Mount Wudjub-Guyun (Hollow Mountain) – Gariwerd

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  Parts of Hollow Mountain now lie in a special protection zone to reduce environmental damage  and  protect rock art and other artifacts of the Traditional Owners of Gariwerd. I was unaware of these changes at the time of publication. Please refer to the Grampians National Park site or read this Rock Climbing PDF which shows the new restrictions. 

I didn’t die.  That’s what I remember most. My first walk at Gariwerd (Grampians) National Park in 2018 rates as one of my most adrenaline-pumping experiences, and also gave me flashbacks to my father’s unconventional behaviour training methods.

After my relaxing Ballarat farm-sit, it was time to crank up the adventure dial.  Kevin, author of  Goin’ Feral One Day at a Time, kindly sacrificed his Saturday to give me my first introduction to Gariwerd.

I first met Kevin and his lovely partner, Sam, at Binna Burra in Lamington National Park, where we walked the lush green, waterfall-filled Coomera Circuit in winter. At 19 kilometres, it was a long hike, but with well-shaded rainforest and switchbacks,  it was far from strenuous.

The Mount Wudjub-Guyun (Hollow Mountain) walk at Gariwerd (also known as the Grampians) was  much shorter, but  is rocky, exposed and steep. We also deviated from the standard route to “add an extra twist.”  It was to be this twist that made it particularly memorable.

To make our day even more interesting, we walked it in Kooyang. What’s Kooyang? Well, after living in this land for thousands of years, Aboriginal people developed a set of seasons much more meaningful and essential to their survival than the European four season calendar.

As Aaron Clarke, Interpretation Ranger at Gariwerd says on a video shared on the Brambuk website:

“Aboriginal people don’t live in this environment for 40 000 years and not know how to judge what’s going to happen. When you live in this environment you become a part of it.”

The Brambuk Cultural Centre website  states that the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung people of Gariwerd have six seasons which “relate to climatic features as well as referencing environmental events such as plant flowering, fruiting and animal behavioural patterns” and that “by understanding the six seasons, you can begin to understand Gariwerd and its people.”

The season of Kooyang  runs from around late January to late March but will vary depending on the observed behaviours of plants and animals and the landscape. It’s a period when Gariwerd is at its most parched – when it is hottest and the streams dry up. It is when the risk of bushfire, “Piikorda,” is high.

Kooyang is probably the worst time of year to visit Northern Gariwerd if you are heat intolerant, sun sensitive, and like me, want to spot wildlife. The exposed rock slabs make it baking hot. I was only in Victoria for a couple more days though, and keen to get a glimpse of this iconic piece of wilderness. Some glimpses would be much more daunting than others.

Being a sun-worshipping, hiking machine, Kevin wasn’t discouraged by these minor details. I think the most difficult aspect of the day for him was driving for 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours back after the walk, and I must thank him for going to so much effort to share Gariwerd with me.

In the few days leading up to the Hollow Mountain walk, I began experiencing dizzy spells.  I wondered at the time if it was an asthmatic response to the rye grass in Victoria, but on deeper reflection it was probably exacerbated by  anxiety about what was to come. I’d already seen pictures of Kevin’s “Hollow Mountain with a twist” walk with his work mate, James.

Rock scrambling can mean very different things to different people. I shudder when I read in hiking guides that some rock scrambling is involved. My brain, knees, hips, wrists, ankles, in fact, my whole body, rebels against the idea. Some rock scrambling on this walk looked suspiciously like pure rock wall climbing, at least for someone like me who has very short legs, child-size hands, and a poor sense of balance.  However, Kevin assured me the pictures made the angles look more extreme than it really was and he could help me out if I hit trouble.

I also found myself in the unusual position of someone having very high expectations of me. After our previous walks, Kevin seemed confident of my ability to do this walk – certainly more confident than I was. Being of a certain age, I grew up in a time when expectations were lower for women than men. I’d often been told I was soft or fragile looking and found myself constantly having to prove myself. Perhaps partly because of this, I also grew up to be an independent (or should that be proud or stubborn) person who liked to be able to do things by herself without constantly needing to ask for help. It’s often said that pride comes before a fall. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case at Hollow Mountain where a literal fall could be quite messy.

Blue skies greeted us as we  finally headed off to Gariwerd National Park.  My photos certainly don’t do the real colours of the distant peaks justice.

The addition of a dusty dirt road always adds to the feeling of adventure.

I have  vague memories of babbling away about all sorts of mundane topics as I do when I am nervous. Occasionally, Kevin managed to squeeze in a few words to point out aspects of the scenery.

Eventually, we pulled into the carpark where the presence of toilets was a relief to my anxiety-fueled bladder. At first glance the terrain didn’t look particularly daunting.

The hike began with a well-maintained path and gentle steps. I started to relax. Maybe I could actually do this.

Then the scenery started to change a little too dramatically. Don’t get me wrong. I love rocks. I just don’t like falling off them or onto them.

The sandstone rock formations of Gariwerd were formed by layers of sedimentation, massive compression, folding and upheaval, and some areas also include intrusions of molten lava.

For a geological story of Gariwerd you can check out this link.

It wasn’t long before my blood was pumping and I began to feel dizzy again.  I wouldn’t say I am afraid of heights in general. I will happily walk along a cliff path and stand at the edge of steep mountain lookouts, but in this case I kept thinking of “the twist” that was to come. Sometimes it is better not to have already seen pictures.

We stopped for a quick snack and a drink to try to quell my dizziness and then continued on to a spot where we had to choose to continue on with the standard easy tourist walk, or take a detour inside and up out on top of the mountain to the beginning of the Hollow Mountain – Mt Stapleton Traverse, regarded by many as one of the best walks in Victoria. By now you’ll know we chose the latter.

Instead of following the painted arrows to the right of the cliff line, which would take us to the top of what National Parks call Hollow Mountain, we headed into a cave that leads to the top of the rock slab.

It is this rock slab that hiking writer, Tyrone Thomas, calls Hollow Mountain. As Kevin wrote in his recount of our walk, Mount Wudjub-Guyan or Hollow Mountain isn’t really an actual mountain, it’s  an incredibly rocky and rugged spur that runs off nearby Mt Stapleton.

Now this is where I had a chance to celebrate my small size. While my 6 foot 3 guide had to squeeze his frame through a narrow crevice in what feels like very claustrophic conditions, I used what Kevin dubbed my “patented rolling technique.”

I must admit I showed off this little skill. It’s not often my small size is of benefit in a hiking situation. You’ve got to flaunt it while you can, I say. Relish those rare short person appreciation moments. They don’t come often in a world built for giant, or just average height people.

My fancy feelings of superiority were short-lived though as a few minutes later I needed Kevin to give me a hand up a rock.

We spent  time appreciating the colours and patterns of the sandstone inside the cave, as well as enjoying a respite  from the heat.

Distant views framed by the cave demanded attention also.

Next we stepped along a rock bridge…

And crawled up and out onto a narrow slanted rock ledge overlooking a chasm.

To go further we were faced with a climb up a rock wall.

At this point I’m adding a few pictures of Kevin and his mate, James, from their previous walk  to show you the angles.

I was too nervous to know what I was doing with my camera. It’s a long, long way down.

Now  this is where I started to unravel.

“I can’t do this, Kevin.”

“Yes you can, Jane.”

I’d like to say that the conversation was as brief and as simple as that, but it’s quite possible the language used was way more colourful than this and lasted much longer. I need to retain my PG rating though, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.  This was definitely not a convenient time to remember my strong tendency to fall or wobble towards empty space.

During our discussion, I asked Kevin how many people he’d brought up there – many, apparently. So if I couldn’t do it, I would feel a real failure.

While Kevin was reassuring me that no-one had died on a walk with him yet, somewhere in my dim memory I recalled Kevin’s story about his partner, Sam, falling head first down a glacier in New Zealand, but I decided to let that pass. Sam is still very much alive and it’s not in my nature to be that cheeky, especially when someone has just driven four hours to get me to a walk.

I’d like to say I scaled that wall like Spiderman. I really wish I could regale you with tales of my awesome ballerina grace, of my dexterity, of my amazing athleticism.

That could only ever be a fantasy though. I was able to scale the rock wall, but only with great difficulty. Fortunately, Kevin had gone up first and grabbed my hand to help me up the last bit.

Here I am after what was really just a tiny  rock wall climb, but may as well have been Federation Peak to me. Look at that smile.  As usual, appearances are deceptive. I was still trembling,  especially when I remembered I would have to climb back down again. My face would have been deathly white were it not for my skin being  fried in the heat.

While researching this walk I came to a description on Don and Alissa’s hiking blog The Long Way’s Better that made me feel less alone in my fear about this section. On the very same rock wall,  Alissa’s feet slipped off leaving her in the very precarious position of holding on with just her hands, while her legs dangled down the slope.

While I was appreciating the view (translation: trying to get my heart rate below 200) Kevin did a bit of exploring.

We had been considering going further on this detour but the day was heating up and after my initial rock wall experience, I wasn’t keen. For some strange reason, Kevin did not disagree. We decided to head back down and continue on with the standard tourist walk. Here are a few pictures of what you can do if you continue on to the Mt Stapleton Ampitheatre.

Before we could rejoin the tourist walk, there was the small matter of climbing back down that rock wall. I admit I’d been seriously considering just sleeping up there rather than face that descent. I had water, chocolate, and a backpack to put my head on. What more did I need to survive up there? I could possibly get other hikers to bring me more supplies. Maybe it could be my new home? It was  certainly “a room with a view.”

Apparently there was a small problem with this clever plan. Kevin had to go home and he was not going to leave without me.

The hiking aficionado descended first. This was so he could  direct me where to place my hands and feet. Now this would have been an excellent idea if I was any good at listening to verbal instructions. I’m not. I’m spacially challenged. My brain just starts humming. Left becomes right and right becomes left. Up is down and down is up.  With Kevin down below on the ledge though, at least he would be able to stop me tumbling all the way down the mountain – unless I just dragged him down  as well to be splattered over the ancient sandstone.

There was no choice but to give it a go. I started well and finished badly. Losing my footing and hand placing, I began to slide down the rock wall. Now this is where it gets slightly embarrassing as well as a little painful. I have very sensitive skin and allergies to elastine, latex, and certain synthetics. It’s made worse when I am hot and sweaty. For this reason on walks I replace the usual torturous undergarments that women use to stop their wobbly bits from jiggling, with a firm fitting cotton singlet. Sliding down the hard rock on my chest pushed my hiking shirt and singlet up towards my neck.

To stop me from sliding further down into the chasm below,  Kevin had to support the biggest part of me (my ample derriere) with one hand (luckily he has ENORMOUS hands.) As I slid down closer to him, he tried  to pull the back of my shirt down to stop my torso being naked to the group of onlookers who were doing the standard tourist walk across the chasm.

I didn’t realise we had an audience until I was safely on my feet on the narrow ledge again. I waved nonchalantly to the crowd to pretend my screaming was due to ecstacy rather than terror. Now if you read Kevin’s account, he has very kindly omitted the details of this section.  Given  I lost my reputation amongst the serious hiking fraternity years ago  with my many and varied  faux pas, I figured I might as well give my readers a chuckle.

I hadn’t died.  Terror turned to elation.  The adrenaline rush gave me such a high I considered doing it again one day.  No, not really. But I have come to a greater understanding of one of the reasons people like to rock climb – the thrill of escaping death. It gave me a buzz that lasted for hours.  I really don’t remember much of the walk after that.

Poor Kevin was doing a very professional job telling me about the geography and history of the area, pointing out various landmarks in the distance, but I wasn’t  taking much in. I was just completely focused on the fact that I was still alive.

I managed to still take a few shots though of the many interesting rock patterns and distant views. Don’t ask me what they are of.

There’s even a shot Kevin took of me seemingly engrossed in some small plants. I have no recollection of it.

Now just to prove how much of a blur the rest of the walk was, after we got back to the carpark, Kevin took me on another very short walk to view some Aboriginal rock art, but I had completely forgotten this until I looked at my album. Ordinarily, this would have been a highlight, something extremely memorable for me.

Gulgurn Manja,  meaning ‘hands of young people’, is a rockshelter containing paintings of emu tracks, bars, and handprints, many of which were done by children.   The Jardwadjali  used the local finegrained sandstone to make stone tools and you can see the marks where stone has been broken from the walls  in this shelter.

Rock paintings at Gulgurn Manja are of a unique local art style and were used to tell stories and pass on the law of the people. For more information about rock art shelters at Gariwerd, you can read this pdf from the Brambuk site.

Even though there were moments of sheer terror that day, I really wasn’t in as much danger as I felt. Kevin was always there to assist me. I’m predominantly a solo walker and certainly not used to doing walks that require physical help. I’m not used to trusting or relying on others to save my life on a hike.   I just saw that wall and thought how impossible it looked to do on my own.  That was my mindset.

It was only while writing about this walk and looking at the photographs again that I realised another reason why the  view from the ledge across the deep chasm  felt so frightening. The incident triggered a flashback from a similar scene in my early childhood.

My father was a maverick, even when it came to parenting. I don’t think you’ll find his methods in any standard parenting manual. Both my parents were extraordinary people. It made my childhood rather thrilling and set the bar incredibly high for any movies I watch. It is a rare film indeed that leaves me on the edge of my seat as much as my childhood did.

Father had an unconventional way of stopping arguments and obtaining silence on car trips. It was unorthodox but effective. So effective in fact, that he only needed to employ it once.

When I was around 8 years old, I was on a car journey with my parents and my twin brothers who were  3 years old. We were travelling along a highway. My parents were arguing. At some point, my father suddenly swung off the road onto an old section of highway and headed for a bridge. Unfortunately, it was a bridge that no longer existed. He could see it was missing. We could all see it was missing. The old white valiant station wagon had no seat belts. We kids were able to get up on the seat and view what was ahead through the windscreen.

I remember hearing screaming but I don’t know if it was my own, my brothers’, my mother’s, or just silent screaming inside my own head. As we hurtled downhill towards the looming gap, only my father had the power to stop the car. At the last moment, he braked and pulled  up right on the edge. He laughed. We remained silent for the rest of the trip. As I said, he was a maverick, but his techniques worked.

I  don’t have a general fear of heights and I didn’t think this childhood incident had affected me much, but my experience at Gariwerd proved otherwise. Standing on that rock ledge looking across a wide, deep chasm at Hollow Mountain triggered physical responses that were difficult to conquer.  It was not something my walking guide could possibly be aware of.  I had told Kevin that I was hoping for some adventure, for a challenge, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

At Hollow Mountain I learnt, among other things, just how difficult it is for me to place my life in someone else’s hands. However, some situations  necessitate trusting others enough to help you through. You can’t and shouldn’t have to do everything alone.

I didn’t die and that is what I remember most.

62 thoughts on “Mount Wudjub-Guyun (Hollow Mountain) – Gariwerd

    • I’m glad I lived too, Susan. Thank you kindly for your enthusiastic encouragement. It’s always such a pleasure to read your comments. Whenever I do a walk, I try to include a picture of one of our tall native trees as I know you are fond of them, however, on this occasion, I couldn’t see any! It’s a harsh location, especially in the kooyang season. Best wishes. 🙂

  1. A heart- and mindgripping adventure, which – I think – makes every reader want to go there (for myself with a very strong and helpful guide, too) … giga great adventure and action pictures, too (I am running out of apt superlatives soon).

    • You are too kind with your superlatives, but thank you very much. I think you would have handled this walk MUCH better than me, Marina! You are so fit and athletic! I was thinking how much I would have appreciated having a physique like yours on that day. Best wishes. 🙂

  2. Jane, that was terrifying. Heights, small spaces. They’re not for me. You must be so proud of yourself. I can understand why it took you more than a year to write this story. You must have thighs like steel to climb up those rocks. 🙂
    Maverick is not a term I would use to describe your father. Nor mine for that matter.

    • Hi Tracy! Well, I have to agree with you on a few points. It WAS terrifying in parts. I could feel the adrenaline rush for hours. It had been years since I’d experienced such sensations. I had tried to write about this walk on numerous occasions but was unsure what to include. I finally decided to be completely honest about how challenging it was and why. I wish I did have thighs of steel, but sadly they are more like jelly, especially of late as I haven’t done much walking in a while. Yes, Maverick is not the best label for my father’s actions. I am prone to a little dark humour on occasion. I suspect it is a coping mechanism. I’m so sorry that your father was also challenging. It can certainly make life a struggle and have repercussions for the future. All my best. 🙂

        • Thanks, Tracy. 🙂 I thought I had replied to your second comment but reading through my list, I hadn’t. My brain lets me down quite often these days. With regards to you being more adventurous, if your father was similar to mine, I can understand if you’ve avoided some risks in your life. I grew to be hypervigilant because of fear, and tended to make plans to cover all eventualities. I often sought safety/refuge/escape/comfort in books, nature and pets. Risk-taking was daunting. I wanted to live life a little more freely though instead of feeling like I was always holding my breath, waiting for something to go wrong. The trouble is I think it can be very difficult sometimes when you’ve had to be careful for so long, to know which risks to take. Sometimes I have spontaneosly chosen the wrong risks because I compared myself to others and felt pathetic. Choose the risks which are most appropriate to your own situation and congratulate yourself for any attempts you make. Follow your own intuition. Most of all, I hope you just have a whole lot of fun. You deserve it. x

  3. When I read your blog, Jane, I’m mostly captivated by the pictures: the nature, the birds, the awesome unfamiliarity of the antepodean biology.

    Not today, though.

    I mean, the views were amazing, the cave passage incredible and the rock paintings reminded me of Lascaux but… the words were something else. I loved the passage on the six Aboriginal seasons but, more importantly, your lessons. Well done madame!

    • Ah Fabrizio, I am touched by your comment about my words, in particular about the lessons learned. This blog post has been sitting on my shoulder for a long time weighing me down a little. I find it difficult to gloss over challenging aspects and write a completely “sparkly” walking commentary, but it’s always a risk to expose my vulnerablities to the world. This is why I am so pleased that you appreciated what I shared. Sometimes it is only by trying to articulate to others how we feel that we end up understanding ourselves better. Had I not tried to reflect on this walk to share it with readers, I may not have reached a point where I discovered the lessons I needed to learn. Thank you. 🙂

  4. You’re funny, as ever: “I didn’t die and that is what I remember most.” It’s safe to say that had you died, you wouldn’t have remembered the hike.

    With those orange-brown rock formations, I’d’ve been in abstract photo heaven. It seems you were too busy defying death to take your usual quota of rock photographs. Apropos of that, the picture below your words “We spent time appreciating the colours and patterns of the sandstone inside the cave” appears to show what geologists call tafoni:

    That’s quite a flower in the last photograph, and a happy pictorial ending.

    • I’m glad you appreciate what is often called an odd or dark sense of humour, Steve! Thank you. Sometimes, even my loved ones are not sure if I am joking or not. 🙂 You might be pleased to read that despite being distracted by my survival goals at the time, the sandstone formations did make me think of you and your many beautiful and interesting abstract photographs. You would have been in your element, indeed! Thank you for sharing the link about Tafoni. I am sure my readers will appreciate it as well. I’m afraid that my photographic skills left a lot to be desired on that day, not only because of my anxiety and euphoria, but because I neglected to bring my polariser and other lenses. The glare of the light reflected from the rocks really washed out most of my photos and my non-DSLR just couldn’t cope well with the dark cave and contrast. I would love to return in the cooler months and just meander around, noticing all the little details I missed. Perhaps, one day. I chose the bloom at the end to represent life so I am pleased you commented on it. Thanks, Steve. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Nic. I’d built up so much anxiety about that tiny section of the walk after looking at Kevin’s photos of his trip with a work mate. In reality, I wasn’t in as much danger as I felt. I’ve never been much good at trusting that someone has my back. I was an eldest child and used to doing things for myself and not counting on others. I learnt a lot more about myself from this experience. Hollow Mountain is a very special place. Unfortunately, I hadn’t researched it as much as I should have leading up to the walk. I didn’t have Internet at the Farmsit. Reading the Brambuk website was very enlightening. Best wishes. 🙂

      • You post looked very well researched to me. Sometimes finding out more about the place after you’ve been there is quite rewarding and inspires you to return! Thanks again for the lovely pics!

        • Yes, that’s so true. So often I end up returning to a place after researching it for a blog post. I realise there are so many things I should have looked for or appreciated. For years I thought that “scar trees” were just natural tree damage. Finding out that they looked like that because Indigenous people had used the bark to make canoes made me see them in a new light and I actively searched for these trees on my walks. I usually learn much more about a walk when I have to write about it in a blog post so I have to thank my readers for this deeper understanding. 🙂

  5. You did a great deal better than I would have done. The cave would have finished me off long before I got to the steep bit. But I would have been more than happy to spend a lot of time just looking at those rocks and not climbing them, They are beautiful.

    • Thanks very much, Tom. I probably would have been happy to just sit in the cave for hours. Those patterns and colours were fascinating and it was much cooler out of the burning sun. If I get the chance to visit the region again I will be spending more time appreciating the rocks from a position of safety. Like you, I don’t need to climb a rock to appreciate its beauty. I was extremely grateful to Kevin for taking me out there though. My tiny car could never have managed the road and he had plenty of walking experience. I was hoping for some adventure. I just didn’t anticipate exactly how much adventure this walk would provide! Heheh. Placing myself in danger did help me understand aspects of personality more. I don’t think I need to repeat the lesson any time soon though. I’ve seen all the challenging weather you’ve been experiencing in the UK (as well as the challenging politics.) I hope things improve for you. I’ve got a few feathered refugees from bushfires here. I’ve got some birdfeeders again and I can’t tell you how uplifting it is for me to watch them visit each morning and evening. They are chestnut breasted mannikins – beautiful creatures. I can see why your birdfeeders give you so much joy. It’s a real bright spot in my day to watch their antics. All the best. 🙂

      • Our bird feeders are down at the moment but I am looking forward to putting them up again as the weather gets colder.

        I am so afraid of heights that it severely limits my ability to enjoy many scenic views that I would like to see. It has got worse with age too which is disappointing. I thought that I might lose a little as the years went by. Still, I try to compensate by looking around as much as I can at low levels.

        • That’s a shame about your fear of heights, Tom. You’ve got some spectacular mountain scenery in Scotland. As you say, it must feel disappointing. I’m lucky I can still stand at lookouts, but I am finding that I am getting worse with hiking up steeper areas. Even if I don’t mentally feel nervous, my body just starts reacting strangely (ie. shaking, jelly legs and ears ringing.) My surviving brother was more affected by the bridge incident than me, probably because he was much younger. He is very much a thrill seeker when it comes to mountain bike riding, kayaking, and motorbike riding, but he gets physically ill standing at the edge of a drop, finds it difficult to stand on high bridges, and cannot even bear to see me walking on a cliff path. While on this walk, I was actually thinking about how upset my brother might feel if he was with me. I found myself thinking how devastated he would feel if I did fall which probably didn’t help my anxiety! It will be lovely when your feeders up are again in winter. 🙂

    • Heel erg bedankt, Mary Lou. Het is zeker een prachtig landschap. De kleuren en patronen van de rotsen kunnen me urenlang bezig houden. Ik begrijp wel waarom je de wandeling niet zou willen doen. Het is op sommige plaatsen behoorlijk eng! Beste wensen. 🙂

      Thank you very much, Mary Lou. It certainly is a stunning landscape. The colours and patterns of the rocks could keep me entertained for hours. I can understand why you would not want to do the walk though. It’s quite scary in places! Best wishes. 🙂

  6. Wow, your posts are always inspiring, the photos are amazing, the colours. You certainly did better than I would have done, what a great walk.

    • Thanks very much, Sharon. It was certainly a memorable introduction to Gariwerd (the Grampians) and I must thank Kevin for making it happen. I would never have been able to get out there on my own. I’d like to get back again to explore the park in cooler months. The wildflowers at Gariwerd are supposed to be spectacular at the moment. I’d hoped to get down there in October but too much is happening right now. I’ve got a pile of books to get through though so that will keep me happy. 🙂

  7. What totally amazing adventure Jane! Your wonderful honest story telling is priceless, and such encouraging for those less intrepid. I love the way you draw on your past and how your talent as an author shines through your lines. Thanks again for another interesting journey. I have been wanting to take my wife to the Grampians for a while, we’ll get there one day. I heard recently that Binna Burra was burnt to the ground in the recent rainforest bushfires, what a loss! Have a wonderful weekend my friend!

    • Thanks very much, Ashley. Gariwerd is a wonderful spot. I’d recommend you go in October when the flowers are out and you might be lucky enough to get some sunny days. From what I’ve been told, the rocks are extremely slippery in wet conditions. The spectacular flowers should attract nectar and insect eating birds. I’d hoped to make it back down this October, but it hasn’t worked out. Maybe next year. Yes, sadly, Binna Burra lodge and surrounding areas of rainforest have been burnt. An extremely dry year and unprecedented hot, windy conditions contributed to a shocking start to the bushfire season. I can’t bear thinking about all the fragile species affected by the fires. There are sentimental reasons for me being sad about the lodge burning down as well. The area has had very welcome rain the last couple of days though. I’m hoping it has extinguished the remaining blazes at Binna Burra. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too. 🙂

  8. Hey Jane, great post 😉 I’m glad you didn’t die too! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful day with me, these are the days ‘ll be remembering when I’m sitting on the porch in my rocking chair in my old(er) age, with knees and ankles shot from walking! You are being a little modest on the post I think, you did it pretty easy….you even had time to teach me a whole new vocabulary, although one that I can’t use on my wholesome blog;) Take care up there in heat. Cheers Kevin

    • Hi Kevin! Thank you for giving up your Saturday and spending so many hours driving to show me around Hollow Mountain. Thanks also for stopping me falling to oblivion. I do apologise for the colourful language and the enthusiastic “discussion” surrounding that rock wall. Hahah. Sheesh, I didn’t think I could teach you any new words! I must have been channelling the shearing teams out west. 😉 After a couple of days over 40C this week, the temperature has cooled right down. I was even wearing a tracksuit and slippers this morning. We also had about an inch of rain in the last 24 hours. I loved listening to the rain falling on my galvanized iron roof last night. The birds were going nuts in my yard this morning. At the rate my body is falling apart, I think I’ll be in my rocking chair long before you, Kevin. 🙂

  9. Your photos and words throughout this post, and your whole blog really, showcase Australia at its stunning best! You should be a tourism ambassador for Australia!

    • Thanks, Anna! You made me smile. 🙂 You are far too kind. I’m actually looking for paid work so wouldn’t knock back offers of promotional jobs! Money is a bit tight right now. It would be great to have enough spare cash to visit WA, SA, NT and Tassie, where I’ve never been. I’d hoped to make a driving trip to SA and WA this spring but it just didn’t pan out. WA wildflowers would be awesome to see right now. Perhaps next year. I hope you are doing well at your end. Thanks again for your enthusiastic comments. All the best. 🙂

      • Oh the driving trip would have been awesome! Hopefully you can do it one day! If you ever get to Perth let me know, I could take you out for a few day hikes on the Bibbulmun track! Good luck with the job hunt too…. Times are tough for many these days. 😞

        • Yes, I had big plans this year for a road trip to WA in spring. I have an old uni friend who has kindly invited me to stay whenever I like and it would have been great to catch up and enjoy the sights. If I manage to get there next year I will certainly get in touch. I’d love to meet up with you and check out the Bibbulman Track! You could feature in a blog post. That would be fun! I’ve not done any walks with women hiking bloggers yet. I reckon we could have some interesting conversations! 🙂

  10. Oh my word, Jane, I was so glad to reach the end of your post, as I think that was the first time I could actually breathe normally again. Hats off to you! Especially as you knew in advance that it would be a challenging hike. I love walking. Or easy hiking. Yet, I’ve managed to get myself to commit to hikes that left me as scared as you were on this one. At least I didn’t know in advance what I was letting myself into, otherwise I don’t think I would have done them. (The latest was one just outside of Kuala Lumpur that was described as a ‘walk’, but involved an almost sheer rock climb to get to the top – at least there were ropes dangling down that helped a bit, and like you, I had an excellent guide.) That said, I can completely relate to that incredible buzz one feels at having done something challenging and being able to tell the story. Wow! Well done.

    • Thanks very much, Jolandi. I’m pleased I am in good company when it comes to preferring walking/hiking to rock climbing. It’s one of the reasons I mostly walk alone. Many people hike for the challenge aspect, whereas I mainly walk for the pleasure of just being out in nature and spotting wildlife. Others can get quite bored and frustrated with me or I end up going faster than I’d like just to keep them happy. I should probably call myself a daydreaming ambler rather than a hiker. Heheh. My adult kids are good company on walks but they are very busy these days and it’s hard to match our timetables. Wow, that “walk” at Kuala Lumpur sounds terrifying! Well done for surviving it! Yeah, I really do think I had managed to work myself up into an anxious state because I had already seen photos of the rock wall. Sometimes it’s best not to know what’s ahead. That buzz is incredible though. I just don’t think it’s enough to motivate me to repeat it. However, if someone tells me there is a rare bird or fungi on a dangerous walk, I am quite easily persuaded! I will be sharing a blog post soon about a walk I did alone at night in a very dodgy city reserve. It turned out to be about as terrifying as the Gariwerd rock wall, but for very different reasons. Why did I take the risk? I was trying to spot a powerful owl family… 😉

      • I can’t wait for the story of that night time walk. Alone!! You amaze me, Jane. And obviously I am hooked as I would love to know if you spotted the owl family. I love owls.

        I like how you call yourself a daydreaming ambler. That sounds much more like me, as people in group hikes often walk far too quickly to my liking. And it is not that I cannot keep up, but I find my pleasure in enjoying my environment and noticing small details, instead of rushing ahead talking my head of. Quiet, meditative walks are far more my thing.

    • Thanks very much, Barrie. It’s a spectacular setting, but very hot and dry in summer. It would be interesting to see what it’s like in the wetter months. I would love to see the spring flowers in Gariwerd. I hoped to do a big trip south this year through SA and WA, but unfortunately things just didn’t work out. Maybe next year. I hope you are keeping well in Canberra and managing to get out and about in nature. Hopefully, you’ve not succumbed to the flu. It’s been a bad year for it and I’m still coughing. I miss my walking. Kind wishes. 🙂

      • Hi Jane
        Many thanks for your reply. Sorry to hear you are still coughing and haen’t been able to walk as much. This year, thankfully, I have stayed very well. Last year was not good thought : I didn’t get flu but I had an awful cough which last for about 5 weeks..
        I am still getting out and about and enjoying the bush. Like you I don’t appreciate the heat and dryness of some areas, although I loved the Flinders Ranges, especially the northern area around Arrakoola. However, I was there in the spring when the wildflowers were fantastic. . Like you too I also love having the time to amble: to be able to look and see and appreciate and photograph. Having heard so much about the wildflowers and scenic beauty of the Bibbulmun at this time of the year I long to walk it , (as well as the Larapinta) , but I need to have the right walking companion – someone who appreciates what I do.
        Take care, and get over that cough soon!
        Kind regards
        Barrie .

        • Thanks, Barrie. I am pleased that you’ve had a good year, health-wise. Yes, many people have told me that I must visit the Flinders Ranges one day. My old uni friend has actually mountain-biked and walked much of the Bibbulman Track. I’ve seen some nice albums of it. I hope to make it over there one day. All the best. 🙂

  11. What an amazing post, Jane! I can imagine how difficult it must have been to write it, as the hike was such an emotional and scary experience. I can’t climb rocks either, having short fat legs and not being able to support my weight with my hands/arms. I’ve never been able to support my weight, even when young. All those embarrassing episodes in the gym at school being asked to climb a rope and failing abysmally!
    The colours of the rocks, the fascinating rock formations and the Aboriginal rock art are all wonderful!
    Take care this summer,
    Best wishes, Clare xx

    • Thanks very much, Clare. It’s always so lovely to hear from you. 🙂 Gariwerd has amazing rock formations and colours. The wildflowers are spectacular too so I really hope to get there one day to see them and share them with you, Clare. Yes, it was a little difficult to get that blog post done and I abandoned it on many occasions, but in the end I think it was good to finally share it, and the time lapse gave me a chance to process it. I’ve always been able to do lots of sit-ups (100s in a row) but never push-ups or chin-ups as my wrists are too weak and tend to dislocate (from a form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). I wonder if you might possibly have an undiagnosed type of EDS as your history sounds identical to mine with regards to not being able to support your weight with your hands/arms. I hated gym for that very reason. EDS causes my joints to be unstable so I may have seemed flexible when young, but it caused joint damage and early stiffness (very flat feet and problems with my fingers are examples.) The average time it takes to get diagnosed is about 20 years and many people go undiagnosed. There are about 12 variations and within each type symptoms can be mild to severe. Often people are misdiagnosed with other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It gets worse as a woman ages and her hormone levels affect the integrity of collagen in the body. I hope you don’t have it though! Your history just made me want to mention it just in case. All three of my chidren have it with varying severity. I didn’t know I had it when I conceived them. Once again, thanks for your lovely comments and best wishes. I hope you have a wonderful lead up to Christmas without any more extreme weather conditions that have hit your area this year. All my best. xx

      • Thank you, Jane. The information about EDS is very interesting indeed. I am so sorry you and your children suffer from it. I will have to do some research and ask some questions, I think. I was always fairly supple when I was young, I was virtually double jointed in my knees, and so it was a surprise and a disappointment when I was diagnosed with RA.
        Our drought has come to an end, thank goodness but the amount of rain we are having is causing flash floods in many areas. I wish you well this coming summer and if I don’t ‘see’ you before Christmas, may you have a happy one!
        With love, xx

        • Ah, “doubled-jointed” knees…me too! I used to sit in weird ways, with my knees on the floor touching each other and my lower legs and feet sticking straight out to the sides, perpendicular to my thighs. People would ask me how I could possibly sit like that. Sadly, my knees were the first to suffer because I sat like this too much and overstretched the ligaments. My patella moves too freely. For some years my diagnosis was RA (there is a history in my family and it’s possible I still do have it) but it’s only been since my daughter (who is more severe) had a painful lower back incident while at a med school lecture this year, that I’ve known for sure about the EDS. Luckily, she was surrounded by very aware doctors and was diagnosed within 24 hours! Unfortunately, many doctors do not know much about it even though it is not rare. Even if you don’t get a diagnosis for EDS, if you google physiotherapy videos about the subject, they show great little objects (ie. finger ring splints) and ways to strap hands, wrists, knees and ankles to give more stability, reduce pain, and slow down damage. Wearing supportive shoes is key. Anyway, Clare, take very good care of yourself. Much love to you, too. x

            • Me too. Hmmm…makes you wonder, hey? The advice my kids have been given is not to do contact sports and not to do any activity that “allows” you to overextend the joints. It’s the easy partial or full dislocation of the “double-jointedness” that damages the weak ligaments of someone with EDS (poor quality collagen.) I also have softer, stretchier skin. I only just found out that out of all my mum’s siblings, she was the only one who was “double-jointed” and used to sit like that too. Hopefully, in the future, people will be diagnosed at a younger age and can be given the support necessary to decrease the potential for injury. Check out the vids if you can, just in case. x

  12. Your photographs of the rocks were amazing! All those deep rust colors against the sky are so striking. I particularly liked the framing they gave when looking out of the cave.

    Jane, I was feeling your fear on climbing up that rock and back down again. I had a boyfriend years ago who was quite accomplished at climbing. He laughed at me because I was afraid to walk down as he had. I’m glad you have a better class of hiking buddies! And, your description of coming down that rock face was not unlike my coming down a very large elm tree as a girl of 7. 😀 I watched my cat get up and then come down by sliding with her claws extended to slow herself… PROBLEM! I don’t have claws! (What was I thinking?) I had the same experience with my top as you, and the bark was quite irritating as I hugged that big trunk on the way down. I hope at least, that you were not scratched?

    It is always a good experience when at the end you can say “I didn’t die.” And given enough time after, when you can talk about it without becoming jittery all over again, and by then it can even be fun to recount the story. Well, speaking for myself at any rate. 😉

    Looking forward to your next adventure!

    • Thanks very much, Lynda! The first picture of the rust-coloured rocky outcrop against the blue sky reminded me of rusty old metal in a junk yard. The contrasting colours really appealed to me, so I’m pleased you enjoyed them too. I’d love to get back there again one day and spend more time enjoying these aspects. Thanks for sharing your “climbing” stories, Lynda. What a rude/cheeky boyfriend! 🙂 I’ve had some people laugh at my crawling down a slope or sliding down on my backside attempts (rather than walk down.) I know it must have been painful for you to slide down that bark, but I had to laugh at the way you described the realisation that unlike the cat, you had no claws! Hahah. The rock did leave bruises and a little bit of grazing on my chest, but luckily I think my copious amounts of sweat gave some lubrication! My daughter grazed a huge section of her leg on very rough tree bark years ago. It’s very painful as all the nerve endings fire up. I had to coat the graze in water-based solugel as a barrier to the air, so I can imagine you were very sore from your tree sliding incident! Yes, given enough time, many of these incidents become something we can laugh about and remember with some degree of fondness. They can make good stories, anyway. Sometimes the things that go wrong give us much more entertainment to recall later. Thanks again, Lynda. Best wishes! 🙂

    • Thanks, Bob! I stumbled upon your Grampians post while looking for more info and pictures about the area. The spot you shared was much wetter! Heheh. I hope to get back there one day. 🙂

  13. Yikes! I know only too well that heart-pounding feeling from looking out over a humongous vertical cliff. It’s hard to pin down exactly when I developed a fear of heights, but I know for a fact it’s not easy to overcome.

    I admire your grit as well as the pictures you managed to capture despite the frightening experience.

    • Thanks very much, Gunta! It was certainly an anxiety inducing situation and I wouldn’t do it again, not only because of the danger but because I have recently discovered that the the caves are now part of a special protection exclusion zone, designed to reduce environmental damage that may be done to the rocks and also to protect artifacts of the Traditional Owners of Gariwerd. I’m just as happy appreciating such a spot from ground level anyway. Rock climbing is not my thing really. I don’t think I have much grit…I’m just a bit foolhardy sometimes! Haha. So great to hear from you again. All my best. 🙂

  14. I am so glad you lived, Jane! You certainly have the best storytelling resulting from your adventures. And you know my favorite part of this particular hike… knowing my weird sense of humor! ha ha. If you had not survived this and Tough Cookie somehow got on your blog to let us know of your fate, I’m sure none of us would be surprised. You go places and take risks most of us are too chicken to partake in!! Bravo to you! Here in Oklahoma you’d be considered “Bad Ass”!

    Kevin was definitely a good sport to talk you through the difficult moments. It’s good to have competent friends who help us through the tough times.

    • Haha…yes, I definitely know which moment probably made you laugh the most. Those few moments were hilarious really even though it was also scary and painful! I had to laugh about it myself. I had no idea we had an audience. My hot, sunburnt face went even redder! I actually have given Tough Cookie my password for the blog so if I do die on one of my ridiculous escapades she can share some pics of my broken, bloody body. I’m not certain she was that impressed by my suggestion though… 😉 Actually, I am much more injury prone at home – with knives in particular. Also, falling over non-existent objects. I seem to survive my walks better than my kitchen. Thanks for making me smile, Lori. I think you’re the first person to suggest I am a bad ass. That really tickles my fancy, considering how much teasing I get for being the opposite sometimes! I will wear that label with pride. 😉

    • Hi there! Thanks for following my blog and commenting. I’m pleased you enjoyed my take on Hollow Mountain. Life is pretty crazy right now but when I get some time I’ll have a look at your blog too. Best wishes! 🙂

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