Climbing rugged Mt Barney, Southeast Queensland’s second-highest mountain is one of the state’s most spectacular land-based outdoor pursuits. Just don’t underestimate the time, fitness, and skills required to reach the top. Hiking Mt Barney may not be one of the first things to do in Queensland that pops into mind but it certainly is one of the most challenging. When my mountain guide, Mt Barney Lodge Country Retreat co-owner Innes Larkin, tells me to expect at least 10 hours of trail time during tomorrow’s expedition, I figure he must be exaggerating, maybe to keep me from making early dinner arrangements back in Brisbane.
“Surely we’ll be back within eight hours?” I ask my husband as we sip local wine and marvel at the fairy floss tufts of clouds tentatively venturing towards the bold, granophyre face of Mt Barney’s 1351m East Peak.
I soon discover that routes up Mt Barney are unmarked or barely marked and require extensive bushwalking experience and navigational skills. If you decide to tackle this peak independently, be well prepared, use sound judgment, seek local advice and follow all safety guidelines listed on the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing’s website. May’s early morning twilight quickly gives way to gentle light and hints of warmth as we traipse along an occasionally undulating, southwest-moving fire trail. An hour later, one of my outer layers shed, we begin the ascent up the East Peak’s southwest route.
As with other routes up Mt Barney’s peaks, this one is unmarked. Although the initial climb through eucalypt forest seems relatively straightforward, the track deteriorates, confronting us with vegetation-choked pathways, sheer, narrow ledges, and rock negotiations. It’s obvious why the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing’s website recommends a high level of fitness, experience, and navigational skills for tackling Mt Barney. If Innes wasn’t with us, our chances of getting lost would be exceptionally high.
Thanks to our guide, though, this isn’t a worry. Somewhere around the 1050m mark, soon after we trade eucalypts for montane heath, the real scrambling begins. Innes’ guidance on where to place one’s foot, hand, or ‘third leg’ (bottom) becomes not only welcome but necessary. “From here, you’re in ‘the zone’,” Innes grins, “focussing on every step.” He clearly thrives on every challenge this mountain presents. As we struggle to remain in the Barney zone, Innes mentions that this route isn’t the most difficult. The rugged Logan’s Ridge route, which Captain Patrick Logan, commandant of the Brisbane settlement, used to ascend the East Peak in 1828 requires you to concentrate the whole way, Innes explains, eye’s twinkling.
But although Logan’s Ridge is his favourite, he won’t take clients there unless he’s previously assessed their bushwalking and rock scrambling skills. Gazing out towards the rocky, unforgiving ridgeline, I completely understand why.