Dominating Mt Tennent

16 Feb

Mt Tennent in the distance

Mt Tennent is a bastard*. There’s no other way to put it. The first time I braved it was August 2011, and on finishing it I made the promise myself to never, ever do it again. That was until I got my new Heart Rate Monitor, which piqued my curiosity – if Mt Tennent is such a hard slog, how many calories does it burn? Of course, the only way to find out was by doing it again.  And that’s how, exactly six months later, I found myself back on Mt Tennent, and cursing it.

Entry to the Mt Tennent walk

Mt Tennent is recognisable as one of the many mountains which frame the ACT landscape, looming over Tuggeranong. I’d describe it almost as dramatic; I always try to spot it from the sky when flying into Canberra. At about 1350m, it’s no Kosciuszko, but it’s still impressive.

The walk begins at the Namadgi Visitor Centre. The centre is actually the start (or end!) of the Australian Alpine Walking Track (AAWT) (with the other end being 650 kilometres away in Walhalla, Victoria); most of the track to Mt Tennent takes you along the beginning (or end!) of the AAWT.

Part of the AAWT

For 500m it’s a wander through a track through bushland with numerous information plaques, before you cross the highway (100km/h speed limit, so be careful!) to the foot of the mountain. There’s a visitor’s book just past the fence to sign and then it’s onwards. And upwards. And upwards.

The first major ‘landmark’ for Mt Tennent is Cypress Pines lookout. But Mt Tennent is marked by a number of areas of relatively wide and flat granite – the result being that you the narrow path you’re on is lost and it can take a bit of a look around to find where it starts again. Similarly, 100m from the lookout is a sign which points the way. On other tracks such as Square Rock, signs like this are usually pointing to short detours, meaning if you want to skip the lookout and remain trudging up the mountain then you’d keep on the way you were going and ignore the sign. This doesn’t seem to be the case for Mt Tennent – the lookout is part of the track. It’s also worth pointing out that someone, at some time (long ago, given how faded they are!), very kindly spray painted some blue arrows on the granite, which does assist in finding your way.

One of the bridges

The lookout seems like an appropriate place to stop, but my tip is to skip it. There are much better views a little further on. About 100 metres further is a bridge over a running creek (if it’s the season for it), and then there is a cute little bench and an even cuter seat for weary travellers. But, if you can manage it, keep slogging. There’s still a long way up and the views do get increasingly better. You get a sense for the height you’re gaining when you can spot the Visitor Centre’s carpark below, and a little up-arrow in the distance which you can just make out to be Telstra Tower.

Onwards. And upwards.

The track continues past another small bridge, then up and around some large, cool boulders. Around these parts, we ran into a couple with unusually large backpacks. I was still overly chipper (this changed later on) and I think frightened them with my excitement when I said something like, “OMG ARE YOU ON THE AAWT HEY THIS MEANS YOU ARE ALMOST FINISHED CONGRATULATIONS”. Indeed, my GPS-equipped Heart Rate Monitor allowed me to reliably inform them they were about 3 kilometres from the end, having started the AAWT midway along the track at Kiandra. I was very impressed.

After this, it’s still onwards, and upwards, and upwards. Canberra at the moment is looking gloriously and unusually green, with all shades painting the landscape below. The views are best when you encounter more of the flatter granite areas – while you’re trying to navigate your way around them, do stop to take in all that you can see.

The views stop soon after, as the track heads to the top of the mountain. Or so I seem to keep tricking myself into thinking. At about 4.7km in, there’s juncture in the track, where you can turn right and continue on the AAWT and off to Honeysuckle Creek (another 7.5km), or you can turn left and head up Mt Tennent (2.5km).

Don’t be fooled by the 2.5. It’s a 1.4km walk through some the trees and tall grasses, and then you hit the management trail and the ‘1km’ sign to the top. This last kilometre is by far the hardest. It’s pretty much straight up. I usually have to stop to catch my breath a lot, I’ll admit, but this last kilometre had me stopping every 50-100 metres, which is just plain ridiculous. You round a corner expecting things to level out, but that’s just crazy talk. It feels like it will never end.

But then, of course, it does end. A radio tower peaks into view and then you’re at the top, with some large boulders to navigate and the tempting Fire Tower. It’s usually unlocked, allowing you to climb up the steep steel ladder to the first platform (but it’s locked from here on). While the view is just slightly obscured by the steel of the tower, you do get some fantastic 360 vistas over Canberra and the ranges. But being exposed and high up, it’s also windy and freezing – made worse if you’ve just been sweating!

From there it’s just down, down, down, all the way to the carpark. This past occasion, we were racing against some imposing storm clouds and lightning which appeared to be coming our way. While going down is quicker, if you’re not too

There were doing a controlled burn that day. Great viewing from the fire tower, funnily enough.

sure of your feet (and/or unco like me) you might find that your pace is a bit slow. My back hurt from looking down so much at where my feet were!

Is Mt Tennent worth the effort? Yes and no. While I smashed a phenomenal-sounding 1808 calories, it also took 5 hours – about 300 calories an hour. When you take into account that 45 minutes around Lake Burley Griffin is about 350 calories, the pain doesn’t seem worth it.

360 views over Canberra. This August day wasn’t ideal, but conditions are great right now.

But, the views are great. You feel like you’ve really accomplished something. It’s pretty cool to go up the Fire Tower. The bajillion rock stairs are a good work out. It’s a genuine mountain hike (you gain 800m for your efforts), and unlike some of the other significant mountains in the region, you’ll likely catch a glimpse of it on the Canberra horizon every day. And when you do, you can smugly think to yourself, “I’ve climbed that bastard.”

And that makes it pretty damn worthwhile.

You can check out the stats of the day here.

*If you’re relatively unfit. We did see people on the walk who were smashing it like it was their everyday early morning stroll.

Date: Sunday, 12 February

Time: 9.05am-2pm (Visitor Centre gates close at 4pm)

Attendees: T1 and Boyfriend

Cost: Free (plus another sunburn)

Worthwhile factor: Very worthwhile

Want more? Namadgi National Park

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23 Responses to “Dominating Mt Tennent”

  1. Ben Foley February 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Nice writeup. For those that might be considering it, a few of us (after thinking we were the king of the world from conquering the peak) decided to take the alternative downward path all the way to booroomba rocks and our campsite at honeysuckle creek. We managed to beat those that went back the way the way we came and parked at the visitors centre but we were completely destroyed. With 3L of water I ran out essentially as soon as I got to the bottom of Mt Tennent. We also ran out of food and survived on mini easter eggs.

    I like the stats and wish I had my gps running when I did it. Interesting how much more consistant your heartrate was on the way down 🙂

    Congrats on defeating the beast twice!

  2. Anjelica Willi February 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Hello, I desire to subscribe for this webpage to get most recent
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  3. whisperinggums October 13, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    You are right. It’s a b*****d. I’ve done it once, nearly twenty years ago, and am very pleased I did. I don’t imagine I’ll ever do it again. I applaud you for facing it twice. Mr Gums still hasn’t done it and is planning an assault but I think he needs to improve his fitness a little more!

    • inthetaratory October 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      My fitness is LOW so he might be okay! I’m glad I did it, too. I even spoke recently about doing it again, but perhaps I was getting ahead of myself!

      • whisperinggums October 13, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

        Hmmm … well, we’ll see. Meanwhile, I shall be watching for your report of your third assault.

        PS Do you know Dinner at Caphs blog (Google will find it). She has committed this centenary year to reading books set in Canberra. I hope she continues next year.

      • inthetaratory October 13, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

        I didn’t. But it’s brilliant! Thanks so much for the recommendation.

      • whisperinggums October 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

        Great … it’s good to share the Canberra blogging love.

  4. Chilfey_Alison June 23, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    Finally got around to doing Mt Tennent yesterday. It’s hard work but worth it. We had spectacular sunshine and no wind either. But oooh, my calves this morning. All those steps…

  5. MJWC1 February 20, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    Wish me luck, T1, I am planning on walking up Mt Tennent for the first time on the weekend!
    On a side note, I recently did Mt Rob Roy and can recommend it. The trees do block the panoramic views, but it is still satisfying. The track is great and not hard (once you conquer the horrid Banks Steep Track) – only one brown snake to dodge!

  6. oliverd :-) September 8, 2018 at 8:35 pm #

    Nice half-say walk, especially on a winter day with clear skies! Might have been a different experience in the middle of summer…

  7. Lorenzo Lariosa February 22, 2019 at 3:52 pm #

    Well it’s our first time this weekend and hopefully we can make it. we’ve done some practice in mt taylor and hope is enough. but it’s we’ve got some pointers from you regarding the trail.thank you very much!!


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