OverviewThe jagged peaks of the Stirling Ranges rise up suddenly out of the surrounding farmland, creating a strong contrast to what is otherwise a flat landscape.
For anyone living in the south west of Australia interested in mountains the area is unrivaled, both in altitude and beauty, offering the best mountain views that don't require a flight to reach them. Despite it's seemingly low altitude the area offers the longest trad routes in the state and some of the few climbs which could be classed as 'alpine' in the whole country. But its 'remoteness' mean that the area sees very few visitors compared to what it would if it were more readily accesible. As a result it has a peculiar distinction of being renownded in the south west of the country while at the same time being nearlly totally ignored by the rest of the world. For most locals the area is prized for the wonderful bushwalking, many of the peaks can be reached by an easy 3-4 hour return hike from a car park and thus the area is popular with day trippers from Albany. It is also famous for the variety of wildflowers, which are most abundant in the spring months.
Climate and WeatherThe climate for the Stirling Ranges and surrounding area is typically mediterranean, with warm, dry summers and cool to mild, wet winters. It is quite similar to southern California, mediterranean Europe, and the western area of Cape Province in South Africa (which apparently has very similar plant species to that found in SW Australia).
The majority of the rainfall occurs in winter, with 3/4 falling between May and October. The range marks the boundary between wetter areas in the south which receive about 1200mm per year, compared to farmland to the north which only gets about 400mm. The heighest recorded rainfall area is around Bluff Knoll, which receives about 1000mm per year. In rain shadowed areas on the northern border of the park the figures can be much lower. It is quite common for the higher peaks to be shrouded in mist and low level clouds, but these water droplets are so small that they don't have impact on rainfall levels (such clouds can make navigation tricky though).
Temperature is also quite variable, as with any mountain range it is highly dependent on localities such as elevation and aspect. Average maximums and minimums are 27C and 13C for January (mid-summer), though warm days into the 30’s can and do occur often. For July (mid-winter) the average maximums and minimums are 15C abd 6C respectively. The temperature will drop below zero a few times during the year, but snowfalls are very rare, and when they do occur the snow will usually melt as it hits the ground.
Short HistoryThe Qaaniyan and Koreng peoples originally inhabited the area and it is of special significance to Aboriginal culture. The area was settled In 1913 is was set aside as a National Park, mainly for the sake of preserving it's unique vegetation in an era renouned for clearing of the land. It wasn't until the 1960's that walking paths were established up many of the main peaks. The following decadeof the mid 60's to 70's saw the 'Golden Era' of climbing for the Stirlings with many routes being established, climbers especially gravitated towards the 300m face of Bluff Knoll. By 1970 atleast one route had been climbed to all the peaks. After this time, the attention of locals shifted towards the fantastic (and more easily accessed) climbing of West Cape Howe and the seacliffs around Albany, but new routes continued to be put up through the 80's and 90's and potential remains for further new climbs.
PeaksWith 15 peaks over 900 m and 50 peaks above 600 m spread over 65kilometres. The area to the west of Chester Pass Road contains more isolated peaks, whereas those to the east form part of the aplty named stirling Ridge. They are listed in order of popularity for most visitors.
The highest in the range at 1073 metres, also sees the largest number of visitors with a well maintained trail makes for easy access. The north west face is also home to some trad climbing routes around 200-350metres long.
At 1052m this is only neglibly lower than Bluff Knoll, it also has a walking path though is steeper, more 'srambly', and a little bit longer to reach. Stunning views (perhaps the best in the range) and interesting scree walking make this an enjoyable outing.
This peak is accessed from the Stirling Range Drive and is an easy 1 hour walk to the top, the track winds beneath some large overhanging rocks close to the summit (783m) and there are some brilliant views too. Also some shorter trad routes which are aid to be a good introducting to rock climbing in the Stirlings.
A well defined walking trail makes this one of the most easily achieved peaks in the range after 40 minutes of walking.
One of the most beautiful peaks in the range Ellen still sees very few vistors comparatively. Due to it's more difficult access at the far east end of the park. It is possible to hike the peak (1052m) in a day, though most of those who call past it are doing the Stirling Ridge walk.
Red TapeNo car camping, though bivying is allowed for those on overnight hikes.
There is an entry fee of $9 per vehicle, which goes towards maintenance of facilities around the car park, environemental progrmas etc. This is paid through an honesty policy system, with information supplied at the start of the road to Bluff Knoll off Chester Pass Road
No pets (cats and dogs)
Bury human waste, away from water courses
Register with the ranger for climbs and overnight walks.
Getting ThereThe area lies in the south west corner of mainland Australia, about 100km north of Albany, and 400km south east of Perth. It is actually quite easy to get to provided you have a car. From Albany go on Chester Pass Road, this will take you directly to the range. From Perth take the Albany Highway down as far as Cranbrook (300km), then turn left and drive for another 80km.
For those relying on public transport getting to the range is somewhat more difficult. Apparently these backpacker bus tour groups
Country Escape and Easy Rider Tours run services from Perth, but they require one to go along to other destinations along the way. A far better option would be to catch a bus down to Albany, from Perth, then just hitch hike...
Mountains of Mystery: A Natural History of the Stirling Range edited by Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) ISBN: 0 7309 5460 9. A decent book for anyone interested in the flora and fauna of the park, and some management issues. Not much information recreational use of the park though.
Mountain Walks in the Stirling Ranges by A.T Morphett DATE ISBN: INSERT HERE. A highly redomendable guide in two (pocket sized) volumes covering walking paths in the park. The book features detailed sketches for the Stirling Ridge Walk, and is far more useful than maps if you are intending to go bush walking.
West Australian Rock: A guide to the best rockclimbing in WA, by Shane Richardson ISBN: 0-9580760-0-6. Features six pages of route descriptions and topos for the rock climbing. The definitive guide book for WA climbers.
Striling Range Retreat
Some nice photos and an overview of the areas attractions aswell as details for accomodation.
Also a general over view
Ranger: 9827 9230
The Stirling Range Retreat Office can provide weather forecasts too.
Regional CALM office
120 Albany Highway
Tel: (08) 9842 4500
Fax: (08) 9841 7105
Regional Fax: (08) 9841 3329
for information on track access, and areas affected by dieback
1/222 York Street Albany
for maps and guide books