Safety under scrutiny at Bluff Knoll after tragic deaths

Albany Advertiser
Acting Superintendent Alex Ryan at Bluff Knoll.
Camera IconActing Superintendent Alex Ryan at Bluff Knoll. Credit: Liam Croy

A spate of emergencies at Bluff Knoll has sparked calls for hikers to take safety more seriously when setting out for the summit.

Trails WA classifies the 6km return Bluff Knoll trail as a “grade four” hike, putting it in the second most difficult category.

“Moderate level of fitness and experience required,” the Trails WA website says.

“Bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may be long, rough and very steep.”

There are several grade five hikes in the Stirling Range National Park — Mt Toolbrunup and Mt Magog, for example, but the popularity of Bluff Knoll is unrivalled.

Authorities warn that weather conditions are unpredictable on the mountain, which rises more than 1km above sea level.

Rock edges can be slippery or crumble without warning.

On the day Matthew Dwyer’s body was found at Bluff Knoll earlier this month, Acting Superintendent Alex Ryan urged caution near the peak.

Photographer Matthew Dwyer died on Bluff Knoll.
Camera IconPhotographer Matthew Dwyer died on Bluff Knoll. Credit: Matthew Dwyer (Facebook)

“Anyone who goes up there should be careful, follow the signs, keep to the tracks, keep away from the edges of the bluff itself,” he said.

“It's very changeable weather, high winds, be prepared for the temperature to change quite dramatically and fairly quickly.

“This is a busy time of year for the park. It's wildflower season, school holidays so you do have an increase in visitors.”

Mr Dwyer was an experienced wildlife photographer from Fremantle who had visited Bluff Knoll several times in the past.

His death will be the subject of a coronial inquiry.

It was the third emergency in the Stirling Range National Park in the space of a week after two other hikers had to be winched from the area by helicopter on consecutive days.

In May, the disappearance of Mandurah mother Lorjie Bautista, 39, at Bluff Knoll sparked a massive search which ended in tragedy a week later.

Ms Bautista’s body was found in dense bush at the bottom of a steep incline.

On Facebook, our readers were dismayed after Mr Dwyer’s death capped a series of serious incidents.

Matthew Dwyer's Nissan Campervan in the Bluff Knoll carpark.
Camera IconMatthew Dwyer's Nissan Campervan in the Bluff Knoll carpark. Credit: Liam Croy

Some encouraged the use of personal locator beacons, while Nola Webber said they could soon become compulsory for hikers.

Sue Lockyer went as far as suggesting it was time to close access to the area.

SES volunteer Montana Brooks said Handy GPS and Emergency+ were useful smartphone apps for hikers.

“Always have a portable charger,” Ms Brooks said on Facebook.

“Make sure you tell other friends and family where you're going and when you should be back, so if something happens they can alert authorities.”

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