The idea of hiking close to the entirety of Ollera Creek, summiting Circle View Mountain and visiting Upper and Lower Ollera Falls in a return day trip would be laughed off by most and to my knowledge hasn’t been attempted by any adventurer in the past.
18.5 hours and 25km of endurance hiking through some of the toughest terrain I have experienced, with an elevation gain of over 1500m saw us accomplish this feat.
Circle View Mountain is in an extremely remote section of the Paluma Range National Park. At 831m elevation, this monster is nearly entirely encircled by Ollera Creek. Ollera Creek appears to form on the north eastern side of Circle View Mountain at an elevation of more than 600m. Fuelled by numerous other unnamed creeks and tributaries close to the upper reaches of Hencamp Creek, Ollera flows south west around the base of the mountain, before taking a general northerly direction. As the creek heads towards the ocean, it flows to the east. You’ll drive over Ollera Creek bridge heading north from Townsville, just before the first Paluma turnoff.
Leaving from Caleo Road at 7am, we followed the recently maintained Ollera Trail to Coffee Creek, which had a decent flow into Ollera Creek, the first time I have seen Coffee Creek in flow.
From Coffee Creek, we made our way to Lizard Gorge, the emerald waters of this marvel of modern nature intrigues me more and more each time I’m fortunate enough to visit.
From Lizard Gorge, under the watchful eye of numerous water dragons, some close to a metre long, we headed for Mickles Entry. Mickles entry is the end of the maintained trail and from this point, we rely on GPS navigation and a heap of good luck!
From Mickles Entry, we follow the upper reaches of Ollera Creek. By this stage, the creek line, although beautiful, is narrow and surrounded by thick rainforest, massive cliffs, gorges and impassable boulder fields. We navigate past magnificent waterfalls, cascades and terraces – this creek line really is something special. We took numerous diversions after Mickles Entry and approximately 500 metres past Mickles Entry and 1km from the summit of Circle View Mountain, we made the decision to exit the creek and head for the summit, following an unnamed creek line to the west of the summit, which was no more than a dotted line visible on the GPS – one of two trail options Mickle had designed.
Following this damp, mossy, boulder filled creek line towards the summit was a feat in itself. The creek line was steep, full of loose rocks, boulders and infested with gympie gympie, wait a while and all the regular rainforest nasties. We were forced to hike at least 10 metres apart due to the number of loose rocks and boulders we were dislodging as we clambered towards the summit, some half the size of me went rolling down the creek beneath us.
The creek line became impassable a couple of hundred metres from the summit so we climbed out into the thick rainforest and navigated this dense, dark section until eventually the light pierced through the canopy and the terrain changed to thick, wooded scrub close to summit level. We hiked nearly vertical at times, clambering up and over rocky cliff faces, holding onto grass trees for dear life as we approached the summit. To give you an idea how tough the terrain was, the final 500m took hours and we gained approximately 500 metres elevation!
As we reached the summit, we were in awe…. I’d been told there would be little or no views from the summit of Circle View Mountain. How wrong that is. The views were spectacular. We could see out over the coastal plain to the north and south including Rollingstone and Balgal Beach. We could see Mount Halifax and Godwins Peak to the south east. The adjacent sections of the national park surrounding Circle View Mountain, viewed from over 800 metres elevation were something I’ll never forget. We could see sections of Townsville and Magnetic Island, with the white ‘dome’ at Pallarenda easily visible on the horizon.
We spotted beautiful banksias in full bloom close to the summit, amongst the thick, dense, wooded scrub.
After lunch, electrolytes and Mickle’s customary glass of red, we started our descent. The summit of Circle View Mountain hasn’t burnt in what appears to be many seasons.
If we thought the final few hundred metres ascent to the summit was ‘carnage at elevation’, the descent into the upper reaches of Ollera Creek on the south side of Circle View Mountain was just as treacherous. Steep, slippery, nasty and certainly not hiker friendly.
We dropped into the upper reaches of Ollera Creek and made a break for Ollera Falls. I’ve heard stories of this monstrous waterfall with a 40 metre drop and we were keen to witness and navigate past this marvel before dark
We diverted around the impressive ”Small Ollera Falls” and reached “Ollera Falls” just as the sun was beginning to set on the horizon. These falls are spectacular. Surrounded by monstrous cliffs either side in a massive gorge, the creek gushes over the narrow falls, dropping what I would think is around 40 metres into a massive pool below. With time and daylight running out, we were forced to drop down in front of the falls and scale the adjacent cliff face as we watched the water spray 40 metres blow us into a ginormous dark pool. We then worked our way around the adjacent gorge and thick scrub, arriving at the base of the falls just on dark.
Ollera Pool was just as impressive. This monstrous pool below a waterfall not far past Ollera Falls defies belief and our headlamps were flat out lighting up the entire pool, given it’s size. Unfortunately, this is where Mickle decided to take an unplanned dip, tumbling over into the pool as we scrambled around the adjacent rock formation to pass the pool in the pitch black.
After Tegan man handled a snake, we set off again down Ollera Creek for the long walk out.
Hiking around 12km of the upper, mid and lower reaches of Ollera Creek in the dark is something I will not be doing again anytime soon. The highlight of the hike out was Mickle breaking out the sesame snaps about halfway back to the starting point!
Mickle had an encounter with our old friend, the stinging tree (gympie gympie) just before we hit Mickles Entry. I certainly didn’t envy him having to put up with that discomfort and pain the rest of the way back and over the coming days.
After a patch up or two on the way back, we were exhausted and ready for a warm shower and rest as our headlamps lit up the starting point and our vehicles at 1.40am.
Personally, this is one adventure I’ll never forget. One for the next level hikers and explorers, however a remarkable and memorable one none the less. A group of 3 hikers and explorers conquered this beast in not 2 or 3 days as some had said was the only way possible, but 18.5 hours of pure, heart stopping and memorable adventure.
Circle View Mountain, until we meet again.