horizon. The lone peak to the east was Mount Frankland and I was hoping to get the sun rising over the small prominence in the distance but it wasn't to be. Eventually the first rays of light broke out over the landscape and it was a worthy finale to what had been a very enjoyable morning. Usually the sky dims down as the sun appears over the horizon and today was no different as the fairy floss skies turned to a deep yellow and orange, dulling out to reveal the blue skies that would dominate the first half of the day.
With a good 23km of track to get through and all my possessions still waiting to be packed up I headed back down the granite to begin my morning ritual of breakfast, slowly packing everything away and enjoying my last moments in the campsite. As I descended the intense glow coming from behind the burnt out trees around the campsite put the unnecessary burns into focus and made me a little bit sad that I didn't get this campsite anywhere near its best (I've been told the BTF gave the local DBCA office a bit of grief over the burn). I had good intentions to pack up quickly and get out on the much hyped Pingerup Plains section but my usual relaxed attitude to getting everything together got in the way. Brewing up an excellent coffee on my GSI Outdoors Java Drip, I found a spot to munch away at my dry granola and enjoy the sound of Donovan and Ben wax lyrical on the Real Trail Talk episode of this section about how good this next day to Woolbales was. Eventually I got my shiz together and was ready to tackle the adventure ahead (not before some parting shots of the campsite looking back at Mount Chance).
Leaving via the same 4x4 track I came in on, I located the correct turn and begun what I thought would be a lovely morning to Mount Pingerup. It didn't take long for my dreams to be shattered as the burnt area that started on the latter part of the previous day and around the campsite continued on today. The first part of the morning wasn't too bad with some wide open sections leading to and from the forest islands looking quite spectacular in the morning light. This is what I was expecting a lot more of during the day as the map had the "Pingerup Plains" writing on this part of the track. It wasn't to be though as soon I was into the scrappy forest that was horribly burnt all the way up to the canopy. In the back of my mind I had memories of a ridiculously long diversion DBCA had put in last year where they closed this area and made hikers walk along public roads to Fernhook Falls and a Munda Biddi shelter (a 60km diversion) so they could torch an area the size of a small European country. In an area so remote this was just excessive and reeked of burning large tracts of land to reach the arbitrary quotas they set each year. The fact they put their propaganda signs up at each shelter in the area stating what a great job they are doing by burning is just maddening because they fail to explain how they go about it, which is to burn a perimeter and then drop hellfire from the sky to burn everything in sight, hoping that it doesn't get out of control (which surprisingly it does a lot of the time).
Imagine being a small creature living in the area and trying to escape the sort of fire that is hot enough to burn right up to the canopy and completely wipe out thick fallen logs, I'd be surprised if they don't wipe out large populations of native animals in the process. This has not gone unnoticed by interstate and international hikers as there were a lot of comments in all the log books about the burning and why it was deemed necessary given the remoteness of the area. We really do love to go out of our way to provide a great visitor experience in WA. At one point I wondered if I'd taken a wrong turn as I didn't see a waugyl for several kilometres. Trusting my navigation skills and just assuming they'd burnt them all in the process I continued on. During this time I came up with a new slogan for DBCA that I think they should adopt from now on - "DBCA - We'll set your world on fire" (adding to the Sparks and Wildlife moniker they are given by most hikers in the state). Eventually I came across a burnt waugyl that was just left silver from the extensive burns and knew I was on the right path. The goal for the morning (Mount Pingerup) came into sight every now and then and I was looking forward to a break from all the burnt scrappy forest. I was wondering when I was going to come across the cover shot that I remembered from Donovan's post and it wasn't until I was editing the photos that I found something similar (bottom middle photo from the above gallery on desktop). That shows the stark difference in what it was like before and what they've done to the area.