At 1622m elevation, the 15km return hike to summit Mount Bartle Frere is not for the faint hearted, particularly if your plan is to conquer it in one day like these guys did!
- The misty “movie set” surroundings
- Standing on the top of Queensland
- Walking through the beautiful tropical rainforest of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area
The Low Down
Mount Bartle Frere has been on my bucket list for quite some time, so when my friend visiting from Melbourne requested to “climb a mountain” during her visit, Queensland’s tallest peak had to be it!
The well-marked track starts from the Josephine Falls car park and undulates delightfully for 3km over about nine creek crossings before the severe upward ascent towards the peak. The next 4km is a battle against humidity, steep climbs and the blood-sucking leeches.
It takes about 5 hours to reach the Eastern Summit Camp, where there is a helipad and emergency shelter. It’s hard to describe the feeling of elation as we emerged into the sunlight after hours spent in the misty rainforest. Standing above the cloud-level meant that we couldn’t truly appreciate the enormity of the mountain we had climbed, but the constantly dancing shapes of the clouds around us ensured a magical experience.
The final ascent to the summit is 500m of rock scrambling. Unfortunately, we had to turn back about 150m before reaching the summit, to ensure we would safely descend the mountain in the daylight.
Despite having to turn back, we were proud of ourselves, relieved the hard work was finally over. Initially, we descended quickly, however this was before our bruised toes, blisters and aching knees caught up with us, slowing us down considerably.
Before long it was a race against the setting sun to safely reach the larger creek crossings. Thankfully, we made it through the most rugged terrain before walking the final 1.5hrs by torchlight.
Despite the aching muscles and joints in the days that followed, I would certainly attempt the summit again with a few changes. I would start walking earlier, before sunrise to make use of the available sunlight for the most difficult parts. The advantage of attempting Mt Bartle Frere in a day is reducing weight with the need to only carry a day pack.
- Hydration pack with at least 3L water
- Food and snacks
- Solid well-fitted hiking boots
- Long pants & salt (to protect from the hundreds of leeches)
- Head torch
- Wet weather jacket
- Satellite phone or EPIRB/PLB
- A hiking buddy to share the gain and pain
It is a good idea to be prepared for all weather conditions as it is common for Mt Bartle Frere to have rain, making the path dangerously slippery. Good preparation is essential for staying safe during this walk. Check out this important info from Queensland National Parks before heading out.
How To Get There
The hike starts at the Josephine Falls carpark. Josephine Falls is 1 hour south of Cairns or 3.5 hours north of Townsville.
- Rock/boulder scrambling
Intermediate to expert.
A good level of fitness is required to safely complete this hike.
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration
The walk starts at 100m above sea level, reaching 1622m at the summit. The walk is 15km return from the eastern side.
Expect this walk to take 10 – 12 hours. Plan a time to turn around, to ensure safe descent down the mountain.
Want to tackle some more tough ascents in Queensland?