To the top of Australia – hiking in Mt Kosciuszko National Park

Before university restarted,  I took three days off from the paper round and drove down to Thredbo for a few days serious hiking in Mt Kosciuszko National Park.  My goal was to climb to the highest point in Australia, the peak of Mt Kosciuszko.  I checked out the trails and discovered that I could catch a ski lift from Thredbo village to Eagles Nest, and then have a “moderate” intensity, 13km round trip walk to the peak, or I could attempt to climb from the village.  This hike was described as “strenuous”, it basically runs parallel to the ski runs.  On further reading, the description in the guides was based on the descent – there was no description of the ascent!

Tuesday.

After getting up at 1:30am and completing my paper round, I prepare for my trip.  The drive down to Thredbo takes me through one of my favourite places, Jindabyne.  If I could afford to take the risk, I wouldn’t mind setting up in Jindabyne.  Better buy that lotto ticket!

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I take a walk around the visitor centre and pick up a better copy of the trails map and a guidebook to the trails.  Some of the exhibits of life during the building of the Snowy Mountains Hydro scheme are fascinating and well worth a look.  I was a bit grossed out by one of the exhibits though:

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I’m hoping this wasn’t inflicted on me when I was a bairn!

Not only is Mt Kosciuszko named after a Pole but there is another famous Polish explorer recognised in the Snowys.

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I finish the drive to Thredbo and check into my room, which has a great view of the challenge awaiting me.

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And no, I wasn’t referring to the pool.

Wednesday

Ah, luxury – no early morning alarms and I can sleep in.  Well, I manage to sleep until nearly 7am, which is devine decadence on a weekday!  I have a light breakfast then head out to find the Merritts Nature Trail that will take me up to Eagles Nest.  This first stage is steep  and characterised by numerous steps, some of which have very large risers!  Fortunately there is also plenty of shade, as the temperature is rising.

I cross several running streams, taking time to enjoy the sound of running water, which I always find relaxing.  These moments also give me a chance to catch my breath and get my heart rate down to at least an aerobic zone.

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I push on up the climb, encountering just three other people between Thredbo village and Eagles Nest, which suits me just fine.  About 3/4 of the way up, I get a view of my interim target.  Doesn’t look far, but it was a hard slog with many rest stops to get there.

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Eventually, about 3 hours after leaving the village I reach Eagles Nest.  From here the peak is about 6.5km away on a well defined and formed track.  The crowds get significantly larger as the walk is suitable for all ages with decent mobility.

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The peak is visible over the final few kilometres as the track takes you around and passed Rawsons Pass where there are much welcome toilets, and then up to the peak.  At 2228m above sea level, I’m now at the top of Australia.

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It was extremely windy up there and as the ski lift closes at 4:30, I needed to get back to Eagles Nest before then if I was to avoid hiking back down to the village.  By now I was tired and I didn’t fancy attempting some of those steps going downhill – a momentary loss of concentration could easily result in a tumble and badly twist ankle or knee.

The return was pretty easy, the path is formed by metal grating over most of the length, so I was able to maintain a good pace.  I still managed to enjoy the views and the isolation, or to quote Buzz Aldrin’s description of the moon, magnificent desolation.

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As I approach Eagles Nest, I am confronted by signs advertising the bistro, which is located at the terminus to the ski lift.  These signs promise ice cold beers and ice cream that us sturdy walkers have earned.  The beer is a definite no-no and I saw no sign of ice cream whilst there, but I did enjoy a nice cold lemonade before getting the ski lift back to the village.

On riding the ski lift, I realised that it is possible to take your bike on the lift and then ride the tracks down from Eagles Nest to Thredbo – next time I’m bringing my mountain bike as those tracks look awesome!

According to my Garmin, I hiked a total of 21km today, in about 6 hours with a net climb of approximately 900m.

Thursday

I am pleasantly surprised to find that I can move this morning!  After breakfast and a bit of souvenir shopping, I hit the Thredbo River trail towards Dead Horse Gap.  No major climbs for me today, I hope!

The trail takes me through parts of the village and then alongside the golf course.  I find what has to be the bedt named chalet in the village, surely only party animals stay here!

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As I head out of the village, the trail starts to follow the Thredbo River, becoming undulating in places.  There are a few short sections of steps and climbing, but my legs feel strong and if the school kids on their field trip can manage it, then so can I!  Apart from the kids and a few other small groups of people, my preference for solitude is met and I am able to relax and enjoy the countryside.

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After completing the hike, I head into the village for a coffee and a slice of cake – I’ve burnt the calories, I’ve earned it 🙂   About 18km today, in a nice and easy 4 hours.

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I head back to my room to flop and read.  Mentally I try to prepare myself for the weeks ahead.  The second year of my Psychology and Sport & Exercise Science degrees starts next week and I have classes, tutorials or labs every day.  But before I even get to class, I will be up at 1:30am each morning to do my paper round.  On top of that, my committee work is about to recommence.  Between all of that, I will need to find the time and energy to train for the Sri Chimnoy 100km (actually 105 this year, but no extension to the 18 hour cur off limit) run later this year, and all the other things like cooking, shopping and sleeping!  It’s probably a good thing that I’m reading this little gem right now.

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As I enjoy my book, I can hear sounds of nightlife in the village for the first time since my arrival.  There is live music coming from the pub and I am tempted to investigate, but decide not to risk it.  Instead, I snuggle under the doona, put Veruca Salt on my phone and continue with my book.

Friday

I’m tempted to stay and do another walk, but I’m also acutely aware that I’ve not been to a meeting for over a week and so I check out and hit the road.  A quick stop in Jindabyne to get a coffee and then on up to Canberra and the serenity of a meeting in Lyons.

As with most holidays, this one was way too short.  I only really started to unwind on Thursday and I was on the way home Friday.  Next time I will probably stay in a place where I can prepare my own food, as being off-season the options for eating in the village were limited.  I will also bring my bike next time, although I will have to hire a full face helmet, as normal bike helmets are not permitted on the trails.

And so, let the madness begin!

 

2 thoughts on “To the top of Australia – hiking in Mt Kosciuszko National Park

  1. I really enjoyed the trip notes, they will be helpful. I have been saving up Mt K for a future walk. Think I best get down there while my legs can tackle the climb.

    Like

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