Camping in sub-zero temperatures isn’t for the faint-hearted. However, it seemed like the poetic thing to do whilst exploring Warrumbungle National Park, with its amazing rock structures formed from ancient, eroded volcanoes.
- Ancient volcanoes
- Lava and rock monoliths to explore
- Night skies beyond description
- Stargazing tours at observatories
Even before entering the park gates we’d seen enough to convince us to plan a longer return trip. The dramatic beauty and majestic monoliths on display are like something you’d find in a faraway land. They left me feeling like I’d been magically transported to the Wild West.
This particular trip would cover the main route of the park – the Grand High Tops walk – with the main attraction being a monolith known as The Breadknife.
From our camp a short distance away at Camp Blackman, we made our way to the start of the walk at Grand High Tops Track, to make a circuit of the park’s ancient volcano remains. The walk is gentle initially and follows well-maintained tracks along creek beds. However this soon gives way to consistent climbing. It’s nothing beyond any keen hiker’s ability, but sure to raise a sweat even in the middle of winter.
Very soon the rock structures we had glimpsed from a distance were towering above us. No matter how complex and intricate man-made structures are, for me the works of Mother Nature always surpass them in their ability to instill a sense of awe.
After some very rudimentary rock climbing we found what must be one of the best lunch spots any hiker could ask for: Lugh’s Throne. From here, a 360-degree view of the surrounds is enough to make even the most seasoned trail-trudger stop in their tracks and take it all in.
To the north, Lugh’s Throne provides front row seats to The Breadknife: a spectacular lava rock wall, carving its way up the side of the range. The monolith of Belougery Spire, which we had passed earlier, is to the east, towering out of the forest like a castle from a fantasy novel. To the south is Crater Bluff, an even larger rock monolith straight out of a Western. Looking out to the west are Bluff Mountain and Mount Exmouth, the big-boy peaks of the region, patiently awaiting those who are up for an even bigger challenge.
Onward and Upward to Bluff Mountain
We could’ve lazed all day at Lugh’s Throne taking in the vistas, but Bluff Mountain was calling. Not normally on the High Tops Track but easily added by keen hikers, it extends the track by 3 kilometres and a 200 metre climb. At the top you are rewarded with yet more spectacular views of the surroundings. From this vantage point the scale of the landscape is even more impressive than the numerous rock monoliths. Bluff Mountain stands proud and alone and the rich agricultural land outside of the park is so flat that you can make out the curvature of the Earth; it’s hard not to be humbled by the scale of it all.
There were more spectacular views of the region on the return trip to the campsite. Sunset encounters with sleeping kangaroos and stumbling on a stinging nettle (which seemed somewhat out of place in this environment) all continued to make this one special hike.
Camping In The Cold
That evening I took a night tour to a local observatory, fulfilling a boyhood wish of seeing Jupiter with storm bands, and Saturn and its rings. We then embarked upon the toughest part of this trip: surviving the night time temperatures.
A roaring campfire, healthy helpings of scotch, an oversized champagne bottle and a magical never-ending bag of marshmallows for roasting meant everyone survived the night. However, night time temperatures dropped to minus seven degrees and are definitely not to be taken lightly. Unless you have the appropriate equipment and knowledge to stay warm in the outdoors, nearby motel or caravan options should be considered during winter.
Warrumbungle National Park should be on every hiker’s must-do list. For those who venture there, the rewards are great.
- Personal Locator Beacon
- Topographical map, GPS
- First Aid Kit, warm clothing
- Sufficient food and water
How To Get There
Warrumbungle National Park is located 30 kilometres west of Coonabarabran and 500kms north west of Sydney.
Medium difficulty, well-marked paths and moderate climbs. However this park, and most of the track, is very remote. Hikers should be experienced and self-sufficient.
Distance / Elevation / Duration
17 kilometres consisting of 14 kilometres on High Tops Track, and an additional 3 kilometres for Bluff Mountain. 950 metre elevation gain in total. Easily done in a day with 6 hours of walking when you start at and return to Camp Pincham, which is a short drive away. Alternatively done over multiple days, camping at designated sites along the track, however these are remote bush camps with no facilities.
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