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Bartle Frere
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Climbing Bartle Frere


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bartle frere

StateMountainHeight (metres)
New South Wales Mount Kosciuszko2228
Victoria Mount Bogong1986
Australian Capital TerritoryBimberi Peak1913
QueenslandBartle Frere1622
Tasmania Mount Ossa1617
Northern Territory Mount Zeil1531
South Australia Mount Woodroffe1435
Western Australia Mount Meharry1253


Climbing Facts

State Queensland
Highest Peak Mount Bartle Frere
Elevation 1622m (5321 feet)
First climbed 1886 - Christie Palmerston
Vertical Gain Josephine Falls Car Park 1500m
Total Distance 15km return  
Estimated hiking time 10-12 hours
Difficulty Hard  
Required Maps Bartle Frere 8063 2
Nearest Town Bartle Frere (Cairns) to Jos. Falls 4km (75km)
Nearest accommodation  
GPS Co-Ordinates  
Date climbed August 2007


Queensland - Bartle Frere

| About Bartle Frere |

How would I summarise our climb up Bartle Frere?

Steep, steep, steep...and the leeches. Dammit, I'm surprised I had any blood left after the amount of blood these litte critters sponged out of my legs.

When writing this piece, I'd climbed four of the State8, and while some of the walks are tough, this would have to be steepest over the longest period so far. This is a 10+ hour walk and if you want to complete it in a day, it's a lond hard slog. I'd suggest an overnight walk to make it all a little easier, but don't plan on spending the night anywhere near the bottom of the mountains, unless you want them little blood sucking vermin crawling all over you (Damn leeches!).

There are two routes up Bartle Frere, East from Josephine Falls (the most common route) and West from the Atherton Tablelands. I went and back from the East, so can't really comment on the Western route.

| Bartle Frere from Josephine Falls |

At 1622m, Bartle Frere is the highest peak in Queensland, located about 60 kilometres south of Cairns. I had taken a four day holiday to Cairns with my girlfriend and after a day on the reef, a day rafting and a day not doing much, I'd managed to convince the gf that we should climb the highest mountain in Queensland. Infact, this had always been the plan, I just waited until we were in our hotel to spring it on her.

So at 5.52am on a Sunday morning I left the comfort of our 5-star hotel and journeyed out to the airport to pick up our rental car (the only car rental place open this early). (There really is no other way to get to the mountain other than by car.) By 7.15am we were on our way, driving south toward our goal. Just on an hour later we arrived at the Josephine Falls car park (this isn't hard to find and is well posted from the main North-South Bruce Highway, about 5 minutes past the little town (village) -five building settlement of Miriwinni). It should be noted that we were yet to buy any food for our adventure and I had been hoping that we would pass an IGA, Coles or Woolworths on our drive south, however there really are no supermarkets on the way to the summit car park, so any food or supplies (especially if you're planning an overnight trip) should be purchased in Cairns. Therefore, no sooner had I driven into the car park than I was forced to immediately turn around and drive back out to the only petrol station in Miriwinni and stock up on whatever food they had on their shelves. Bananas, tins of tuna and chocolate bars (actually not a bad supply).

Our 8.15am start was therefore delayed and it was not until 8.45am that we were back in the car park and ready to go...well almost. I had read that there was a ranger station at the national park entrance where we could sign-in and also pick up a map. Neither of these assumptions turned out to be right. There is a toilet block, some picnic tables, a few birds and not much else, certainly no ranger station in the carpark. There is a map, but unless I was going to knock down a 2x3 metre display and carry it with me, I was somehow going to have commit the route to memory. no one was going to know where we were going and in theory, given no map, nor was I. I thought about leaving a message on the back of a toilet door but realised I might attract the wrong type of attention and wasn't sure I wanted some guy called Bruce waiting for me in the toilets when I returned (no offence to any Bruce's out there). So I had to try and rely on my less than photographic memory and try and commit the track to memory. In the end, the path up the mountain is actually really well marked and there was never really a need for map. Infact there are markers every kilometer along the track, and little orange markers on every dozen or so trees, so you always know you are on the trail and even have the added benefit of knowing how far you have gone or still have to go.

So we were off and walking. The first three and half kilometers are actually pretty darn easy. The track is pretty flat and apart from a few small creeks, nothing really challenging. Well, not quite. Just before the three kilometer mark you reach the first of two creek/rivers you must cross. This first creek doesn't have any obvious crossing point and we forced to attempt a couple of different routes, before one foot in the water and we were across. It was while taking a photo at this first crossing that I noticed a leech crawling up my boot. On closer inspection, I realised it wasn't one leech but about three. Have I not mentioned the leeches? Sheesh, this jungle is breeding them. I kid you not, when I say that for the next couple of hours, every 15 minutes or so, we'd stop to pull leeches off our boots and socks, I'm not joking. My girlfriend really didn't get too many leeches at all (and no leech bites), but I was a leech magnet. I figured that perhaps her walking ahead of me was getting the little suckers excited and ready to latch onto anything that moved, ie me as I followed behind her. Anyway I must have pulled 30 leeches off my shoes and socks during the walk. As I wandered along the pathway a thought crossed my mind, what the hell do leeches feed on when there aren't hikers around? There wasn't too much wildlife around, but then again perhaps my continuous leech induced cursing had scared any other living creature away.

So anyway, after about one hour and twenty minutes we reached Big Rock Campsite (about 3.5 kilometres into our hike) I've incorrectly labelled this as Big Horn Camp on my map. Big Rock is really the first place in which there is enough room to setup a tent, not that you'd want to. I'm sure the leeches would have a field day if they knew there were a few sleeping hikers nearby. There were masses of the little critter's crawling over our legs while we rested here. Big Rock is also the last place where you can fill up with water. I read somewhere that there is water near the summit, but we didn't manage to find any, so if you need water, get it here. We met this Welsh guy near the summit who was completely out of water. I think he was Welsh, perhaps the dehydration was making him speak funny. Anyway, despite us offering him some of our water, he politely declined and instead powered down the mountain trying to reach Big Rock for a drink. We didn't find him collapsed by the side of the trail, so presumably he made it.

However, I digress from my tale. From Big Rock you can head off to the left and Broken Nose or up to the right and the summit. I'm not sure who named these spots, but I'm sure there must have had some Appache or Sioux Indians among the earlier explorers.

So we'd knocked off 3.5ks in just over an hour. Geez, at this rate we would get to the top and back in time for more sightseeing in the afternoon. Boy was I wrong. Once you cross the creek you head up...and up...and up. The track gets becomes and stays steep for the next 3.5 kilometres. The trail markers along the way do serve as a good point of reference and allow you to set goals for reaching the next 1000 metres, however, when we missed marker 6 (it's behind a rock) I was subjected to a mild case of girlfriend hysteria. We're almost at marker 6 I kept telling her, and on and on we walked. Anyway, be warned the track is really steep, with an even steeper section between marker 4 and 5 (some climbing up the wall face with your hands is required). However, after another 3 and 3/4 hours we finally made it to marker 7. There are a few rock scrambles just before marker 7 which are a little tricky and a good prelude to the rock scrambling which awaits you on the final 500 metre ascent.

Marker 7 sits on the summit ridge and offers the first really fantastic views of the surrounding country (if it's not raining or clouded in). You can see out to the Ocean. Well at least we could, as we had fantastic weather. A note on the weather. This area measures rainfall in metres and Bartle Frere is more often than not covered in clouds and rain (apparently anyway). Even as we sat at the top of the mountain, clouds enveloped the summit before clearing again. I'm not sure how quickly the weather changes up here, but I'd certainly be packing for wet wet weather. At marker 7, there is another campsite, a helicopter emergency landing site and an emergency cabin, all quite civilized.

The final climb from marker 7 actually looks very close. This probably because a false summit is the only peak which is apparent from the spur. And this section of the climb is probably one of the most tricky. You are required to climb up, over, under and between some pretty massive boulders. There are chains on a few of the hardest sections, but in heavy rain I'd imagine this would be pretty slippery. It was here that my girlfriend decided to let my finish the walk myself. It was starting to get late and I'd broken already broken my cardinal rule of climbing. Always give yourself enough time to get back down again. I've heard this called summit fever, and while this an extreme case, basically climbers are so intent on getting to the top, that they don't give themselves enough time to get back down again. You can imagine this could be pretty dangerous if climbing some really dangerous peaks. Anyway, I had figured how long I thought we needed to get back down before darkness (basically the same amount of time we'd taken to get up) and we were already over this (it was about 3pm, so it had taken more than 6 hours already).

But I was determined to get to the top, so I powered off by myself. Once over the last boulder run, the final ascent isn't so bad. As soon as you reach the false summit, you can see the real summit ahead (although completely covered in trees). This section is again pretty steep, with some climbing again at about the 30metre below summit point. I think it took me another 20 minutes to finish off the last section and then I was there...the highest point in Queensland. The summit itself isn't so spectacular, probably because you are surrounded by the trees around you. There is a small clearing right at the summit, where you could probably fit a couple of tents. We spoke to a father and son who spent the night here and they said it got pretty cold during the night (for a Queenslander anyway. I think they said it got down to a bone chilling 12 degrees).

Anyways, after a few quick photos, I was off again. I didn't even venture out through the undergrowth to see if I could find a better vantage point. It was really starting to get late. I think by the time I got back to Marker 7 it was just before 4. The last return leg had taken me about 35 minutes. And now we had to get back down again.

Obviously going down is a whole lot faster than going up, but it's still a long way. I continually looked at my watch realising that we were not going to get back to the car in daylight. I think we were somewhere between marker 3 and 2 that the sun set. By the time we reached marker 2 it was dark. And with the dark, not only did I have to contend with trying to ensure we were still on the path but also manage my ever increasing distressed girlfriend. We were very lucky that the moon was out, as it would have been really dark otherwise and the continual sounds of the rainforest was doing a fantastic job of further tormenting my girlfriend. Lucky for me, I know how how far I walk (based on the number of steps I take), so I was always able to tell her roughly how far away we still were from the carpark. This really didn't do anything to abate her fears and by the time we finally broke out and back into the carpark she was in tears. Boy oh boy...I think if she hadn't been relying on me to find our way back to the carpark she would have clobbered me. Nevertheless we made it.

Total time was about 11 hours. While we didn't power up the mountain, we also didn't take any long breaks. I would suggest that a realistic walking time would be between 10-12 hours. This is a hard walk but I was prett chuffed never the less.

You'll note that I haven't included a map reference for this walk. Once I'd completed the walk, I then went out and bought a topographic map (1:100 000 Bartle Frere 8063 2). I'm not quite sure what the deal is, but there are no tracks marked on the map, so this really isn't a good map for the actual walk. I didn't look for any other maps, so not sure if there is something better. There is a good map created by Queensland Parks and Wildlife: Click here to download the pdf

However, to be honest the Bartle Frere map isn't fantastic and the download PDF is probably better. If you're nostalgic like me, you may still like to have a map of where you've been :)

| The Weather |

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Avg. High
Avg. Low
Avg. Rain (mm)

(weather measured at Innisfail ~25km away)

*Temperatures on Bartle Frere are likely to be around 10 degrees cooler than on the coast.

-->Innisfail Australian Bureau of Meteorology Website<--

Temperature Converter (

degree Celsius [°C]:
degree Fahrenheit [°F]:

On this adventure: Tiana, Roland

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