Stirling Range National Park
Directions - One of the easier peaks to access, from Chester Pass Rd find Toolbrunup Rd near the old Moingup Springs Campsite and follow it all the way to the car park at the end. The trail head is on the western side of the car park next to the information board.
The Hike - This is the hike I had been most looking forward to on this trip after reading about it on The Long Way's Better and hearing tales of pre-dawn hikes to the summit on the last group hike of the season (thanks Lou). After taking in both Mt Trio and Mount Hassell the previous day, the legs were feeling great as I woke up to the sunlight pouring into my tent at sunrise. I had spent the night at the wonderfully located Moingup Springs and after a night of being woken by the strong winds stirring the surrounding trees, I was happy to stay in my sleeping bag like a warm toasty burrito. I had set my alarm but this wasn't due for another hour (forgot I wasn't sleeping in a dark room and the sun would wake me) so I laid there enjoying the sounds of the birds before getting on with the day's hiking.
I was saved the hassle of boiling water for my tea by the family I had met the previous night and enjoyed a cuppa in the morning light, along with a banana and an Up&Go (I wasn't too hungry). By the time I had finished breakfast and packed up, the day was heating up (forecast was for 26C) so I made the short drive (you can see Toolbrunup quite well from Moingup Springs) down Toolbrunup Rd to the car park that marks the start of the hike. After a few stops along the road to photograph the looming mountain, I arrived at 8am to perfect conditions and it was already in the lows 20s. There were already a couple of cars there and one I recognised as the same lady who started the Mount Hassell hike at the same time as me so I would eventually see her at some point. I performed my pre-hike routine of filling water bottles, applying sunscreen and packing the necessary cameras/gear. Unlike the two hikes I did the previous day, Toolbrunup starts off in some dense forest and this was very welcome given the expected temperatures. I found plenty of wildflowers in this first stretch as the going was gentle and the forest kept me shaded so took my time taking photos and soaking it all in. The trail follows the course of a small creek and the dips down to the valley can be quite steep in places.
It is nothing like the drop offs you will experience at the summit but it's still a nice scene. The gentle incline doesn't last long and soon enough you come across what makes this hike different from all of the others in the Stirling Range, a scree field. Fortunately you don't have to scale this one but it is a marvel to look at. As many have described, it's like someone has just backed up a dump truck full of rocks and poured it down the side of the mountain. On such a sunny day it was giving off quite a glare but the one advantage was the views looking back towards Moingup Springs. It didn't feel like a lot of climbing but the view suggested otherwise. It also provided a glimpse to the summit, still a long way away and up some bigger scree fields. Traversing the small horizontal section of the first scree field was quickly done with and it was back into the forest for some very steep trail hiking. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few stretches of forest that reminded me of my trip to Ellis Brook Reserve in 2015 with the closed in feeling of the straggly trees so spent a bit of time photographing the area. Not far up the path I encountered the sound of running water so followed it off trail until I discovered the source was the tiny trickle of a creek that runs down the side of Toolbrunup.
It wasn't much but enough that I found a small section cascading over the rocks where I could fill my hat with a little water to then put back on my head. Even though I had been in the shade for most of the hike, the climbing was making me feel a tad hot and this was a wonderfully refreshing feeling as the water ran down my neck and back. Feeling refreshed it wasn't long before I reached the famous Toolbrunup boulder field. You can look at pictures on the Google and read about it but nothing prepares you for the first time you lay eyes on it. The boulders aren't the size of Volkswagens but the ascent is steep and some move a lot more than others. I love rock hopping so I took a deep breath, engaged Mountain Goat mode (I am a Capricorn) and hopped from one rock to another. It does help that I am a rangy 6ft1 and the rocks were all fairly dry thanks to the warm weather so I was loving this kind of ascent more than the hard slog up the steep paths in the previous section. Watching me skip up the scree field from further up the trail was an older lady who was scooting down on her butt (a very handy technique in places as I discovered on the way down). We both stopped and admired the views next to one of the frequent white trail markers and discussed the climb so far. She was a local from Albany and against doctor’s orders, she was out doing the thing she loved, which I thought was a great attitude to have.
She had been to the summit already and was quite pleased that her knee was holding up alright. I wished her a pain free descent and continued on my merry way, feeling very much like a child as I bounced from rock to rock. I would imagine that when it has been raining the ascent would be a lot more precarious on the slippery rocks but with plenty of grip beneath my boots, I was loving it. The scree sections are broken up by the occasional passage through overhanging trees but it is one long mess until you reach much higher ground. With the summit clearly in view when you traverse the more open sections, it seems like the scree field is never ending. I stopped at what seemed like the top of the scree field (it wasn't) for a drink and to admire the stunning views when the woman I had seen on the Mount Hassell hike came out from up the trail. I think she recognised me and I asked how much further it was to the scramble up to the summit. Luckily it wasn't far and she advised I don't hold my camera, which I had been alternating between hands the whole climb depending on where I needed to go.