St Mary Peak outside trail traverses over 7 steep kilometres through the Flinders Ranges, with its final destination of St Mary Peak standing at over 1100 metres above sea level.
The peak is part of Wilpena Pound, an ovular ridge of mountains for which South Australia is renowned. The side of the mountains facing the outside of the pound is steep and cliff-like, whereas the inside slants more gently until it reaches a large oval of flat ground in the centre. For those who like a challenge, the outside is the way to go (the inside can always be worked into the trip back).
The walk starts from the trailhead near the Wilpena Pound Resort campgrounds. After an easy beginning, the hike soon turns into more of a climb, involving a lot of full-body involvement. As you gradually chip away at the kilometres, the view looking away from the pound becomes incredible. Densely wooded mountains ripple away into the distance, often with defined ridges, you could trace with your finger.
Soon, St Mary's Peak rears up. It's bulky and wedge-shaped, with a brilliant variety of colours, from red rock to green plant life to the dry brown leaves.
You can treat the peak as a general beacon but be careful: the track often travels in directions you wouldn't expect, frequently forking away from its destination.
The direction is often marked in very subtle hard-to-spot ways. We tracked an additional kilometre into the bush down illusory tracks, before backtracking and discovering a faded arrow scratched into a rock. The difficulty in finding the route can be frustrating, but it can also add to the challenge, making it all the more satisfying to reach the top.
About a kilometre from the peak, you reach a T-junction and take a right turn. From here, there is no more calling this a hike; it is a full-blown climb.
After a demanding forty-five minutes, you emerge from the bush and see the steep rock incline towards the peak. From this angle, it is reminiscent of Pride Rock in Lion King.
When you reach the peak, with just the sound of the wind against your body, you experience a full 360 view. Out of the pound, you have the ranges extending into the distance; along the ridge, you have staggered extreme rock formations; in the direction of the pound, you have the flat ground in the centre followed by the mountains forming the pound's other side.
We were particularly blessed with the view looking along the ridge to the right. A storm was rolling in over the distant mountains, creating grey obscuring smears of rain. This contrasted with the relatively calm sky on the other side.