If anyone comes up to me now saying they’re after a hike with a little something different – this would be it.
Keen for some rock climbing, moving through caves and hopping from rock to rock? Head to Cathedrals!
This was the second time I’d signed myself for a hike here, but my first time actually going (I chickened out the first time as soon as someone mentioned the words “fear of heights“).
I was determined to go this time and agreeing to drive three others out there gave me a responsibility I couldn’t turn away from.
As is usual with my hiking trips at the moment, I signed up through meetup and so it was quite a few of us heading out (17 in total!!).
It’s a bit of a drive to get there if you’re in the city but well worth it if you can go in a group together. I even saw a number of people camping, so I’m sure you could make a weekend of it if you’re keen. I know I’d be pretty excited about doing the exact same track again today!
We started at the Sugarloaf Saddle Carpark, but you can start at some of the lower camps if you’re interested in doing a proper hike. By proper hike I mean to actually traverse a large area of land… Just look at our stats!
Distance – 3.77km
Time – 5.5 hours (approx 4 hours excluding all stops)
So basically, distance travelled per hour is actually quite pathetic, but there’s good reason.
Very shortly after heading off from the carpark, we’d gotten to the first “difficult section”. Why is it difficult you might ask? And more importantly, how does this lead to less than a km per hour rate?
Well here’s a pic of what we came up to first:
Our first bit of rock climbing!
And here’s where my mind separated in two…
For those who know me, you’ll know I’m terrified of heights (I cried before I even made it to Death Road in Bolivia). But for some foolish reason last year I went along with a friend to an indoor rock climbing place, and I fell in love with the activity!
So upon seeing what we had to do that led to the “fear of heights” remarks, I was actually a little excited to show off my skills. So up I climbed, finally getting to the top and looking down and boy was it far!
This bit of climbing is easily achievable to any who give it a go – we had a large group and no one had issues. But do keep in mind the safety element. Three points of contact on the wall at all times please! And take your time if you’re concerned. There’s a couple of places on the way up that are good for a little stop to steady yourself and rest your muscles if needed.
From this point on, the terrain definitely changed and we were starting to climb up and over a lot of rocks to continue on our rack.
My previous excitement let me down at one such rock when I managed to fall backwards while attempting to climb up. With only more rocks below me, and thankfully the edge a couple of metres away, I was pretty lucky to have a nice full backpack to break my fall. I wasn’t so thankful to be towards the front of the group and therefore have about 12 pairs of eyes on me. Saying that, I’m still hoping someone managed to get a shot of it…
Just a minute further on from that disastrous fall, the trees seemed to fall below us and the view opened up. We had a beautiful clear day for our hike, but it was amazing to see the clouds setting in the valley off in the distance.
But with lots to still see there was little time to take in the view. Besides, it was almost time for “challenge number two” – more commonly known as Wells Cave.
Now I do say “cave” lightly. It essentially looks to be a result of enormous rocks that have fallen, which have led to a small crevice to walk (or squeeze) through. Don’t worry if you’re claustrophobic though – you can see the end very easily, and there’s so much space above you, it doesn’t present a huge issue. Also keep in mind that the opening is much wider than the final squeeze through – you will need to take your backpack off!
We continued on towards “challenge number three”, readying ourselves for some more climbing, which we we’re told would me more difficult than the first.
Having now done it, I wouldn’t necessarily say the climbing was more difficult (although this depends on the alternative you choose to get up), but what does present a problem for those with a fear of heights, is, well, the height! While you could see the ground even out just a few metres below you on the first climb, this time you could see the rocks just continue down, and down, and down!
So you can choose your alternatives here based on how you’re feeling.
What looked to be the easiest option was, of course, the most terrifying! So I was determined to try to conquer the fear.
For option one, you head up on to the rocks on your left that are just behind the tree that sits in the middle of the path. There’s plenty of space to then come to terms with how high you are and assess your path back to the track. You’ll essentially need to stand up, hands holding the excellent holds in the rocks above you, and then climb up as normal (trying to not think of anything below you). This is really a great spot for climbing with plenty of good holds. Easy, right?
An alternative option is to climb up through the middle of the rocks blocking the path. This ones definitely more difficult, with much less to hold on to or leverage yourself up, but the preferred option for those not willing to be too close to the edge. Just keep in mind you may need help getting up!
The last option could be to climb straight up the rock face on your right, but I didn’t see anyone try this, so I couldn’t say how easy it’d be or if it’s even possible!
So finally, we’d finished the last big climb, and we made it to the top of Sugarloaf Peak (920 metres). We’d be back here again soon enough for our lunch break, so we didn’t stay long.
With a quick “did I mention we’d be rock hopping…” from our hike leader, we set off across the ridge – The Razorback. The Razorback runs from Mt. Sugarloaf towards Cathedral Peak. It’s essentially the ridge line running between the different peaks in the cathedral ranges and you are sure to experience a lot of hopping, scrambling and climbing along this ridgeline. There’s also plenty of markers to keep you on track coming from either direction – just keep an eye out so you’re not getting off track like we did…
Given we’d started at the Sugarloaf carpark, we didn’t continue all the way along the Razorback, which is definitely an option, but turned back towards Sugarloaf Peak for a lunch break. I was definitely feeling the energy waning by this point. Although I had little troubles with cardio, the rocks require a lot of muscle use and you can still use a lot of energy.
Heading back towards the cars, we took an alternative route (the Wells Cave route is recommended as an ascend only route) and found ourselves with a nature made slide. I’d applaud you if you made it down without sitting on your backside! It’s steep and some sections give you little to hold yourself up.
For those not keen on the challenging Wells Cave track, this track is definitely an option when your ascending to the peak. It will still involve a little rock climbing, but you won’t need to worry about the exposure you have with the alternative track.
For more info on this hike, check out the Parks Vic website – they sum it up nicely.
And when you’re wanting to try it out for yourself, I’ve upload my map and stats here.
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