Well I have to say I have had a great start to the year with walking. I have completed 3 decent length hikes and its only April, two of which I had never done before. I haven’t however had a great start to the year with blogging, I have posted nothing! So seeing as I have a bit of new material under my belt its time to hit the keyboard.
Mount Warning or Wollumbin as it is known to the local Bundjalung people, stands guard over the green caldera in far northern NSW. It is such a prominent feature of our local landscape that it enters day to day conversations regularly. “It’s so clear today you can see the rock face of Mount Warning” or “The clouds so thick today you can’t even see Mount Warning” and “Did you see that storm roll in last night over Mount Warning?” and my personal favourite “Quickly, come outside and watch this amazing sunset over Mount Warning”! So I think you get the picture that this mountain has quite an impact on my daily life!
I had only walked to its summit about 15 years ago in a very spontaneous and completely unplanned visit. I was at uni in Lismore at the time and was visiting a friend up at The Channon. It was early evening and we had been relaxing with a wine when the phone rang. Did we want to climb Mount Warning tomorrow? Sounds great we said. At 3 in the morning to watch the sun come up? Sure! Sounds like an adventure. Because I was away from home all I had with me were my Colorado sandles, not really mountain ascending attire. So my friend lent me some nice big thick socks to wear with them. So long story short, with 3 torches between 5 people, a drink bottle each and me in socks and sandles we summited Mount Warning. The sunrise and view were amazing but I wish I’d had more suitable shoes.
Back in January I decided it was time to tackle the mountain again. This time I was obviously going to be lot more prepared. The morning dawned bright and sunny. Running man picked me up and we drove along the beautiful Tweed River towards Mount Warning looming in the distance. The temperature was already in the high 20’s by the time we started the walk around 9:30 am. Good thing we had our new back packs with 3 L water bladders inside, I could tell it was shaping up for a very sweaty day.
The track is fairly well maintained but quite rocky, and obviously as you are ascending a mountain there are lots and lots of stairs to get you the along the 4.4 kilometers to the summit. At the temperature hits the low 30’s (it tops 32 degrees celsius with humidity feeling like it must be well over 80 %) I comment to Running man how I am really going to enjoy a cold beer when we get back to Murwillumbah. He looks at me and smiles. “Why do we have to wait until then?” he grins. “You have beer? In your back pack?” I ask. “Yeah. One for each of us to go with our lunch at the summit”. Yes! With a little bit more spring in my step we continue on.
Bangalow palms, giant tree ferns and an assortment of eucalypts shade us from the hot sun in the early stages of the ascent.
We come to a break in the trees and get our first real glimpse into the valleys below. Some Canadian tourists stop near us while we are admiring the view. They strip down a few layers and murmur about the heat. The young man in the group comments “Wow. I feel like I’m back in South America, This reminds me of walking up to Machu Pitchu”. They continue on. Running man looks at me. “Well” he says “Looks like we have saved ourselves about $10,000, a passport and some serious jet lag to visit our own version of South America”. I have to agree with them both, we are so lucky here in Australia to have such a wide variety of landscapes to explore that you can feel like you are in another country.
As we continue on the vegetation continues to open up and provide us with more views of the valley below.
The vegetation changes from rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest to heath shrubland as we approach the final climb. This is the toughest section of the walk with real climbing involved. Foot holds have been chipped out of the rock and a chain installed to help pull yourself up. Up and up we go.
We reach the top and are afforded views over the whole of the caldera from a couple of platforms located around the summit. Sweeping views take in the mountains of the Springbrook and Lamington plateaus, Border Ranges, and Mount Barney and Mount Lindsay towards the west.
We spy a shady spot on one of the platforms and sit down to enjoy our lunch. We are getting out our food to make our sandwiches when the Canadians we saw on the way up sight our shady position and ask if its okay to sit near us. Shady spots are in short supply so we tell them to go for it. Running man is assembling the sandwiches with ham, seeded mustard, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and avocado. I am rummaging around seeing what other goodies he’s bought up today. “Do you want the mango or nectarines now or after?” I ask him. He hands me one of the beers “After the sandwiches” he replies. I take a sip of icy cold beer on a mountain top on a hot summers day. Doesn’t get much better than that!
The Canadian guy who has been watching us with interest as he munches on a muesli bar, breaks his silence at this point. “Look” he says to his friends “They have fresh sandwiches and mangos and nectarines”. “And chocolate” his friend says as she spies my Lindt. “And BEER” He exclaims. Running man looks up at this point and says with a smile “No, not beer. Icy, cold beer”. The Canadians lament that they need to get better organised for their day walks and that a bottle of water and a muesli bar just don’t cut it. I agree. It’s so nice to have a lovely lunch on a day walk and just take your time and relax. We offer the Canadians some fruit and chocolate which they politely decline and chat while we eat our lunch.
When Running man and I recount this story to a friend at work, he tells us of the time he climbed Mount Warning in the dark to watch the sunrise. He and his friends were sharing a bottle of champagne and some breakfast when a German tourist came upon them. He couldn’t believe they had been so prepared. They offered him a champagne and some food and they said he wouldn’t stop talking about it and how it was one of the best things that had happened to him in Australia.
When we have had our fill the Canadians ask us if we can take some photos of them so we all take lots of happy snaps of each other and then bid them farewell. We spend a bit more time admiring the views before beginning our descent.
I find the walk down tougher than going up. The packs may be much lighter now we have eaten and drunk most of the contents but the pressure on the knees and quads going down so many stairs is still hard going.
On our drive back through Murwillumbah we stop at the Tweed Regional Art Gallery. I love this gallery and come here often and never tire of it. I highly recommend it. It also has a nice cafe and fantastic views towards Mount Warning and over the Tweed River, a nice spot to stop and enjoy a coffee or a cold beer 🙂
On the drive back to my place we stop off at the little town of Tumbulgum and have a bit of an early dinner at the old Tumbulgum Tavern built back in 1887. I didn’t take any photos here, but the town sits on the river and has more beautiful views of Mount Warning.
The sun is setting as we drive along the river near my place. It is with a lovely contented feeling that I look back towards the mountain that is a daily fixture in my life and that we just had a wonderful day climbing. I won’t leave it so long between climbs next time.
At a Glance
Mount Warning Wollumbin Summit walk 8.8 kms return
145 km from Brisbane and 20 mins (15.4 kms) to Murwillumbah
Tumbulgum Tavern Riverside Drive Tumbulgum NSW
Tweed Regional Art Gallery 2 Mistral Road (Cnr Tweed Valley Way) Murwillumbah South NSW http://artgallery.tweed.nsw.gov.au/