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LOCATION: Bartle Frere

Photos courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland

Sitting at 1622m above sea level in the Wet Tropics of Far North Queensland, Mt Bartle Frere is an imposing site and one of my absolute favourite hikes. It is not a hike for the faint hearted, at 15km return with a vertical climb of 1500m it is essential to be very fit, and it is even worth training for a couple of months prior to the hike. It is one of the hardest hikes in Australia and the majority of hikers camp along the track.

Mount Bartle Frere, Wooroonooran National Parks

So Why?

Well I say, why not? Mt Bartle Frere is situated in the Wet Tropics, and is part of Wooroonooran National Park. This has been protected as a National Park since 1921 and is one of my favourite cloud forests. If you are lucky whilst hiking you to see some endemic and endangered flora and fauna. The forest changes face as the altitude increase and this is where you will see the trees at the top are short and crooked and the rock formations towards the top are amazing. The boulder fields are a dream for anyone who loves rock hopping. If you are lucky enough to summit on a clear day (the peak is bathed in cloud approximately 300 days a year) you will get stunning views over Innisfail, the Coral Sea and the undulations across the tablelands.

There are two tracks to reach the peak, one from the West (Junction Creek via Gourka road) and the other from the car park of Josephine Falls on the eastern side. It is easier to access the eastern approach from the Bruce highway about 70km south of Cairns. This article talks about the eastern approach to the Summit.

Please note that in order to undertake this hike you will need to take adequate water and first aid gear as it is an extremely tough trail. When doing the hike from here there are two possible camp sites you could stay at for the night, Big Rock Camp or the Eastern Summit camp. If you wish to camp you will have to book a campsite online before leaving. Many people will hike with their packs to Big Rock Campsite for the first day, set up camp and then do a side track to Broken Nose as a warm up for the peak the next morning. Otherwise if time permits you can summit on the first day, just be careful to be weary of the time as you do not want to be stuck on this trail during the dark. Another important thing to remember is you will need to bring a gas burner to cook your dinner and heat your coffee as it is not permitted to light fires along the trail.

When climbing, it is interesting to think about the tin miners that would have followed this path on the way to their site near the top of the mountain. This track is extremely demanding with 9 creek crossings, some truly steep terrain which can be frightfully slippery. After about an hour you can cool in Majuba creek and get a chance to refill your waterbottles. Shortly after that you will arrive at Big Rock Camp. Here there is the turnoff to Broken nose. If you are camping this is a great place to leave your overnight gear. so you can ascent with a light pack.

The rest of the hike is intense, there is even some vertical scaling up some rocks before having to scamper over some huge boulders before the summit. Once you reach the summit you will get some sensational views if you are not in the middle of a cloud. Either way it is a very surreal and rewarding experience at the top. Make sure you take the time to take it in.

It would be remiss of me to finish the article by highlighting some safety tips and things to be wary of.  Don’t try this hike on your own, many people have been lost out here and their is no phone signal you can rely on. Also, always stay on the trail, it is safer and better for nature, if you lose the path walk back to the previous marker. More than obviously is to take a first aid kit, enough water and sunscreen with you for the hike. And lastly check for leeches regularly and remove them.

If you feel as though you are not fit enough or are worried about tackling this hike first, there are many hikes to help you train for this. Hikes around Cairns include the red and blue arrow tracks, Crystal Cascades to Copperlode Dam, Behana Gorge, Windin Falls, Nandroya Falls and many more.

The final thing to after finishing the hike is head up to Josephine Falls for a beautiful soak before heading to the pub in Innisfail for a hearty meat pie and a beer.

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland