While its flat, vegetated summit is overshadowed and mostly hidden by its taller and more shapely neighbours in the North East of the state, Mt. Maurice offers a pleasant and non-intimidating walk – not far from Launceston – that’s an ideal introduction for newcomers to bushwalking and peak-bagging.
Date: 14th December 2019 – Summit: 1121m
Distance: 6.1km return
Time taken: Less than 2 hrs total.
Difficulty: Easy. The elevation gain is moderate, the track short and is easy to follow. This is an ideal walk for people just starting out in bushwalking.
Type of track: Formally marked single track, dirt pad.
Access from: Knights Road forestry track, off Diddeum Road. Note that Knights Road itself is not signposted where it comes off Diddeum Road.
Brendan, an old work mate and friend, had recently taken to bushwalking and was keen for me to take him on an Abel adventure – just so long as it wasn’t “too crazy!” Unsurprisingly, I’d already completed almost all the easy (and not so easy) Abels within shooting distance of Launceston, with the sole exception of Mt. Maurice. Tracey had bagged it with our good friend Natty several months ago on a mid-week girls-trip day off, and had commented that the climb was short, enjoyable and not too challenging. I’d hoped to have summited it on my solo Ragged Jack/Ben Nevis trip back in October but had ran out of time, so it seemed like the ideal trip. After weeks of trying to line up schedules (damn adulting!) Brendan and I eventually found a spare Saturday amidst the chaos of Christmas to sneak away.
While the Mt. Maurice track is considered an easy walk, getting there appears to have been anything but. There are actually two separate trails to the summit; in addition to the primary track coming up from the western side of the mountain as described in The Abels Vol .1, another track comes up from the south east, accessed from Maurice Road. Threads on bushwalk.com and other sources indicate ongoing issues with both. Blocked gates from forestry operations and washed-out bridges from floods over the years had seen many walkers resorting to long boring walks or mountain bike rides along kilometres of forestry roads to reach the trail head.
Tracey said she had just managed to navigate the Mazda over a rapidly deteriorating bridge where Knights Road crosses the St. Patricks River, but noted it was rather eroded, with steep lips and most of the underlying logs exposed. I figured it would be a good idea if we took Brendan’s larger 4WD – complete with proper offroad tyres – just in case.
As it turned out, we needn’t have worried. In the intervening months since Tracey’s visit, some good soul had placed gravel over the remaining bearer logs, filling in the gaps and shallowing the approach and departure ramps. A low-slung sports car might still struggle over the bumps and dips (leave the Ferrari at home, folks) but otherwise is passable by most 2WD vehicles. Whether the bridge survives the next flood event remains to be seen, but for now, it was clear driving for another 6km or so to the trail head.
The trail head appeared just before the end of the road, some 200m further along from where my various maps had shown it, marked with a pole and some marker ribbon just to drive the point home. A relatively clear and broad track initially headed east into thin, scrubby eucalyptus forest where we came upon a junction with what may well have been the original track, and the original Forestry Commission signage for the start of the walk. Given the utter lack of signage advertising the trail head’s location from the main road, I was surprised to see that a reasonable amount of ‘official’ effort – once upon a time anyway – had gone into the track itself.
We soon found ourselves walking through wonderful open myrtle forest, with a clear natural pad worming its way between the trees. The climb was steady but gradual, and other than the occasional fallen tree that had to be skirted, we were making quick and easy progress. The forest canopy was providing plenty of shade from the rapidly warming morning sun, the Bureau’s predicted drizzle nowhere to be seen.
After about 2km in, the track began to steepen more significantly as we approached the summit, with the vegetation changing briefly to stunted eucalyptus forest, then to head-heigh sub-alpine scrub including minor bands of scoparia which was starting to impede onto the thinning pad.
Mercifully this section was short lived and soon gave away to lower alpine heath as we rounded the western side of Mt. Maurice and came upon the summit’s surprisingly large and flat expanse. A few more metres east and we were standing in front of the weathered trig point which marks the high point. Done and dusted within an hour!
Mt. Maurice is definitely the odd fellow of the north eastern Abels. Its flat, vegetated summit contrasts starkly compared to the rocky, angular peaks of nearby Legges Tor, Ragged Jack, Ben Nevis and Mt. Barrow dominating the view to the south. Nonetheless from the top we could enjoy clear views of each of those peaks, along with Mts. Victoria and Albert to the east, with Mt. Saddleback and West Tower to their south. From the west, Mt. Scott fills the foreground with Mt. Barrow and Mt. Arthur completing the horizon. To the north, the rolling hills surrounding Scottsdale can be seen.
After the obligatory photos and a quick morning tea, we commenced the return trip via the same route, which was as uneventful as the trip up 😉
In all seriousness, this is a wonderful, straight forward track that’s a great introduction to peak bagging without any difficult navigation, taxing terrain or scary exposure to intimidate newbies – but still delivers a rewarding walk and great views from the top. Brendan definitely gave it the thumbs up!