Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mt Bartle Frere traverse as a day walk.

Now the 2 Fat Blokes adventure tour company has dissolved (literally as 1 fat bloke has become too skinny to help maintain the good name) the one remaining fat bloke was looking to maintain his shape while visiting the Atherton Tablelands recently.

He knew there was a fellow beer loving bushwalker also visiting the tablelands so gave him a ring expecting an invite to drop in for a beer or two. Much to his surprise he was instead invited on a walk to traverse Mt Bartle Frere as a through walk.  This bloke, we’ll call him Don, had done this walk about 10 years ago with is daughter in less than ideal conditions, which is pretty standard for the tropics of NQ and also the highest point in Qld.  The fat bloke had also summited the mountain back in about 1978 as a through walk for Josephine Falls to the headwaters of the Mulgrave River so he thought a re-visit would be a reasonable idea.

Don did an excellent job organising permits and drop off and pick up transport (it is a very long car shuffle so drop off & pick-up is the best thing), but didn’t do all that well with the weather. The previous couple of days were a bit overcast with occasional drizzle on the Tableland and up in the mountains looking pretty miserable.

The first day of our walk the morning weather was pretty miserable with the forecast for improving conditions and the 2nd day good weather.

Don and his wife Maureen picked me up from my camp and we headed to the start of the walk on the western side of the mountain in dampish weather. I have never been much into walking in wet and cold conditions so I raised the option with Don of converting our 2 day walk into a day walk, after all it is only an advised 15km with a 900m ascent and 1500m descent. Now those amongst you who are perspective might seem that is a bit odd 900m up but 1500 down. That is the advantage of starting on the Tablelands side, you are already at 700m for the start to the summit of Queensland’s highest mountain at 1622m and then finish near sea-level at Josephine’s Falls.

After a short walk to Bobbin Bobbin Falls in not all that good conditions Don agreed that a day walk was a reasonable thing as it saved him carrying a through walking pack (Don is know for his largish and weighty packs). The only down side with this idea for the fat bloke was that he doesn’t like early rises and this was going to entailed a dawn start, but the good thing was the now free afternoon was available for having a couple of beers.

A very relaxing and convivial night was had with an early night as 0430 alarm was set for a 0500 departure from base so that we were at the start by 0600, just after first light.

Walking commenced at 0615, with a downward trending track which is not good when you have 900m to ascend. Shortly the upward starts and other than a couple of flattish bits and a couple of short down bits it is all up for the next 7 kms.

After some scrambling over, though and under large granite boulders, and occasionally searching for the footpad, we came to the western campsite at 1140 which has some flat open areas and a nice water supply so we elected for a lunch break, breakfast being some 61/2 hours earlier. During lunch a light shower passed so we were losing hope of any clear times on top, another 150m vertical and 580m in walking distance. It took us 50 minutes to cover that 580m, arriving on the summit at 1315 to mostly fine weather with just the occasional cloud whipping past or below.

Arriving on the summit it was so different to 1978. There was sign telling us that we were on top of Queensland.  We pulled out our mobile phones (Dick Tracy/Maxwell smart stuff in 1978) and got perfect reception so rang friends took photos on the phones and forwarded them off to others, took multiple photos on digital cameras rather than the big heavy SLR of 1978 and departed the top at 1350 after some 50 minutes enjoying the good weather, views and the occasion.

Now for the 1500m descent over 7.5km with about 1100 m of that descent occurring over the first 4 km. Not far from the summit there is field of large exposed granite boulders. When these boulders are wet, which is most of the time, these can be very slippery. The Parks service has located large and secure hand/foot holds to assist the walker through this area, a wonderful thing for Queensland to have such aids.
I thought we might just make it back to the car park before last light, we were close but required our torches to light the way over the last 20 minutes or so, not much use having an injury that close to home.

We arrived at Josephine Falls car park after 121/2 hours on the track to the welcome sight of Maureen with our transport which also contained a fridge with some welcome cold beers for the trip back to our accommodation for the night.
All that remained for the day was a good meal, hot shower to clean off the mud, the dried blood from many leach bites and then early to bed.

Thanks to Don and Maureen for helping me to maintain the good standards of the recently defunct 2 Fat Blokes Adventure Touring Company.


Bartle Frere GPS track profile