Mount Bruce | Punurrunha
Karijini National Park
Directions - Located on the south side of Karijini Dr, the access road is not signed but can easily be located from the western intersection of Banjima Dr and Karijini Dr. The gravel access track is to the east of the intersection by about 100m and will take you all the way to the car park.
The Hike - The big one!!! I had been looking forward to climbing Mount Bruce quite a lot on this trip and driving past it everyday on the way into Karijini only added to the anticipation. With several stops on Banjima Drive over the past few days to capture the second tallest mountain in Western Australia from different angles and lighting conditions, today was finally the day we were going to climb up to the summit. With almost perfect astrophotography conditions the night before we had spent a few hours photographing the rising Milky Way from a couple of vantage points around Mount Bruce with the car park actually being one of the better locations even though Mount Bruce didn't appear as prominent as it could have been.
Ben was over the moon about learning how to capture the Milky Way and in the cool desert air it was one of those special moments in life where you appreciate just how lucky you are to live in such an awesome state. The results weren't super fantastic as I didn't bring my proper tripod and only had one of those rubber balled adjustable ones sitting on the bonnet of the Landcruiser. Still managed to get the shaky shape of the core and later on when we were shooting the tail of the Milky Way behind Marandoo Hill, a truck came through my shot and gave the cool flowing lights effect. With a semi-early start the next morning we retired to the accommodation for a good night's sleep before tackling the longest and toughest trail in Karijini. Arriving at the car park once again the following morning we got all the equipment ready and took a deep breath before tackling our foe for the day.
Morning time probably isn't the most optimal time of day to be hiking Mount Bruce from a photography perspective as you will be shooting into the sun for most of the climb and the western ridge that you climb up will contain a lot of shadows but from a hiking perspective it makes total sense to get the climbing done before the day heats up so there is that compromise. Like a few trails in WA, the full 10.8km trail (I included both summit paths in my total) is broken up into a few trails that have different names. The smaller one is just lip service to the nearby Marandoo mine and at 500m is not really impressive if the end result is a view of the mine scarring this beautiful landscape. Karijini was split in two when this mine was allowed to exist in 1994, which is a big worry for the rest of the state if they can just do that to a national park.
The result is a constant reminder as you hike up Mount Bruce that they value this land not for the natural beauty but for iron ore. The second "trail" takes you to the Honey Hakea Lookout just before the really steep section of the hike and is a good spot to turn around if you don't want to tackle the full Class 5 hiking up to the summit (or if the day is getting quite hot and you are running low on water). We were here to do the complete trail all the way to the summit so began the first section with a pep in our step and an excitement to get stuck in to the hike. A few wildflowers showed their face on the gentle slopes up to Marandoo View and I had a good laugh at the minor graffiti on the info boards overlooking the mine. Normally I don't like when people ruin these boards but this was a small message scribbled on to the side that I feel is the sentiment of quite a few people who live in WA.
The trail leaving Marandoo View starts to get a bit steeper and you are faced with the view that will become home for the next couple of hours, the multi-layered and never-ending system of hills leading to the summit. Behind you is the view back to Marandoo Hill and it forms a feature of the landscape that I found quite fun to photograph with the changing elevation. Passing more wildflowers I could hear the sounds of people up ahead and sure enough as I rounded a small hill there they were. The mum and dad were lagging behind their two kids who were already at the top of the first real steep section of the hike. Just enough to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping, the trail goes from a defined path to following the familiar circle markers bolted to the ancient rocks as you clamber up a small rocky section and re-join the path leading towards the first of many tiny summits.