So you’re studying at JCU and you want to make your experience that much more memorable? Here’s an idea; conquering Queensland’s highest peak will be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement you’ll never forget.
Standing at 1,622 m (or 5,322 ft if you’re ‘Murican), Mt Bartle Frere is located 51 km south of Cairns in the Wooroonooran National Park. JCU Cairns students will find it easy to get there but if you are studying in JCU Townsville it’s about a 3.5 hour drive north.
If you plan on hiking Bartle Frere, I would recommend you plan a two-day trip because it is crazy trying to do it in a single day (it took us around 12 hours of hiking to make it to the summit and back down to the car park). I also recommend starting the hike in the morning so you can camp at the summit instead of halfway up the mountain (like we did).
Our adventure started when we left Townsville for Bartle Frere at twelve noon (had a crazy party the previous night, and had to drive hungover, which I strongly discourage). We arrived at Bartle Frere at around 3.30 pm and started hiking at 4 pm. The first 3 kilometres were relatively easy and it’s mostly just an undulating path with no real inclines. You will hit the Broken Nose campsite about 2.5 kilometres in and that’s the last place you can fill up your water bottles (remember to bring so aquatabs because it is water from a stream). This is also your last campsite so if you started late you might want to consider camping at Broken Nose for the night because it takes another 5 hours to make it to the summit campsite. About 15 minutes after you leave the Broken Nose campsite you will hit the 3 km marker and this is where things start to get tough.
The route between the 3 km to 6 km marker is filled with steep inclines that are guaranteed to give your legs a good workout. We had to camp somewhere along this route because it got too dark for us to carry on (we decided to persevere after passing the Broken Nose campsite and it was a mistake).
Once you reach the 6 km marker, the end is almost in sight. The rain forest gives way to a series of rocks and boulders that require a little scrambling but this is where you’ll catch a glimpse of the view that Bartle Frere has to offer. After about 45 minutes you should clear the rocks and arrive at the 7 km marker, which has a helipad and an evacuation shelter as well as a campsite.
But wait, that’s not the end. In order to get to the summit, you will have to climb 30 minutes worth of rocks and boulders and these require some serious scrambling. It may be tough but after 8 hours walking in the rain forest, a little climbing and hopping and scrambling can be very very fun. Once you get to the top of the rocks, you’ll still have to navigate a small section of rain forest before you reach the summit.
A sign at the summit lets you know that you have finally arrived but if you really want to stand at the top of Bartle Frere, there is a giant boulder in front of the sign which you can climb to reach the full 1,622 metres of Bartle Frere. On a clear day you can see the Atherton Tablelands stretch out before you in one direction and the sea in the other. Even if there are clouds, it is still an awe-inspiring view and an unforgettable experience.
Remember to bring lots of water (we had three litres each and by the time we got to the summit we were left with maybe 300 ml each to last us the hike down) as well as insect repellent for the leeches. I recommend getting something with DEET in it because they seem to deter those bloodsuckers the most. If you can’t find any insect repellent with DEET you can also use eucalyptus oil as a repellent, salt is good for getting rid of them if they latch onto you.
(Tiffany Alling from the United States of America!)