Jamie’s Ride on the Granite Grovel 660
Words & photos by Jamie D’Emden @bikepackingperth
The Granite Grovel 660 is a bikepacking route in the South West of Western Australia, created by Damon Chalmers around 2021. The route starts at SugarLoaf rock near Dunsborough and ends in Albany. It is 660km long and has 6800m of elevation, with about 1% paved road. This is pure bikepacking stuff. I have just completed the route as a bikepacking ride and here are my thoughts. We started the route on Boxing day, so peak Summer.
The Granite Grovel route was, to my understanding, created to showcase areas of the SW of WA as an alternative to the Munda Biddi. The route does take in some of the Munda Biddi. The route has been raced twice as an Ultra cycling event. I somehow convinced my recovering-from-injury bikepacking buddy Darran and his fairly newby bikepacking buddy to join me on the adventure.
I will preface this review or thoughts with the fact that we were not racing or doing this ride in Ultra style. In my humble opinion bikepacking and Ultra cycling are 2 completely different activities, about as close as bike touring and bikepacking. I had set a schedule of 6 days for us to ride the route. We ended up doing it in 7 days.
Darran and I caught a TransWA bus down from Perth to Dunsborough, where we met Chris. After some final bag adjustment we set off at around 3.00pm. We decided to just tag onto the route as opposed to tracing back to the start at SugarLoaf rock which was about 20km away. We found the start of the ride a little confusing as the route wound its way out of the town of Dunsborough, probably exasperated by the fact that we were all keen to get out of town and into the bush, anyway the route carefully guides you away from heavy traffic roads so this was appreciated. Before we knew it we were zooming along bush tracks and having a blast. The tracks were a bit sandy at times but easily navigable with my 2.6 inch tyres at 20 PSI. We finally made our first camp spot at Canebrake Pool at about 7.30pm. Canebrake Pool is a lovely camping area with a perfect swimming hole to clean up and replenish water supply.
After a slow camp break we hit the track again. Spirits were high and a few ground rules were laid out, no half wheel passive aggressive riding and, well, some things just don’t need to be discussed on rides, I’ll leave it at that. So off we went to Nannup, our first resupply town, a quickish 1.5 hour lunch and resupply and we were off again. The afternoon had us climbing out of Nannup to Carlotta Firewatch tower which was a giant but steady climb. From there we bombed down many awesome bush tracks and finally made it to Donnelly river Village (DRV). Yet again we camped at an amazing spot. The swimming hole at DRV was simply amazing, with a huge mob of Red Tail Cockatoos to keep us entertained, we cleaned up and got ready for our various dinners.
A marginally quicker camp break and we were off to Pemberton, through the Donnelly State forest. The Munda Biddi we rode into and out of DRV and up to the Munda Biddi Hut is, I think, the best sections of the Munda Biddi. It is simply stunning, the giant Karri trees and flowing single track with high speed bombing fire roads has the hairs raised and the stoke juices pumping very hard. The day was filled with riding though amazing Karri giants but it did have its issues. The trail traverses by Karri Valley resort and down through sets of stairs which really put a dampener on the afternoon. After the hike a bike up and stairs down into Beeddalup Falls, we were beaten down. We decided to bypass the rest of the day’s route and take the Vasse Hwy into Pemberton. Sadly I think we probably missed some really spectacular riding through the Warren National Park, but we were tired and the Pemberton Pub was beckoning us. After a resupply at the IGA in Pemby and dinner at the Pub we continued out of town and camped at River Road bridge. Yet again, a perfect camp spot with water and great camping opportunities.
There were some tired and sore legs that crawled out of tents and we gathered out stuff and on the bikes again. The usual yelping and groaning as we sat on our seats with sore buts and tired legs. Today would be a day that really hurt. The ride into Northcliffe was quite easy with not so many giant hills as the previous day. The previous day had me clock 59 km/hr down some fire roads, fully loaded, this is probably not very responsible but damn it was fun. In Northcliffe we had a really nice coffee and resupply. We met a couple of local bikepacking lads, who with their twenty something year old bodies made us feel very uncool and unfit but it was great chatting with them as we exchanged stories and admired each other’s bikes.
Off we rode to the D’Entrecasteaux National Park. We decided not to climb Mt Chadalup. We then embarked on the 35km corrugated sandy boggy 20 knot head wind ride, to Broke Inlet. We ended up riding in ‘Train formation’ taking 1 minute turns on the front to bust through the final 10kms. It was brutal. By this stage we were paying close attention to our GPS head units and looking for any possible shortcuts, which we did find and had a fairly short ride into our next amazing camp spot which was Fernhook Falls. Another amazing swimming hole and boy, did that swim feel good. We were also gifted a couple of beers by a lovely generous couple which we were extremely grateful for. We utilised the free and well equipped camp kitchen and cooked up a great combined meal.
It was decided that today would be a rest day and Chris also decided he would stop his ride at Walpole. Chris had a friend in Walpole and arranged for us to stay the night. The hot shower and actual bed was a real treat. But no day on the ride was easy, so we decided to climb (ride) up Mt Franklin, a big but steady climb with the most amazing views and lunch stop. We made our respective lunches and I made coffee for all with my Aeropress. A bit more down and up and we rolled into Walpole to resupply. By this stage resupplying was quite humorous for the shopkeepers observing us vacantly walking around in circles in the shop in some sort of physical and mental stupor.
We had dinner in Walpole at the local cafe, where I should have ordered 2 meals, the first meal after 5 days riding seems to just evaporate into one’s body and you are instantly hungry again.
And then there was two, as we said goodbye to Chris. Off we rode into the Walpole – Nornalup National Park, yet another spectacular area of giant trees, lush bushland and the mighty Franklin river. This is also punctuated by some brutal climbs which had me ‘hike a biking’ for the second time of the tour. The route bumps on and off the Munda Biddi and we made our own route to take in more Munda Biddi and less hike a bike. Bow River bridge and the essential Cold Chisel song renditions saw us having lunch at Bow River.
The route departs Munda Biddi in the Walpole – Nornalup National Park to pass through Bow River and then onto the Nornalup – Denmark rail trail, we stayed on this rail trail all the way to Denmark, despite the GG660 going via Greens Pool (more hills). The rail trail was all that we had the energy to ride and it was a pleasant trail. We pulled into Denmark at about 3.30 pm, had some hot chips and bought dinner to go. Off again to get some of the 80 km into Albany done before the next day. We ended up in Young’s Siding and were tempted by the drinks fridge and bought a couple of Rum and Cokes, it was New Years Eve afterall. We camped at the Youngs Siding Cricket pavilion which had a toilet and good camping area.
We were on the trail early, eager to get the job done. Some nice riding through the farmland around Youngs Siding and Eleker, we made the final dash into Albany on the old Lower Denmark road, avoiding riding up through the Hell hole of the Albany wind farm. We actually rode to Goode Beach to stay with family of mine and had probably one of the best, most satisfying swims in the ocean of my life.
In summary, I would highly recommend the Granite Grovel 660 as a bikepacking route:
- There is an abundance of resupply options and water holes. We rode this in Summer and still had no issues with water resupply. We filtered all our water from the camp pools but this is standard.
- I would try to avoid the Beedalup Falls area at Karri Valley.
- The D’Entrecasteaux National Park was challenging, but I would do it again.
- We probably could have spent another day on the trail to take in the Warren National Park.
- The route may be better ridden from Albany to Dunsborough as the Easterly out of Albany is fairly consistent and not fun riding into it.
- Damon has done a fantastic job putting this route together. He has utilised some of the best of the Munda Biddi and also navigated a route through some of the most spectacular parts of the SW of Western Australia.
Story by Jamie from Bikepacking Perth