Sunday, 23 February 2014

Mount Palerang

This is one of a series of posts dealing with the Molonglo High Plains (Hoskinstown, Rossi, Forbes Creek and other areas to the west of the old volcano Palerang).  The entire series is at:

Palerang - from the South East

Getting there

Palerang is an extinct volcano in the Tallaganda State Conservation Area.

Option 1: Mulloon Fire Trail

You can get fairly close to the peak by driving along the Mulloon Fire Trail - which connects Forbes Creek and Braidwood.  The peak is best accessed from the intersection - the  four-way intersection of the Mulloon Fire Trail with the Palerang Fire Trail and the Gourock Fire Trail.

Looking East to Mount Palarang - Center and far background (lighter blue).  Right foreground - Hoskins Hill. Mid Distance - Great Dividing Range: Turallo Range on left and Gourock Range on right

The condition of the fire trail varies from time to time.  Bike riding is no fun because of the deep pot holes and corrugations.

The approach from Forbes Creek can be very challenging for 2WD vehicles, particularly on loose surfaces along the higher cliff faces.  There is no mobile phone coverage along this part of the road.  You can avoid the most difficult parts of the road by leaving cars at the Mulloon Creek crossing and walking up a fair steep gradient to the intersection.  The crossing can flood quickly.  The crossing has a parking area, toilets, bbqs and plenty of space for tents.  After the Mulloon Creek crossing, the road climbs and is a single lane with steep embankments.  If you meet an oncoming vehicle in one of the more difficult areas, one of you will need to back some distance to a point where the vehicles can pass safely. In the final part before the intersection the road is supported by very old stone work.

Tree falls across these fire trails are relatively frequent.  In February 2014, the Mulloon Fire Trail was cut a little way out of Forbes Creek by a tree fall (just before the intersection with the Bald Hill Fire Trail) and the trail could only be accessed by traversing a deep culvert (4Wheel Drive only).

The fire trail passes through rugged bushland - with outstanding views including mountain bogs, banksia forests and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Option 2: Braidwood

The approach from the Braidwood side looks a bit more complicated (Bombay Road -> Hoskinstown Road -> Butmaroo Fire Trail -> Bombay Fire Trail ->  Mulloon Fire Trail -> Intersection) but is fairly straight forward and is consistently better and wider.

There is some mobile phone coverage on the road.  It also attracts more local and forestry traffic.  On your way there or back, you might want to detour to the amazing southerly Shoalhaven crossing on Farringdon Road - but dont attempt to cross it if flooded.

The Climb

There are three approaches.  There are no marked paths.

Approach from the North

You start at the intersection (the  four-way intersection of the Mulloon Fire Trail with the Palerang Fire Trail and the Gourock Fire Trail).  There is plenty of off-road parking near the intersection - check the state of the tree you park under before leaving your car there.

This is the easiest of the three possible approaches. Allow yourselves 3-5 hours for the round trip.  Take a snake bandage and 1litre of water for each person.

Be aware that, for some of the return trip, there is no path.  If the Molonglo Doctor comes in (the afternoon cloud bank), your visibility might drop dramatically so watch out for the weather.

The initial scramble

A little way to the South from the fire trail intersection you will see a fairly well defined pathway travels up the side of the mountain.

This short animated gif shows the initial scramble as a series of 1.5 second stills.  

Keep your hands free and take a stout stick as the initial slope is very steep.  The surface is full of small loose rocks - watch out for falls or turning an ankle.  Don't attempt the slope in wet or dark conditions (remembering that the mountain can become shrouded in mist some afternoons).

You may be able to get mobile coverage from about half way up the first scramble.

Palerang - scramble path, much steeper than it looks

A climb (scramble) for about 5 - 20 minutes will get you to the first shoulder - with an impressive collection of boulders and a pleasant view.  This point is one of the more recognisable features of Palerang from a distance.  The clearing here also offers a decent amount of flat ground.

The Shoulder

From this point the ascent continues South across a shoulder that continues for a couple of kilometers.  Do not be fooled by the apparent closeness of the the top of the Mountain - it is a long way away.  There are a couple of cleared areas - be careful with these, trees dont grow on them for a reason.  From them, keep a watch out for the pair of Eagles that use the mountain for nesting and as a patrol starting point.

Lake George Windfarm

The first part of the shoulder crossing is fairly well marked - but as you come to a series of rock walls - there are 3-4, all relatively easy to scramble over - the track will disappear.  Keep a visual record of landmarks to help with the return journey.  When they come into view, spend a little while spotting the wind farms over Lake George, Gunning and Crookwell - there are approximately to your North-West.  Note also the cleared areas towards Braidwood  - there are approximately to your East.  There is also are clearly defined clearings towards Captains Flat/Hoskingstown -  there are approximately to your South-West.  It is important to make these visual observations to assist with the return trip - as you are not following a defined path .

Keep tending towards the highest point - avoiding unnecessary climbs.  A distinct feature of this part of the assent is a long North-South basalt rock wall - quite high in places.  Avoid tending to the East - the slope is deceptively steep in that direction - and it is a long fall down to the Palerang Fire Trail.  You may find it easier to avoid climbing some of the rock formations by tending to the West, a little, and there are one of two places which give you good views and where you should take your bearing.

The Peak

Just before the peak, the ground will become wetter and the vegetation will change dramatically.

Vegetation at top

The last climb to the peak is not difficult, but you will be moving through dense undergrowth.  There is a poorly defined track - avoid travelling to far to the North and the drops on that side.

At the top itself is a 1-2m rock cairn with a marker.  Spend a moment reading about the past.

Cairn at top

Approach from the East

You can climb Palerang from the East (along Palerang Fire Trail) - but the ascent is difficult because of the loose material and the steep incline.  Unless you are with someone who knows the East ascent, dont try it.

Approach from the West

This will take a long time.

You can climb Palerang from Mulloon Creek - either by following the fire trail to the intersection and then travelling the North Approach (above) - of by following small waterfalls to the East of the rest area.  Do not do this without someone who knows the way.  The paths here are NOT marked - while waterfalls can look like trails, these ones are not.

Skills ?

While I have my mountain climbing ticket - no special skills or gear is required for this climb.  If you swing off the East face, or some of the rock walls, it is a different matter.

Peter Quinton
February 2014


Anonymous said...

How far fromDickson ACT?

Peter Quinton said...

About 1 1/2 to 2 hours either way. I would suggest going via Braidwood. It would be about an hour there and then about 30+ minutes to the intersection. Allow another 1-2 hours for the climb and stopping along the way :)