Mount Chincogan Butterflies

Mount Chincogan
Mount Chincogan

G’day nature lovers,

As a nature nerd, I look at Mount Chincogan longingly wondering what it’s like at the top.

When I first moved here 10 years ago everyone told me it was on private land and closed to the public. Locals often recall stories about climbing Chinny when they were kids, which only teased my curiosity. So, imagine my excitement when I heard they were going to allow a one off event where people can climb the mountain – The Chinny Charge. I literally had butterflies in my stomach with the excitement.

One of the remarkable geological features in the Byron Shire (other than Cape Byron), is Mount Chincogan –Chinny to the locals. Mount Chincogan is a 308m mountain that lies beside the town of Mullumbimby in the Byron Hinterland.  It is a part of the Tweed Volcano that erupted about 20 million years ago. It was once covered in wet sclerophyll forest and rainforest, but was heavily logged and is now farmland that is inundated with camphor laurel.

The Chinny Charge was an annual event that ran from 1967-2001, where people would run-walk up the mountain. But as the land title changed hands as did the support for the event and it lay dormant for 16 years. In June this year, the Mullumimby Chamber announced that the Chinny Charge would once again return as a one-off event.

I registered a few days before the Chinny Charge and from that moment I had butterflies of excitement every time I thought about or looked at the great mountain. On the morning of the event, I had constant butterflies – not nerves, excitement, like when I was a kid and would look forward to my birthday or Christmas. I was finally going to see the view from the top of the mountain I’d seen every day for 10 years.

Chinny Charge race start
Chinny Charge race start

2:15pm, the race started, 500 people all no doubt with butterflies of excitement took off. The  gun-ho, runners sped off, I was walking with my mates, I wanted to savour every minute – and I’m not young or fit enough to run up and down a mountain. We walked along the road for 2km before we started the ascent up the mountain.


Walking up Mount Chincogan
Walking up Mount Chincogan

2:35pm, my mates and I parted; we all walked at different paces and had pre-agreed to walk our own mountain. That and they often mock me when I stop to look at butterflies and who knew how many butterflies I would see on my 1.5km ascent up a mountain.

The first rise wasn’t too bad but I looked toward mountain, it did still seem quite far away. The next rise was a little more difficult, I told myself I could rest, when it levelled off – oh look a Wander butterfly (danaus plexippus).

Next rise, things were getting steeper and my legs were starting to burn a bit. Where are those butterflies, perhaps if I stop here a minute I might see some. Perhaps there are too many people on the mountain and I’ll need to look harder. Oh look Black Jezebel butterfly (Delias nigrina).

Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardu).
Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardu).

Things were starting to get much steeper now and the pointy bit of the mountain was much closer, and huge. I stopped to look for more butterflies and was rewarded with a Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardu).

The last part of the ascent was really steep, the paddocks, with cow pats and camphor laurel had been replaced with brush box (Lophostemon confertus) and grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) with Rhyolite rocks breaking through the thin soil. No butterflies, but it was super congested with people ascending and descending down the narrow, steep track, and I think one or two of them had a butterfly t-shirt on.

3:45pm, I finally reached the summit. I looked around and couldn’t see the view for the trees –nature, getting in my way of seeing nature -d’arn it. I started the descent and stopped to take photos of the view on my way down, less butterfly sightings on my way down – funny that.

4:45pm, I reached the finish line and called my mates who were drinking cider in the RSL, they hadn’t seen any butterflies. We all agreed it was a difficult walk – probably a bit more difficult than we had expected, but we were all glad we’d done it.

The next day when I saw the mountain, I looked at its pointy summit and thought to myself, I’ve been up there, and my stomach butterflies returned.

Enjoy your journey.

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