West Mount Barren
Start - Car Park off Pabelup Drive
Length - 1.8km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 160m
Summit - 341m ASL
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 29th March 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Wudjari People
Directions - West Mount Barren can be accessed by taking the turnoff at Jerramungup off South Coast Rd, following this until you reach Devil's Creek Rd. Continue along Devil's Creek Rd as it becomes a gravel road. Take the turnoff for West Mount Barren all the way to the car park.
The Hike - With a fantastic introduction to the Fitzgerald River National Park the day before with a hike along the Point Ann Heritage Trail and a stay at St Mary's Inlet, we enjoyed a lovely sunrise on an empty beach before packing up the car ready for our adventures on day two. On the menu today was a hike up West Mount Barren (or Queelup in the local language) before moving on to the eastern side of the park for another couple of hikes. Having realised the error of my ways when it came to navigating into the park, we would be leaving the correct way today (via Pabelup Drive and Devils Creek Rd), which was the route to take anyway coming from Point Ann to the entry road into West Mount Barren.
Another slightly corrugated gravel road greeted us as we made our way to the end of the road leading to West Mount Barren (road is marked and a dead end). With gloomy skies above and a slight chill to the air I filled up the water bottles before we cleaned our boots in the dieback station provided and embarked on hike numero uno for the day. West Mount Barren is nicely profiled as you start on the boardwalk section and as a fun bonus there was a Royal Hakea in perfect position to be included in frame. The Royal Hakea is only found in the Fitzgerald River National Park and became a favourite of ours during our time there. It was eventually given the nickname "Traffic Light Bush Kale" after Caris remarked how much it looked like ornamental kale you get in flower arrangements and some of the colours on individual examples we saw reminded us of traffic lights.
The "Barrens" of Fitzgerald River National Park remind me a lot of the Stirling Range with peaks just rising out of a predominantly flat landscape and the style of hiking is very similar in both length and terrain. The reason for the Barrens being left here when everything else has disappeared is they are made up of quartzite that has a +5 resistance rating to the effects of time, weather and natural forces compared to the rest of the landscape. The result is spectacular and unlike the Stirling Range these hills/mountains are found right on the coast, allowing for some epic views over the Southern Ocean and off towards the other Barrens. The main view you will be focused on as you start the climbing is the hill to the east, the weirdly named Mt Bland (or Poorijungup as it's also known), that looks a little bit like Mt Doom from The Lord of the Rings except without the lava and ash strewn landscape surrounding it. We got a small taste of the plant life around the base of the walk and while there were some wildflowers, I imagine this area would be a treat when the famous spring colour explosion occurs in September to November.
The landscape is a welcome distraction to the climbing as the trail gets much steeper after the gentle introduction along the boardwalk section. Each step along the rocky path needs to be carefully planned so you carry as much momentum as you can and also to avoid stepping on the Napoleon Skinks that had surfaced to catch the morning rays. The trail is pretty well marked with wooden posts at regular intervals but at one stage we had a decision to make as there were two paths and no marker in sight. I led us the wrong way but given the rocky terrain it wasn't long before I spotted the correct path and we were on the right heading again. With the steeper section of the trail now over there are a range of false peaks in the distance that Caris did not enjoy one bit. Technically my old adage of "last hill" was right, what looked like the end was not really the end but that just meant the hike lasted longer and the views got better. As you get nearer to the true summit, the outlook to the south opens up and you can take in the extended views out to the Doubtful Islands and Hood Point where whalers used to operate out of in the dark times.
Thankfully whaling is no longer part of the WA economy and perhaps if you are here in the migration season with a good pair of binoculars then you might see some frolicking giants. With a slightly flatter summit than most climbs in WA you get to enjoy the views without being out of breath. Some Royal Hakea livened things up and provided another opportunity to frame some shots of the smaller rounded peaks to the south east. Caris was up ahead and let out a small cry of happiness when the rock cluster that acts as the summit was in sight and she knew that the climbing was over. With cloudy conditions still with us there was still a moody feel to the mid Barrens to the north east and after plenty of photographs of the surrounding landscape and sunbaking Napoleon Skinks we headed back down the mountain and ready to tackle our next adventure in the park.
Final Thoughts - West Mount Barren was a walk I have had on my list ever since I bought a book about the best national parks in Australia and Fitzgerald River National Park was included. The area is a world class biosphere and is a treasure trove of unique plant species only found in this part of the world.
The hike, while being similar to many other walks in WA is still very different thanks to the unique flora like the traffic light bush kale (Royal Hakea) and the elevated views over the coastline.
While not the most impressive of the Barrens (the Mid Barrens are not accessible to walkers and you are not to cross the 150m mark of elevation), it is still a nice hike giving you access to many views and in spring, all of the wildflowers.
A trip to the western side of the park would not be complete without a traverse of Queelup to get a better perspective of the landscape so make sure to include it on your next visit.
Get out there and experience it!
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