Emory Peak (Big Bend)

A long day walk that ascends Emory Peak in Big Bend National Park, and continues to the South Rim, Southeast Rim and Northeast Rim. Spectacular views for most of the route!

Today’s my second and last day at Big Bend, and I’m up early for a big hike… The plan is to hike up to Emory Peak and the South Rim via the Pinnacles Trail, then do a circuit of the South Rim via the Southeast and Northeast Rim Trails, before returning to The Basin on the Laguna Meadows Trail. A long hike, but one described as “one of the most impressive in the park”, so I’m looking forward to the day.

The Basin to Emory Peak junction (Pinnacles Trail) – 5.2km / 3.2 miles (465m ascent)

After the drive from Terlingua Ranch Lodge, I set-out from The Basin car park around 7:30am, with the well-marked trail immediately climbing up towards the mountains.

It’s a steady, but not steep, climb up to Juniper Flat, a nice grassy plain where the first marked camping sites are located. The trail follows the base of a low mountain range that forms part of the eastern Chisos mountains.

From time to time there are views out to the east over Juniper Canyon, although much of the trail is through forest.


It’s a surprisingly varied environment. There are sections of thick and deeply shaded forest, including what I think is Graves Oak (Chisos Red Oak), which display a deep red foliage in autumn (fall). Moments later, cactus plants are a reminder we are in the Texan desert!

There’s more fantastic views as the trail climbs.


After a final steep section of switch-backs, the trail reaches a saddle between Toll Mountain and Emory Peak. There’s a lots of shade here, as well as toilets and large bear-proof containers for anyone leaving a backpack for the trail up to Emory Peak.

Emory Peak (and back) – 4.9km / 3 miles (330m ascent)

The trail quickly leaves the forest, as it follows the ridge towards Emory Peak, and with a very gentle incline.

It’s very pleasant hiking, with views of Boot Rock and across to Toll Mountain.


As the trail gets closer to the peak – directly ahead are the two rocky peaks – it gets more exposed. To the north you can see The Basin, our starting point, in the distance. It’s rather obvious from here how it gets its name!

There’s a last, steep section to get to the summit. Or rather, the base of the summit. As Emory Peak consists of two rocky columns. Both can be climbed with some scrambling: the right, or northern, column (below left) is slightly higher. Both have almost vertical cliffs on all sides, so while it’s not a difficult climb you don’t want to suffer vertigo or have a fear of heights for this last bit.

The views from either peak are outstanding, with a 360-degree outlook over Big Bend National Park, and beyond. Looking north is The Basin and the Chisos mountains.


To the south is the Rio Grande, and Mexico.


The panoramic views are stunning, and it takes some effort to clamber back down the rock, to return back down to the South Rim Trail.

It’s easy walking back down to the saddle, with the hardest part of the hike behind me. (It’s all downhill from here! Well, almost…)


Boot Spring Trail – 2.9km / 1.8 miles (80m ascent)

From the junction with the Emory Peak Trail, the Pinnacles Trail becomes the Boot Canyon Trail. It descends very gradually towards Boot Canyon, with “the boot” visible in the distance.

An interesting rock formation that can be seen from quite a distance away, it gets it’s name because it looks like an up-turned cowboy boot…


As the track nears a spring in Boot Canyon, a couple of deer graze by the track (the only wildlife I’ve seen so far).

Not too much further along and there’s a very basic and somewhat dilapidated shelter by the track, which I later learn is used as a shelter by rangers and maintenance staff performing repairs to the radio tower on Emory Peak. There’s a short track down to the spring, which is the only spring in the high Chisos mountains. I’ve read it is not reliable, but today there’s a decent flow of water. It’s a very sheltered and cool spot in a small valley, and would make a nice rest spot on a hot day.

Not much further on and fed by the spring is a small pond. The bottom looked a little slimy and I’m not sure that swimming in such natural ponds is encouraged, but would have been deep enough to cool of on a hotter day.


What was striking on this section of the trail was the Bigtooth Maple trees, their bright red leaves contrasting with the greenery of the firs and other evergreen trees.


The trail soon leaves the shaded valley as it climbs up Boot Canyon, reaching the junction with the Northeast Rim Trail about half-way up.

Northeast and Southeast Rim Trails – 3.9km / 2.4 miles (140m ascent)

Although the track is still well marked, as I turn-off onto the Northeast Rim Trail it’s a bit more overgrown and seems to be a lot less travelled. (I’ve seen a few people on the trails so far, but not one person on this section.) The trail traverses grassy plans and light forest as it climbs up to the rim.

As the track starts to follow the rim, there are views far out to the north-east, over Juniper Canyon and to Crown Mountain and beyond.


The views are just stunning as the trail follows the edge of the rim, with desert and mountains as far as the eye can see! (I’ve read the views are far less clear toward Mexico due to power stations causing pollution – but I’ve nothing to compare to.)


There are a number of rock platforms providing a spectacular vantage point over the Big Bend National Park.


As the track starts swinging around to the south, there are views over the Chisos Formation to the Elephant Tusk and Dominguez Mountain (with the Rio Grande beyond).


The trail continues to swing around to the south-east as it follows the steep cliff line, with the Sierra Quemada (which translates to “the Burned Mountains” in Spanish) range to the south.


There are more eye-watering views all the way along the trail, and as it slow-going with constant photo stops…

As the trail continues along the south rim, there are panoramic views to the south, towards the southern part of Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande. To the right are the jagged Punta de la Sierra (a southern escarpment of the Chisos Mountains) and Dominguez Mountain, and just to the left Backbone Ridge and Elephant Tusk. Further to the left is the smaller Chillicotal Mountain.


Somehow, the views seem to keep getting better and better… I wonder how I coped many years ago, before digital cameras allowed the luxury of taking so many photos!


The trail continues to follow the rim, to the junction with the Boot Canyon Trail. This is where I would have met the South Rim, if I hadn’t take the longer Northeast and Southeast Rim trails. Which I’m very glad I did, as the scenery has been stunning! If I had more time (and had brought my camping gear), one of the designated tent sites around the South Rim would be an amazing place to catch the sunrise and sunset. Next time!

South Rim Trail – 3.5km / 2.1miles (100m descent)

The trail names are a bit confusing – I think I’ now on the Southwest Rim trail, although it’s also referred to as the South Rim Trail. Now that I’ve rejoined the slightly and more popular circuit, I encounter a few people on the trail. The views are still out to the south, over Backbone Ridge, Elephant Tusk and Chillicotal Mountain.


As the trail nears its most southern point, you can see the South Rim Formation, where I’ve come from, stretching back to the north-east. Directly ahead is the Sierra Quemada and Punta de la Sierra, and to the right the Mule Ear Peaks.

As the trail starts bearing north, the outlook is to the south-west and takes in the Mule Ear Peaks (although it looks like a single peak) and Kit Mountain.


A broad rock platform on the edge of the cliff provides a last view to the south and south-east.

The trail then now starts to head away from the south rim, and begins a gradual descent along Boot Canyon – on the opposite side of the valley to the Boot Canyon Trail.

Laguna Meadow Trail – 7.4km / 4.6 miles (490m descent)

From the junction with the Colima Trail, it’s all downhill… and a bit of an anti-climax after the South Rim! After a last view at the Sierra Quemada to the south, the trail winds around the back of Emory Peak.

As the trail descends further, The Basin comes into view – overshadowed by the Casa Grande Peak to the right and the Pulliam Bluff behind.


The trail isn’t steep, but feels like it goes forever as it descends in a northerly direction to The Basin, with a few switch-backs from time to time. It’s fairy exposed, but fortunately it’s not a hot day. This bit wouldn’t be much fun at the height of summer.


Eventually, I reach the junction with the Basin Loop Trail, with Emory Peak now in the distance. Almost home!


A last section, before the junction with the Pinnacles Trail, to complete the circuit!

From here, it’s a short distance back to the car. It’s been a long but spectacular walk. And I’ve still got a few hours of daylight left to squeeze in one more walk, and to find somewhere to watch the sun set.

Location  The Basin parking area (Visitor Centre)
Distance 31km (19 miles) circuit inc Emory Peak
Grade Moderate. 1100m total ascent on a very well-built trail.
Season/s All year round.
Maps The Basin and Emory Peak topographical maps.
Or “Big Bend” Trails Illustrated topographical map.
GPS route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Hiking Big Bend National Park (Laurence Parent), p.27,31,34
Map showing route of Emory Peak via North and South Rim Trails. Source: Hiking Big Bend National Park book

Lost Mine Trail (Big Bend NP)

A steep walk up to a ridge, rewarded by stunning views over the Chisos Mountains and out toward Mexico.

The last hike of my first day at Big Bend, with a couple of hours of daylight left. I’d seen mixed reviews of this trail, with some comments that it’s “over-rated”, and others suggesting it was one of the best walks in the park. Either way, it’s one of the most popular trails in the park: by setting out at 5pm, apart from a few people on their way back, I had the trail pretty much to myself.

There’s a big sign at the start warning of wild bears and mountain, which is comforting when walking on your own, just before dusk 🙂 The well-made track starts climbing immediately through light juniper, oak and pinyon pine forest, and there’s no views for the first kilometre or so.

Shortly after the first kilometre (0.7 miles) of steady uphill walking, you start getting views to the south over Juniper Canyon and towards Mexico.


The track is now quite exposed; being very late afternoon means it’s still a comfortable temperature. But I wouldn’t like to be doing this section at midday in summer! After 1.5km (just under a mile) there’s a saddle, from where there’s great views south towards Mexico, as well the ridge above the track and Lost Mine Peak to the north of the trail.

After the saddle, the track gets more steep with multiple switchbacks. The quality of the track, built from 1940-42 by the Civilian Conservation Corps can be seen here with examples of some serious stonework.

Between some of the switchbacks, there’s a great view to the west to the Chisos Basin Campground, and to The Window at the end of the Chisos Basin.


I spot a Mexican Jay (formerly known as grey-breasted jay), which feeds largely on acorns and pine nuts and lives in montane pine-oak forest (in Mexico and parts of Arizona and Texas).


Finally, the last exposed ridge is reached after 3.5km (just over two miles) – which is also the highest point of the trail. However, the best views are at the end of this 400m ridge.

From the end of the trail, there are spectacular views in most directions – to the south-east is Pine Canyon and the Sierra Del Carmen, in Mexico.


To the south-west is the east rim of the Chisos mountains.


I’ve got the summit to myself for over an hour, as I wait for the sun to set. It’s cold on the exposed ridge due to the wind, but tucked down in the rocks it’s the perfect temperature. I only wish I’d thought to bring some wine or a whiskey with me: it would have been the perfect end to the day (although, I still have the descent ahead of me!).


As the sun dips behind the Casa Grande peak, it’s time to head back to the car.

The descent is much quicker than the ascent, despite the fading light (for the last mile I need to use my head torch). I’m at the Chisos Mountain Lodge by 8:30pm, in time for dinner. It’s been a magnificent walk, and I’m glad I ignored the advice that suggested avoiding this trail. I’m also very happy that I went late in the day, and avoided the crowds – in summary, I’d definitely put this trail at the very top of the Big Bend “must do” list. But go very early in the morning or late in the day, and avoid the crowds. I can imagine that following a queue of people up through a series of switchbacks in the midday sun would put you off this walk.

Location Trail near Panther Pass, just before reaching the Basin
Distance 7.8km (4.8 miles) return
Grade Easy. 350m ascent on a very well-built trail.
Season/s All year round. Is one of the busiest trails.
Maps The Basin topographical map.
Also “Big Bend” Trails Illustrated topographical map.
GPS route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Hiking Big Bend National Park (Laurence Parent), p.56

Olive Trail in Naukluft Mountains (Namibia)

A challenging circular walk that starts with sweeping views from a high ridge before following a riverbed down through a narrow gorge back to the start.

Finally, my first “real” walk in Namibia, in the Namib-Naukluft Park. The park was originally created as a sanctuary for the Hartmann’s mountain zebra in 1968 and expanded over the following decades. It’s now 49,768 square kilometres in size, making it the largest conservation area in Namibia and one of the largest in Africa. The section I’m walking in is the Naukluft Mountains, which a mountainous region with large, varied rock formations that supports five different vegetation communities.

Unfortunately, with all the other activities we’re doing, I only have one afternoon free to tackle a walk in the area. The shortest walk is the Olive Trail, a 10km circuit. It’s a 126km drive on dirt roads from Kulala Desert Lodge, where we’re staying, to the start of the walk. Leaving a little after midday, it takes almost two hours to get to the Naukluft park office – longer than I had anticipated (the roads aren’t great!). Paying my fee at the office, I was given a rather sceptical look at my late starting time for the walk, as I start out around 2:30pm up the well-marked track.


Starting near the Kudusrus Campsite, the trail is named after the wild olive trees that populate the area. The trail starts immediately to climb up the slope – it’s a constant but gradual ascent, and fairly easy walking despite it still being fairly warm.


The views also get better as I gain altitude, looking back down the trail to the valley below and the mountain range beyond.



After about 2km, the trail leaves the edge of the escarpment and continues to climb, a little less steeply, along a dry riverbed towards the top of the ridge.

Finally, after 2.4km (and a modest ascent of 320m) I reach the plateau. From here there are some great views again down onto the other side of the ridge. Below me is the valley that I’ll follow back to the car, and I can see the trail winding down the other side of the valley to the creek bed.

It’s easy walking for the next kilometre or so, along the top of the ridge, and then down into the valley. The track gets rocky and uneven as it descends, but it always well marked by white arrows or markings on the rocks.

Having reached the valley, I follow the dry riverbed “downstream”. Its fairly rocky underfoot but not difficult walking, and the valley is still fairly wide.

The vegetation changes along the valley floor, with plants such as the quiver tree growing out of the rocks. Named the national plant of Namibia, the quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma) is a member of a group of succulent plants known as ‘Aloes’ that grows to tree-like proportions.


The valley starts to get narrower, and the cliffs taller and more dramatic as I continue down the riverbed.


As it narrows, the valley becomes more canyon-like, with towering cliffs on both sides. The ground is increasingly uneven underfoot and there are bigger rocks to navigate: my speed is slower that anticipated and I have a nasty fall in my attempt to maintain a quick pace back to the car.

I push on as quickly as I can: I’m attempting to appreciate the beauty of the valley/gorge, while conscious that I’m supposed to get back to the camp before dinner…  What’s not really helping is that the valley, now feeling more like a canyon, has massive boulders blocking the entire width of the narrow gorge. Careful clambering is required to get past these obstacles.

Finally, I reach a section that’s less than two metres wide, with a vertical drop of a few metres and sheer cliffs on both sides. I have a brief moment of panic, as I try and work out if I should give up and return the way I’ve come from.


I then realise there is a chain attached to the left-hand side… I’ve reached the section described as:  “A ‘slight difficulty’ but nonetheless highlight of the trail, is at the end of the gorge where you have to use a ‘chain’ bridge to cross rock ledges”. Trusting this rather slim chain, which seems to take my weight, I slowly make my way across the section, arriving at the other end with some relief. (My bruised toe and sore ribs from my earlier fall is not helping!)

It’s a spectacular sight in the late afternoon light, as I make my way through the last, narrow section of the gorge before it opens again.


Shortly after this narrow section, there are a few more pools with water. There are many butterflies around, but I don’t see any another animals – with more time, this would be a good spot to wait and look for some of the larger animals that inhabit the Naukluft area.

I then manage to take a wrong turn, following a wide track that continues straight ahead. I soon realise my error and turn back – the Olive Trail veers south-west down a different valley. (There are arrows confirming the way, but this spot – about 7.1km from the start – is a bit confusing as it intersects with another, unmarked, 4WD track that seems the obvious choice. But it would have taken me a long, long way in the wrong direction!)

Once I’m on the correct route, the last section (about 2.5km) is quick and easy walking. I make good time back to the car, finishing in exactly 2.5 hours.


With the sun getting low in the sky, I’ve now got a two hour drive back to Kulala Desert Camp for dinner. It’s been worth the long drive though – a fantastic walk with a huge variety of terrain, vegetation and scenery.

Location Namib Naukluft Park, 3km from park office. Google Maps ref.
Distance 9.7km circuit (some notes state it as being 11km)
Grade Moderate/hard (some uneven and steep sections with chains)
Season/s All year round
Maps Basic map from park station
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.


Damaraland desert hiking (Namibia)

A couple of short, evening hikes to some of the Damaraland peaks around Camp Kipwe, with stunning views over the desert landscape.

Camp Kipwe Circuit

We arrive at Camp Kipwe, in the Damaraland area of Namibia, at around 3pm. The rest of the family is keen to have a swim and enjoy a quiet afternoon, so I take advantage of my “free afternoon” to explore the area on foot. I’d found some information on-line that states: “This region is ideal for walking and guests are encouraged to explore the area surrounding Camp Kipwe”. So I set-off in the direction of the nearest small hill. It looks a reasonable height, but in reality is less than 50m – and it seems to be a pretty straightforward “climb”.

The top is quickly reached, and even the relatively low elevation gain provides 360-degrees over the Damaraland desert. The vegetation is very sparse, with the dry landscape broken up by a number of rocky outcrops and mountains.


To the south, the Aba-Huab River is marked by the denser and greener vegetation; while the riverbed is dry and water rarely flows down the watercourse, the deep roots of the trees are able to reach the underground water table.


Sending up the drone yields an even better view of the arid landscape, with the taller mountains to the north-west, and the long line of trees to the east marking the path of the dry Aba-Huab River.

From here, it seems logical to head down the other side of my mini-mountain, and complete a small circuit around our camp up and over the next three outcrops.


The next mini-peak is directly opposite Camp Kipwe, and you can see from here how the huts are nestled into the boulders.

From the end of this outcrop I’m right at the edge of the Aba-Huab valley.


Ahead of me is the last mini-peak of my circuit…


This one proves the trickiest to climb, although it too is only about 30m high, consisting of larger boulder than the previous outcrops. It takes a few attempts to find a viable route to the top!

There’s another great view from the top over the Damaraland desert: looking east there’s Camp Kipwe down below (the smallest outcrop in the middle) with some of the higher peaks beyond.


Descending on the other side proves a bit quicker. I make a slight detour to have a closer look at a tree that stands out by it’s whiteness against the red landscape. I learn later from one of the guides that it’s a Star Chestnut Tree, which grows mostly on rocky outcrops and hill slopes. The trunk is smooth and appears very white due to a powdery white substance (bloom) that rubs off – this white bloom only occurs on trees growing in the arid western parts of Namibia.

From here it’s quick walk around the Camp Kipwe outcrop, and back to the camp in time for sundowners. I don’t know it (yet), but in the distance is a larger mountain that’s the target of tomorrow’s evening walk…


Mountain Climb with Stanley

During sundowners, at the top of Camp Kipwe which overlooks the desert with peaks all around us, I ask one of the staff “have you climbed any of the peaks?”. To my surprise, Stanley points very definitively at one of the higher mountains and replies “I’ve always wanted to climb that one”. “How about tomorrow”, I suggest, half-jokingly… and his immediate response is: “I’ll be ready at 6pm”.


The following day, after our afternoon drive, I grab a water bottle and head-torch, and we set-off. Although the very top looks attainable, our plan is to reach the top of the odd-shaped boulders at the front of the mountain.


We look for a way up to the left of the “funny boulders” – there are some steep sections initially, but the going is not too difficult. There’s another Star Chestnut Tree on the steep slope, standing out starkly against the red desert.


As we get closer to the boulders, we pick a path around the back of the boulders – they are enormous, and the only way up is to find a way through the gaps!

Finally we find a suitable rock ledge at the front of the outcrop, with 180 degrees over the desert below us, as we wait for the sun set to set. (Unfortunately, poor planning on my part means we don’t have a Gin & Tonic in the backpack!).

An aerial photos shows where we are, at the top of the first few boulders. Well below the mountain peak, but with more time it looks feasible to reach the top of the mountain. Next time!


To the east the desert and rock outcrops continue well into the distance. The Aba-Huab valley is clearly visible, marked by the ribbon of trees through the desert.


To the west, the sun is setting over an equally vast stretch of desert.


It’s not a bad spot to end the day… Once the sun has set, we head back down, finding an easier path down the western side of the mountain. There’s a few large bounds between boulders, and we make the bottom of the mountain by nightfall.

From here, it’s a short walk back to the camp. Thanks Stanley 🙂


Location Around Camp Kipwe, in Damaraland (western Namibia)
Distance Camp Kipwe circuit – 3.6km (70m total ascent)
Mountain climb – 4km (130m ascent)
Grade Easy/moderate (rock scrambling; minimal exposure)
Season/s All year round
Maps None available
GPS Route Camp Kipwe circuit and mountain climb Routie GPS trails.
View route and export to KML format.


Gunung Angsi

A relatively short (but steep) hike through the jungle to the third highest peak in Negeri Sembilan state, about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Another trip to catch-up with the team in Malaysia, means the opportunity for another mountain hike… A work colleague suggested Gunung Angsi, which could be done in a morning and is not too far from KL. I’ve booked my trusty local guide, Eddie Yap, who took me to Bukit Kutu on my last Malaysia trip as and as well as Medang Falls with my local marketing team before that.

It’s about an hour from my hotel in KL to Seremban, about 60km to the south, and then another 20min drive to the start of one of the trails to the peak. We are taking the Bukit Putus route up, which is the shorter and more direct route, starting at an altitude of 285m. The trail from the large parking area is impossible to miss – it’s not the most picturesque starting point, with what seems to be a very new trail cut into the side of the hill. (Older blog posts show a more solid set of concrete steps marking the start of the walk, rather than the makeshift steps shown below.)

The trail immediately climbs steeply up the hill (or mountain!), with ropes helping on some of the more vertical sections. The track is well marked, with both regular small arrows as well as a series of numbers in preparation for an event in a couple of days time.

It’s a fairly relentless, steady climb through typical Malaysian jungle – lots of exposed roots – until a fairly flat section is reached after about 2km. At the end of this section is a rest area, where we chat briefly to the only other hikers we’ve seen on the trail. This area seems to have been cleaned up, as I’ve seen photos where there are a heap of multi-coloured chairs, cooking utensils and other junk left here.


From here it’s uphill again, with the first views over the area from “Waterfall View”. Being a fairly overcast, the view wasn’t great – but better than nothing!


Another half an hour or so and the summit is reached: it’s taken exactly 1:30min to climb the 540m up to the 824m/825m summit. (The height is described as both 824m and 825m.) I’m not sure why at 825m Angsi is a mountain (gunung), while Kutu at 1,053m is a hill (bukit)?

There’s a covered shelter on the large, open summit area and very little rubbish lying around.  Despite the poor weather, there are some views over the surrounding wooded hills towards the east, and almost below us to the west are some glimpses  through the trees of the outskirts of Seremban.

After a brief stop on the summit, where the elevation and slight breeze is a relief from the humidity of the jungle, we continue our journey down the other side of the summit. After passing by an old, abandoned trig marker we enjoy the last views over from the mountain before we re-enter the jungle.

The descent we are taking is the longer Ulu Bendul trail. It’s narrower and seems less trafficked than the Bukit Putus route we took up (although other trip reports suggest this longer route is more popular) – and descends even more steeply. In a number of places there are sections of rope in place to help descend the slippery track.

After about 20min, there’s a fun section of the track that feels like a combination of obstacle course, abseil and bouldering! We enter a narrow section of track, following a deep channel caused by water carving a channel through the jungle landcsape.


Then we follow the top of the large “sand boulders”.


Finally, a steep section that involves carefully reversing down an 8m wall of red rock to the bottom of the boulder section! There’s a couple of routes down (or up), both with rope to assist the descent (or ascent).

After this section, the trail continues fairly steeply down the mountain for another 20min (1.5km).

About 3km from the summit, we cross a small stream, which marks the end of the steep descent! From here the trail is fairly flat, although not being used to the Malaysian climate I find the last section the toughest due to the humidity and lack of breeze in the valley.

Soon after the crossing this small stream we can hear the sound of rushing water, as we meet the river (Sungai Batang Terachi) that we’ll now follow back to the Ulu Bendul finish point. Soon after the track joins the river, a short side-track leads to a small set of cascades.



After only another five minutes we cross the river for the first time. Despite having rained the last few days, the river level is low enough that we can cross without getting wet feet. Next to the river crossing is a clear pool with a waterfall – it would be a perfect lunch or swimming spot if we had time!

Just after the crossing is Kem Tangga Batu, a large camping area with a covered hut and a set of concrete steps (as well as a dilapidated and overgrown building that looks like it might have been a toilet in a previous life).

There’s remarkably no rubbish and it looks like a great place to camp by the river… it feels like we must be close to the end of the track! A few minutes on and there’s another steep but short side-track to a set of cascades. A nice photo-stop, but not as nice as the previous spot for a break.


The track descends again as it follows the river, with a couple of steeper sections.

Another half an hour, and we each a small shelter and some plastic pipes that follow the river. It’s now been two hours since we left the summit: it’s taken longer than we expected, although there have been a few photos stops (tip: bring a small tripod to get some great cascade/waterfall shots)!

The narrow track seems to go on forever, as it follows the river. The track is narrow and eroded in sections – I’m not sure how they managed to construct the huts and shelters we saw previously! There are some calm sections of river and I have a quick swim to cool off.


Finally, after passing a small dam, there’s a last river crossing. This time it’s impossible to avoid wet feet, and the crossing might be tricky if the river was higher (but if you’re starting from Ulu Bendul and you’re able to cross, the other river crossings will be fine).

A few minutes later and we’re at the Ulu Bendol Recreational Forest. There’s a ranger station here, and a water slide park. We only see a couple of people here, but it looks like it might be busy on a weekend.

After crossing the picnic ground, there’s a restaurant by the highway. We buy some cold drinks, and while I need to get back to the office the food looks very tempting! It’s taken just under three hours to get down, which is longer than we’d thought. Our car is 3km up the highway at the other trackhead, so one of our group of three hitches a lift to avoid a hot and boring walk up the road – it would be ideal to have to two cars if going up one route and back on the other! Total distance about 12km based on my GPS, although other trip reports suggest it’s 10km.

It’s been a great walk, combining some views from the peak with cascades and river crossings. I’d definitely recommend the Ulu Bendul route, or going up one way and back the other for variety.

Location Starts/ends at either Bukit Putus trackhead (2.7275351,102.0553951) or Ulu Bendul trackhead (2.727418N ,102.0758E) near Seremban, about an hour south of Kuala Lumpur.
Distance 12km open loop (4.6km via Bukit Putus / 7.4km via Ulu Bendul)
Grade Moderate (very steep/slippery in sections with some ropes)
Season/s All year, but best to avoid hiking after/during heavy rain
Map N/A
GPS route Google Maps GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Track notes – Malaysia Traveller / The Star Online


Mt Killiecrankie circuit (Flinders Is)

A partly off-track circuit on Flinders Island to the Mt Killiecrankie summit and back along the rugged coast from The Dock.

Described as “one of the most majestic islands in the Furneaux Group” and “arguably the most majestic mountain and bay combination in Bass Strait”, Mt Killiecrankie (316m) is the highest peak at the northern end of Flinders Island. While significantly less high than Mt Strzelecki, it’s a tougher walk and offers equally impressive views from the top.

There’s a few different approaches to the summit, all of them at least partly off-track… I’m taking what seems to be the “easiest” route to the top. The intended route follows Killiecrankie beach around to the northern end, where there is a 4WD track for part of the ascent.

After walking along the beach for about 2.6km (slightly easier and quicker at low tide), I pick up a signposted 4WD track that starts just above the beach (Quion Road). It’s a private road; my “Walks of Flinders Island” book suggests this as one of the summit approaches, and recommends seeking approval from the manager of the Quion cattle farm (access via this route may change if the development of a $5 million premium tourist resort goes ahead). Being on my own and not sure how to contact the manager, I set-off up the track which climbs steadily up the hill. After about 1.2km, I reach a gate, where I turn left and follow the fence line for a few hundred metres. There’s now a short section of off-tracking walking through fairly thick forest, before I reach another 4WD track.

The next section of (disused) 4WD track continues heading up towards the summit, and offers a bit of shade on a clear and fairly warm April day.  Not long after reaching this upper 4WD trail (at Palana 735917) , there’s the first views over the coast for the first time from a rock platform, and a memorial plaque to Peter Grant Hay and his wife Margaret Maisie. Hay was an Australian brewer, landowner, pastoralist and thoroughbred racehorse breeder who founded the Richmond N.S. Brewing Co. Ltd (now Carlton & United Breweries) and owned land on Flinders Island. Interestingly, there’s no mention of the plaque in my hiking guide or on-line.


Another 200m and there’s a fork in the track; after consulting the map, I take the left-hand option. The rough track continues ascending directly towards the peak, which soon becomes visible directly ahead.

While the summit is clearly visible in the distance, there’s no obvious track to the summit from the 4WD track which continues around the base of the mountain. I find a very narrow and indistinct foot track through fairly thick scrub (Palana 737925 or 39°48’51.4″S 147°51’40.4″E) which seems the best option. This trail winds through the scrub, before emerging at a large, exposed rock platform.  In front of me are views of the coast, and behind me looms the large rock outcrop of the summit,

The notes in my guide book, while fairly accurate for the initial part of the walk, seem to bear little resemblance to the tracks I’ve found as I near the summit. I’m at the southern end of Mt Killiecrankie, which is the steeper ascent, and I can’t find any track that allows an easier approach from the northern end. While parts of the ascent appear a little daunting (in terms of height and exposure), the alternate requires navigating through some pretty thick scrub to the northern end of the granite outcrop. I manage to find a route up the last 50m of rock face, finally reaching the Killiecrankie summit after 6.2km and just over two hours walking.

The views are fantastic in all directions, with an almost cloudless sky. To the south is Killiecrankie Bay, with farmland adjacent and further inland, the Wingaroo Nature Reserve.


To the north is Blyth Point and Palana, and in the far distance the Inner Sister and Outer Sister islands.


After a well-earned break on the top, it’s time to figure out how to get back… I’m reluctant to descend the same way as I came up, being very steep and exposed. Heading down the “back” of Mt Killiecrankie (the northern approach) is much easier. I follow a long series of rock slabs; just before the last boulder is a short drop on the left into a gully. From here my intent was to navigate back to the southern end of the summit outcrop, and re-trace my steps…

…but, with thick scrub all the way up the base of the rock, I follow a faint trail that leads further north. I figure it’s heading downhill, it must go somewhere and it’s a hell of a lot easier than “bush bashing” through dense scrub! The trail is marked by cairns, taking me under large boulders, across exposed rock platforms and traversing some interesting granite formations!

After about half an hour, there’s a sign pointing to “The White Eyed Man” (map reference Palana 738934). It’s a little surreal, being the only sign I’ve encountered on the entire walk, so I make the 80m detour. I’m not quite sure to expect! The White Eyed Man is an imposing rock formation, which does look a little like a pointy-nosed person looking over the coast. There’s no mention of this formation in my guide, or checking later, anywhere on-line.


From here the track is fairly easy to follow through medium-thick scrub, as it gets closer to The Dock Road which I can see below. I’d avoided this route up as the guide book described it as being un-tracked and through thick scrub, so it was a pleasant surprise to find it the easiest route down as it meant I could return to Killiecrankie via a circuitous route!

It takes less than an hour to reach The Dock Road, emerging from the scrub next to a “4WD only” sign (although locals assure me the road is 2WD suitable and it is in good condition). From the road, there is almost no sign of the track – it’s the little gap in the bushes in the picture below right.

From here, it’s a quick 15min down the unsealed road to The Dock, which consists of a number of small sandy beaches set in a kilometre of rocky coastline. It’s a pleasant spot and I have a quick swim before continuing on my way along the coast.


The well-marked track follows the rocky coast fairly closely, with the Mt Killiecrankie mountain range not very far inland.

I’m making fairly good progress until I reach the climbers camping area, which is near the coast (Palana 725936). There’s a path that leads up to the base of the cliffs, where it abruptly stops – the guide book suggests continuing off-track but with the time getting late and the shrub fairly thick, I eventually re-trace my steps to the climbers camping area. Here I quickly find the main track that follows the coast and resume my journey back to Killiecrankie. The going is a bit slower from here, even after I’m back on the correct trail, with the setting sun almost directly ahead and the terrain consisting of rock formations and patches of soft sand.

It’s a relief to reach the granite slabs on the headland below Old Man’s Head, where the walking is a bit easier.


Soon after, with Old Man’s Head jutting into the sky behind me, I meet the only other hikers I’ve seen all day, heading toward The Dock.


It’s a bit slower again for the next section to Stacky’s Bight, with the track heading inland and skirting around some steep sections of shoreline. Stacky’s Bight is a sheltered cove featuring a couple of sea arches, and would make a worthwhile destination for a shorter day-trip.

It’s now almost 5pm, and great light for photography as I navigate the last sections of rocky coastline before reaching Killiecrankie Bay, the rocks almost glowing in the afternoon sun.

I’m back at the (far) end of Killiecrankie Bay with the sun just over the horizon.


There’s just 2km (or so) of easy beach walking before I’m back at the car; in the distance is Mt Killiecrankie. It’s been a tough walk but my favourite Flinders Island walk so far, combining a small mountain peak with some varied coastal walking.


Location Start at Killiecrankie beach car park.
Distance 18km circuit
Grade Hard. 370m total scent
Season/s All year round.
Map TasMap Flinders 1:100K or Palana 1:25K
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Walks of Flinders Island” book by Ken Martin (walks 6, 12, 13 & 18).
Book available in Whitemark or via Amazon


Mt Strzelecki (Flinders Island)

A steep walk to the highest peak on Flinders Island (756m), which is frequently shrouded by cloud.

Mt Strzelecki is another of the three Tasmanian “60 Great Short Walks” that’s located on Flinders Island – and it’s the highest point on the island – so it’s a “must do” hike on our stay. I’m joined by Luke and our “local” (Launceston) friend Linda, who’s staying with us for a few days.

We head out from our house at the opposite end of the island (near West End Beach) around 9am, with the granite peaks of the Strzelecki ranges appearing closer as we turn onto Trousers Point Road almost an hour later.

(The Devonian-age granite peaks are part of a larger series of granite bodies that extend from north-eastern Tasmania to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, and were formed approximately 370 million years ago. Just in case you have an interest in geology!)

The start of the walk is very clearly marked, with the Strzelecki peaks directly ahead of us, as we set off around 10am. It’s a beautiful, clear day, so I’m looking forward to the view from the summit.


The track crosses a small clearing to a walker registration “booth” where’s there a battered log-book, before it enters the low (but dense) forest.

The first “stage” of the track is not steep, but climbs relentlessly up through forest consisting mostly of casuarina trees.

After about a kilometre (and 180m of altitude gain), there’s a glimpse of our destination in the distance, and the first views from the track of Whitemark Beach to the north.

About half an hour further, and the landscape has completely changed to more open eucalypt forest with a few patches of ferns. In this second “stage” (starting at about the 1.8km mark and and 320m altitude), you can see why the rainfall on Flinders Island is highest around the Strzelecki Peaks.


The track starts to get steeper, but rewards our progress with improving views; Mt Chappell Island can be seen off the coast, beyond Trousers Point.

This second stage of our walk is about a kilometre in length and we’ve gained another 300m altitude, as we reach the foot of the granite peak that towers above us. As we follow the base of the Strzelecki Peaks, the “third stage” of our journey is damp and shaded. We’re mostly in Sassafras-musk rainforest, occasionally emerging onto granite outcrops.

While we started our walk in full sun, there’s now swirling mist around us and views to the north are of… cloud. At the 3km mark (700m altitude) there’s a large rock platform and with limited visibility, a few groups end their hike here.


We continue – we’re now only 60m from the summit – although it’s clear (no pun intended) that with the clouds sweeping over the peak we won’t be “rewarded with views of mainland Tasmania” as my guidebook promised!

After the last few hundred metres through thick scrub and then along a broad ridge of granite, we’re on the rocky peak!


The thickest cloud is to the north, and doesn’t look like abating anytime soon… although once we’re back at the the bottom I can’t see any clouds around the peak. I don’t know if we’re just unlucky with timing: the general advice is to go early as the cloud builds over the day. [I go back a few days later, starting at 4am both to avoid the cloud and catch sunrise from the peak – but the cloud is even thicker, to the point it’s raining when I get to the last section – and when I’m back at the bottom it looks clear at the top!]


You could argue that the mist adds to the atmosphere. Maybe. And there are still some nice views, with the Strzelecki Peaks to the south and Fotherington Beach below, with Big Green Island in the distance and East Kangaroo Island barely visible behind it. But definitely can’t see mainland Tasmania in the distance!

We hang around on the summit for about half an hour, before deciding that it’s highly unlikely that the clouds will dissipate anytime soon and we head back down. It’s taken us about 2.5 hours up, with frequent rest breaks, and 1.5 hours to go back down.


Location From Whitemark, travel south (towards Lady Barron) on B85 and turn into C806 (well sign-posted) to Trousers Point. The track to the peaks is marked on the left-hand side of the road.
Distance 6.6km return
Grade Moderate. 755m ascent
Season/s All year round.
Map TasMap Flinders 1:100K or Loccota 1:25K
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Walks of Flinders Island” book by Ken Martin (p.10). Available in Whitemark or via Amazon
Tas Parks “60 Great Short Walks


Mt Dromedary (Gulaga)

The Mt Dromedary walk is a solid half-day hike to the top of an extinct volcano, which  passes by an Aboriginal cultural site.

It’s almost a year since my last trip to the south coast. Last time I hiked with the kids and Grandpa to the top of “Little Dromedary“; this time we tackle Mt Dromedary, or Guluga, a 797m extinct volcano and significant Aboriginal site near the coast at Narooma.


The Mt Dromedary walk starts next to Pam’s Store in Tilba Tilba – the start is well-marked and you can purchase water or snacks from the store. (As I was hiking with my 8-year old son, we made a short detour to the “Tilba Sweet Spot” in Central Tilba for some essential chocolate supplies.) We hit the trail at 10:30am: the first 1.5km or so is along an unsealed road though open farmland. Little Dromedary can be seen clearly from here, looking back along the trail. There’s a gradual ascent, from the start of the walk at 3om above sea level to 150m where you enter Gulaga National Park.

After entering park, the track gets a bit steeper and rougher – but remains a 4WD track that is mostly in shade, with pockets of rain forest. After about 3.5km there’s a good view through the trees towards Wallaga Lake and the coast (photo below): this is the best view you’ll get on the entire walk. Many birds can be seen and heard  – binoculars and/or a telephoto lens would be useful (I had to leave behind my long lens to make space for my son’s chocolate supply…)

After a couple of hours walking we reach the saddle at the 5km mark; there’s a table here, some signage and a toilet. There’s also a short and unmarked path that leads to some spectacular rock formations that have been recognised by Geoscience Australia as one of seven significant rock formations in Australia. This site is also a place of cultural origin for the Yuin people, with the mountain regarded as a symbolic mother-figure providing the basis for the Aboriginal people’s spiritual identity [source: Wikipedia]. All visitors are welcome to climb Mount Gulaga but the Aboriginal elders ask that you stay on the track as some places should not be visited without a Yuin custodian. I’m not sure, having done some research, if this area is deliberately not sign-posted to discourage people visiting?

From the saddle, there should be two options to reach the summit: the Rainforest track, which is longer and follows a ridge up to the summit, and the very steep Summit track. Encouraged by the possibility of chains and danger, my 8-year-old son chooses the Summit track. We find what appears to be the (unmarked) Summit track leading directly up the side of the mountain about 5oom past the saddle. However, the track has no signage or markings and we quickly give up – it looks like the use of this track is being discouraged. We stick to the Rainforest Track, which descends a little (not happy about this!) before the final steep and slightly slippery ascent through rain forest to the summit at 797m.

We’ve taken 3.5 hours, 17 breaks and 47 M&Ms to reach the summit… There’s almost no view from the summit, so we enjoy a short break before a much quicker 1.5 hour descent. All up, we’ve taken just over the recommended five hours.

Location Starts in Central Tilba (about 5 hours south of Sydney)
Distance 14.5km return journey. 750m climb.
Grade Easy.
Season/s All year round
Map Central Tilba 1:25,000 (89253N)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources  Nil


Dragon’s Back

An easy walk on Hong Kong’s main island, offering great views for relatively low effort and very easy access.

‘Dragon’s Back’ refers to a hiking trail along the ridge between Shek O Peak and Wan Cham Shan, with the highest point at 284 metres. It forms part of the 5okm-long Hong Kong trail (Section 8) and has been named “best urban hike in Asia” by TIME magazine in 2004. It’s very quick and easy to get to the trailhead. It was the ideal choice for a half-day hike with a work colleague, before our flights back to Australia in the evening.

After leaving our bags at Hong Kong station, we take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station and then Bus 9 from the bus terminus to the start of the track on Shek O Road. Any concerns about which bus stop to alight from are quickly allayed by the fact the entire (fairly full) double-decker bus consists of Dragon’s Back hikers. This is not a hike to do if you’re seeking solitude.

We set off up the path from the windy and scenic road to Shek O around 11am; the trail rises steadily from the bus-stop and is well-marked. It’s a warm day (I suppose every day in HK is either a warm day or a hot day!), and the shade at the start of the walk is appreciated.

It doesn’t take long for the trail to reach the undulating ridge. We’re now in full sun, sweating profusely and glad we’ve brought a decent amount of water with us. But no umbrellas, which some hikers are carrying! The views start to open up as the trail follows the ridge.

From Shek O peak (284m) which is about a kilometre from the start, the views are magnificent: Shek O village and beach is below us, and in the distance to the east you can see Clear Water Bay Peninsula and islands in the eastern sea (below).


To the west (below) is Stanley Peninsula across the other side of Tai Tam Bay, with Lamma Island in the distance.


The trail now follows the spinal ridge of the Dragon’s Back for about three kilometres, through thick vegetation that’s rarely high enough to provide any shade from the midday sun. There’s a few more vantage points, including Wan Cham Shan peak (265m).

Towards the end of the ridge we get tantalising views of Tai Long Wan village and Big Wave Bay below us at the end of the trail. Contrasting with the greenery of the hills are the dense urban developments on Kowloon in the distance.

Eventually the trail descends from the ridge, and it’s possible to leave the walk after about five kilometres. We continue to Tai Long village, exchanging what was a dirt trail to a paved road (closed to traffic) for the final three or so kilometres. We are in shade again, and it’s easy walking down to the end of Hong Kong Trail Section 8 at Tai Long village. Where we enjoy a well-deserved beer on the beach, discovering the very appropriately-named Dragon’s Back Beer from Hong Kong’s first micro brewery.

Tai Long Beach and village seen from track on the opposite side to Dragons Back trail

A couple of beers later, we are ready for the final stage of our journey… the walk from  Tai Long village to Shek O. There are options to get a bus or taxi for this last bit but, but that’s not for hard-core hikers like us 🙂 Regretting our decision half an hour later as we trudge along Big Wave Bay Road, we arrive at Shek O village at around 3pm for a late lunch, before catching a very full Bus 9 back to Shau Kei Wan MTR station and onto the airport.

Location MTR to Shau Kei Wan station; then Bus 9 to start of walk (20min).
Distance 10.5km with approx 250m ascent. Allow 3-4 hours.
Grade Easy.
Season/s All year round. Avoid hiking after heavy monsoon rains.
Map  HM20C2 1:20,000 Map 15
Resources Hong Kong Trail official Web site
Photos Google Photos album


Fløya (Svolvaer)

A very steep and sometimes slippery trail up to the 590m peak of Fløya – great views from the saddle despite the wet and misty conditions.

My last walk in the Lofoten Islands, before boarding the Hurtigruten (coastal cruise liner) for our trip back south to Bergen.  Fløya is directly to the north of Svolvaer, overshadowing the town and attracting hikers and climbers.

Floya, the peak at the far right, to the north of Svolvaer

It was one of the rare days during our stay in Norway where the weather was pretty miserable. We’d returned our hire car, so my hike started with a 2km walk from the centre of town; it’s overcast but not raining. I reach the church graveyard at the north end of Svolvaer on Blåtindveien after less than half an hour, and quickly find the start of the walk, which is after the last house on Blåtindveien.

The trails ascends fairly rapidly, with some short and steep sections aided by chains, and a bit of boulder-climbing or hopping required. It’s not difficult, but it is a bit slow-going on a wet and slippery track, with the rain having now started.

The trail is always well-marked as it rises through the birch forest, and within half an hour views of Svolvaer start to emerge. I’ve only seen one person so far, making a haste descent as the rain threatens to intensify.

As the route continues above the tree-line, it gets muddier and steeper. The track often traverses broad sections of mud and goes up slippery and steep slabs of rock that require care. There are clear views of Svolværgeita or “The Svolvær Goat” – Lofoten’s most famous mountain formation. Climbers leap 1.5 metres between the two goat “horns” – you can see these at the top-left corner of the photo below.


The weather deteriorates as I climb the last – and steepest – section of the trail to the saddle below the summit (540m). To the left is the Fløya summit (590m), another 50m or so higher. (Somewhere below me and to the left is Djevelporten or “Devil’s gate”, a stone block wedged horizontally between two cliffs, that’s a popular photo stop. I meet a trio of hikers just before the summit who also missed this landmark. I’m not sure if there was another track up the mountain I overlooked, but the poor weather precludes further exploration.)

With the rain getting heavier and the wind picking up, it’s too dangerous to find a safe route up the last, very steep, slabs of rock that are now also very slippery to the true Fløya peak.

Instead I turn right (south-west) and follow the very narrow ridge. It’s about a metre in width with a vertical drop of hundreds of metres on both sides.  A little hair-raising but the views in both directions are impressive. Some short breaks in the rain allow me to take a few more photos – on a clear day it would be an awe-inspiring view!



After waiting on the saddle for about half an hour for the rain to ease, I give up and make my way down the mountain. It’s easier going down than up – but still very slow-going as the track is even more slippery than before.

As I reach the foot of the mountain, the rain stops and the sun starts to come out again…

Location Look for sign on Blåtindveien (road), to the north of Svolvaer (on Austvågøya Island)
Distance 4km round-trip with 55om ascent. Allow 2-3 hours.
Grade Moderate-hard (steep and slippery track)
Season/s June-October
Map Topographical maps on-line at GotTur.no
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Explore Lofoten” (book) by Kristin Folsland Olsen (p.46)
Trip report with track notes on fjordpeaks.com
Photos Google Photos album
Map showing Floya (Svolvaer) hiking route and elevation gain.