I've grown tired of the Perth rain, so noticing that the Saturday forecast for the Stirling Ranges was good, I headed down there. The idea I've had for a while was to do the Stirling Ridge Walk, but as a circuit. The circuit would start at the BK car park, include all of the summits on the ridge finishing on Ellen Peak, then descent to the northern boundary fire break, go west until under the BK road, then bushbash to the BK road and follow it up to the carpark. A mere 34km, but half of it in pretty rough terrain.
I arrived on Friday at 10:30pm and slept in the car at the Bluff Knoll carpark. I started up at 6:40am, just as it got light. Soon I got into the cloud and remained in it for the next 4 hours. It was blowing a gale and visibility was about 20 metres. This was not really an issue as I had a GPS and have done the walk 3 times before....still, I got a bit off route descenting the East side of the Bluff. Things were wet and slippery, real winter conditions, but no rain.
All went swimmingly as I bagged the major peaklets along the way: Isongerup (10:40am), all three Arrows, Bakers Knob and Pyongoorup (1:35pm). From Isongerup on the weather was clear, still blowing a gale but no cloud. I could see! There were a few eagles soaring above. On the descent from Pyongoorup I noticed a medium pain in my knees, which was having the disabling effect of not letting me move them much. Not a good sign. Still, I summitted Ellen Peak at 2:15pm.
Descending the steep East side of EP was hell - trying to descend without able to bend knees is a bit tricky. When I finally got to the tree line I made a couple of walking sticks and also chemically enhanced myself with some ibuprofen pills to kill the by now strong pain. I reached the north firebreak (where the EP trail starts, with some signs) at 16:44. It took me two and a half hours to descend Ellen Peak, at least an extra hour there! Crap. From the tee junction I hobbled off westwards into the setting sun, then a small rainstorm passed. The iPod my kept spirits up. It got dark and out came the headlamp and GPS again. I turned left back towards the range along an old trail and shortly afterwards followed a 4km bushbash (no trail, again much fun with knackered knees but the sticks were helping) to gain the bitumen road to Bluff Knoll. At 8:37pm I was back at the BK carpark, almost 14hrs after I started. The main learning was to bring trekking poles....with healthy knees I recon I can crack 12 hours next time.