Mt Tennent Walk – Canberra

Mt Tennent from Mt Taylor,  Canberra,

Mt Tennent from Mt Taylor, Canberra,

Mt Tennent (sic) lies only a few km past the southern-most houses of Canberra and sits just inside Namadgi National Park.   It is a huge hulk of a mountain, rising close to 1020 metres from the NNP Visitors Centre to a height of 1380m .  Mt Taylor, the hill between the Woden and Tuggeranong districts of Canberra is even handier for a quick walk and here you will find many people , both fit and unfit, old and young, slim and fat, some running, some struggling,  but on Mt Tennent you will encounter mostly the athletic types walking and even running to keep fit.  The return trip is some 18 km.

I go up Mt Tennent fairly often in order to keep up my level of fitness.  I find it an excellent training walk without having to drive very far.  However, I have a love/hate affair with the mountain, especially in the warmer weather.  It is on a track all the way, some of which is hard-packed fire trail.  The first 532 m of altitude gain is steep and unrelenting in its ascent up a very hot, dry, slope which catches the full brunt of the sun for much of the day.   The made foot track up here is very rough and plagued with hundreds of steps which someone in their “wisdom” thought would make for easier walking .  But as all bushwalkers know, steps are far more tedious to ascend than a slope and they are very hard on the knees when coming down.   Coming down this section is not enjoyable for me: it is the afternoon, the heat has built up and the track seems to be never-ending.    However, at the top of this ascent one reaches a shoulder where there is a sudden change :  one reaches the beginning of the sub-alpine belt and the temperature eases back, the air is clearer and sweeter, and the vegetation changes to lovely forest in place of the hot, dry scrub and scattered trees.   From here one is on a fire trail which climbs more gently to a lovely, grassy saddle where you often find beautiful wildflowers such as buttercups, violets and orchids.   From here one joins the Mt Tennent Fire Trail, a somewhat tedious, steep track to the summit with its granite tor and fire tower and wonderful mountain wilderness views.  Whilst this last section is a tedious climb up a hard-packed track, the surrounding open sub-alpine forest is rather lovely.

Despite my dislike of those first 532 m there is, however, much of interest, depending on the time of year.   One is away from the town and out in the bush,  the path up this hot slope winds amongst huge granite boulders, every now and again there are wonderful views to the east and north, the birds are calling and the wildflowers are blooming, including orchids.

Needing some exercise early this summer I waited for a very hot spell which reached 39*c  to pass and ascended Mt Tennent.  Although relatively cool when I started out  it was still a hot day.   Summer time in inland Australia.   What else can one expect?   The sun strikes one with a vengeance.  One can feel it biting chunks out of you.   The light is incredibly strong, brilliant , clear and white and strikes the earth like a blade.  The heat, though, is very dry.  Coming down in the afternoon I would feel the heat not only striking me from above, but rising in waves off the ground.   Eucalyptus scent filled the air. Lower down the path crosses two creeks which flow, often only slightly, for most of the year, and on this occasion the frogs were having a wonderful time, their croaking filling the air.   Not far beyond this I passed through an area which was home to thousands of cicadas, their shrieking calls filling the air with deafening persistence, a rising and falling cadence.   Australia in the summer, something I would miss if I moved to another country.  I climbed above the grasslands of the one-time grazing paddocks, sat briefly at the Cypress Pine Lookout to admire the view and drink some water and continued upwards, taking pleasure in the physical activity of fast walking and in my surroundings.   Now I was starting to wind amongst and over the granite and the ground was covered in the usual litter of leaves, twigs, fallen branches and bark that is unique to the Australian bush.   I noticed the many flowers that were out, saw an echidna, and hoped that in amongst the litter on the ground I would notice any snakes.

Suddenly I was in a very different country.   The vegetation had changed and the air was cooler and sweeter – mountain air.  Shortly afterwards I arrived at the track junction at the shoulder, the worst of the climb over.   Here I stopped and made a mug of tea.   Whilst I often walk with one or other of the bushwalking clubs, I enjoy walking on my own for I can stop to take photos and more importantly, have the time to make tea when I choose.   On a club walk I take a flask of tea, but on my own I take along a stove, sit down and boil the water and make the tea.  There is a ritual about making tea like this which is relaxing.  It forces one to sit down and wait .  While the water is heating and coming to the boil I sit and listen and watch and absorb the environment.  I hear the birds calls, I see the shafts of sunlight glinting on the white trunks of the  trees,   I hear the wind whispering, and I savour the clean, clear, cool sweet mountain air.  I note the beauty of the bush and the beauty of the curling strips of fallen bark.  I am glad to be here and not somewhere else.  It is a beautiful place.

Refreshed by my mug of tea I continue easily along the undulating, but steadily rising, track.   I top a rise, and there, in front of me, is a beautiful sub-alpine saddle.   Here the open forest has drawn back to the higher ground where the sun glints on trunks and leaves and shines on the grasses and on the lichened granite boulders, forming a protected hollow of this saddle.  Wild flowers spangle the grasses.   One must pause here to drink in such a lovely scene, off-set by the clear, deep blue, cloudless Australian sky.  Nearby, hidden in the trees, and not known to most people, are some massive granite slabs which give a grandstand view over the Canberra suburbs

From this saddle it is but a hard 20 minutes up the Mt Tennent Fire Trail through beautiful, open, tall forest to the summit which is pretty much on the tree line.  There is a fire tower here, on the top of the summit rocks.  From up here there are wonderful views of the mountains and valleys of Namadgi National Park.  Blue hills dreaming in the summer sun.  “Blue remembered hills”.  (Housman).   And here I like to sit and dream, too, and light the stove, boil the billy for more tea, and eat my lunch.   Once a friend of mine came with me to this spot and we sat here drinking tea and watching the sunset on a winter’s day.  On that day, we finished the walk in starlight.  On another winter’s day I came up here when there was snow on the ground and sleet was falling.

On my way down this summer’s day, the heat starts to increase,  but in the afternoon, when the shadows are starting to fill some of the deep gullies, I hear the beautiful, magical, calls of the lyrebirds.

All in all a lovely day.

Sometimes I do this walk without going to the summit.  Instead, after I have had my morning tea at the shoulder where there is a track junction, I turn right, following the route of the Australian Alps Walking Track, which in fact starts at the Visitors Centre, and which I have been following so far.  It is 655 km long and goes all the way to Walhalla in Victoria,  traversing some of the highest country in Australia.  The moment I continue on this track I feel that I am in a different world. The route to the summit of Tennent to me has no feel of remoteness to it.  But the moment one takes this right turn one is on a track less travelled.  This track now takes one down into the beautiful valley called Bushfold Flat.   Here there is very definitely a feeling of remoteness and isolation.  One rarely meets anyone else down here.  Thanks to grazing prior to the establishment of Namadgi, this is a grassy valley now kept short by the kangaroos, a remote, usually green, grassed valley, surrounded east and west by rugged, wooded, blue mountains.   There is great peace here,  beauty, and dreaming.  I follow the AAWT southwards, up the valley.  It is grassed over and walking is delightful and easy.  Eventually the AAWT and I part company:  I continue up the valley to Bushfold Hut where I complete the log book and pause to enjoy the beauty and peace.   I continue on, take a short cut through the bush and come out on the Mt Tennent Fire Trail.  A steep climb of an hour brings me back into the sub alpine country at that beautiful saddle I have already mentioned where I now boil the billy, make tea and have lunch.   I spend an hour in this enchanted spot, absorbing the wilderness and prowling with my camera, looking for wildflowers.  From here I take the usual route back down to the Visitor’s Centre.  This is a lovely walk, about 17 km involving nearly 1000m climb and which takes me about 5.5 hours.

Namadgi N. P. Visitors Centre from where the track up Mt Tennent commences

Namadgi N. P. Visitors Centre from where the track up Mt Tennent commences

Mt Tennent from Namadgi N.P. Visitor Centre

Mt Tennent from Namadgi N.P. Visitor Centre

This scar occurred about 3 years ago following heavy rain which caused a massive mudslide which roared down the scrub-filled gully, removing all vegetation and leaving a covering of mud.

The scar on Mt Tennent from the Namadgi N.P. Visitors Centre

The scar on Mt Tennent from the Namadgi N.P. Visitors Centre

climbing up the scar on Mt Tennent

climbing up the scar on Mt Tennent

The track up Mt Tennent, Namadgi National Park, on the outskirts of Canberra.  Here the track is bordered by Baeckea and Needle Bush (Bursaria) .

The track up Mt Tennent, Namadgi National Park, on the outskirts of Canberra. Here the track is bordered by Baeckea and Needle Bush (Bursaria) .

Baeckea sp

Baeckea sp

Needle Bush or Native Blackthorn.  Bursaria spinosa.  Note the thorns on the right hand side of the photos

Needle Bush or Native Blackthorn. Bursaria spinosa. Note the thorns on the right hand side of the photos

Needle Bush  (Bursaria spinsa)

Needle Bush (Bursaria spinosa)

Mosses on the Mt Tennent Track on the edge of a gully.

Mosses on the Mt Tennent Track on the edge of a gully.

Heath Myrtle, Micromyrta ciliata on the Mt Tennent Track

Heath Myrtle, Micromyrta ciliata on the Mt Tennent Track

Heath Myrtle, Micromyrta ciliata on the Mt Tennent Track

Heath Myrtle, Micromyrta ciliata on the Mt Tennent Track

 

Wax Lip Orchid, Glossodia major, beside the track.

Wax Lip Orchid, Glossodia major, beside the track.

Wax Lip Orchid, Glossodia major, beside the track

Wax Lip Orchid, Glossodia major, beside the track

orchid Arachnorchis atrovespa Thin clubbed Mantis Orchid, beside the track

orchid Arachnorchis atrovespa Thin clubbed Mantis Orchid, beside the track

The stops go on

The steps go on

Hardenbergia violacea, a creeper

Hardenbergia violacea, a creeper

Hardenbergia violacea

Hardenbergia violacea

Hakea sp beside the track on Mt Tennent

Hakea sp beside the track on Mt Tennent

Hakea sp beside the track on Mt Tennent

Hakea sp beside the track on Mt Tennent

Hakea sp beside the track on Mt Tennent

Hakea sp beside the track on Mt Tennent

The Tinderry Range from the track up Mt Tennent

The Tinderry Range from the track up Mt Tennent

Just some of the endless steps on Mt Tennent

Just some of the endless steps on Mt Tennent

wattles (acacia sp) on the track

wattles (acacia sp) on the track

More steps!

More steps!

 

 

Tinderry Range

Tinderry Range

Mt Rob Roy from Mt Tennent

Mt Rob Roy from Mt Tennent

Leucopogon microphyllus, Hairy Beard Heath beside Mt Tennent track

Leucopogon microphyllus, Hairy Beard Heath beside Mt Tennent track

Leucopogon microphyllus, Hairy Beard Heath beside Mt Tennent track

Leucopogon microphyllus, Hairy Beard Heath beside Mt Tennent track

Pomaderris sp.

Pomaderris sp.

Getting higher on the track

Getting higher on the track

Following the track, with Cassinia sp in flower

Following the track, with Cassinia sp in flower

More Cassinia sp,  with Mt Rob Roy in the background.  Mt Rob Roy lies immediately behind Canberra suburbs of Richardson, Calwell and Theodore

More Cassinia sp, with Mt Rob Roy in the background. Mt Rob Roy lies immediately behind Canberra suburbs of Richardson, Calwell and Theodore

I sometimes get asked “But what about all the deadly snakes out there in the bush”?.    Well, I have been walking off track in the bush all my life and have come across very few snakes.   Admittedly, those I have seen have been a little close for comfort,  but in most cases they have been trying to get away.   Once, though, while walking on a fire trail covered down the centre in clumps of grass, I actually stepped on a very large, dangerous, Tiger Snake.  the first I knew it was there was when I felt it writhing under my boot.   I jumped 6 feet into the air, and it, equally frightened, took off at great speed into the bush.   I always keep a lookout for snakes, but usually they are very hard to see in the Australian bush due to the litter on the ground.  the following photo shows open forest and not too much litter, but even so, a snake would be hard to see,   as you will see from the following photo when I almost stepped onto this Brown Snake.   The point is, though, I have never been bitten and have come across very few snakes in the bush. I don’t know of any bushwalkers in Canberra being bitten by a snake.

typical ground litter in open woodland, here on the track up Mt Tennent

typical ground litter in open woodland, here on the track up Mt Tennent

A Brown Snake, about 1.5 metres long.  Its eye can be seen as a black dot in the grass just past the grey/white stick, whilst its tail is hidden a little way to the left in the grass

A Brown Snake, about 1.5 metres long. Its eye can be seen as a black dot in the grass just past the grey/white stick, whilst its tail is hidden a little way to the left in the grass

Baby Brown Snake, about 15 inches long fleeing from my approaching shoe.  I didn't see it basking in the sun until it moved to escape me.

Baby Brown Snake, about 15 inches long fleeing from my approaching shoe. I didn’t see it basking in the sun until it moved to escape me.

Twining glycine, Glycine clandestine, beside the track

Twining glycine, Glycine clandestine, beside the track

Pultanaea procumbens

Pultanaea procumbens

Pultenaea procumbens

Pultenaea procumbens

Lobelia dentata

Lobelia dentata

Fallen from a tree.  Perga sp.,  aka Spitfire or Sawfly grubs

Fallen from a tree. Perga sp., aka Spitfire or Sawfly grubs

An Echidna scurrying away.

An Echidna scurrying away.

"Where can I hide".   An Echidna

“Where can I hide”. An Echidna

Still going up

Still going up

 

Twining Fringe Lily, Thysanotus patersonii

Twining Fringe Lily, Thysanotus patersonii

Twining Fringe Lily, Thysanotus patersonii

Twining Fringe Lily, Thysanotus patersonii

Brachyscome sp

Brachyscome sp

Brachyscome sp

Brachyscome sp

At the shoulder and the track intersection.   Now getting into sub alpine woodland.

At the shoulder and the track intersection. Now getting into sub alpine woodland.

At the shoulder.  turn left for the summit of Mt Tennent and right to continue along the AAWT (Australian Alps Walking Track) and the descent from Mt Tennent to Bushfold Flat

At the shoulder. turn left for the summit of Mt Tennent and right to continue along the AAWT (Australian Alps Walking Track) and the descent from Mt Tennent to Bushfold Flat

At the shoulder.  turn left for the summit of Mt Tennent and right to continue along the AAWT (Australian Alps Walking Track) and the descent from Mt Tennent to Bushfold Flat

At the shoulder. turn left for the summit of Mt Tennent and right to continue along the AAWT (Australian Alps Walking Track) and the descent from Mt Tennent to Bushfold Flat

Sub alpine woodland at the shoulder

Sub alpine woodland at the shoulder

Sub alpine woodland at the shoulder.  Note the twisted tree just right of centre

Sub alpine woodland at the shoulder. Note the twisted tree just right of centre

Sub alpine woodland , Mt Tennent

Sub alpine woodland , Mt Tennent

Lovely bark on a Eucalypt tree

Lovely bark on a Eucalypt tree

Beautiful Eucalyptus bark

Beautiful Eucalyptus bark

fungus beside the track

fungus beside the track

New growth on a Eucalptus tree, near the saddle on Mt Tennent

New growth on a Eucalptus tree, near the saddle on Mt Tennent

The saddle on Mt Tennent

The saddle on Mt Tennent

The saddle on Mt Tennent .  Here a foot track takes one on to the far edge of the clearing where the way up joins the Mt Tennent fire Trail which can just be seen through the trees.  The summit is ahead

The saddle on Mt Tennent . Here a foot track takes one on to the far edge of the clearing where the way up joins the Mt Tennent fire Trail which can just be seen through the trees. The summit is ahead

Pratia sp on the saddle

Pratia sp on the saddle

Pratia sp on the saddle

Pratia sp on the saddle

Buttercup on the saddle

Buttercup on the saddle

Orchid.  Diuris sp.  On the saddle on Mt Tennent.  I think this is Diuris monticola, Highland Golden Moths

Orchid. Diuris sp. On the saddle on Mt Tennent. I think this is Diuris monticola, Highland Golden Moths

Vanilla Lily, Arthropodium sp.  on the saddle

Vanilla Lily, Arthropodium sp. on the saddle

Field Daisy, Brachyscome decipiens, on the saddle.  this daisy is only about 1 cm across

Field Daisy, Brachyscome decipiens, on the saddle. this daisy is only about 1 cm across

Narrow-leafed Willow Herb, Epilobium hirtigerum, at the saddle

Narrow-leafed Willow Herb, Epilobium hirtigerum, at the saddle

Small Slender Rice Flower,  Pimelia linifolia, at the saddle

Small Slender Rice Flower, Pimelia linifolia, at the saddle

Wahlenbergia sp at the saddle

Wahlenbergia sp at the saddle

Prickly Starwort , Stellaria pungens, at the saddle

Prickly Starwort , Stellaria pungens, at the saddle

Australian Bugle, Ajuga australis, at the saddle

Australian Bugle, Ajuga australis, at the saddle

Thrift-leafed trigger plant, Stylidium armeria, at the saddle

Thrift-leafed trigger plant, Stylidium armeria, at the saddle

Dusky Scurf Pea, Cullen microcephalum, at the saddle

Dusky Scurf Pea, Cullen microcephalum, at the saddle

Native flax,  Linum marginale, at the saddle

Native flax, Linum marginale, at the saddle

Field Daisy , Brachyscome decipiens, at the saddle

 

Fire Tower on summit of Mt Tennent

Fire Tower on summit of Mt Tennent

Mt Tennent view over Namadgi N.P.

Mt Tennent view over Namadgi N.P.

Mt Tennent view over Namadgi NP.   Deadmans Hill left middleground. Booroomba Rocks right middleground. On the skyline, second from left is Bimberi Mountain, on the ACT border with NSW and highest peak in ACT,   and on far right is Mt. Gingera, also on ACT border, and 2nd highest point in the ACT.

Mt Tennent view over Namadgi NP. Deadmans Hill left middleground. Booroomba Rocks right middleground. On the skyline, second from left is Bimberi Mountain, on the ACT border with NSW and highest peak in ACT, and on far right is Mt. Gingera, also on ACT border, and 2nd highest point in the ACT.

Mt Tennent view.   The far distant skyline ridge is the Brindabella Range, along the ACT/NSW border, with Mt Gingera on the left ( the long ridge). Just left of centre, the rocky prominent peak is Blue Gum Hill

Mt Tennent view. The far distant skyline ridge is the Brindabella Range, along the ACT/NSW border, with Mt Gingera on the left ( the long ridge). Just left of centre, the rocky prominent peak is Blue Gum Hill

Mt Tennent view.   Below, the green grassland is Bushfold Flat.   Deadmans Hill in the middleground, left of centre, Booroomba Rocks is in the middleground on the extreme right.   The skyline ridge is the Brindabella Range on the ACT/NSW border with Mt Bimberi, highest point in the ACT left of centre.  This is all part of Namadgi NP.

Mt Tennent view. Below, the green grassland is Bushfold Flat. Deadmans Hill in the middleground, left of centre, Booroomba Rocks is in the middleground on the extreme right. The skyline ridge is the Brindabella Range on the ACT/NSW border with Mt Bimberi, highest point in the ACT left of centre. This is all part of Namadgi NP.

Mr Tennent view.  Bushfold Flat in the valley below running left to right.   Booroomba Rocks is the rocky ridge left of centre, with Mt Gingera the level ridge on the skyline in the centre.

Mr Tennent view. Bushfold Flat in the valley below running left to right. Booroomba Rocks is the rocky ridge left of centre, with Mt Gingera the level ridge on the skyline in the centre.

From Mt Tennent, looking over Deadmans Hill to Mt Bimberi

From Mt Tennent, looking over Deadmans Hill to Mt Bimberi

From Mt Tennent to Tidbinbilla Mt. on the skyline right of centre

From Mt Tennent to Tidbinbilla Mt. on the skyline right of centre

From Mt Tennent, looking up the valley of Blue Gum Creek.  Blue Gum Hill the rocky peak on the left.  Mt Gingera the level ridge on the left skyline and Mt Ginini on the skyline right of centre

From Mt Tennent, looking up the valley of Blue Gum Creek. Blue Gum Hill the rocky peak on the left. Mt Gingera the level ridge on the left skyline and Mt Ginini on the skyline right of centre

From Mt Tennent - looking across to the Tinderry Range in NSW

From Mt Tennent – looking across to the Tinderry Range in NSW

 As I mentioned earlier, if, on going up the Mt Tennent track, one turns right at the track intersection on the shoulder, one then follows the AAWT down into Bushfold Flat.   This is a lovely walk down to the Flat where I love the beauty and feeling of remoteness to be found there.   The walk up the Flat to Bushfold Hut is delightful.  However, one should be aware that the AAWT has been re-routed and is not as shown on the 1:25000 topo map.

Descending Mt Tennent on the AAWT to Bushfold Flat

Descending Mt Tennent on the AAWT to Bushfold Flat

Bushfold Flat, Namadgi N.P.

Bushfold Flat, Namadgi N.P.

Bushfold Flat, looking south from where the AAWT down from Mt Tennent enters the Flat

Bushfold Flat, looking south from where the AAWT down from Mt Tennent enters the Flat

Bushfold Flat, looking up at Booroomba Rocks

Bushfold Flat, looking up at Booroomba Rocks

Hut (restored)  at southern end of Bushfold Flat

Hut (restored) at southern end of Bushfold Flat

Hut at southern end of Bushfold Flat

Hut at southern end of Bushfold Flat

 

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2 thoughts on “Mt Tennent Walk – Canberra

  1. Lovely trip , without the effort ! Love the descriptions, I feel I could almost be there. The photos of the flowers are magnificent , and most interesting to a South African to whom many of the species are unknown.
    Thank you Barrie for sharing your hikes and your knowledge .

  2. Thank you, Teresa. It is great that you made the journey with me! If I can evoke something of the feel of the place my blog will be worthwhile.

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