Mount Kosciuszko – Australia’s Highest Point

Hi ho hi ho, to the highest point we go. Mount Kosciuszko is the highest point in Australia with the elevation of 2228m, it’s located in the Main Range of  The Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park. The mountain can be climbed from several different trails ranging in length, steepness and difficulty. All these trails require entering the national park and paying the fee.

After our adventure to Yarrangobilly Caves yesterday, the taste of the mountains had us craving more. Stacey and I set off again, with the peak of Kosciuszko in our sight.  After some advice off another friend  who had climbed the mountain a few times, we decided to drive to Charlotte’s Pass and begin the journey from there.

Entering the national park cost us $16, however this price rises in the peak winter season (June – September) to $29.  During the peak season, the road from Perisher to Charlottes is actually closed so I would recommend going from either Thredbo or Guthega. The drive up to Charlottes takes about 45 mins from Jindabyne, keep in mind this road can sometimes be covered in snow and chains can be required.

From Charlottes Pass we began at 11.30am, (I wouldn’t recommend starting any later than this, we were just delayed from a few extra wines the night previous) we set off on the ‘Summit Walk’ which is an 18km round trip, rated a moderate walk (we later found out it upgrades to difficult with snowfall!) We were extremely fortunate to have such a stunning day, blue skies, new snow kissing mountain tops, 6 degrees and not a whisper of wind.

Within the first kilometer we saw a man returning, carry snow shoes, surely there couldn’t be that much snow right? Wrong! How wrong we were. Fooled by the lack of coverage at the local ski resorts, we were doubtful of the coverage on the main range. And so began the discovery of the blistered feet. I’m personally use to walking in snow, this is my 5th back to back winter I’m entering, but let me tell you this, it made things a little more enduring.

Over the 6 hour adventure of the day, we invented many techniques walking through this snow. First began the tire tracks, we followed through a path a car had left… until there were no tracks left, then we tried walking in others foot prints, which turned out to be more effort than not. “Oh that patch looks flat and easy” *SMASHBANGWHACK* “….That would be ice” And just when we thought we were getting use to trudging through the snow, so began the walk of angulation; where your upper leg is setting the pace. Don’t get me wrong, the walk is spectacular, however be prepared in snowy conditions to have blisters on your ankles and feet, it’s all part of the fun right?

Not long into the walk, we removed layers, I spent the day in just a long sleeved shirt and a woolen vest. I was actually quite surprised at how pleasant the temperature was, if there had of been wind though, I’m sure it would have been another story. I had actually read in the Mt Kosciuszko registry book, that just 3 days earlier there were 90km/h winds which made for a displeasing day to visitors.

You’ll find this registry located in ‘Seaman’s Hut,’ 6km into the walk from Charlottes. Seaman’s Hut was built in memory of Laurie Seaman, who died from exposure in 1929. The hut is now intended as emergency shelter, it has a fire place with plenty of wood and even some dried food that local hikers maintain out of their own goodwill. When we set off from the hut, we were captured by ski and snowboard tracks on a nearby cliff, we soon realized these tracks lead all the way from the top of Kosciuszko! “Man! Why didn’t we boot pack?!”

The snow changed to a more powdery, chalky feel which made it a little easier to walk in, there was still a few stumbles as we walked into some sneaky wind stashes. With the peak now in our vision, I’d completely forgotten about the pain in my shoes and it was just one foot after another. I had noticed Stacey becoming a little timid and we took a few more breaks, with 1km left, we began the last stretch.

The climb had become steeper, with the snow condition changing frequently depending on the exposure to wind, we had reached quite an icy area with a near vertical face dropping down to the gully. Stacey was becoming more anxious, I unsure whether to push and encourage her or whether it was too much. We took a breather, and Stacey told me a story from just a few months back where she found herself on a very narrow, icy peak in Japan doing an Avalanche awareness course. She found herself in harsh weather conditions slipping and stumbling becoming more anxious by the minute. When it was aware that it was becoming too dangerous they went to turn around and she watched someone’s ski launch off the edge and plummet down the mountain. It was now she decided she would wait here for me to return.

As the trail curled around the mountain I found myself wandering through one of Narnia’s magical ice palaces. The face I was climbing was completely unprotected and was covered in the most extraordinary snowy sculptures, the detail the wind had left was even more impressive than anything I’d seen the  wind do in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. As I passed chimes of icicles, the snow underneath my feet became slick, icy and crunchy, the walls to my side fell as I reached the top of Mount Kosciuszko.

At the very top there was a solo Canadian man who asked me to take some photos, in return he insisted he also take some whilst I climbed atop the rock at the peak. There aren’t many words you can use to describe the high you feel at the top of a peak, pretty damn invincible. A happiness that can never be taken from you, a smile that hurts your cheeks, a stolen breath that you want to shout noise into.

Overflowing with ecstasy I facetimed my Mother (Goose) and danced on top of the mountain. Goosey loves to live vicariously through me!

The falling sun made me very aware of the escaping time, and I realized we had to begin the return journey to get back before dark. Collecting Stacey we ventured back. “My feet.. oh god my feet” “Just think of the Chicken! (The chicken: probably spoken of at least 26 times during the day to distract pain) (we had a chicken slow cooking at home) “The chiccckkeeennn!” “AND THE WINE”

As we made our way back we were greeted with another spectacular sunset, we arrived back to the car at 5.30pm. And let me tell you as soon as that sun went down, so did the temperature. I threw my shoes off and looked down at me feet, although they bared many of blisters, all I saw was happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yarangobilly Caves, Snowy Mountain’s Hidden Gem

Today I found myself wondering whether I had fallen down the rabbit hole with Alice or joined an adventure with Bilbo Baggins. As autumn turns to  winter and the temperatures are dropping, Kosciuszko national park is filled with vibrant auburn, golden, emerald and chocolate sun kissed colours.

I have just began work for Perisher Ski Resort for the third year running and have had the opportunity to work as a Lead Hand for the season, as well as snowboard instructing on my days off. This extra work means extra money which alternately means more travel.

Snow has began to caress the mountains, however not yet enough for snowboarding. With $2 in my bank account, awaiting my first paycheck, myself and my close friend Stacey set off, hungry for a mountain adventure.

The Yarrangobilly Caves are located in Kosciuszko National Park, a 2 hour drive from where we live for the season in Jindabyne. An easy, but winding drive, you find yourself being swallowed by a sea of leafless tress, captured by the magic of this beautiful land.

After taking a wrong turn (the road only has was another) we found ourselves questioning , ‘Where the heck are these caves?!’  Turning to the iPhone, as we all do in confused times, without any service, my phone managed to bring up a blank map with the blue flashing dot and the red pin.

The service road is unsealed, dusty, bumpy and windy, it is accessible to 2WD’s however if it had of been raining and wet, the drive may prove a little entertaining.

The is an entry fee of $3 (we managed to miss the multiple signs of this fee, whoops!) and you can choose whether you would like to  have a guided tour or explore by yourself. We set off on our own adventure, (however we did come to rustic cage door that we couldn’t enter without a guide, it looked super epic.) the walk is easy,  anyone with the slightest ability to walk up stairs could do it! The caves are lit up, and are quite chilly, be sure to pack a sweater.

After exiting a cave, we continued wandering  and stumbled upon a track winding through tall grass and rocks, with a small broken sign, “ Thermal Pool.’ It lead us down to the river bank, where we became quickly aware that there were still plenty of snakes and spiders around.

After a slightly ridiculous stomping, screaming, dancing (our  attempts to let the snakes know of our presences) walk through the woods, listening to the sounds of a small waterfall, we found ourselves at the pools.

The pools stay at about 26 degrees Celsius all year round, the whole atmosphere is very hypnotic; as the afternoon sun gives breath to the glowing gum trees. There were surprisingly quiet a few young travelers here, I hadn’t expected it for the cooler months, the company added to a very content afternoon.

Setting off back to Jindabyne, nature provided us with a stunning sunset, as we played the game of dodge the kangaroo.