“It leapt across the flowing streams
And raced the pastures through;
It climbed the trees, and lit the boughs,
And fierce and fiercer grew.”
Henry Lawson – The Fire at Ross’s Farm
Mt Greville teased me for years. Many times I gazed at the deeply fissured monolith from across Lake Moogerah and wondered what it was called and how I could access it. However, upon returning home I would forget about it until once again I was back at the lake conversing with this cheeky kookaburra.
After much non-productive pondering, I finally made inquiries with Dr Google and discovered the name of my tormenter and how to access it. Mt Greville is a rhyolite volcanic plug, named after the English mycologist, botanist, artist and bryologist, Robert Greville. He was also one of four vice-presidents at the World Anti-Slavery Convention so it appears he was passionate about people as well as plants.
A challenging destination for rock climbers, Mt Greville is actually part of Moogerah Peaks National Park, in South East Queensland and rises 720m above sea level. My post Mist and Magic has more details and photos about this beautiful region. The traditional Ugarapul owners referred to Greville and other areas as “Moogerah” (meaning thunder). It is interesting to ponder how Robert Greville, a man concerned with the freedom of humans may have felt about having land named after him that was taken away from the traditional Indigenous owners, or how he would have viewed the use of Indigenous people as cheap or slave labour.
They say that curiosity killed the cat and perhaps one day this chunk of rock will be the death of me. I’ve made three separate trips with the intention of completing the challenging class 5 summit walk, but each time I’ve aborted my plans. The distance given is only measured in walking time ( around 3 – 4 hours) and there are three possible routes which are mainly unmarked and involve rock scrambling and navigational skills. One site estimates the SE Ridge option to be about 6km however this depends on what options you take to descend. Hikers have raved about the views from Mt Greville summit. There are some who have described it as one of the hardest walks they’ve ever done – “a grueling climb” – citing the scree as being particularly difficult and dangerous to negotiate. From across the lake it certainly looks like an interesting challenge.
On my last attempt, I had a close encounter with a potentially deadly foe and it left me to ponder whether it’s really a goal I need to accomplish. In fact, after reading more about the Indigenous history of the area, I feel a sense of unease about my desire to summit this peak. Moogerah Peaks were spiritual places for the ancestors of the Ugarapul people and to show respect they were forbidden to climb them. However, Europeans ignored the wishes of the traditional Indigenous owners. Is it really so important that I summit this peak just for a sense of satisfaction?
Whether or not you choose to summit Mt Greville, it’s still a lovely quiet spot to visit, with my favourite part being Waterfall Gorge. There are no amenities at the grassy car park though and signs issue strong warnings as to it being a remote area with unmarked trails so you really need to be self-sufficient. It’s about 100 km south west of Brisbane and can be accessed via the scenic Boonah route or by taking the Lake Moogerah exit from the Cunningham Highway near Aratula. The last short section of road is gravel and a little corrugated but still accessible with 2WD. My ancient little green sedan managed to negotiate it without complaining too much. For more details check the Moogerah Peaks National Park site or the Aussie Bushwalking site.
I usually prefer to take the scenic Boonah route where you’ll see rolling green hills or in the dry months, fields of gold like this…
There are often plenty of kangaroos about so care must be taken on the roads.
On one visit I was greeted by this tiny jumping spider in the car park. It reminded me of the time I was an entomologist’s assistant researching the jumping spider population in a field. After working on the project for 6 months we returned to collect data at the site, only to find it completely bulldozed. Field research can have its ups and downs!
The walk from the car park to the branching options is rather deceptive. This is definitely not an indication of the difficulty level of the trails!
After a short walk you’ll come to these three options for accessing the summit.
Attempt 1: Via Palm Gorge Circuit
My first attempt started with the Palm Gorge option. The walk begins with a smooth dirt track but quickly turns into loose rocks. I have the world’s dodgiest ankles and realised that my trainers were not giving me enough ankle support so if I had continued on this track I was likely to end up with a sprain or break. I didn’t have mobile phone reception either which was a concern. Here are some images of the terrain. The path disappears under rocks and piccabeen palm leaves.
I’d been warned about snakes in Palm Gorge and wasn’t keen to expose my bare legs to a pair of venomous fangs. My hiking partner wasn’t interested in close encounters of the slithery kind either and suggested we ditch the walk for a lazy meal at Lake Moogerah instead. Yes, I know we don’t sound like dedicated hikers but sometimes the call of a good coffee and a hot meal is stronger than the call of the wild! You also need to be kind to your hiking partners… (Let’s just forget that I wrote How to Torture a Hiking Partner a few weeks ago!)
Attempt 2: Via SE Ridge Track
My second trip was with my daughter, “Tough Cookie,” so giving up the walk without some serious effort was never going to be an option. We decided to try accessing the summit via the SE ridge track. Once again I was foiled by my lack of ankle stability on the loose dirt and rocks. I did ponder taking my shoes off but remembered the warnings about venomous snakes in the area. One of these days I’ll buy more supportive hiking boots or strap my ankles.
We did however make it up to one large slab of rock that gave us a reasonable view. Unfortunately my camera battery was flat though and of course I’d left the spares in my backpack lower down on the track! Just try to imagine some pretty blue hills and farmland in the distance. Tough Cookie isn’t as ankle-challenged as me and went much further but we decided it wasn’t a good idea for her to keep going alone as we had no mobile phone reception so wouldn’t be able to communicate easily with each other. We descended and decided to attack the summit from the third option, Waterfall Gorge. On the way down I was surprised by this well camouflaged lace monitor.
I’ve a fondness for goannas after seeing them frequently in the outback. While they do have a penchant for eating hen eggs, they are also good at controlling rabbits, rats and snakes. I vividly remember seeing one swallow a large venomous brown snake. They are also carrion eaters and extremely strong. I’ve seen one drag a large dead red kangaroo hundreds of metres. Here’s a picture of Fred, the goanna who lived in our house yard at Roma. Fred liked popping out unexpectedly from time to time to give me a fright.
I stopped to take pictures of some pretty lichen and interesting coloured brick-shaped rocks along the descent.
Attempt 3: Via Waterfall Gorge
The track to Waterfall Gorge goes upward along a rough path and then down again into the gorge. The approach was much easier than the beginning of the SE Ridge Track
To be honest, once I got down to Waterfall Gorge I really didn’t want to leave. The tranquility and shaded respite of the rock pools made me ditch the summit idea. Plans are made to be changed. That’s my motto. Sometimes…
If you take the left hand branch of the Waterfall gorge path this is what you’ll see. There are lots of boulders to negotiate! It wasn’t a hard decision for us to make to explore the rock pools of the right hand branch of the gorge instead. While I failed to reach the summit once again, I don’t regret the hours spent in Waterfall Gorge watching the birds and enjoying the tranquility.
Attempt 4: Via the SE Ridge Track again
On my last summit attempt with a hiking partner some months later, strange sounds caught our attention. It seemed like some kind of large creature was periodically crashing through the undergrowth, but I had difficulty locating the direction of the noise. The sounds appeared to be coming from all around us and were strangely familiar. It was only when I started to smell smoke that I realised why. It was a bushfire! I’ve helped with controlled burning on properties in the past and the crackling, branch falling sound was all too familiar. Being surrounded by dry eucalyptus forest was not the ideal place for us to be if there was an approaching bushfire. We decided to dash to the car park hoping that it was just a controlled burn at a nearby farm. At the car park we were confronted by a wall of smoke billowing from a farm just over the road. We left in a hurry and made our way to a road on the opposite side to the direction the smoke was blowing. These are the views of Mt Greville obscured by smoke as we drove away.
If we hadn’t left when we did we would have been enveloped in that suffocating cloud of smoke. In the blustery conditions the fire could have easily jumped the road to the thickly forested national park. We found out the fire had begun as a controlled burn but when the wind suddenly sprang up, the farmer had difficulty controlling it. I’ve tried not to think about the consequences if it had crossed the road before we’d had time to get back to the car park and escaped the area. We heard fear-crazed cattle bellowing from the direction of the flames and smoke and hoped they were safe.
It was a strange trip home on this occasion. My hiking partner and I were both rather subdued. The smoke in the area contributed to a beautiful sunset which was a peaceful way to finish the trip. How strange though that the colours of a beautiful inspiring sunset can also represent the destructive and powerful force of fire.
As I’ve mentioned, there are a few ways to tackle the summit, so if it’s on your radar and you’ve got better ankles than me, I would suggest checking out the climbing/hiking sites online for detailed instructions. Aussie Bushwalking is one place to start and you’ll see photographs of the views I missed by not reaching the summit. I don’t know if I’ll attempt the summit again, but Mt Greville is definitely a place that will stay in my memory for a number of reasons, one being how quickly you could become the victim of a bushfire while hiking. Waterfall Gorge is a delightful spot for birdwatching and soaking up the serenity and was the highlight for me.
I was searching for an appropriate poem about bushfires to end this post and then remembered one written by my son when he was was just a boy living on an outback property. He’d spent most of his young life seeing drought and fire devastate the land. Fortunately, fires were often followed by drought-breaking rain, which transformed the blackened landscape into a bright flush of green. His poem describes the initial devastation that drought and fire bring. It certainly had an impact on his young mind at the time. For my next trip report, I’m hoping to bring you some snow, as I suggested in one of my previous posts. It will be a much needed contrast to my dry, hot recounts I think! That’s the plan anyway. You may have noticed I am a little unpredictable. 🙂
Drought surveys his barren realm;
Its ever widening walls,
Leafless trees, his watchtowers,
Dry creek beds, his palace halls.
The land and all its life
Tremble before dust and heat,
Most submit, but some defy him;
His kingdom is not yet complete.
A scheme of terrible cruelty,
Is forming in his mind.
The crows echo his laughter,
To them the master is kind.
As distant clouds march closer,
Impatiently he waits,
And as they cross his border,
He feeds them malice, feeds them hate.
One bolt smites its target,
An old and crippled tree.
And as spark turns to fire,
Drought looks on with glee.
Flames tear down defiant gums;
Through dry grass they make haste.
Brown and green turn to black;
The land is laid to waste.
Drought surveys his blighted realm;
But finds no more to do.
There is nothing left to torment,
None living to subdue.
As drought vacates his throne,
In search of more to destroy,
He leaves behind what is now,
Just another broken toy.