St. Mary Peak

  • St. Mary Peak
  • 1171 m
  • Primary factor 1021 m
  • Location: S 31:30.216, E 138:33.125 (GPS on the summit)
  • Highest in Flinders Ranges, South Australia
  • Saddle: See under comments below.
  • Climbed July 14 2003.


How to get there: This mountain is located in the Flinders Ranges National Park, in the state of South Australia. This park is about 460 km north of the city Adelaide. There is a small village, Hawker, about 50 km south of the park. Hawker can be reached from Broken Hill via Peterborough, about 480 km on good roads or from Port Augusta, only about 100 km (But then you need to get there in the first place). The park is more than 1000 km south of Alice Springs.
The Wilpena visitor center has a general store, automobile fuel, a campground as well as a motel. This Wilpena area is approximately 530 meter above sea level.
Route description: The Wilpena Pound is a remarkable "oval of mountains" with an almost flat basin enclosed inside. It does look like a crater, but has been formed by uplifting of the rocks around. The flat basin accumulates more moisture (from the slopes) and is rich in vegetation (fantastic trees) as well as a very good place for kangaroos.
From the Wilpena lodge (or from the park visitor center), proceed across the creek and go upstream (passing the campground) a few hundred meters. The St. Mary Peak trail goes right at a spot with an information board and clearly posted signs. The trail is generally well marked with short metal poles some of which will tell you about your progress (in km left to the summit and/or km back to the center). The trail is easy and pretty flat the first section as it follows the outside (east side) of the "mountain oval". After about 4 km, the trail starts gaining elevation and climbs more steeply to the Tanderra Saddle. As you climb this part, you will see the steep east face of St. Mary ahead and above. In this part and for the rest of the climb, the trail is (YDS) class 2. Many people will find it natural to use a hand for support in some spots along the trail.
From the saddle, a little more than one kilometer remains. The trail is well marked and easy to follow as it gains the more gentle west slope of the peak. The summit is a short ridge that drops vertically to the east. The distance (one way) is about 7 km.
Instead of returning the same way, walk back to the Tanderra Saddle, then descend into the Wilpena Pound along a very clear trail that is easily visible as it slopes gently down in the north slope of the peak that is south of St. Mary. This trail will take you into the basin and then across part of the remarkable, flat floor through open forest and some grass plains with lots of kangaroos. Making this hike a circle has the advantage of seeing both the outside and the inside of the basin, the total round trip is about 20 kilometer.
Comments: I did this hike with my family, Heidi and Pål Jørgen. We started around 1000, reached the summit after 1:45, had a nice rest enjoying the view before returning via the "inside" track through the pound. Back at the lodge after about 5 hours, a very nice walk in very good weather. My GPS showed 1180 meter elevation consistent with a height of 1171 meter. (Various local maps range from 1165 to 1188, but my book of Australian mountains list 1171.)
The primary factor of St. Mary is large, but not an easy matter to determine with accuracy. I have (temporarily) listed 1021 meter, until more reliable maps and/or sources can be consulted. This is based on a saddle elevation of 150 meter. This is based on the following information: It appears that one can travel north from Port Augusta via Lake Torrens to Lake Eyre and stay below 100 meter. (Lake Eyre is below sea level.) The task is then to find the lowest point along the direction from Broken Hill and north-east towards the Great Divide, separating the water that drains into the Murray-Darling river from the water that is caught by the Lake Eyre catchment area. This is not entirely easy (with my limited map resources), but one may observe that the town of Bourke on the Darling River has elevation 106 m, the Paroo river and Carwarra creek connecting with Lake Numalla is all below 130 meter. So is Lake Wyara only 3 km away, but this lake drains nowhere. West of this is the Bulloo river it passes the town Thargomindah whose post office is at 128.7 meter. Further west is Kyabra creek that definitely feeds into Lake Eyre. Lake Pinaroo in Sturt National Park drains nowhere at 120 meter elevation. The whole area is exceedingly flat and it therefore seems safe to assume that there is a "saddle" no higher than 150 meter. Please email more reliable information to: