If you’ve driven anywhere on the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, you’d have to have seen the Glass House Mountains – small but majestic peaks that conspicuously rise out of forest alongside Steven Irwin Way. They were named the Glass House Mountains by Captain James Cook, allegedly after they reminded him of the glass factories in his hometown of Yorkshire. They must have been some wild-looking factories.
To the Aboriginal Jinibara and Kabi Kabi people, who had dibs well before Cook, the mountains each have their own place in Aboriginal mythology. My focus on this journey was on Mount Tibrogargan, which the Jinbara and Kabi Kabi see as the father of the Glass House Mountains.
Perhaps the most iconic looking of the 13 Glass House Mountains, Mount Tibrogargan is often referred to as the ‘gorilla’. At 364 metres tall, it looks as if Kong had a fight with medusa, lost, and nature took over from there.
It was while investigating this short, steep and menacing-looking peak, that I read a trip to the top is pretty gnarly (at least for non-climbers like myself). It requires a reasonable degree of dexterity, and is best conquered by those without a fear of heights. I’d planned to do it, but when I was more prepared, with a friend, proper shoes and when I was a bit stronger.
So with that in mind, I decided I’d just do the Tibrogargan Circuit, which circumnavigates the mountain in a relatively calm fashion, offering nice views of the surrounding area. However, as the walk passed by the start of the Mount Tibrogargan climb, I decided to take a look at ‘chicken wall’, which is a notoriously steep section of the ascent where climbers are known to bail out.
My Mount Tibrogargan climb
After reaching chicken wall, I looked up and thought to myself, ‘pffffttt’. It didn’t look that bad, and after chatting with a young hiker descending solo, he told me that based on my past experiences, I should be good to go. So it was on the spot that I decided to do it. I’m definitely a spontaneous person, although luckily I did have a couple of litres of water, a good hat and decent shoes. It was about 11:30 am on a sunny Saturday when I set off solo up chicken wall.
Chicken wall isn’t that hard, it’s the next wall after that which is the steepest section of the journey. This section is about 3 metres high and after you pass it, it’s relatively plain sailing, provided you don’t freak out when you look down, you’re reasonably fit, and, if you’re going solo for your first time like me, you’re confident with navigating and sure-footed.
I was huffing and puffing all the way up, and I stopped fairly frequently, taking in the views, chatting to the odd climber and adjusting my GoPro, but I made it to the top in about 45 minutes. It was a hot summer’s day and I reflected it was good I was wearing my big hat, a long sleeve shirt and this time I had enough water. Still, the hike would best be done in the early morning when it’s cooler and there’s less chance of wind disrupting your journey.
As I mentioned earlier, Mount Tibrogargan is seen as the father of the Glass House Mountains. However, the tallest of the 13 peaks, neighbouring Beerwah, is known as the wife. The story goes that Tibrogargan called out to his son Coonowrin to take Beerwah to higher ground, safe from the rising waters he saw on the horizon. When Coonowrin failed to do so, Tibrogargan hit him with a club – breaking his neck – and turned his back on his son. So they remain today, Coonowrin with a broken neck and Tibrogargan facing towards the sea.
On the national parks sign it’s stated the Kabi Kabi people ask visitors not to climb this culturally significant mountain. I typically oblige such wishes and have done so on many Aboriginal sites around Australia, although this time I felt the urge to go (respectfully).
Finishing the Mount Tibrogargan Climb
I chatted to a couple of hikers who were descending before I reached the summit. I then passed two more ladies as I navigated my way along the top to a better viewing spot. The top of Mount Tibrogargan is covered by scrub, so some exploration is required to get a good view of the surrounding area, which is of course superb.
After spending about 20 minutes exploring the top, I decided to make my way down the mountain, which to my mind is much easier.
As I have long limbs, I used my arms and legs to spring down parts that took me a while to navigate up, and it was only on the section just above chicken wall that I had to concentrate, as it’s here you could fall.
I reached the bottom, ran into a couple of hikers and chatted with another Andy all the way back to the car park. Other Andy was 60, he told me, and looked in great shape, which gave me added inspiration (as I’m in my late 40s) that I’ve got plenty of exploring left in me if I do it right.
In all, I felt that Mount Tibrogargan was a good level for me. It posed a challenge, although I did it relatively easily and at no point did I feel out of control. I was a tad scared on some sections as I’m not so keen on heights, but this made it all the more fun. It got my blood pumping and I felt wide awake for the rest of the day, and slightly proud of my achievement.
Andy also told me about Mount Beerwah, which is a similar challenge and as I’ve said, the highest of the Glass House Mountains. I plan to tackle this one in a couple of weeks.
Check out the views of Mount Tibrogargan in my TikTok video above.
A Few Fast Facts
- Although many people take on the Mount Tibrogargan climb every day, don’t attempt it unless you’re reasonably fit, dexterous and a confident walker.
- This is really not a ‘walk’ at all as you are climbing nearly the whole way. Saying that, you don’t need any rope and you don’t need to be a rock climber (I’m not).
- It’s better to do this prepared – go with someone who’s done it, wear good shoes, take plenty of water and wear a good hat. Also, go early if possible and avoid rainy (or potentially rainy) weather.
- The local Kabi Kabi people prefer you not to climb this sacred mountain. Something to keep in mind.
- Give yourself a couple of hours to do the walk, don’t rush and you should really enjoy it. It’s one of the best (and more challenging) walks I’ve done in a long time.