Start - Stirling Range Drive
Length - 2.5km (Return)
Grade - Red
Terrain - Steep Rocky Path
Vertical Climb - 365m
Summit - 724m ASL
Time - 2-3 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Markers
Entry Fee - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 23rd October 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
The Hike - After scaling the toughest day hike in the Stirling Range in the morning (Toolbrunup), I retreated back to Moingup Springs campsite for a well earned lunch and an escape from the heat.
Writing some thoughts down in my notebook, eating a banana & nuttino (Italian nutella) wrap and listening to some music, life wasn't feeling too bad. The family I had met the previous day were waiting for some friends to come up from Perth before heading to Bluff Knoll. I thought about joining them as it was clear skies and I hadn't visited there when the summit was clear but in the end decided to stick to the original plan and make my way to Talyuberlup Peak after lunch. I departed the campsite just before 1pm, figuring I had more than enough time to climb up to Talyuberlup in the afternoon heat (the car was still reading 28C). The drive out to the western part of the park along Stirling Range Drive was a delight as usual with sweeping gravel roads leading you past a variety of peaks and the amazing scenes that comes with it.
The car park for Talyuberlup is on the south side of Stirling Range Drive and is well marked so you can't miss it. Once again I did my pre-hike routine of filling water bottles, applying sunscreen and checking the bag for all necessary equipment before making my way across the road and to the trail head. As with all the hikes in the area, there is an information board to mark the start of the journey and like Toolbrunup the start is very gentle. You walk through a thicket of Talyuberlup Malee, a skinny tree that grows very close together and the presence of the peak is always looming in the distance. With the sun perfectly positioned near the summit, I wasn't going to be getting any good photos looking up the trail but as the climb progressed the views back south were very impressive. Once you clear the Talyuberlup Malee and Veronica's Wattle, the trail shrinks a lot and the climbing really starts to begin.
I came across an older couple (slowly becoming theme for the trip) making their way back down and we had a small chat while we both caught our breath. They hadn't made their way all the way to the summit as they didn't feel confident scaling the tricky final section but did mention they saw a group doing the Three Ridges Walk. I made a mental note to look up that walk when I got home. Further research hasn't turned up anything so assuming they were just off-track for the whole thing and traversing the saddles between Mount Magog, Talyuberlup and a smaller summit in the area. I wished them good luck on the descent and continued the slog up the path. I came across a small granite outcrop not long after and it provided a respite from the closed in path that dominates the lower slopes.
The summit was more visible here and at least looked a little closer than before but it was still going to some more hard graft to reach the more interesting bits of the hike. Thankfully the terrain starts to change as you near the steep rock face on the south side of the summit. The trail sneaks under the shadow of the summit and the plant life starts to change to a more temperate feel. The path also changes to include more rocky steps and a little bit more scrambling so I was a happy camper after so much of the same type of trail in the heat. The imposing rock face that protrudes from the landscape dominates this section as you hug the dark and vertical cliff face.
The scrambling becomes more and more as the trail is now marked by the white markers you see on the other hikes. As you make your way up a steep rocky section towards what looks like a section of the mountain that has fallen off you are greeted with your first views of the western slopes of the national park. Instead of looking at Red Gum Pass though I had my eyes on another feature that makes this hike unique, the giant cave. It's hard to show the scale of it in photos but the roof towers right above you and overhangs the trail so make sure you have stable footing when you crane your neck to look at it. There is a warning plaque about the dangers of falling rock and to tell you not to enter the cave in case of collapse. I wandered over to the entrance to take a look inside and low and behold there is a trail marker bang in the middle of the cave.
With the sunlight illuminating the other side in a golden hue I stayed here and snapped some photos, not quite capturing the size or impressiveness of the scene. While not immediately obvious, the trail loops its way around the cave to the west so I followed the narrow path. As Donovan said in his write-up, if the cave is unstable I'm not sure the path around it would be any safer as the whole thing leans in that direction. Anyway, around I went and came across another impressive scene with the rocky spires adjacent to the summit were in view. The sharp features jut out from the mountain like the proud prow of a granite ship. Across the saddle is the summit of Mount Magog that I had planned on visiting the following day until my plans had to be adjusted.
Being fairly sheltered for the entire hike I was now blasted with a moderate wind as I followed the path as it hugs the mountain down into a small valley. It isn't that obvious at first glance but once you see a trail marker it becomes apparent where the trail goes. On the other side of the small valley is the last scramble up to the summit and I put my camera away at this stage as the fall down wouldn't have been nice if I slipped. It isn't too difficult a climb and I was soon admiring the rocky spire from a different angle before finding the gentle path to the marked summit. The short walk up to the summit provides a look eastward towards Toolbrunup before you reach the pièce de résistance of all summit cairns in the Stirling Range, a 2m wide rocky nest that once belonged to a very lost Antipodean Opaleye (not really).
What is impressive is exploring the wide summit and admiring the excellent 360 degree views. I spotted another skink near the rock nest but he was too elusive to capture on camera so I instead turned my attentions to the hazy peaks to the west. The smoke from a bushfire that had been burning to the south was making its way north in the breeze and I had an inkling the sunset would be something special. Lamenting that I had not started this hike a little later, I was hoping to get some better shots on the way down as the sun slowly descended into the haze. I stayed at the summit for about half an hour exploring the nooks and crannies whilst taking plenty of photos in every direction. Calculating how long I would have to stay up there to see the sunset I realised that it was going to be a very long wait. I did have an alternate plan for the sunset though and this won't be the last time I'm in the area.
Leaving the summit I headed back down the rocky scramble into the valley and admired the cave a bit more from the other side. One thing was for sure, the walk back down the mountain was certainly more enjoyable than the way up. This was partly due to the haze dispersing the light and casting a golden hue on everything and the fact that the eroded path was much easier to navigate going in the other direction. I inserted the headphones and soaked it all in, stopping a lot to take different photos of the same view from the changing elevation. The real treat was reaching the gentler slopes and passing through the Veronica's Wattle and Talyuberlup Malee in the gorgeous light. After having a day and half of very bright and saturated lighting conditions (mainly due to the time I chose to hike), it was nice to be in golden hour style lighting. With the hike finished I marvelled at this amazing peak one last time and set off back to camp, blasting music in the fading light.
Post Hike Activity - After deciding not to wait at the summit for the sunset, I knew of a place I could capture it with a couple of mountains to use to spice things up. The corner of Stirling Range Drive and Chester Pass Rd is right near Moingup Springs so after I had a refreshing bush shower at camp and feasted on a canned chicken (I don't recommend the caesar flavoured one) and avocado wrap, I headed up to the car park next to the intersection. The air was still warm and a stillness was in the air as I watched the sun slowly descend towards Toolbrunup and Mount Hassell. With the haze around I was expecting an epic kaleidoscope of orange, red and pink but unfortunately it was too thick and the best I got was as the sun was still above the twin peaks. It was still amazing to capture and the feeling in the air was very relaxing. As the sun descended a bit more it turned into a red disc choked by the haze and it wasn't as spectacular as I had hoped. I did get some publicity shots of my car that I might send back in time for Audi to use.
Final Thoughts - This was definitely a tick in the life box, today was a great day.
Toolbrunup in the morning and Talyuberlup in the afternoon followed by a grand sunset. The Stirling Range certainly knows how to put on a good show and saving the best two hikes for the same day was a great idea.
As far as Talyuberlup goes, it isn't as varied as Toolbrunup and the hard slog up the first kilometre really requires some fortitude. Once you get in the shadows of the summit though it changes character and transforms into a truly amazing hike.
The cave is a very impressive structure and the interesting features on the other side provides plenty to photograph and admire. I do enjoy when hikers go all out and build impressive cairns in hard to get to places so the dragon's nest gets a thumbs up from me.
The views are absolutely stunning with a closer look at Red Gum Pass than you won't get from Toolbrunup and of course the views back to Toolbrunup are just as good. This would also make for an excellent spot to watch the sunrise or sunset from and hopefully you get some clear weather like I did.
Despite being listed as a Class 5 hike, there is really only a couple of spots that require scrambling so don't be deterred by the rating.
Get out there and experience it!
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