Six Summit Challenge
Monadnocks Conservation Area
Directions - The Sullivan Rock car park is an hour's drive from Perth and is located on the south side of Albany Hwy about 9.5km past the turn-off for Jarrahdale Rd. The trail starts at the red Bibbulmun Track sign on the north side of Albany Hwy.
The Hike - Are you looking for a challenge around Perth that involves a great workout, even greater views and a bit of exploring? If you are then keep reading and start planning your trip out to Sullivan Rock for this tough but rewarding hike. Essentially this is just the two sections of the Bibbulmun Track (Monadnocks + Mt Cooke) that I have previously hiked combined into one super hike with the addition of one extra summit. Enter the Six Summit Challenge.
Combining these two sections back to back provides the opportunity to get maximum bang for your hiking buck with a combined six climbs and 1,228m vertical elevation over the 35kms. While each climb is not what anyone would consider a mountain, combining their powers Voltron-style adds up to a decent climb. In such a special location, as it is to me and with many hikers I have talked to, I can think of no better way to spend a day than hiking this trail followed by some well earned wine afterwards.
Sound good? Great, let's get into some bare essentials plus some comforts that will get you through the challenge.
At least 3-4 litres of water -There are two Bibbulmun campsites on the trail but the water will need to be treated if there is any in the tanks to start with. Please only use these if you are desperate as the supply if for overnight hikers/end to enders.
Snacks - Get inventive here. The last time I did something close to this challenge I met a group of hikers that had brought along a small burner/hot plate so they could grill up some haloumi cheese on the summit of Mt Cooke. Some good high energy foods to consider include Anzac biscuits, muesli bars, raw slice or trail mix.
Lunch - With a 35km hike to tackle, you are going to get hungry. One of a hikers great luxuries is the ability to sit on an exposed granite outcrop enjoying a sandwich whilst soaking in the sun, views and stillness that accompanies such a magnificent location. My choice - Roast beef and mustard sandwich on homemade bread.
Music - I love the sound of nature, the calls of the birds, the wind in the tree tops and the absolute calmness when there are no birds or wind. I also love my music and with 7-12 hours of hiking to get through it really helps to lift the experience. Live concerts are my favourite but everyone has their own taste so experiment with what works for you.
A Friend - Hiking alone has its advantages if you like your own company but hiking with a friend adds that extra level of fun. You can talk about all sorts, motivate each other when your legs are feeling dead and share an experience both of you won't forget anytime soon.
With all that in mind let's get stuck into the where and how based on my latest experience doing the full Six Summit Challenge.
Section One - Sullivan Rock to Mt Randall
Given the feedback I have received over the past couple of years, finding the car park for Sullivan Rock is not easy on your first time. I completely understand this so this time I marked it out properly and the turnoff for the car park is exactly 9.5km past the Jarrahdale Rd turnoff so reset your odometer and keep your eyes peeled. My challenge started with a very early wake up on Anzac Day and a long drive from Fremantle so I could get out to the starting point around sunrise. For the past couple of years I have done this hike as a personal form of dawn service to commemorate the Anzacs. It may not be the traditional service at Kings Park or Fremantle but it is quite a powerful experience to stand at the rock cairn marking the summit of Mt Vincent in silence watching the sunrise and thinking about the sacrifice made by the brave young men of the ANZACs over 100 years ago. With a reminder of how easy life is now because of what they went through, there is plenty of motivation to push on. With my small silence finished, some photos snapped and having climbed summit #1 it was time to descend down Mt Vincent and get straight into the short climb up to the more exposed Mt Cuthbert.
This is one of my favourite spots in WA but unfortunately the weather had started up for the day so it wasn't worth stopping on the exposed section given the poor visibility. With summit #2 crossed off the list it was a short descent down to the forest floor and on to the Monadnocks Campsite. This 2km section is a gradual uphill but being buried within the forest your legs don't really notice. Normally I end my hike at Monadnocks before turning around and hiking back to my car but this time it was on to the third summit of Mt Randall. This is a place I had always wanted to visit after seeing it on the WalkGPS blog so decided this was the day to do it. The plan had been to get up to Mt Randall and back to the campsite before the rains hit around 9am. Due to a later than expected start along with several photography stops to capture the relatively clear views along the way, I arrived at the campsite a bit before 9am. From the western slope of Mt Vincent and the northern section of Mt Cuthbert I could see the heavy rain clouds in the distance but decided to press on and try to get to Mt Randall in time. Added to this, the hut was a bit overcrowded with campers and they all looked miserable so I left them to it and headed off immediately.
Before I describe the way to Mt Randall, please note that it doesn't follow the Bibbulmun Track and there is no marked path to follow. Only attempt this if you are an experienced hiker and have a GPS tracker. It is very easy to lose your way in the bush so be prepared. The way to Mt Randall is found by heading west from the hut towards the camping spots and finding an exposed bit of granite. From there it isn't much further before you hit the second exposed bit of granite and the remnants of a trail marker hanging from a branch leading into the bush. The path is very overgrown and tight in places but it soon opens up to a single track that I'm guessing was once the official way to Mt Randall. Once you pass some granite boulders, keep heading west until you see the large formation of boulders that marks the summit of Mt Randall (it is not hard to miss). The path disappears here as the undergrowth gets thicker but just keep heading in the direction of the giant granite boulders and you will be right. Once you reach the base of the formation this is where it is necessary to scramble up rocks until you reach the top. Once there you are treated to spectacular views to both the east and west (the best is looking east). I am marking the summit here as being a rusty old tower that has long been blown off its original location and now rests in between the rocks.
It was at summit #3 that I rested for a bit, enjoying a cup of tea and an Anzac biscuit before looking north and realised that it wouldn't be long before the weather turned nasty. I couldn't see NW from the summit and that's where the rain had crept up on me from. I quickly got out my waterproof cover for my backpack, put my camera in its dry sack and stuffed everything away safely. Then it bucketed down and I had to scramble down the wet rocks and find the path again. I found my way back to the faux-cave (one of the fun areas to explore up here) and then headed back. It wasn't long before I realised I wasn't on the same path I came in on so checked my phone and I was heading in the right direction, just a little north of the intended path. Using the compass on my paracord bracelet I pointed myself in a southerly direction until I found a 4x4 track. With the rain now pouring down, the amount of water on my phone screen was preventing me from unlocking it and I didn't have a dry enough section of clothing to wipe it with. My hunch was that this 4x4 track was the one that crosses the Bibbulmun Track before the Monadnocks campsite and I was right. At the crossroads between the 4x4 track and the Bibbulmun I saw some of the unhappy campers from the hut heading down the 4x4 track to avoid climbing over Mt Cuthbert and Mt Vincent.