I can now say I have summited the tallest peak in OZ! Wooooo!
The Snowy Mountains are often referred to as the Australia Alps, as they are one of the few places that you can ski during the winter. The park is huge! There are lakes, and towns, and more peaks and hikes than I could even begin to name. Our meager two day visit meant we saw very little of the park, but we made the best of it.
While it costs $16 per day to be in the park all the campsites are free, which more than makes up for it. There are numerous lovely campgrounds through out the park with picnic tables, fire pits, and toilets. As much as we love camping the amenities were not what drew us here.
Mount Kosciuszko is the tallest peak on the Australian continent. It is this behemoth we came to conquer. It stands 2228 meters tall (tiny by worldly standards but I won’t tell if you don’t) and is located just north of the ski town of Thredbo. It is an extremely popular place to visit for tourists and locals alike; we had to do it. And so we did.
The trail to Koszie begins in the town of Thredbo. It is a small yet quaint ski town. During the summer the place is nearly empty and very little is open so we did not get to explore the town much. The main chairlift does run all year, however, and the ski area becomes a very popular down hill mountain biking destination during the warmer months. I am certainly not an expert on the subject but the courses looked like quite a lot of fun.
To get to the summit you have options. As I mentioned, the main chairlift runs all year. For a fee, $28 one way or $36 for a day pass per person, you can take the easy way and ride the lift to the top of the ski resort and walk the 13km along a metal mesh boardwalk, then take the lift back down. We felt it was a bit rich for our blood so we took the hard way. There are multiple walking tracks of varying lengths that climb up to where the chair lift drops off. We decided we wanted a challenge so we took the shortest, steepest route available. A tough 4km climb later we reached the spot where every one else was gaily stepping off the chair lift to begin their hike. We took a minute to collect ourselves, wipe off the sweat, of which there was quite a bit, and had a granola bar before setting off to conquer the 6.5km to the peak.
The walk from the lift to Koszie is spectacular. The scenery is shockingly different than any I have yet seen in OZ. The trees just seem to end right bellow the chair lift and windswept heather shrubs dominate the landscape for as far as the eye can see. Small flowers are speckled through out the fields adding color to the green and brown. Huge granite boulders rise from the fields of heath. The massive piles of granite and shrub fields are so shockingly different from the thick gum forests and sheer rocky gorges I have come to know in my time here that I couldn’t help but stop and stare.
There is a metal mesh boardwalk that runs the entire 6kms until you reach the final ascent. I was leery at first, as I am used to dirt when hiking, the boardwalk provided a surprise free surface to walk on which allowed me to focus on my surroundings rather than my feet. It also seemed to be nice on the vegetation. There were multiple small streams that babbled along besides the path, forming little waterfalls and slow moving pools. A small glacial lake sits in a valley just bellow Kozie itself. The area was so pristine and the scenery so magical I wanted nothing more than to set up a tent next to the little lake and camp for a night. On that subject we did talk to an older couple who had extended stay packs on, and they told us it is possible to spend a couple nights up there. If I ever get to come back it is on the list of things to do.
Kosciuszko was so named by the polish explorer who first ascended because of its resemblance to the Kosciuszko mound in Krakow, which was erected in honor of the polish general of the same name. It is quite round and stands at odds with the other sharp peaks and spines of granite in the area. The ascent was an easy spiral and the path is well trod. The top was covered in granite boulders of varying sizes. We found a spot to sit behind one such boulder and had a nice lunch. A heavy wind was our frequent companion as we traversed the high path and it was a force at the top. The boulder we sat behind was largely a windbreak though it did make for a nice backrest as well.
The view at the top was beyond my words to describe. The peaks of the snowy mountains spread around as far as the eye could see. Towering clouds blew quickly by covering some in grey and black while illuminating others with brilliant sunlight. I was again awed by the aesthetic of the boulder-strewn peaks and valleys; it awes me still as I think of the unique vistas I witnessed. I can understand why the native aboriginals thought of the lakes and mountains as spiritual places.
The walk back was quick and uneventful and I took the opportunity to once again be amazed by the beauty of the landscape. By the time we reached the chairlift we were both thoroughly tired. The hike had been longer and steeper than we had thought it would be, and we were feeling it. We had hoped to have a beer at the restaurant before we headed down but it was closed for the day. The initial plan was to hike a longer but more gradual path back down, but neither Courtney nor I had the energy. Luckily for us the Aussies are a kind and generous folk, and the lift operator allowed us to ride back down. On our way down we got a wonderful view of Thredbo bellow and got to watch a couple down hill bikers do their thing. It made for quite a nice ride.
On our way south the next day we chose to take Barry Way out of Jindabyne, an inland road that was largely gravel and dirt, but wound through Mt. Kosciuszko NP along the snow river and into Victoria, where it becomes Alpine NP. We stopped multiple times along the way to cool off in the river and enjoy the brief and powerful connection to nature. We are both truly grateful for an experience we are not likely to forget.
Check out the video, though be warned the audio is terrible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MimULFEads