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
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.
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