Karijini National Park
Directions - Located in the western side of the gorge system within Karijini National Park, take Banjima Drive from Karijini Drive and drive north for 25km until you reach the turnoff for Weano Road. Take Weano Road north for another 12km, passing the turnoff for the Karijini Eco Retreat until you reach the Weano Day Use Area.
The Hike - Day Two of my Pilbara trip and we only had a travel day scheduled to get from Karratha to Karijini. With no project work scheduled we just had to meet with the rangers to say we were there and check into our accommodation. Ben, the Project Officer from the DBCA had done the training course so we could use the Rio Tinto private road to cut some time off the journey but as luck would have it, we missed the turnoff and continued along Roebourne-Wittenoom Rd instead. This wasn't a big deal given we had a whole day to cover a few hundred kilometres so got to see the northern side of Karijini that we wouldn't have driven past if everything went to plan.
Driving past Wittenoom on our way to the ranger station, we were reminded of the dark history that Karijini hides. Previously an asbestos mining town, it is now abandoned along with Wittenoom Gorge (which is meant to be one of the most spectacular gorges in the park). The drive around the northern part of the park was a great introduction to the beauty of the area and we couldn't wait to get exploring. First on the agenda was checking in at the ranger station to let them know we had arrived and where we would be in the park over the next week. Given the July school holidays were on they were super busy and only the Ranger Robyn was at hand to greet us. We passed Ranger Dan on our way out to Hancock Gorge and he was busy directing traffic from the full campgrounds at Dales to the overflow sites they had chosen (it gets really busy this time of year). We eventually made it to the Weano Day Use Area, home to the Weano Gorge and Hancock Gorge trails along with a million tourists enjoying the natural beauty in Karijini. We only had time for one hike that afternoon so settled on Hancock Gorge as it was one of the shorter ones and Class 5, so full of fun and adventure.
For some reason the official length of this trail is only listed at 200m return but I mapped it out properly and the whole thing is 1.5km return if you stop at the official end at Kermits Pool. Given we were only expecting a short trail, the additional length was a welcome bonus. We started at the edge of the day use area and unfortunately all the information signage was in the process of being redone so the only information available was a piece of paper stuck to the new rust coloured sign. It's very hard to get lost in a gorge so we started the steep descent on the loose rocks and immediately started photographing everything in sight. Ben and I really enjoyed the Snappy Gums whilst in the Pilbara and they certainly contrast well against the red rock and golden Spinifex. After passing the wide arching tree that provides a cool feature to the descent, you reach the ladder section for the final descent into the gorge. Reminding me a bit of the final climb up to the Granite Skywalk in the Porongurups, the ladder is on a slight angle so even if you aren't great with heights you can manage this one. At the bottom of the gorge you are struck with how much of a temperature change there is as that cool, wet smell fills the air.