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near Mount Colliery, Queensland (Australia)
Day 2 photos: https://www.facebook.com/andrew.wilson/posts/10154772250749862
An overnight loop taking in the famous Steamers lookout point on 'The Stern', the summit of Mt Steamer, camping in Steamer Saddle, heading up towards Panorama Point as far as time allows on the second day for lunch, and then descending via Davies Ridge. Some notes...
Access - do not underestimate the time of drive from when you leave the bitumen at Emu Vale. I clocked it at pretty much 1 hour. There are around 10 creek crossings to pass before you hit the cleared camping area and hiking start point. At the time of writing, although they looked intimidating they were passable in an AWD 'soft roader' (Surbaru XV). Would still not recommend a 2WD.
Day 1 route - we attempted to follow a tip to avoid some of the steep scrambling to Steamer Ridge by heading further along the old forestry road and then on a bearing to join between The Funnel and The Mast. This was a scrub bash with no discernible footpad for most of the route, as well as several large gully crossings. We ultimately got sick of this and headed directly towards the top of the ridge, finding a rocky scree scramble to the base of The Funnel. I would not recommend following our route for this section, and instead taking the obvious footpad found just near the branch in the road and the National Parks sign, which would appear to take you more towards the base of The Prow. In any case, navigation here is not difficult provided you simply head towards the ridge. The walking along Steamer Ridge was enjoyable, but tougher and slower than expected, with many obstacle bypasses. The track to the top of The Stern was easy to find and follow, with the final scramble to the lookout point certainly one to remember exposure wise, although very straightforward technically. Finding the start of the trail to the summit of Mt Steamer from the top of The Stern was a little difficult due to wind fall, but the direction you need to head is straight forward. There's a good footpad through the flatter areas of rainforest here, but once the truly stunning rainforest starts at the point where you begin to gain elevation, the footpad was easily lost (made worse by how dark it gets in the thick rainforest during an overcast afternoon). Again, no real navigational difficulty as you're simply heading roughly east to the top of the hill and the summit of Mt Steamer, where the vegetation opens up again. The descent from the summit of Mt Steamer to Steamer Saddle camp was steeper, and thus slower, than expected, but offers the first glimpse of the stunning views to the east from the edge of The Range. The footpad is well worn in this area and Steamer Saddle camp is easily found. It's a lovely flat spot next to some ferns and a large fallen log. There's great views to Moogerah Dam and beyond about 20m from the camp site. The track to the water point to the west was easily found and followed. I'd hesitate to call the water point reliable, as we found only small, still puddles within the immediate vicinity (see photo) which we boiled to be sure. This was even after the record breaking rain of ex-Cyclone Debbie a few weeks prior. There may be spring fed parts either further up or down stream that we didn't see that earn this point its reputation as reliable. Distance on Day 1 = 10.7km in 8 hours of walking (inc. stops) at a slow to moderate pace. Taking a better route to Steamer Ridge would likely have taken 30 minutes off this time.
Day 2 route - the track along the edge of The Range is easily found and followed for the most part, and offers stunning views. The only exception to this is a large area of ferns in the next saddle over from Steamer Saddle camp, where the footpad disappears, leaving you to try and pick the best route through sometimes chest high, thick foliage (see photo). No issues with the direction to head, but going here was slow and unpleasant, especially if you allow the thought of snakes to enter your mind... Gaiters recommended. The end of this ferny nightmare finds a sharp grassy uphill climb to the top of Davies Ridge, where there's a nice open spot to rest with two amazing grass trees starting at the same point but growing horizontally away from one another. Continue roughly north from here towards Panorama Point on a very clear footpad. After a nice flat saddle, you will enter rainforest and shortly thereafter begin climbing sharply. The goal would be Lower Panorama Point (or the main summit of Panorama Point if you were really quick!). My advice would be to get as far up as you can in order to have lunch there and be on your way back again by (very) early afternoon. Although not as far as Lower Panorama Point, the point we made it to was still pleasant for a rest and lunch, and offered good views of the range to Lizard Point, including the route walked so far (see photo). From here, descend back to the saddle. We attempted to follow a Wikiloc route along the start of Davies Ridge which avoids the need to climb back to the summit by skirting around a contour at the elevation of the saddle, heading in a roughly westerly direction. There was no discernible footpad here and progress was slowed by very thick grass and other vegetation. The route we took from the saddle to the narrow spur which marks the start of Davies Ridge proper is not recommended to be followed. In retrospect, a westerly heading footpad that was sighted at the summit of Davies Ridge (near the clearing with the odd Grass Trees) is likely the proper route to take down Davies Ridge, but this is not confirmed and does require climbing to this summit again after the Lower Panorama Point saddle. Once the narrow spur marking the start of Davies Ridge proper is located, there is a clear footpad and the rest of the route down to Old Mill Rd becomes clear and progress is quick. There are great views from here looking south across to the Steamers. Once Old Mill Rd is reached, it is an approx. 2km walk back to the parking point. Distance on Day 2 = 12km in 7 hours of walking (inc. stops) at a slow to moderate pace. Taking a better route to the start of Davies Ridge proper would likely have saved 30-60 minutes off this time.
Overall, this is a fantastic 2 day, 1 night off-track hike that will not disappoint with the terrain and scenery. The camp site is fantastic and the vegetation types traversed will constantly delight you. Navigation is straight forward for ~70% of the route thanks to easily visible footpads, and the balance is straight forward with knowledge of the route and your bearings. The only potential issue is finding the spot marking the start of Davies Ridge proper, but avoiding our mistake and taking the footpad from the summit would likely address this.