Sunday, 27 March 2016

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Warren to Pemberton


The final day of a three day trek from Northcliffe to Pemberton, the walk from Warren to Pemberton is arguably the best of the three days. Starting with sunrise overlooking the Warren River Valley and passing through the lovely Karri Forests of Gloucester National Park, the track takes walkers to spectacular views of the Cascades (via a short spur) and the opportunity to climb high above the forest canopy at the famous Gloucester Tree.



Distance: 23 km (one way, includes Cascades spur trail)
Gradient: Some hilly sections and steep descents, though considerably easier than the previous day, with some long, flat sections.
Quality of Path: Very clear and well maintained. 
Quality of Signage: Well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information. 
Experience Required: Bush Walking Experience Recommended
Time: 6 Hours, including lunch, Cascades spur and Gloucester Tree climb
Steps: Some steps in places, with many leading to the Gloucester Tree. The Gloucester Tree itself requires climbing 153 rungs. 
Best Time to Visit: Best to avoid from January-March during Bushfire Season. 
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: We stayed at Warren Campsite. Those looking to do this as a slightly longer all-day walk could access the track from River Road Bridge. The Cascades and the Gloucester Tree are also easy access points, and the Cascades to Gloucester Tree could be done as a shorter one way walk. 



With a 2:41pm bus to catch in Pemberton to bring us back to our car in Northcliffe, Alissa and I woke early and got ready before sunrise at Warren Campsite. Waking up early is pretty much routine after a night on the Bibbulmun, but waking up to the sound of Kookaburras in the distance while overlooking the Warren River Valley was particularly magical, and a great start to what would prove to be an excellent day on the track. 



After a night of rain, the track was nice and damp, with the walk following nearby watercourses that were nevertheless fairly dry. 



Although significantly less up and down that the day before, the track did features several ascents and descents, however the views of the valley engulfed in early morning fog made it all worthwhile. 





Farmland is much less prevalent in this section, and the one time that the track broke into open farm country provided us with spectacular views of the moody, cloudy sky as the rain clouds rolled away from us. 





Circumnavigating the farm, the name Revolution Rd seemed highly fitting in an agrarian socialist sense. Coincidentally, one of the hikers we encountered the day before had brought a copy of Revolutionary Road with her, and I wonder what she would have made of this happenstance. 



Although not entirely clear in this photo, the dark, gloomy skies we had been travelling with for the last few days broke as we continued on, giving way to lovely, sunny skies.



The change was most pronounced once we reached Gloucester Rd, a vehicle access point that passes very close to the Pemberton to Northcliffe Tramway. At this point we had comfortably covered 8 kilometres in two hours, and were very confident in making it to Pemberton with plenty of time to spare before our bus arrived. 



A track design feature we had noticed on all three days was the convenient location of fallen trees laid out after significant inclines. Whether it was a case of trees serendipitously falling at the perfect location or savvy, considerate design, we appreciated these rest spots. 



After three more ascents from Gloucester Rd and passing through more impressive Karri forest, the track reached the junction with the spur trail to the Cascades. A mere 200 metres off the main track (400 metres return), the Cascades are located down a fairly steep descent to the Lefroy Brook. This might seem uninviting given the required steep ascent, but the side trip is one of the highlights of the day's walking and is highly recommended. 



The track passes under an old railway bridge before crossing the Lefroy Brook on a purpose built bridge. 



Being a major tourist attraction in its own right, the Cascades has a lovely day use area that is perfect for lunch (or in our case a mid morning snack), complete with picnic tables and a toilet. Right near the main picnic area is a viewing platform overlooking the Cascades. As nice as this spot is, to me it is not truly the best part of the Cascades, and having visited this site countless times since I was a kid, I knew to follow the path to the left to get up close to the best bit of the rapids. 



Following the trail to the left takes you right to the Cascades, and while signs clearly discourage people walking across the rocks for safety reasons, I scrambled my way to the other side to get a photograph of these small falls in action. 



After our mid morning brunch and running into our hiking companions in the group of four, Alissa and I set off again. The track here rises and falls steeply one last time before taking walkers to an old rail formation. This section of the track is incredibly flat and easy, however it is a very long stretch that had us missing some hilliness by the end of it!



The rail formation leads to a bitumen road heading towards the Gloucester Tree. This ascent start gently, and after many slippery, muddy climbs the hardness of the road was a welcome change of pace. 



Curving around the road, the track then ascends for the last climb of the day. This ascent is very long and steep, with very large and tall trees along the path. Unable to see the Gloucester Tree from the rest of the forest, the sound of voices in the distance climbing the tree builds anticipation. 



Finally, we made it up to the base of the Gloucester Tree, and were surrounded by more people than we had seen for days - even in the crowded Warren hut. Being afraid of heights, Alissa stayed at the bottom minding our bags while I climbed up to the top. 



It has been 17 years since I last climbed the Gloucester Tree, and I have to admit that I was a bit less carefree about it than I was at 13. Unnerving as it can be looking down, the climb is actually relatively easy - easier in my estimation than both the taller Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree and the shorter Diamond Tree.



The best thing about climbing the Gloucester Tree are the incredible 360° views over the forest canopy, especially considering that Karri trees are amongst the tallest in the world. 



After the climb, the Bibbulmun continues on a universal access path to the outskirts of Pemberton. 



While such a long section of bitumenised path is less than desirable in hiking boots, the views along this section were spectacular, with the trees being particularly mature.



Leaving the National Park, we walked past what looked like a water tower ready for emergencies in the bushfire season - particularly necessary for a town so significantly surrounded by forest. 



The track then follows several roads as it leads walkers to the town centre. 



Pemberton is a lovely timber and tourism town, with decent food options and easy access to public transport. Having arrived early for our bus, Alissa and I sat at a picnic table across the road, happy to have completed our three day hike. 



Warren to Pemberton was easily the best day of this three day section of the track, and although it was entirely based on bus timetable times, I was glad that we walked it in a South to North direction for this very reason. Waking up to sunrise at Warren Campsite and getting to visit both the Cascades and the Gloucester Tree makes this a truly memorable section of the Bibbulmun Track, and I would happily walk this section again as a day walk. Definitely a contender for one of the best and most scenic days on the Track. 



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Postscript


On the way home, we decided to stop in at the Diamond Tree. I'd never climbed the Diamond Tree before, and thought it would be nice to complete the trilogy after having already climbed the Gloucester Tree twice and the Dave Evans Bicentennial once. 



Although shorter than the Gloucester Tree, the pegs up the Diamond Tree get very steep after the halfway point, and then lead straight to a ladder lacking in any grip. I would rate this as a harder climb than the Gloucester Tree, with the lack of other climbers adding to the psychological effect. 



The views from above are similar to the Gloucester Tree, with more farmland visible beyond the forests. 



It was a worthwhile climb, and is definitely worth checking out if you're heading between Pemberton and Manjimup. 

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