East Mount Barren
Start - Hamersley Drive
Length - 2.3km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Rocky Path
Vertical Climb - 186m
Summit - 297m ASL
Time - 1-2 Hours
Signed - Yes
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 29th March 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Wudjari People
Directions - Access is via Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun Rd to the turnoff for Hamersley Drive that will take you into the park. Hamersley Drive is paved all the way past West Beach and the car park for East Mount Barren is on the right hand side of the road.
The Hike - With one Barren already in the collection I was excited to complete the set (at least the ones you are allowed to climb) and after driving into the eastern end of the park over Culham Inlet and seeing East Mount Barren in all of its magnificence, my eagerness grew. My plan was to hike this one nearer to sunset to allow for better photographs and I'm really glad I waited. We set up camp at Four Mile Beach and headed for a swim at Barrens Beach where, as I mentioned in my Sepulcralis Hill write-up, it allowed me to make peace with the last Barren before jumping into the hike (plus it was just a little bit relaxing in the warm sun).
With an underwhelming hike at Sepulcralis Hill completed, Caris and I drove to the car park for East Mount Barren and what would hopefully be a much better experience (spoiler: it was). The car park was empty when we arrived, unexpected given it was near the Easter break and it looked quite busy as we drove past less than an hour earlier. This just meant that we had the place to ourselves and could enjoy the hike without coming across another soul (we are both weird people-avoiding introverts). Just like West Mount Barren there are a few opportunities to frame the mountain in your photographs with some Banksias and Royal Hakea aka Traffic Light Bush Kale. With that out the way we started proceedings with a good scrub of the boots at the dieback station and a walk along the boardwalk section that protects the recovering scrub. The gentleness of the boardwalk doesn't last long and you are faced with just over a kilometre of bright quartzite and sandstone to scramble over and admire.
With its close proximity to both the coast and several notable mountainous features, namely the Whoogarup Range to the west and the Eyre Range to the north, there is no shortage of viewpoints to admire as you climb up and up. The climbing thankfully is broken up into stages and each little section offers something unique to look at or switches your focus onto something entirely new. For the first section you climb up to a series of jagged rocks with the view back towards the Whoogarup Range, Mileys Beach and the Hamersley Inlet providing a pleasant distraction. As we reached the first of the rocky features the clouds started gathering to the west and I was hoping that they didn't become overly thick as the reason I chose this hike at this time was the potential for an epic sunset. Having already seen the highlight gallery up the top of the page I think you know how this story ends but the early cloud cover started filtering the light perfectly with rays of sunshine breaking through and livening up an already great start.
A gap in the rocks provides passage into the second section of the hike that offers a more expansive (and flatter) landscape so you can enjoy the views without feeling so much burn in the legs. From here you get better ocean views to the south and the first glimpse of the summit of East Mount Barren. There is still a little bit of climbing up to the plateau of the hike where you will be rewarded with more views back towards the west and the final rocky section you must tackle in order to reach the summit. Along the way there are several plant species to admire and even though it wasn't peak season I still got to enjoy a pop of colour from some early wildflowers. Caris was enjoying the flatter terrain and I couldn't stop taking photographs in the changing light as every turn or elevation change provided a better view or a different angle. I ended the day with just under 600 shots and could have edited every single one of them for the fun of it.
A thicket of scrub and trees hides the rock wall that you eventually hit and when you do it isn't exactly clear to start with where the path is meant to take you. We admired the golden hue of the impressive rock face and located the correct path to the left of the wall. Leading up what looks like a scene from Indiana Jones, Caris wasn't confident she would enjoy scrambling up the rocks and decided to enjoy a rest here while I continued onto the third and final section. The narrow passage leading to the summit requires a tiny bit of scrambling but I was able to do it with my camera still in hand so it isn't too much of an obstacle. There are various little nooks and crannies that I admired and tried to photograph but I really wanted to see what the views were like from the summit so pushed on. What awaited me was nothing short of spectacular with amazing 360 degree views and some great vantage points to soak it all in from.
Climbing up one of the rock spires I was able to see the Eyre Range to the north, Whoogarup Range and the Mid Barrens to the west (featuring more golden sunshine peaking through the clouds), the gently rippled Southern Ocean to the south and for the first time, Culham Inlet and Hopetoun to the east. Having driven over the Culham Inlet when we entered the park and being suitably impressed I was looking forward to seeing it from above and was not disappointed with the result. Better views can be seen by following the rocks further to the east and with the arrival of a barefooted Frenchman to the summit I did just that so he could have the rock spires all to himself. As I made my way back to the spires he asked if I could take a photo of him with his camera and showed off his parkour abilities jumping from rock to rock to retrieve his camera. I took some shots of him silhouetted against the setting sun that I hope he liked and made my way back down to Caris so we could begin the journey back.
Now facing the setting sun, the return leg was a joy with the transformation of the landscape from blues and greens to filtered oranges and eventually some amazing purple hues. The winds in the valley had picked up and had scattered dust and sand like mist rolling through the hills. Add in the golden light showering the land and I was enjoying every second. We spotted our first bit of mammal life that wasn't located in the campsites or seen when driving as a kangaroo hopped away just after the plateau section. We both watched each other carefully and the result was a stalemate until we moved on and finished the hike. With the start of the hike still being raised above the rest of the landscape I was lucky to be able to get some parting shots of the Royal Hakea near the boardwalk as the sun was peaking right above the Whoogarup Range. Another kangaroo sighting plus catching sight of the moon rising over the summit capped off a great hike and we returned to the campsite blasting "I Still Call Australia Home" by the Qantas choir as we drove along the winding roads below East Mount Barren. Hard not to love this sunburnt country after that experience.
Final Thoughts - I've been very fortunate during my time travelling the state for this website to come across plenty of "right place, right time" moments as I call them. This was another one of those moments even though it was timed to put myself in the best position for such an occurrence.
East Mount Barren may look pretty simple on paper and even as you drive around the base you may not think it has a lot of variety but it’s a hike of many characters. Split into three different sections allows for three different experiences and was certainly the best hike we did on the trip by a long way, even discounting the amazing photographic conditions.
Once again Fitzgerald River National Park delivers on the promise of being one of the best national parks in Australia with a challenging but not unattainable hike for the average tourist. To have the trail pretty much to ourselves was a blessing and being able to enjoy those views was a great privilege.
One day I will return and enjoy the September wildflower display, I'm not sure I would have had enough adjectives if I got this sunset along with a million different wildflowers to admire.
This is one day I won't be forgetting as long as I live and hopefully you get a similar experience when you visit (hint - do this at sunset too).
Get out there and experience it!
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