Mount Beerwah is the highest of the Glasshouse Mountains and, as such attracts an inordinate number of walkers. The standard hiking route, climbs up the north side, is heavily eroded, and, if the local press is to be believed, is the site of many hundreds of rescues (likely heavily exaggerated). In order to avoid the yak trak on the standard route, we scrambled up the east face and descended the hiking track.
Crag rates the east face grade 2 (I'd call it YDS class 3), which seems about right. The total elevation gain is only 200 to 300 metres, so the scramble up and down is a quarter day at best. The views, however, are grand, particularly of Coonowrin, which appears to be more or less permanently closed by Queensland Parks.
Glasshouse Mountains from Mary Cairncross
For the east route, you walk back down the road from the parking lot a short distance to a foot pad on the right. This descends to cross a small creek (dry) and is signed down the track with the usual, "You WILL die" Queensland Parks signage. Despite these dire warnings we pressed on.
We crossed a couple of gullies (one wet, one dry) and then started heading straight uphill on the east side of the peak. In about 5 or 10 minutes we reached the base of the slabs. The route is easy to follow as it is worn in (not eroded like the hikers route) and marked with red paint. Basically we rambled up low angle slabs for about vertical 300 metres to reach a little mini ridge near the top. The route weaves a bit left and right and is pretty clean. It is never exposed as the slabs you climb are separated by vegetated ledges. The rock is grippy and clean and progress is fast and easy, except for the fact that we were baking in the sun and felt like we were sweating buckets. Doug was going fast, I was gasping along behind.
Coonowrin and Tibrogargan from Beerwah
Near the top, we reached the "caves." The track traverses around the caves to climbers left and then ascends the final slabs. When we got to the top we were surprised there was no-one there as we had seen quite a few cars in the parking lot. Soon after, an older gentleman arrived. He was quite chatty and told us all about the other peaks you could climb. He headed down before us as he was going to walk up a second time!
After a suitable interlude, we descended down the tourist route which is still quite a scramble and would be challenging for many walkers. Lots of slabs to scramble down and the erosion is terrible. As each track erodes down to the underlying slab, the track spreads out on either side until another slab is uncovered etc., etc.
Not far from where the scrambling starts when coming up, we came across a party of three backpacker types, two guys and a woman, who were basically completely sketched out, sweating like hell and appearing pretty gripped. When the two guys saw Doug and I, they pretended that they were ultra-cool and having a wonderful time but the young woman was really struggling. This, of course, is why so many people need rescuing off Mount Beerwah.
Coonowrin with Beerwah behind
Soon, a third guy comes up. The guy we met on top told us that this guy runs up and down to the Organ Pipes (part way up the peak) very frequently. He was bare chested and covered in tattoo's and obviously thought he was Dan Osmond on Bear's Leap at Lovers Leap the way he was running up the rock. Too bad, he was actually on a class 3 scramble with about 100 metres of total scrambling. He started coaching the young woman up which I thought was a bad idea as getting up is optional, getting down is mandatory and I was sure she would struggle on the way down if she was having trouble coming up.
I said to her "Remember, you have to go down. Don't climb up anything you can't climb down," but she seemed so overcome with fear I don't think she heard or understood. The Dan Osmond groupie was encouraging her up which I thought was irresponsible and threatens access for everyone as apparently Queensland Parks is thinking of shutting the whole thing down. A shame for those who are prepared.
We continued down and soon reached the guy we met on top who was also encouraging up another young guy who had barely started the scrambling section (he had done about 10 metres of the easiest stuff) and was already quaking with fear. Really stupid. Somehow, all these big fish in small ponds see themselves as hero's for scrambling up a 100 metres of grade 2 rock. Anyway, we were down and glad to be away from it all.