Start - Off Stirling Range Drive
Length - 2.9km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Rocky Path
Vertical Climb - 364m
Summit - 800m ASL
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Markers
Entry Fee - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 22nd October 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Mount Hassell is the first day hike you'll reach along the gravel track of Stirling Range Drive if you head west from Chester Pass Rd. At the top of the first big rise look for the left turn into the car park and the trail starts from the information board.
The Hike - After blowing the cobwebs out of the system hiking up Mt Trio, it was time to move onto the next summit for the day. Having seen Mount Hassell and Toolbrunup from the summit of Mt Trio, it was only a short drive up Stirling Ranges Drive to reach the car park. The fine weather continued and it looked like it would be cloud free for remainder of the day. I filled up the water bottles again (must remember to actually drink from them whilst hiking this time) and had a bit of a talk to some guys who had set up camp chairs next to their cars after completing the hike. I'm not sure if they were trying to psych me out or genuinely thought they had conquered a difficult summit but they seemed hell bent on warning me of the section that required scrambling over and over again.
I nodded along and really felt like tapping the Life of Py logo on my chest, raising my arms to the sky and proclaiming "Do you not know who I am?" before releasing a smoke bomb and storming off on the trail. Unfortunately I left my illusionist tricks in my other pants so thanked them for their advice and went off to apply more sunscreen. As I was doing this another car rocked up and a lady disappeared onto the trail before I had finished packing all my gear up (I doddle sometimes). With camera in hand I snapped a few photos of the start and began the hike with renewed energy. Thankfully the first part of the hike is a gentler start than Mt Trio and you can enjoy the wildflowers that dot the eastern slopes. Being a climb, it isn't long until the gradient gets a bit tougher but unlike Mt Trio, which can feel closed it, Mount Hassell is very much an open hike and the views keep getting better as you rise. With a nice vantage point to take in Mt Trio to the north east and Bluff Knoll to the east, I kept reminding myself to stop and take it all in. Doing the exact same thing was the lady who started before me and as she was snapping away with her camera, I headed up the path towards the first summit. The original name for Mt Trio was Warrungup (three become) but I feel like this should have been applied to Mount Hassell. Unlike Mt Trio that is a continual uphill hike to the highest point, leaving the other two peaks to be admired, Mount Hassell is a tale of three climbs.
The mystery of this is destroyed at the car park as you can clearly see the highest point of the climb and the two lesser peaks below it but when you are out there it really does feel like this sometimes. Joking aside it is fun to reach the top of one hill and be confronted with another climb not once but twice. Having reached that first summit I enjoyed the views for a little bit, taking yet more photos, before relaxing on the short flat section. Occasional rocky outcrops dot the traverse to the next climb and given the lack of tall trees, you are soon confronted with the next summit. Being an afternoon hike the sun was making its daily descent in a westerly direction, meaning shooting into the glare was never going to yield fantastic results unless it was sunset so the photos aren't the best quality. The second climb didn't feel as tough as the first but a look back every now and then confirmed that I was actually climbing quite a bit. The first summit was now well below and the car park just a tiny dot in the distance. What greeted me at the top of the second summit was the view to the final summit and what I had been told by the guys in the car park was a hands and knees scramble up a near vertical rock face.
For now though I enjoyed the almost panoramic views and a bit of a rest on one of the many rocky platforms that can be located on or near the trail. It wasn't long before I arrived at said rock face ready to climb my way to the summit and experience some more excellent views. Being a lanky 6ft1, the scramble wasn't too tough (I didn't have to put the camera away) but it certainly required a little reflection on where to place certain limbs to make the journey as easy as possible. Once you have negotiated the rock face, the rewards are just up the trail with an up close view of Toolbrunup and sweeping views of the remainder of the national park. A modest rock cairn marks the summit and there is a fairly wide area to explore or take in the views. Along with the swarm of insects that had gathered at the top, there was an older couple enjoying a break on the warm rocks looking north. After a quick call to the girlfriend to confirm I was alive and enjoying the hike I joined them to marvel at the views. They had company in the form of some decent sized skinks so I took the opportunity to get some photos as I hadn't had much luck in terms of wildlife on the trip so far.
Soon we were joined by the lady who had started just before me and she headed to the Toolbrunup side of the summit. With the 360 degree camera in hand I managed to get a decent panoramic of the summit without getting anyone in the shot. With many photos and my fill of fresh air, I said my goodbyes to the older couple and headed back down the way I came. The descent was good fun in the afternoon air and the smell of wildflowers combined with some headphone action made for a very enjoyable hike. I stopped several times to take photos of the different wildflowers in bloom and soak in the views one last time. By the end I had jelly legs once again and hadn't really touched my drink bottles, resulting in some mild dehydration so I tried to remedy that by drinking as much as I could while I packed everything away. Another fantastic climb in the memory banks (and memory card), it was just a short drive to the Moingup Spring campsite for a well earned rest in the shadows of tomorrow's adventures, Toolbrunup.
Final Thoughts - Like Mt Trio that I did earlier in the day, Mount Hassell is a fairly short but sweet Class 4 hike that is accessible to almost everyone. Where it differs from Mt Trio is the gradual introduction to the climbing and the three section layout of the climb. While Mt Trio is one steep climb up to the flatter saddle section, Mount Hassell keeps your interest going by teasing short bursts whilst still providing amazing views (something not abundant on Mt Trio until you reach the saddle).
I quite enjoyed this hike and was very fortunate to experience it in almost perfect weather (although a few clouds would have livened up the photos). Don't be worried about the last scramble to the summit, it is very manageable if you take your time but be very careful if the rocks are wet as a small tumble can soon turn nasty if you fall in the wrong direction.
Located right next to the more famous Toolbrunup and not having a caravan park named after it, Mount Hassell is kind of the forgotten loner of the Stirling Ranges. While it may get overlooked by Bluff Knoll and Toolbrunup when hikes in the area are discussed, it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area.
Stunning views, a challenging hike and if you pick the right season, a large variety of wildflowers.
Get out there and experience it!
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