Bungalbin East (Cliffs and Caves) and East Peak
Numerous cliffs, caves and other spectacular rock formations are found along the SE slopes of Bungalbin East and these are a principal highlight of this adventurous walk. The main track that crosses the range at Bungalbin East is now impassable to all vehicles on the southern side and no attempt should be made to drive past the warning signs indicating closure of the track ahead.
This arduous circuit walk (do not be deceived by the short distance and modest ascent) can be commenced from the base of the ridge on the south side (park adjacent to the aforementioned warning signs), or by first driving up (discouraged) or walking up the vehicle track to the top of the ridge from the northern side.
The official start of the walk as described here (in the attached GPX file) is from the southern base. After parking your vehicle, commence walking up the track past the “no vehicles” sign. Four towering rock pinnacles are visible ahead on the right-hand side of the track, while to the left an impressive overhanging cliff can be seen.
Walk up to the base of the rock tower; from here the “serious” walking begins as the route heads off-track in a general E/NE direction traversing as close as possible to the main line of rock features ahead. The terrain is often very steep and rugged, and to fully explore and appreciate the multitude of spectacular rock formations, hands will need to be removed from pockets to assist scrambling up some of the steeper bits.
Extreme care should also be taken to avoid trampling on any of the rare flora that adorn these steep slopes and crags. There are far too many individual rock features to describe here, and it should be appreciated that on this type of very steep ground (where in places there are several levels of almost vertical overlapping cliffs/ caves), the GPX coordinates tracking the route should only be treated as an approximate guide.
Generally, aim to track along the base of cliffs, or along terraces between cliffs at different levels. Climb up and down as necessary to the obvious impressive features. After the four initial rock towers, the cliffs are generally moderate in size and only a few small caves are apparent. However, as you progress, a number of larger cliffs and caves will become visible and all are worth exploring if you have the time and energy.
Generally, the caves comprise single open overhanging chambers, but a few also include small passages that interconnect separate chambers; small people can crawl through these (with care) if desired!
Expect progress to be extremely slow through this section – allow a good 3 hours for a proper exploration. After the largest and grandest cave of them all is passed, the route approaches a saddle on the main ridge but then tracks onto the SE slopes of the ridge ascending to the summit of East Peak. More cliffs and caves are encountered on this final section.
The summit of East Peak is dome shaped and generally quite open, so there are views in all directions from various vantage points. The North Peak and NE Peak fill the horizon to the north, while to the west the entire main range stretches away to the horizon. For those with energy to spare, a short detour can be made out along the east ridge to the top of an impressive vertical cliff face, which also feature views back along some of the cliffs and caves that were traversed earlier.
Down in the sand plains about 12 km to the SE, the scars created by the now closed Carina iron ore mines despoil the view and its worth remembering that this fate could so easily have befallen the entire Bungalbin East area; all of the magnificent cliffs and caves traversed earlier in the day, including the attendant rare flora, were earmarked for an open pit mine and hence would have been destroyed forever. Future generations will be eternally thankful that our state government said no!
The route back to the start is but a stroll compared to the earlier exertions. A formed track follows the ridge SW, all the way down to the saddle where the main vehicle track ascends from the north. From here, head south down the very steep and now heavily rutted track back to the start.