Hiking Mt Tibrogargan, Glass House Mountains

By Ken Eastwood 16 September 2009
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Self-confessed idiot Ken Eastwood is rewarded with amazing views after a tough start on the slopes of Mt Tibrogargan

* Tibrogargan is currently closed due to dangerous rock falls

OK, SO I’M AN idiot. I’m on my own, climbing the steepest bushwalk I’ve done in my life – a route that’s marked as extremely dangerous. It’s 39°C, horrendously humid and I’m sweating like a mad Norwegian in a who-can-stay-in-the-sauna longest competition. My backpack is laden with binoculars, tripod, a bird book and cameras – most of which are useless. The terrain is far too steep to set a tripod – in fact most of the time I need both hands just to hang on – and the birds are way too sensible to be out in this heat, including the legendary peregrine falcons that inhabit the area. Like I said, I’m an idiot.

But an idiot with vision. The sensational walk up the 364 m Mt Tibrogargan in the Sunshine Coast hinterland is one of the best short walks I’ve ever done, anywhere. It’s described as a mere 3 km return walk, but think of it more as a 200 m rock-climb without rope. It quickly and steeply takes you way above the surrounding macadamia orchards, pineapple and pine plantations, through beautiful mountain vegetation to unbelievable views on the summit, over the Sunshine Coast and the Glass House Mountains.

When climbing up, the wear in the rock makes it fairly clear where most people have ascended, but from above, it is a lot harder to distinguish the best route, and it would be all too easy in the dark to make a serious blunder. Take care up there.

1. Start/finish
Mt Tibrogargan is often called “The Gorilla” and if you approach it from the Bruce Highway, Glass House Road or anywhere in the east, you can see its hunched ape-like form gruffly contemplating south-eastern Queensland. In Gubbi Gubbi culture, Tibrogargan is a father figure who turned his back on Coonowrin, his eldest child. The route is accessed from a car park off Barrs Rd, near the corner of Marshes Road.

2. Start by taking the Tibrogargan Circuit Track as it winds through casuarinas. This gentle 3.3 km circuit is recommended for those who don’t want to make the climb. It wanders through forests, offering great views of the mountain. The route also links with the 6 km Trachyte Circuit, which wanders into the adjoining State Forest.

3. Continue steadily ascending to the Mountain View Lookout, 800 m from the car park. Don’t expect a 360-degree view here, as it is obscured by vegetation and the mountain itself, but you can see some of the other 25 million-year-old volcanic remnants, such as Mt Coonowrin and Mt Beerwah. At this point, signs assure you how dangerous it is to continue up the mountain. After a couple of hundred metres through the casuarinas and tea-trees, you reach the first scrambling rock ascent. There are plenty of handholds and foot placements. The middle section of climbing is the hardest, with some sections of fairly smooth rock face, no protection from the elements and nothing to stop your fall should you stumble, so if you are afraid of heights–don’t look down. In fact, you shouldn’t be here at all. Towards the top of the climb, the path becomes more of a steep scramble up eroded water gullies.

4. On reaching the plateau at the top, there are superb 240-degree views towards the west through the xanthorrhoea and it’s worth catching your breath and your wits before walking through thick mountain heath to the other side of the plateau, where rock platforms provide a throne to admire the view east. Looking over the Bruce Highway, you have the gorillas’ eye view over the ocean, the sprawling developments on the Sunshine Coast and the green hinterland.

Factfile: Mt Tibrogargan, QLD

Distance: 3.5 km return.

Time: 2 hours return recommended.

Nearest towns: Glass House, Beerburrum

Best season: Not the middle of summer or after rain.

Terrain: Very steep volcanic rock.

Accommodation: Camp in the national park at Coochin Creek for $4.85 pp a night; Glasshouse Mountains Holiday Village at Beerwah (website); simple rooms at Glasshouse Mountains Eco-Lodge (website); or, for something really swish, the innovative Glass on Glasshouse (website).

Food/drink: Glass House, Beerburrum.

Getting there: Heading north, take Glass House Road off the Bruce Highway, head through Beerburrum and turn left into Barrs Road before Glass House Township. Car park is just a few kilometres along this road, near the corner of Marshs Road.
More info: Website