Hinchinbrook Island welcomes climbers with driving rain and cold mist. The island lies just a mile off the Queensland coast, not far from Cardwell and Lucinda, but it could well be another lost jurassic world. Mangroves guard its western shores and rough seas the eastern, spiders it's trees and pythons its mountains.
Mount Bowen, elevating at 1,121m above sea level makes it quite a hike. Only the serious hikers have dared to climb this monster and very few have been successful.
It's a very weather dependant walk which can change all of a sudden. The best time of the year to do this trek is in August or September because it's not too hot, it's not the wet season and there's still enough water in the creek.
Much of the mountain area is covered with fragile heath vegetation and to protect the unspoiled nature of the island and in the interest of safety, camping overnight in these areas is restricted and requires a special permit which is limited by numbers. Any group wishing to sleep overnight in the mountains will need to apply in writing to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS). A topographical map and compass (or a GPS unit) as well as a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) should also be carried.
How to get there
Two main routes up Mt Bowen, Warrawilla Creek and Pineapple peak/ridge
Warrawilla Creek Route
If you're dropped off at Ramsay Bay, you will need to walk two hours South on the Thorsborne Trail to Little Ramsay Bay. From here you make you way up the creek next to the camping area, called Warrawilla Ck.
It's a long way rock hopping over mid sized boulders with heavy backpacks. Keep to the right fork when heading up the creek and avoid any of the forks to the left as they terminate at rock walls and thick vegetation. There are a bunch of cairns along the way to keep you on track.
Once you reach the last right fork, cairns and pink tape will become prevalent. The path is well worn from other hikers over the years; so it's very easy to follow from here on.
The creek becomes narrower and the vegetation closes in as you get closer to the saddle. There's enough room at the saddle to fit one or two small tents but it you could sleep more people if just using only a tarp.
From here the track finds it way up to the left around the right side of the rock and up into the scrubby vegetation. It's a lot easier going when it's been burnt off so you may want to check the park alerts and plan around their backburns. After several smaller peaks and past all the thick banksias, Mt Bowen will shown itself. The summit is fairly flat but the low vegetation allow you to see the 360 degree view.
At the summit you'll find a geocache with writings from all the other adventures before you. There's not much shade from the sun but you may find a flat rock or two to set up a tent and just below the summit are a few larger tree that would suit hammocks.
You can then continue onto The Thumb with the easiest route being around the backside.
Doubted the harder route of the two, you'll have to navigate your way along Nina Ridge and up and over Pineapple Peak around sear cliff faces, loose rocks and through thick scrubby vegetation. Closer to the saddle are tall, thick ferns forcing you to lift your legs up to the head with each step.
After meeting Graeme on a Townville Bushwalking Club hike, he invited for to hike Mt Bowen. So I thought, sure why not. Hinchinbrook Island is a magical place. So a week later, we jumped in his car and head up to Cardwell with another two new faces.
We camped the night at Five Mile swimming hole and woke up early for the 5am boat ride to the island.
Two hours South on the Thorsborne Trail to Little Ramsay Bay, we started heading up Warrawilla Creek. We almost made it to the saddle but it was starting to get dark. So we set up camp at the side amongst the rocks. The weather forecast said that there's a slight chance of drizzle be we didn't expect it to flash flooded!
Where there was no water the day before, the was now fast flowing waterfalls and it was a true canyoning experience on the way back, jumping and sliding down the waterfalls that were non-existence the day before. We had to wade through water and over slippery rocks and what took us 4/5 hours to get up took us 12 hours to get down, only getting back to Little Ramsay bay at night time. Our shoes were destroyed with holes by wedging them in between rocks on the way down. Despite the un-topical weather, we all love the experience even though it was very uncomfortable being wet and cold with little sleep.
Anna missed out on the fun as she was working but she managed to see the best airshow Townsville offered, the T150 Defence Air Show and Open Day.
A year later and we made it to the summit just missing the rain.