Monadnocks & Mt Cooke loop (Bibbulman Track)

A long day walk along the Darling Ranges section of the Bibbulman Track, the route combines Mount Cuthbert and Mount Vincent (Sullivans Rock to Monadnocks) as well as Mount Cooke, the highest point of the Darling Scarp. It avoids backtracking by utilising the Bibbulman Track and surrounding 4WD roads.

I’ve got one day to go hiking at the end of a Perth work trip. After extensive research (a couple of Google searches), the winner of the “best walk near Perth” was “Sullivan Rock to Monadnocks” – a section of the Bibbulman Track. At least according to The Life of Py, which one of my Perth colleagues suggested I consult for ideas. Problem is, about the same distance in the other direction on the Bibbulman Track is Mt Cooke, a higher peak and also a recommended walk. I can’t decide. So the obvious solution is to do both… I’m also keen to do a sampler of the Bibbulman Track, the second longest hiking trail in Australia.

I set off from Perth early and don’t have too many problems finding the start of the track. As well as a big red sign marking the start of the track, I’ll be seeing many of the “Bibbulman snakes” on the track. I later learn it’s the Waugyl (or Waugal), the Rainbow Serpent from the Aboriginal Dreamtime. I’m thinking only in Australia do you follow a trail marked by a venomous snake 🙂

The short access track head crosses Sullivans Rock, a huge rock “dome” with regular cairns to mark the path over it.

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It’s only 700m before I reach the Bibbulman Track: the track is well-marked, although there’s no information on distances or destinations. I turn right, towards Mt Cooke.

By the side of the track are the rusted remains of a car and many blackened trees – a visual reminder of the January 2003 bushfire. Sparked by lightning, the fire burnt over 18,000 hectares and destroyed the Mt Cooke campsite.

It’s easy walking with the Bibbulman Track so far consisting of a wide firetrail; it’s supposed to be closed to all traffic, although I pass three 4WDs (which look like they might have permission to access the track to support a school group). It means that the hike so far doesn’t really feel like a wilderness experience.

Just after the 7km mark, at the foot of Mt Cooke, is the campsite and hut. Incinerated in the 2003 hire, only the water tank survived. The re-built facilities are pretty impressive, with a separate area for large groups and the hut below for smaller groups.

From the campsite the track starts to climb towards the summit of Mt Cooke, with some nice views to the east.

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The 582m summit is the highest point in the Darling Scarp – but there’s not much of a view from the actual summit. Maybe there is a better view if you manage to clamber on top of the large rock that’s on top of the summit – but I’m not up to the challenge of scaling the boulder gaining an extra three metres of height!

The views get better as you head south down the summit ridge.

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About 800m on from the summit there’s a collection of large boulders, and sweeping views to the west. It’s a nice spot for a break.

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The track continues for about 1.5km along the top of Mt Cooke, with views mostly to the west.

Shortly before the track drops steeply down the south side of Mt Cooke, there’s a very low but wide cave (the “Mt Cooke Cave”). On the far side of the cave is a logbook (the “Cave Book”) where you can leave a message, or check who else has discovered the cave,

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The steep track down the rocky southern slope of Mt Cooke is easy to follow, with regular cairns and Waugyls.

Near the bottom of the steepest part of the slope is the only time I lose the track; rather than backtracking I bush-bash across the hill until I find the trail again. There’s not a lot of undergrowth, so in hindsight I could have saved a few kilometres by cutting across the bottom of Mt Cooke, rather than sticking to the firetrails! The bushwalking trail soon joins Powerline Road, a rather uninspiring but short section of Bibbulman Track that follows a set of high-voltage powerlines. At the point where the Bibbulman Track heads left from Powerline Road back into the forest, I take the right-hand fork onto Cooke Road. I’m heading back around the base of Mt Cooke using public 4WD roads. I’m expecting it to be quicker than the Bibbulman Track, but a bit dreary. I was pleasantly surprised that it was very pleasant walking, with some of the roads closer to walking tracks.

Eventually I reach the starting point – the access track over Sullivans Rock – and now continue my walk to the north. I’m taking Herold Road up to Monadnocks campsite, and then returning via the Bibbulman Track over Mount Cuthbert and Mount Vincent. Hopefully I can get a nice sunset from one of these peaks. The 4WD road is again not unpleasant walking, and from time to time I can see the two low peaks I’m about to climb to the east.

Herold Road meets the Bibbulman Track just before the Monadnock campground (Monadnocks are “isolated hills of bedrock standing conspicuously above the general level of the surrounding area” – so I guess Mount Cuthbert and Mount Vincent must be monadnocks. I’d never heard of this term before…) It’s nice to be off the 4WD track and back onto a narrow walking trail, which initially descends through light forest. After a couple of kilometres the trail starts to ascend Mount Cuthbert, the first of the two monadnocks.

There’s some nice views again to the east  – not spectacular, but I think at least as good as the slightly higher Mt Cooke.

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The track crosses the top of the rocky peak, before descending Mount Cuthbert and ascending Mount Vincent (it’s only about 100m descent/ascent, so not particularly strenuous). I even spot an echidna just of the track, but it’s very shy and won’t uncurl itself for a photo!

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Arriving at the summit of Mount Vincent, the second monadnock (I’m getting the hang of this word, now) it looks like I might get a nice sunset. I’m about half an hour too early, so I find a sheltered spot just below the “true” summit and watch the sun slowly dropping behind the clouds.

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It’s a nice sunset and a nice end to my first Bibbulman hike. Once the sun dips below the last layer of clouds, I continue on my journey. It’s a few hunded metres from my vantage point to the Mount Vincent summit, and just under three kilometres back to the car.

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I’ve enjoyed the walk: if I had to choose between Mt Cooke and the Mount Cuthbert + Vincent section, I’d probably recommend the latter. The only slight disappointment was that long sections of the Bibbulman Track (mainly on the Mt Cooke) are wide maintenance trails, and as both sections follow the Albany Highway fairly closely (you never hear traffic but you can see the road from the peaks) it doesn’t feel at all like a wilerness experience.

 0.0km Start at Bibbulman Track (Sullivans Rock) trackhead
 0.7km Junction with Bibbulman Track
 7.2km Mt Cooke campsite
10.1km Mt Cooke summit
14.1km Junction with Powerline Road
14.9km Junction with Cooke Road (turn right; Bibbulman track goes left)
12.8km Junction with Forest Ridge track (turn right)
21.0km Cooke Road junction with Bibbulman Track
26.1km Junction with Sullivans Rock access track
32.0km Herold Road meets Bibbulman Track (300m to Monadnocks camp)
35.3km Mount Cuthbert summit
37.3km Mount Vincent summit
39.7km Junction with Sullivans Rock access track
40.5km Bibbulman Track (Sullivans Rock) trackhead
Location Start/finish at Bubbulman trackhead on the south side of Albany Hwy, 9.5km past the junction with Jarrahdale Rd
Distance 40km loop (8-9 hours)
Grade Moderate/Hard (due to length). Total ascent 1,230m.
Season/s Avoid summer months.
Maps 2133-2S Yaganing South (1:25K)
2133-2N Yaganing North (1:25K)
2133-3N Jarrahdale North (1:25L)
Also Bibbulmun Track map (Map 1 – the Darling Range)
Interactive topographical map with GPX download
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – view route and export to GPX format.
Track / Map Notes Map-Bibbulman-MtCooke-Circuit
Resources

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