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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

ssMap-KilliecrankieCircuit

Mt Dromedary (Gulaga)

A solid half-day walk to the top of an extinct volcano and 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 Mt Guluga, a 797m extinct volcano and significant Aboriginal site near the coast at Narooma.

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The 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

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Hamilton Pool

An impressive waterfall cascades over a semi-circular cave, into a turquoise pool ringed by trees.

My last stop on the way to the airport – I wasn’t expecting anything much, but Hamilton Pool seemed to warrant a short detour from Enchanted Rock.

I arrive around 2pm – I’ve read that there may be a queue and people may be turned away during busy periods, but I have no problems. The situation may be different at peak times, so worth checking if reservations are required – or arrive early! In any case, I quickly pay the entry fee and park; the carpark is perhaps 60% full, but it’s not too busy.

Heading down the steep path to Hamilton Creek, it’s only 10min before I reach the creek (it’s only a 1/2-mile or 800m round-trip from the carpark to the pool) and turn right toward Hamilton Pool.

The pool is breathtaking. One of those spots where you know the photos won’t do justice to the scene. I try anyway, and spend some time walking around the cave and behind the waterfall. Part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the pool and grotto were formed when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.

There’s an inviting beach and the pool has been used as a swimming hole; a number of signs prohibit swimming due to high bacteria level. (On questioning the very friendly and helpful park ranger on my way out, it appears that there have been a couple of swimming deaths in recent years, and the swimming ban is less about bacteria and more about preventing any further drownings.)

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I’ve got a bit more time before I need to leave, so I continue down the trail towards the Pedernales River. There’s few people on this section, which is about 1.5 miles (2.4km) to the river and back to the car park. The trail closely follows the creek and it’s a pleasant and shaded walk, with very clear turquoise water. I don’t quite make it the whole way as I’m getting short of time, but I’ve really enjoyed this walk – it greatly exceeded expectations and is somewhere I’d definitely visit again.

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Location About 30 miles west of Austin on FM 3238
Distance 800m round-trip to pool. 2.4km to Pedernales River and back.
Grade Easy.
Season/s All year round. Can get very busy on weekends and public holidays
Map USGS Topo Map Quad: Hammetts Crossing
Resources County Parks web site

Enchanted Rock

A massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas, with a short climb offering views across the surrounding basin

Texas is not really known for mountains (or hiking)… so with a spare day after my conference in Austin, I set-off in search for a hill to climb. About 95 miles from Austin is Enchanted Rock, a prominent granite dome (technically, an “enormous pink granite pluton batholith” and “the largest such pink granite monadnock in the United States” according to Wikipedia). I figure it’s as as close to a mountain peak as I’ll get in Texas.

I arrive early – just before the park office opens at 8am – and pay my entry fee after a short wait. There are already a few people out and about, and it’s obviously a popular place for camping. A few sites suggest arriving early on weekends and especially on public holidays, as entry is closed once the carpark is full. With limited time, I plan to do the Summit Trail and part of the Loop Trail. It’s a chilly morning as I set-off up the hill.

It quickly warms up as the sun rises – but it’s a short and quick climb of just over 100m to the top of the dome. There’s not much of a track or signage once you’re on the side of the dome – but you really can’t go wrong. There’s already a few people on the top, including a small group that seems to have completed a session of Sunrise Yoga. I’ve no interest in yoga, but if I was going to do it this wouldn’t be a bad spot. The views in all directions are pretty good, despite the relatively low elevation.

After wandering around the top of the dome for a while – it’s a big area  – it appears possible to descend the back of the dome , rather than re-tracing my steps down the Summit Trail. I head down a natural gully between Enchanted Rock and the neighbouring Little Rock; it’s steep but with no exposure or danger. I soon reach the Echo Canyon Trail, and follow this north up to Moss Lake. Moss Lake is a very beautiful, reflective place – would have been a nice spot for a snack, except that I hadn’t brought any food…

I was about half-way now, having walked just over two miles (3.7km), and from here I join the Loop Trail, heading west (I could also have returned via the Loop Trail in an eastward direction – there seemed to be more more to see going west.) I detour slightly to check out the Scenic View Trail. There’s really nothing to see from here. It’s easy walking for the two miles (3.4km) back to the carpark, but a pretty monotonous landscape.

The top of Enchanted Rock was worth a visit, and Moss Lake was nice (would have been ideal in the late afternoon with the sun setting on the granite dome), but the rest of the walk was fairly ordinary.

Location 95 miles from Austin, Texas (18m north of Fredericksburg on Ranch Road 965)
Distance 7.3km (2 hours)
Grade Easy.
Season/s All year round. Can get very busy on weekends and public holidays
Map Trails Map (PDF)
Resources State Parks Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Web site
Photos

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Trolltunga

A long but rewarding day-walk, culminating in stunning views at the “troll’s tongue” that juts out 700m above a lake.

The last walk I had planned at the end of our four-week family holiday in Norway: I hoped the weather gods would look after me for one last time. Being early October, I was prepared for some cold weather but hoping it would be a dry day. Which it was – chilly but not a cloud to be seen!

Leaving Bergen in the late afternoon, I allowed three hours to reach my accommodation at Odda, the closest town to the start of the Trolltunga hike. Unfortunately, the “direct” route I chose involved two ferries… and I hadn’t allowed for a couple of long waits. My three hours became about five hours, and I arrived close to midnight at the aptly-named Trolltunga Hotel (which was very accommodating of my late arrival and efficiently checked me in with a cold beer…!). The quickest route, with the benefit of hindsight, is via the Tørvikbygd-Jondal ferry. There are public transport options, but you’d need allow full day to get there.

From Odda, it was an early morning start to reach Skjeggedal, a 17km drive via a very winding (and scenic) road. I was happy I’d started early (around 6am) and didn’t have to deal with other traffic on a road that was mostly the width of one car. From the car park at the end of the road, it’s a steep climb for the first kilometre as you ascend from 425m above sea level to about 1100m, on a well-defined track. (There used to be a disused funicular that provided alternative access, by walking up the old railway tracks – this is no longer possible as the funicular tracks have been largely removed to make way for a road that is being constructed up to the plateau.)

From the end of this initial climb, a well marked trail continues through a mostly open alpine landscape, passing by a number of lakes and crossing glacial streams. There is one more, shorter climb of 200m or so, partly on a winding, marked trail and partly up a rock face that’s marked by a series of cairns.

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Water is plentiful, and in early October there were still a lot of snow on the ground. One short section of the track that is in the shade for most of the day was very icy, and having a set of spikes or crampons would have come in very useful. After about 8km of walking there are the first views into the spectacular Ringedalsvatnet fjord, and a few kilometres further (at around the 11km) mark an artificial lake is reached.

Finally, Trolltunga is reached – a narrow piece of rock jutting out 700m above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. Some metal rings aid access down to the rock, which affords spectacular views – and was rated “the most stunning place in the world to take selfie” by Internet news and entertainment site Buzzfeed.

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The walk to here took just under five hours including breaks; the entire hike to Trolltunga and back being 8 hours (six hours of walking + breaks). This is at a fairly decent pace; I’d recommend an early start, both to give you enough time to get back in daylight and to avoid the crowds. There was one other couple that arrived just after me, and no queue to get photos from the rock! On the walk back, I encountered a number of groups making their way to the rock, and that was outside peak hiking season.

Location Odda, Norway (about 3 hours drive from Bergen)
Distance 23km (8-9 hours). 1,088m ascent.
Grade Moderate. Easy navigation.
Season/s Summer/Autumn
Map  Topographical maps on-line at GotTur.no
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources I found Time Travel Turtle’s blog post useful in planning my trip
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Map of Trolltunga hike showing route and elevation.

Lockleys Pylon to Blue Gum Forest

Great Blue Mountains views from Lockley Pylon and a less-visited route down into the beautiful Blue Gum Forest.

A small peak overlooking Govett’s Gorge, Lockley Pylon was named after J.G “Redgum” Lockley, a gardening columnist and conservationist who supported the efforts to protect the Blue Gum Forest. It’s also one of the access points for the Blue Gum Forest, 600 metres below in the Grose Valley.

This is my second walk out to Lockleys Pylon; the first time (almost exactly two years ago) I took the steep path down to Blue Gum Forest and this time I’m with my 9-year old daughter, so we only  go as far as the “pylon”.

The condition of the Mount Hay Road is far worse than I remember it a couple of years ago, and I’m very happy to reach the “car-park” (it’s not really a car-park; there is space for 4-5 cars just off the road near the sign-posted track-head). Setting off down the relatively flat trail, we walk though fairly typical low forest and heath. After 2.5km the trees finish, and are replaced by low grasses.  It feels as if we’ve suddenly been transported from the Blue Mountains to the alpine landscape of the Snowy Mountains.

Although we’re only just over half-way to Lockleys Pylon, it’s now visible in the distance, and we can now also see the Explorers Wall on the far side of the Grose Valley.

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As we get closer to Lockleys Pylon, there’s a great view of the Fortress Creek Falls, and the Grose Gorge just beyond.

From the top of Lockleys Pylon, there’s views in all directions, from Fortress Hill and Fortress Creek Falls, and in front of us to the north the track continuing down to Du Faur Head, with the Grose Valley stretching out into the distance. Up to here, it’s a 3.5km hike with minimal elevation change (Lockleys Pylon is really a very gentle hill).

It’s a pretty impressive view… but it’s worth continuing a little further, as the views get even more dramatic. Another kilometre brings you to Du Faur Head, a rocky outcrop on the edge of the escarpment, named after Eccleston Du Faur (who played a major role in establishing Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park). From here you are looking directly down the Grose Valley, one of the most accessible wilderness areas for bushwalking.

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Returning from here would make it a 9km round-trip.

The track now continues to the Blue Gum Forest, and is very steep, descending 500m down Shortridge Pass in just under two kilometres. The start of the steep track down is marked by a cairn, just before Du Faur Head (I missed it the first time and walked too far, before backtracking 50m and seeing the small cairn – at first glance it seems as if the track just drops vertically though a gap in the rocks!).

The track crosses Govetts Creek at the bottom, and meets the Junction Rock to Blue Gum walking track about 50m further. The Grose River is about 100m north-east and the Acacia Flat camping ground is less than a kilometre away.

From here you could continue straight ahead and up to Perrys Lookdown on the Perrys Track to finish at Blackheath (the shortest way out). Or you could extend the walk by returning via Pierces Pass, Rodriguez Pass or even the Grand Canyon – all of these would require a car-shuffle (or a self-driving car). **  I’m future-proofing-my blog.

I head back the same way I came. The walk up is a lot harder than the walk down 🙂 In total the walk is just over 13km; on the way back there is a path that skirts around the western side of Lockleys Pylon.

Side trip: Very close to the start of the Lockleys Pylon track (a few hundred metres along Mt Hay Road heading back toward Leura) is a short track up to Flat Top lookout. Although it’s only 500m (each way), after the hike to Lockleys Pylon it’s a little underwhelming…

Location Take Mt Hay Road from Leura and follow this 10km (the last 8km is on a rough dirt road, suitable for 2WD with careful driving). The track head is signposted, and is just past the Flat Top Lookout parking.
Distance 13.1km return journey. 745m total ascent.
Grade Moderate
Season/s All year round
Map Katoomba (NSW 8930-1S 1:25K) to Lockleys Pylon
Mt Wilson (NSW 8930-1N 1:25K) for Lockleys Pylon to Blue Gum
Blue Mountains North 1:50K covers the entire route
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources NPWS Web site. Google Street Trekker virtual tour.
Wild walks track notes (to Lockley Pylon only)
Photos Google Photos Album
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Hiking route to Blue Gum Forest via Lockleys Pylon.  (Map: Blue Mountains North)

 

Bukit Kutu

A half-day hike to a peak with views  over the Titiwangsa mountain range and Selangor Dam, less then two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Whenever I get to Malaysia (we have an office in KL) I try and fit in a walk – there’s great walking without a few hours of KL, as well as amazing walks further afield including Mt Kinabalu and Mulu Caves. I’ve also found a passionate and experienced local guide – Eddie Yap – who knows where to go. So I asked Eddie to find me a strenuous hike we could do in half a day.

The result: Bukit Kutu, about 90min drive from my hotel in KL. At 1,050m high it’s technically a hill (bukit) rather than a mountain (gunung), although it is also referred to as Gunung Kutu and Treacher’s Hill.  It was originally a hill station with buildings below the peak; after WWII these were abandoned and the access road has become a jungle trail.

The climb begins from an an Orang Asli (meaning “original” or “natural” people) village, after  Kuala Kubu Bharu, with the final few kilometres on a gravel road. We continue along the gravel road by foot after leaving the car in a small parking area along the Sungai Pertak river; it’s possible to continue a little further by car but the road gets rough. After about 500m the road stops at a suspension bridge, which we cross. It’s a popular picnic spot, although few people are here today. Just some rubbish that’s left behind, which is unfortunately a common sight on most hikes in Asia.

The walk continues on a well-graded dirt trail for a while, and after about 1km a second river is crossed, this time on a steel bridge that’s clearly seen better days.

A bit further on there’s a fork where we go right (the left-hand track leads to Medang Falls). There’s one more river crossing (the Sungai Pertak river) before the wide trail starts to narrow, and we start to climb more steeply. Trees roots often provide helpful foot or hand-holds. Eddie points out a bee’s nest, a long and almost translucent tube extending from a tree. (I always learn a lot about Malaysian fauna and flora from Eddie!)

The trail continues relentlessly upwards, and we stop for a break at a set of huge, overhanging boulders at around the 4.5km mark. They are enormous: photos just don’t capture their scale. We meet another hiker here, the only other person we see on the trail.And a dog that follows us all the way to the the top – and back down.

There’s another short (800m) section before we reach a clearing a little below the summit. This is the site of the abandoned station, with just the chimney remaining. There are a two deep wells hidden in the scrub; I’m not sure I would trust the water (as people throw litter into the wells), although one of them looked clear.

A final, steep climb of about 500m and the rocky summit is reached. The time up has been about 2.5 hours with a couple of breaks. The very top is reached by a set of ladders – there’s 360-degree views over the surrounding areas, including the Selangor Dam, KKB and the Titiwangsa mountain range in the distance. (Be careful of a wasps nest under one of the boulders, which from other reports has been there since at last 2012.)

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It’s just under two hours to get back down, with a refreshing swim in the Sungai Pertak river before the drive back into KL.  Thanks Eddie. I’m looking forward to my next hike!

Location Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor, Malaysia (90min drive from KL)
(Starting co-ordinates: 3.572510N, 101.738128E)
Distance 12km return, with total ascent of 800m
Grade Moderate (steep/slippery in sections)
Season/s All year, but best to avoid monsoon months (Nov-Feb)
Map N/A
GPS route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Track notes – Yellow Tuk Tuk and Grace Abundant
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Click to enlarge. Refer to link in the table above for KML file