Google+ The Norris Files: Sylvesters Lookout to Mt Castle; Fail!


Sylvesters Lookout to Mt Castle; Fail!


This walk actually ended up being a Goomburra to Laidley Creek Falls campsite nonetheless, thanks to Cam, for the idea and GPS route and the invaluable Take a Walk book for track directions.

The plan for this walk was to drive to Goomburra in the Main Range National Park and from Sylvester’s Lookout car park walk to Laidley Falls campsite before negotiating the scramble onto the summit of Mt Castle. After exploring the main peak a little we would set up camp close to the eastern peak with its sheer cliffs. The next morning after enjoying sunrise from Mt Castle, we would return along the same route. However, as is the way with bush walking, things did not go quite according to plan.

We left Brisbane a little later than I had hoped and after a quick breakfast at Aratula it was getting close to midday before we arrived at Goomburra and the picnic area at the base of the Main Range Nation Park. There, with mutual groans of dismay, we found that the road that ascends significantly to Mt Sylvester’s Lookout had been closed due to the deluge experienced over the past week. Abandoning the walk wasn’t an option so we organised our gear, donned our packs and commenced the trudge that rose 350m in elevation over 5.2km. We arrived exhausted at around 1:30pm, threw down our packs, and over lunch admired the expansive views from Sylvester’s Lookout. 


Leaving Sylvester’s Lookout the track headed north and became very rocky descending into a gully before climbing steeply and then levelling on the top of the ridge at 1142m. Following the track notes from the guidebook, we continued on until reaching a point were a huge liana vine hung from the canopy, here we turned sharply left. The track then descended down a pile of mossy rocks that lined the crest of the ridge before veering towards the south east, close to the edge of the escarpment. 

Continuing along the ridge we turned sharply right across a fallen log at a narrow gap between the rocks on the ridge top. We then commenced the descent on the right side of the ridge through what appeared to be a frost or fire affected exposed area of open eucalypt forest dotted with tall grass trees and a thick grassy ground cover. Route finding became a little more difficult as the vegetation often obscured our view of the track and numerous false foot pads heightened our indecision. As Cam noted in his blog the best advice for this section is to ignore the tracks that appear to be the most direct descent down the ridge but rather follow the track that hugs the obvious escarpment. 

To our disgust this section of the track was infested with ticks. Our trousers, shirts, and exposed skin were quickly covered in ticks and our progress slowed as we continually checked ourselves for any of the beasts that had managed to get a grip. The final descent into Laidley Creek Falls campsite (940m) involved a few muddy and slippery downhill sections before the track curved north east towards a small cleared area that was the campsite.

By this time is was getting close to 4:30pm so there was no chance of us getting onto the summit of Mt Castle that evening so the decision was made to camp the night at Laidley Falls campsite. Dumping our gear we headed down the most obvious foot pad leading north west away from the campsite. This brought us to Laidley Creek which only had a trickle of water flowing but enough to refill out water containers. The cliff face at the edge of the falls offered expansive views over the Laidley Valley and onto Mt Castle. In the dying light it was difficult to locate the guidebooks recommended route towards the Hole in the Wall as numerous foot pads littered this area.


Returning to the campsite I following an obvious trail leading north form the campsite and arrived at an exposed bluff with stunning views north, north east, over the Laidley Valley, Moogerah Peaks, back along the Main range and towards the southern end of Mt Castle with its rugged buttress glowing in the setting sun. From this position Cams more direct ascent onto Mount Castle than the guidebooks recommended route became obvious. A rocky ridge line led towards Boars Head before narrowing to a razorback then climbed towards the base of the cliffs that line Mt Castle. At this point we both decided that tomorrow we would attempt the more direct route onto Mt Castle rather than follow the guidebooks advice as we were concerned that we may end up a lot lower down in the valley than was necessary.


Back at the campsite the ticks were horrendous but somehow we managed not to get into our shelters until after midnight. Feeling optimistic and placing faith in the BOM forecast I only put up my tent inner however, by 0200am the temperature dropped dramatically and the wind increased significantly bringing with it rain. I must have dosed off at this point because I came to as Darren was putting the fly over my tent inner. Thankfully I hadn’t got that wet and he had managed to stay dry under his tarp. The rain continued overnight and by 0800am neither of us had made a move to rise as the weather was miserable and attempting the climb along the razorback ridge to Mt Castle seemed risky and unappealing. Added to our woes the ticks had declared open season on Darren overnight as he had little protection under his tarp and the morning light revealed there handiwork. A day or two after the walk he developed some mild cellulitis presumably from a tick head left in his skin. Thankfully it resolved quickly. I was glad of my own protection as the morning revealed dozens of ticks on the inside of my tent fly but happily separated from me by the mesh inner.

A long breakfast over numerous cups of coffee ensued while sheltering from the rain under the tarp. Before leaving the campsite we detoured out to the exposed bluff we had visited the previous evening. The valley below us had disappeared under cloud and Mt Castle was invisible, as if it didn’t even exist and we could only vaguely make out the route along the ridge line towards it. Strong updrafts drew the clouds up from the valley floor then with staggering force and speed thrust them above us and over the top of the Main Range. It was an incredible spectacle and a display I had never witnessed before or at least not with updrafts that immensely powerful and visible. 


The rain had made some of the sections of the track back to Mt Sylvester’s quite perilous. The muddy uphill sections required some deliberate foot placement to avoid a slide but other than a few heart in mouth moments it was a relatively uneventful walk back to the lookout. We had made the decision to wear long thermal pants as well as long sleeved thermal tops which together with bright coloured rain gear seemed to limit our tick exposure on the return trip. At the very least the bright coloured and slippery wet weather gear made it easy to spot the ticks and remove them. After a short stop at Sylvester’s Lookout we set off on the knee crunching walk back down the park road to the car. At least it was downhill this time! Back at the car after a tick inspection and removal operation we traveled down Cunningham’s Gap back to Brisbane and home.

Despite not getting to our destination, the ticks and rain, the unexpected uphill slog to the start, this walk was still enjoyable. I took very few photos which is unusual for me however, that is one more reason to come back. When we do, it will be winter, away from tick season and we will camp on the summit of Mt Castle.

Goomburra Carpark to Laidley Creek Falls Campsite


  1. Sounds like an adventure Phillip! Ticks are rampant lately, its hard to go bush without picking a few up.

  2. Trev, despite the setbacks the views were great. Your right, they are rampant; I'm used to some ticks but this was out of control!!

  3. Just read this post Phil. That's a real shame about the gate being closed. Having to walk up the road would have definitely put a dampener on the first day. Apologies that I didn't mention this possibility. Some people on the forums had said that it is closed sometimes.

    Ticks are definitely bad this year. We had the most I've seen on our similar walk. No where near as many as you describe though. Maybe we were saved by the cooler weather in August.

    Pity about the weather too. You've done really well to have such a positive attitude at the end of it.

  4. Thanks Cam. The walk in was a a pain but it was still easy enough to enjoy the walk with the views over the Laidely Valley and onto Mt Castle. The park rangers mentioned to give them a ring first before coming up next time and they will tell me if the gates are open. Looking forwsrd to getting back there (in cooler weather) and the pictures have inspired a few others to join me. Once again, many thanks for the route advice in your blog and the GPS track provided.