Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Glasshouse Mountains

The Glasshouse Mountains

We’ve left Paul and Cat for a couple of days to have a look at the Glasshouse Mountains, 45 minutes north of Brisbane on the Pacific Highway. The mountains are very unusual and are just inland and visible from the sea; ‘how did they get their name?’ I hear you ask. Glad you asked because we found out and I’d like to share it with you, they were named by Captain Cook who, on sailing past on 17th May 1770 first sighted them and wrote that the mountains were “very remarkable on account of their singular form of elevation, which very much resembles glass houses, which occasioned my giving them that name”. The glass houses he was referring to were the factory furnace cones used to make glass that dominated the skyline of eighteenth century north east England, where Cook came from. Cook was reminded of these industrial skylines.

Mount Tibrogargan
‘How were they formed?’ I hear you ask, we know that as well. They were formed 26 million years ago when volcanos pierced the surrounding layer of sandstone. The peaks are volcanic plugs of trachyte and rhyolite that remained after the sandstone eroded away and their height roughly corresponds with the original height of the sandstone layer. They comprise blocky vertical columns that are relatively friable and unstable so, although there is climbing and scrambling on the faces and ridges, they are not very stable and there have been many fatalities. 

Mount Beerwah from the summit of Mount Ngungun
Paul lent us his book on walks and scrambles in South East Queensland and there are many hard scrambling routes, not all of which we could do. The hard scramble up Mount Beerwah is now not possible as a major rockfall in 2008 closed the track and there are on the spot fines for anyone caught trying to go up. The fantastic looking Mount Coonowrin is also now permanently closed to climbing. There is a hard scramble up Mount Tibrogargan but it’s very exposed and the rock very unstable and the guys in the Information Centre put us off telling us how many people had been killed on it when rocks just gave way as they put weight on it. I would probably have still given it a go, but Jackie wasn’t having any of it!

Mount Ngungun
Instead we walked up Mount Ngungun a 253m summit that was described as a moderate scramble. It was very straightforward, but a ranger we met at the start told us about the climbing on its faces that Jackie had heard about. We took the detours off the main track he told us about and found 18 bolted routes of varying standard, but only three of them with hangers on the bolts. 
Great looking climbs, but probably a bit loose!
We sent all our ‘trad’ gear back home with Pauline, keeping ropes, harnesses and quickdraws only, so it meant we could only do the three routes with hangers on, all of which seemed easy (we had no guidebook, only by looking and assessing ourselves). The next section was ‘trad’ only as was the section right off from the summit. All a bit of a pity, we now wish we’d kept the ‘trad’ gear! Having said that, it all looked a bit loose, so perhaps it was best we couldn’t do it! The views from the top were great, so it was well worth the walk.

The great looking Mount Coonowrin

Mount Beerwah
On the circuit round Mount Tibrogargan
After visiting the library to go online looking for climbing routes on Mount Tibrogargen (there were some fantastic looking 6 or 7 pitch routes, but all ‘trad’ – and all on unsound rock!) we decided to just go to the lookout and then do the 3km circuit of the mountain to take in the views of this amazing area, before finding our campsite tonight in the village of Beerwah. A different one from last night, $5 more, but it has a camp kitchen, a bit more organised and nicer and we’ve got internet access, hence the reason for three blog entries in one!

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