Climbing the north face of the Eiger has always been a challenge for experienced mountaineers. If you are looking for a similar gut wrenching challenge in Australia, look no further than the South West corner of Australia.
Only it’s not a mountain, it’s a tree. A frightening monster, one of the tallest in Australia with a summit sometimes disappearing into the clouds. Even on a clear day, those on the platform at the top disappear from view.
The rewards and the fears.
If you manage to tame the 75 metre beast and reach the summit, you will be rewarded with some of the finest views in Australia. The South West corner of Australia spreads before you like a map, from the pristine rain forests below, to the majestic Southern Ocean in the distance.
But you have to climb to the summit first and when you reach the top, the hard part starts. The return journey to the ground can be even more difficult.
Therein lies the challenge. Your open air staircase is 130 thin steel bolts winding around the trunk and the only protection you have from plummeting to the ground, is a thin wire cage.
Only the brave and intrepid reach the summit. Many succumb to fear and the sheer physical challenge. On a windy day, the tree actually sways and on a wet day, the steel rungs are cold and as slippery as ice.
Have I climbed it?
Yes and no. On the first occasion, at the age of 18, I was challenged by my mates and the 3 of us reached the summit to enjoy the amazing views. But when I reached the ground, my legs were like jelly.
On the second occasion, I was on my honeymoon. It was cold and rainy and despite my bride’s protests, started the climb. Then common sense prevailed and I abandoned the attempt, reasoning that I had done it before, so had nothing to prove. As my wife said, “At the age of 30, you’re too old for that sort of stuff”.
Three backpackers in front of me also gave up after climbing a short distance. Sarah, aged 22 from Oxford described it as “Scary beyond belief.”
Where is this terrifying tree?
The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is on the outskirts of Pemberton, an easy 5 hour drive south of Perth. The town was once the centre of the forestry industry, but is now a thriving tourist hub with much to offer the visitor.
The wineries in this district produce cool climate wines and are surrounded by magnificent Jarrah and Karri forests. They are tucked away in the high rainfall region of the lower South West. Pemberton is the coolest wine region in the state. The climate is ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties with a distinct regional flavour.
The town offers a variety of hotel and motel accommodation as well as a youth hostel just a short distance from the town centre.
Looking for something a little less challenging?
If you are overcome with vertigo at the very thought of climbing this monster and leaving your comfort zone, here is a great alternative.
The Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk is an award winning tourist attraction in the Nornalup National Park near Walpole, just a short distance from Pemberton. The walk is made of six bridges and you actually walk through the forest canopy. How cool is that?
The prestigious travel Guide Lonely Planet has chosen Australia’s South West as one of the World’s top 10 regions for 2010. It is the only Australian destination to make it into the list.
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