FKT: Brad Robinson, Geoff Edwards - Stirling Range Ridge Walk - 2024-04-27

Route variation
Out and Back (30km)
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
12h 50m 5s

We arrived at the Bluff Knoll carpark at 5:10am on 27th April 2024.  Obligatory stop at the strong earthen smelling drop toilets for some “pre-run relief” before getting someone passing by to grab a group photo of us prior to setting off. Looking at the photo we noticed the parking pay point and remembered last minute that we hadn’t placed our parking permit on the dash, narrowly avoiding a parking fine!  The four of us (Clint “Captain Pineapple” Slomp, Geoff “Mountain Goat” Edwards, Sarah “Unprepped-Layers” Dyer and Brad “The Mastermind” Robinson set off along the trail.

At 5:26am we were away with the aim to “hike easy” and hit the summit of Bluff Knoll to coincide with the sunrise. The staggered line of lights heading up the trail towards Bluff looking like a set of Christmas lights running up the side of the cliff. It was a pretty cool sight to behold. Within about 20mins from taking off, the air was filled with the smell of smoke from the local farmers burning off the stubble from the wheat fields and a nearby bushfire at Walpole. The lingering smoke provided a low lying cloud layer where Toolbrunup Peak and Mount Trio peaked out in the early morning pale moonlight. We pushed up the steps to the Southernmost end of the Bluff Knoll trail where the pre-dawn light allowed us to pack away the headlamps and the Southerly wind kicked in as we rounded the corner up onto the escarpment.  A short climb later, we were at the peak of Bluff Knoll along with a million other sunrise hopefuls.

The Mastermind was in his element, snapping photos like an Asian tourist, making sure that the angles were just right. The lighting was perfect and he was admiring the view. After capturing a couple of dozen photos of Pyungoorup Peak, the sun finally emerged providing the most amazing backdrop! We huddled together for a group photo and grabbed the first person we saw to take a photo of us. He chuckled as he asked us “Weren’t you the guys I took a photo of in the carpark?” – It’s a small world, and we thanked our official team photographer before prepping for our departure from Bluff and heading out onto the ridge.  Not before Captain Pineapple made the most of the opportunity to partake of his first canned, pineapple-ring snack. Whilst he was busy feeding on the sweet pine-appley goodness, the remaining team members were having a laugh at the Samsung AI photo editing as we removed all of the surrounding people (and the Captain) from the group photo. Whilst the AI editing feature was pretty cool, one thing that couldn’t be enhanced in the photos was just how stunningly bright the waning moon looked.  It must have been something to do with the angles of the rising sun, our height on the bluff or perhaps the sun reflecting off the diamond rings from the 2 gents that were bending a knee to propose to their prospective “wives to be” in the morning light. It was starting to get cold and Sarah was threatening to put on another layer, so we knew we needed to make a move.

After a short search, we found the Stirling Ridge trail and made our way towards East Bluff (Or East Peak, depending on the map you read). We were able to trot a little and push on down the Eastern side of the bluff towards Moongoongoonderup Hill.  It was a long trip down the east side, dropping about 470m over 2.5km and the path wasn’t well marked. The Mastermind was in his element, having scoped the various path options on previous visits, he lead the charge down the correct path. It was a long grinder up Moongoongoonderup Hill and the Captain was straining with his load of pineapple tins and 7 litres of water.  He welcomed the opportunity to stop for a quick chat with an oncoming hiker who had lost her car keys somewhere on the trail. The team grabbed her number before they lunged up the steeper western limb towards Isongerup Peak and the planned stop where they would drop a bag at the 9km mark with water, electrolytes and various other delicacies to enjoy on the return.

Down the Eastern side of Isongerup, the team soon met their first significantly technical climb. Mirlpunda, or “The Arrows” represents the first instance where trail hunting really sets in. The trails here are steep, technical and poorly marked. In poor visibility conditions, it would be very easy to miss the correct turn off, or find yourself staring out from a sheer lookout with no idea on where to go. The mastermind had found himself here on previous expeditions – but not this time! He knew exactly where to go.  After some technical climbs, turns and photo opportunities, the team was at the Second Arrow. The path split a few times, but essentially all roads led to the Third Arrow!  The Third Arrow is home to “The Barrel” and a limited water resource for Range walkers to replenish supplies, provided you are willing to climb to reach the barrel.  It was around this point that we encountered a team of “Experienced campers”, looking more like a troop of well-experienced Hobbits, hiking the mountains of Middle Earth.  One such character with a three-part, aluminium ladder, had carried his tool all the way from Bluff Knoll to ensure his team would not die of dehydration. After catching his ladder on an overhanging tree, the Mountain Goat claimed – “That wouldn’t have happened, if you didn’t have a ladder on your back!”.  Our Hobbit Friend announced it was successfully utilised to access the barrel (Notably full at the time) for him and his companions. The Mountain Goat cried – “I hope they appreciated your efforts to ensure you had enough water” – but our Hobbit friend was unconvinced that his crew truely appreciated his efforts.

The team moved around the southern limit of Pyungoorup Peak, battling through Sword-grass forests, braving sliced fingers and hands in the process. Everyone survived, except Unprepped-Layers Sarah, who was lucky to return home with all her fingers intact. A short stay-over in the overhang/cave area and the crew were back up onto the ridge. Turning to the East, they navigated their way up onto Ellen Peak and successfully found the huge rock cairn and the Boy Scouts tin and record book.  The Mannning Park Trail Runners (MPTR) had landed with Captain Pineapple, Mountain Goat, Mastermind and Unprepped Layers all making the turnaround point and signing the book! It was noted that other MPTR contenders had passed through (almost 3years exactly) on previous expeditions!

At this point, Captain Pineapple and Unprepped Layers decided it was best to head East and left the Mountain Goat and the Mastermind to push on and back the way they came on the Stirling Ridge, Out and Back course. This was after all, a fastest known time effort, and the race was on!  The Mountain Goat leapt into action heading back towards Pyungoorup with the Mastermind in pursuit! It wasn’t long before the dynamic duo were back onto the main Stirling Ridge trail before they stumbled across their first Junvenile Dugite, furiously scuttling across the sandy track. Whilst tackling their way back down the Southern side of Pyungoorup, the Mastermind disturbed a large round rock and raced it down the trail. The rock won and the Mastermind was lucky to live to tell the tale…Meanwhile Unprepped-layers and Captain Pineapple chatted happily on the single trail down from Ellen Peak to the northern firebreak.

In no time at all the sword grass gave way to Bakers Knob as the boys trotted towards the Arrows. Third Arrow’s large grassy Gap was enjoyed shortly with a few photo snaps and in no time it felt like they were battling the super-technical slopes of the first arrow. A few other range hikers were passed, but interestingly the Mountain Goat noted that one in particular was from his age-old days of junior athletics and the duo had a short catch up session whilst the afternoon sun beat down on them on the first arrow. The Mastermind could feel the sun burning his tender exposed skin, but it would be nothing compared to the hole in the back of the Mountain Goat’s hat that left him with a giant sun-burned spot on his forehead that evening!

The boys pushed on from the Arrows towards Isongerup Peak and their secret cache of water, electrolytes and “other delicacies”. As the dynamic duo arrived at Isongerup and climbing the last leg, they realised….the cache was at least another kilometer away on the western face of Isongerup and so they push on. On arrival to the cache with mouths as dry as the Sahara…They savoured the team’s dropped items. A few softdrinks and various delicacies, namely the Captain Pineapples roasted potatoes, tinned pineapple rings and water/electrolyte mixes, it was a kings banquet!  It took a good 20mins to eat their fill, empty and crush the tins and repack their running packs to push on towards Bluff Knoll before the daylight ran out. The goal at this point was to make it back to the start, ideally without use of headlamps. A quick phone call to check in with the Captain and Layers Dyer noted that they had only just made the fireline track. The race was on, but Captain pineapple and Layers Dyer had no idea the race they were in.

Within no time at all the Mastermind and the Mountain Goat were already crossing Moongoongoonderup Hill and commencing the climb back up to the Bluff. The sun was starting to drop in the Western sky and the clouds were creating a beautiful backdrop of light grey-purple-gold magnificence behind Bluff. This last climb up the Eastern side of East Bluff was more brutal than all of the other climbs combined! Quads were groaning, calves were crying, but the soldiers pushed on…

Reaching the top of Bluff, the crowds had dispersed from the mornings gathering. Only a small group of half a dozen revellers remained and funnily enough, wanting to tell the duo about how other adventurers had braved the ridge walk, covering it’s epic length over 2 to 3 days in one direction – but were entirely shocked to hear that the Mountain Goat and Mastermind had transgressed the ridge, in both directions in a single day! Legends were being created as the two set off down the Bluff stairs.  The Mountain Goat’s Trashed Quads groaned one last time as the Mastermind tried his best to keep his pace up down the 3kms of steps back to the starting point at the carpark. As the pace increased, the Mountain Goat noted that the rocks and steps flew by at breakneck speeds, he had never recalled a time he had ever run SO fast as he looked down at his Garmin watch, ticking over at an 8min 30sec pace…It was all a blur as they arrived at the Bluff Knoll carpark and the “Stirling Ridge Out and Back” reached an end….both the Mountain Goat and the Mastermind had completed the Stirling Ridge, covering both directions in a single day!