Having climbed most of the Glass House Mountains, the only one really left to climb was the prize, Mount Beerwah. Mount Beerwah’s summit route had been closed to the public for a number of years due to a rock slide, and upon discovering recently that it has once again been opened, it was back on my radar and ‘to do’ list.
I had climbed Mount Beerwah before, some 20 or so years ago. I remember it was the day after my birthday and I was quite hungover. I wasn’t feeling very well. I recall getting halfway and then lying down on a rock and avowing that I was not going any further. My climbing buddy at the time egged me on, and eventually I made it to the top, and apparently back down.
Ever since, I have wanted to go back. It has only taken 20 or so years, but it is finally crossed off the list.
Usually I go climbing with my hubby. He enjoys the climbs as much as I do, and he usually carries the backpack with all my ‘junk’ in it, so that I can enjoy the climb unencumbered. Alas, he was away with work, so I enlisted the companionship of a good friend of mine, who so obviously did not know what we were in for – and I had to carry my pack myself (she did offer – but that would have been mean).
Now, I remember Mount Beerwah to be an easy climb…
With the benefit of the most recent hindsight of our climb, I can say with total resolution that it is NOT AT ALL an easy climb, and quite clearly the last time I walked, I was not only hungover, but quite possibly still drunk from the night before, because my recollection of it was much different to how it actually was this time around!
I will start by saying, if you are at all thinking about climbing Mount Beerwah to only do so in good weather. Check the weather radar to make sure there is no inclement weather. It is not a climb you do in the rain, just after the rain or with rain on the way – it is not safe. Additionally, it takes about 3-4 hours, so start early – especially don’t start too late in the afternoon – you will need daylight to do the final part of the descent and even then it can be scary and dangerous – especially if it is your first time around.
Take lots of water, wear footwear with good tread, and if you are in any way, shape of form, scared or even unsure of heights, then don’t even start the climb.
So, with that all said, I managed to convince a good friend to join me on the walk/climb by telling her, “Yeah, no problem, it was easy. Last time I was hungover, so how hard can it be…”
I said much the same to her husband just before we left…
Well, I can tell you how hard it can be… *expletive* HARD – that’s how hard!
Mount Beewah is the highest of the Glass House Mountains, at 556 meters high and accessible from Mount Beerwah Road not far from the small township of Beerwah. The climb is approximately a 2.6km steep (read ‘STEEP’) return climb.
Formed some 26 million years ago the incredible mound is a volcanic plug of quartz trachyte.
The name ‘Beerwah’ comes from the now forgotten language of Dungidau from the words ‘birra’ and ‘wandum’ meaning ‘sky’ and ‘climbing up’. Makes sense.
These are small facts that you may like to remember. They will come in handy in distracting your mind from the reality of clinging onto the rock face for dear life on your way up… and possibly on the way down…
Ok, so may be I am exaggerating a bit. Well, maybe not.
All jokes aside – it is an incredible climb if you have the gumption for it.
The walk starts out easy enough. Gentle stroll through the picnic area, and then along a slowly ascending trail until you reach the rock face… and you look up.
I clearly don’t remember this bit from my previous climb.
It is steep – very steep.
There was quite a crowd on the day we visited. The beautiful weather obviously drawing everybody out, so it actually felt a little chaotic. A few people were having a bit of a trouble making that first steep ascent.
I will say, this is the point to turn around, if you are in any way at all not sure about the climb, because once you start, you are actually committed. This first little bit is quite difficult, and if by chance you scramble up this first bit and decide to turn around because you are too scared to go any further, you are going to find it incredibly hard to get down. The scramble to get down is by far the most difficult part of the whole climb. So definitely think twice before you start.
Obviously we only thought once. Or maybe it was me that only thought once (or perhaps not at all), but we made a start.
There are no steps, no real footholds and no chains, ropes or shrubs to hold onto, to help climb. Just some faint creases and divots in the eroded rock face that you will perhaps fit part of your toe in or manage to wrap your hand around. But with a bit of forward motion and not looking down, you very quickly pull away from basecamp.
Having said that, I was looking down quite frequently, as I was looking back at my climbing buddy to make sure she was following and was safe, suddenly realising that this was going to be one epic climb.
It was when I was about 20metres up when I said for the first time, “This is not at all how I remember it…”
I went on to say this at least another dozen or so times throughout the climb. Really – it wasn’t how I remembered it AT ALL. Which led me to conclude I was either delirious or still drunk the last time I climbed, or very selective in my memory process.
We decided to keep moving forward and therefore up, even though we did consider turning around, and while I wasn’t really that scared at that point in time, I was really concerned for the safety of my friend.
If you are planning on doing this climb with a friend – and I certainly wouldn’t suggest going alone – I think it is really important to know that your climbing buddy is up for it. The last thing you want is to be halfway up the slope and your friend has a panic attack and can’t reliably go any further. It is not a good situation for either of you. I certainly felt a huge sense of responsibility that this was going to be a safe climb, and that is never something that you can guarantee.
Fortunately my climbing buddy was awesome. We decided to continue on, slowly, taking our time and considering every move. She was a great support to me, and hopefully I was the same to her.
There were a few hairy moments. You are never really quite sure if you are taking the right path. While there were many people ahead of us, they were all feeling their way in the same way we were. But if I can offer any advice, consider your moves before you make them, as sometimes it is harder to backtrack, especially if you have got yourself to a tricky position and realise that you can’t continue moving forward on that current path.
I know the first time I climbed Mount Tibrogargan, which I consider to be much more difficult than Mount Beerwah, I was consumed with fear the whole while I climbed up, about the ‘coming down’.
Coming down is actually a lot easier than going up, especially if you go down doing a bit of a bum shuffle and using your arms to leverage your weight from behind. We were told by ‘a climbing authority’ (read ‘tosser’), that this ‘doesn’t look very professional’, and it probably doesn’t. But I believe that you have to do it in the way you feel comfortable and that makes you feel confident AND safe. Once you become confident and your movement becomes a little more fluid and natural, your technique will become a little more ‘professional’ on its own. No point in looking professional as you are falling down the cliff because you were paralysed with fear because you were not feeling comfortable or safe!
After what seemed an epic climb we eventually made it to an opening that turned into a trail and led to under what are called ‘the organ pipes’.
Now this is the bit I remember! I found the exact rock that I had lain on some 20 years prior in pain. And then I remembered the caves.
The caves are what I remember most clearly. Beautiful, white – perhaps limestone, I am not sure – caves. Millions of years of erosion had tunnelled out clefts and crevices. Spectacular! This is what spurred me on to do the climb again and what will probably be the impetus for me to do it again when my husband comes home. The colours are just beautiful; shade of magenta, rust and jade staining the powdery rock. It was just as I remembered it, so my memory hasn’t failed me totally.
Of course there is always some ‘knob’ that finds it necessary to graffiti a self portrait onto the rock walls, along with the other calling cards, but I guess people of all intellects climb…
From here, you walk along the rock wall and then it is a bit more climbing.
We bumped into a couple of fit young girls at this point that told us it was ‘just a ‘stroll’ to the top’.
My answer to that is that some people are in serious need of a dictionary. It was NOT a ‘stroll’. But it was a hell of a lot easier than the previous leg of the journey.
Finally, we reached the top, and all the reservations about the sensibility of climbing melt away. The views are insane.
Mount Coonowrin, Mount Tibrogargan and all of the lesser mounts; Ngungun, Beerburrum, Tunbubudla, Tibberoowuccum, the ocean, the plantations – WOW! Such a tapestry of colour and texture, it is an angle of the Glass House Mountains that you will only ever see from the top of Mount Beerwah and it is just beautiful.
Eventually we mustered up the courage to go back down. True to memory, it is a lot easier going down with the help of the unprofessional bum shuffling. Just to clarify, your bum isn’t really shuffling, it is more of a crab crawl, but I guess you can drag your bum a bit if you REALLY want to get the unprofessional thing happening.
Going down was easy work, and again, while there were a few tricky spots, we very quickly reached the last ledge in the final plunge to basecamp.
It was probably a bit unfortunate for us in that a large group had gone down not long before, and this group was now perched, slightly panicked, on the final ledge trying to work out how to get down. Everyone was very patient and there were many people on hand to help the group, but many of them were very awkward and made this final decent look a lot more difficult that it actually was. Sitting there on the ledge waiting helped to get the adrenalin going, especially because we were doing it alone. But we also had the benefit of hearing some of the advice given to the others in finding the footholds, and then having the faith to let ourselves ‘drop’ into the unknown. At this point you couldn’t bum shuffle either, you did have to face the rock and consider your moves very carefully.
In retrospect, I would make sure I have runners with better tread, as by the time I reached this final challenge, my runners were almost like ice skates. Next time.
We guided each other down, and the FINALLY we were on safe ground. *sigh of relief* *massive hugs*
So, the verdict? It is a massive psychological challenge and wow, is it exhilarating. The biggest obstacle is overcoming your fears. But once you do, the pay off in the way of confidence and sense of accomplishment is amazing.
As two girls, climbing by ourselves, we did awesome! AND I carried my own pack! Feel like superstar now haha (even if I didn’t look ‘professional’)
While I won’t say ‘do it’, I will say ‘consider it’. If you have the capability, fitness and skill level, it is one of the best climbs that you will ever do. But if your not, don’t push yourself – some things are just as good appreciating from afar.
As for us, we were off to the pub to celebrate – a beer never tasted so good!
Disclaimer: Mount Beerwah is a tough climb for the inexperienced. Please heed warnings and know your limitations. This is an account of our climb, and Pebbles and Pomegranate Seeds takes no responsibility for others endeavouring to do so – it’s at your own risk – so be safe 🙂
This story was written by Petra Frieser – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds