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Mt Coolum – a harsh, windy and unique place

Landscape Photography with marysejansenart

Rare plants on solidified magma

Mt Coolum by Maryse Jansen
Mt Coolum

Mt Coolum is a dome-shaped hill that rises up out of the mostly flat lowlands of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. It forms the backdrop of the township of Marcoola which lies right on the coast. Mt Coolum is 208m high and is part of the Mt Coolum National Park. A walking track takes you to the summit and it’s quite a popular track for locals as well as visitors and I am keen to check it out!

A volcanic peak

Mt Coolum is one of a number of isolated volcanic peaks on the Sunshine Coast (other prominent volcanic peaks in this area are the Glasshouse Mountains. You can read an interesting story about those in my free e-book)! This particular peak was created around 26 million years ago and is a so called laccolith. It means that magma has been pushed up from inside the earth into the layers of sedimentary rock that made up the surface in that place, in this case that was a sandstone layer. It has pushed up like some sort of blister, forming a dome shaped hill.

At the start of the walk I enter a forest of Paperbark Trees and Scribbly Gum Trees. It is quite beautiful. In the tree tops I can hear some Honey-eaters and Friar Birds, but they don’t show themselves. Moving along, there is an opportunity to get a glimpse of the view of the coast by looking through the trees. I’m in a different kind of forest now, the ecosystem keeps changing the higher I climb.

Over time, erosion washed away the sandstone layer and exposed the underlying structures of the solidified magma. The rock that formed here when the magma solidified is called rhyolite. Rhyolite is a silica-rich rock which is usually pink or grey in colour. It is a very hard rock and thus highly resistant against erosion. I am literally walking on the hexagonal cooling columns that are prominent in the rock around the edges of Mt Coolum. They have that pinkish colour of the rhyolite. Because they are practically horizontal they look like a natural set of steps, ideal for us walkers to climb on.

Mt Coolum Natural Stairs by Maryse Jansen
Mt Coolum Natural Stairs

About halfway up, I can get a good look at the rock-face of the mountain. Here as well I can clearly see hexagonal-shaped columns as shown in the featured image.

Montane Heath

As I climb higher the vegetation is growing less high. It is very exposed to the elements here, a harsh environment for anything that tries to grow here. On the top I find an ecosystem that is called low Montane Heath. The conditions are very harsh here. I can experience the exposure to the sun and the strong winds myself. The vegetation also has to deal with very infertile soil and high evaporation on top of that. Because of all this the plants rarely grow taller than one metre.

It is quite a unique environment and as a consequence it’s home to many rare and threatened species. The most interesting one being the Mount Coolum She-Oak (Allocasuarina thalassoscopica) which is endangered and is only found on Mt Coolum! Two other threatened species are Coast Mountain Tea Tree (Leptospermum oreophilum) and Swamp Stringybark (Eucalyptus conglomerata).

Banksias are flowering and dominating the landscape up here. They are indeed keeping low to the ground. I see some other wildflowers that I am not familiar with, they are pretty though.

Battling the wind

Not much wildlife on this very windy day. I see a few swallows darting around. They are fast as it is, and when they get taken by the wind not much more then a streak is visible. My camera almost gets blown out of my hands so it’s sheer impossible to keep it still. The subjects that I try to photograph don’t keep still either. All in all the photographing and filming are very challenging today! I do spot a Dragonfly. It’s a Slender Skimmer which has stunning black and yellow patterns.

The top gives pretty much a 360 degree view of the surroundings, looking out over the coast and the hinterland. I find a spot where a bush provides a little bit of shelter from sun and wind where I have a short rest before I commence the descend.

The way down is challenging as the ground is very steep and uneven and the strong wind almost knocks me off my feet. But I do stop every now and then to take in the magnificent views. Back down in the paperbark forest, the trees provide shelter from the wind and it’s a good time to recuperate.

This is definitely a special place but it is obviously not accessible for everybody so I hope that by sharing my story, photos and video you can get some idea of and appreciation for what it’s like up on Mt Coolum!

Climbing Mt Coolum – Come for a walk in the Australian Bush Series #10

If you are interested in purchasing ‘Mt Coolum’ or would like to see what the image looks like on the various products, please head to my shop.

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