Monday, August 24, 2015

Mount Direction, Madmans Hill, Gunners Quoin

I had a hankering to get out and stretch my legs on terrain that didn't involve vaulting over fences every few hundred metres, so on a gorgeous spring morning I drove down to Risdon Brook Reservoir. This small water supply dam lies on the western side of the Meehan Range and is very popular with casual walkers and joggers. My plan for the day was to hike up Mount Direction, which Doug and I had been up a couple of months before, and then carry on using some old roads but mostly walking through the bush to Madmans Hill and Gunners Quoin. To return, I would join up some old tracks on the east side of Risdon Brook.

Starting off on the usual route toMount Direction, I passed at least two dozen little pademelons sitting in the sun and warming up after a frosty night. Because I was not following the directions assiduously, as we did last time, I turned uphill on an old track about 100 metres too early. It took me about 300 or 400 metres of walking to wake up to this, and, like most people, I didn't want to go back. 

Derwent Valley from Mount Direction

A glance at the map indicated that if I took a rising traverse to the north, I would intersect the old road that goes right to the top of Mount Direction, so I took off through thin bush and quickly found myself traversing a rather steep hillside on intermittent game trails. Crossing the creek that drains east looked very bushy and I began to wonder if I should have gone back, but, ducking down, I found another good game trail that crossed a less vegetated area of the creek. After that, I had reasonable animal tracks until I emerged from the wetter and lusher creek area into the much more open eucalpyt forest and reasonably quickly intersected the old road. 

The track to Mount Direction is a wee bit steep but not long and soon enough I was up by the huge summit cairn admiring the view. Only a tiny bit of snow was left on Mount Wellington but in the far distance, the mountains around Mount Field were still looking quite white. 

There's snow in them thar hills

You could head north along the ridge line from Mount Direction and eventually drop down to the pass near Madmans Hill as the forest looks very open, but I had previously decided to follow the powerline track up to the pass just south of Madmans Hill and then follow the ridge from there so I walked back down the steep track to the powerline and then walked along a good gravel road until I reached the height of land. If I were to do this again, which seems quite unlikely, I think I would walk north from Mount Direction as the gravel road is not that nice to walk on. 

Following the ridge north to Madmans Hill, the forest was very open and the way easy. The route is actually cairned, although this seems completely unnecessary as it is hard to get lost, but, the cairns do keep all the foot traffic to one line which did seem to be generating a vague foot pad. Madmans Hill has an open spot on top and views of the Derwent Valley. I actually expected the cairns to keep going along the ridge, generally north to Gunners Quoin but I did not see any more cairns or sign of passage. 

 Looking north to Madmans Hill and Gunners Quoin

The forest, however, is still open and allows for easy walking. At a broad saddle just below and south of Gunners Quoin, I came to a cleared area of private land so I ducked down the southeast side 40 metres or so into the forest and then hiked up the last 150 metres to the Gunners Quoin. There are some short dolerite cliffs on the west side which rock climbers infrequently visit. They look a bit scrappy and not really worth the walk to climb ratio but, there are some good boulders to sit atop and a lovely view out across the valley so I stopped for some tea and a bit of lunch. 

I had crossed an old road on my way up which runs through the saddle just south of Gunners Quoin so I took a compass bearing off the map and set off to follow this down to intersect the road which would, eventually, wind its way - with many junctions - back to Risdon Brook Reservoir. Coming off the summit, I sighted along my bearing and found a series of cairns, some bits of flagging and a good foot pad. This pad pretty much followed my compass bearing all the way down to a gate in the fence (how handy) and very quickly to the old road shown on the map. If you come up this way, the track is marked by a cairn at the side of the road. 

 Gunners Quion

This old road follows a spur ridge down to about 300 metres where it drops steeply into Quoin Gully. Quoin Gully has a deeply eroded creek which the track crosses, then climbs perhaps 30 metres, crosses another minor creek and then intersects another old road. This old road heads west down a spur ridge before dropping steeply again to the south to Huon Gully. Along the way I passed two or three "Private Property: Keep Out" signs but, as the route up Gunners Quoin is cairned walkers appear to be ignoring these.

Just after crossing Huon Gully I came to another track junction and followed this track as it wound around the hillside above Risdon Brook eventually leading to the main heavily travelled path around the Reservoir where I encountered - within ten minutes of the car - the first people I had seen all day. A map and compass is handy for this walk as there are many old tracks and junctions to navigate, but all the creeks, ridges and hills in the area offer up lots of terrain features to help with staying found. 

 Lunch stop on Gunners Quion on a wonderful spring day

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