Location: Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales

After a disastrous experience summiting Mount Fuji, and only a slightly better one scaling Mount Asahidake, I pretty much took all mountain climbing and anything above serious altitude off my future list of things to do. However with the Easter long weekend approaching us, a friend of ours suggested we do an overnight hike up to Australia’s highest point, Mount Kosciuszko. At first I wasn’t overly excited about the idea thinking about my bad experiences, but I was desperate to escape the city and go somewhere I’d never been before. Although, it wasn’t long before I was getting pumped for another adventure with team PumpedUpTrike (aka Siu On, Tim, and me.) and my first overnight hike.

Siu On and Tim on Kosciuszko

Getting there and away

If you’re driving from Sydney it’ll take you about five hours via Canberra, and from Melbourne it’s about five hours as well; alternatively there are buses that can also get you there, although unless you’re going to stay in a central town such as Thredbo and walk everywhere, it’ll be hard to get out to areas of the National Park that are further away.

The nearest major towns to Kozzie are the snow towns of Thredbo, Charlotte Pass and Perisher. Both Charlotte Pass and Perisher are located in the National Park and you’ll need to pay a park entrance day fee to get to these towns and into the Park:

  • Winter Peak season (1 June to 3 October 2016) $29 per vehicle or $11.45 adult bus passenger, per day.
  • Rest of the year $17 per vehicle or $6.60 adult bus passenger, per day.

If you’ll be heading here a lot over the year, especially if you’re a mountain biker and snow bunny, then you should definitely invest in an Annual Pass which you can check out here.

Snowy River crossing in Kosciusko National Park

Conquering Kosciuszko 

Siu On, our friend Tim and I had planned to tacked the Main Range Walk to the top of Kozzie, with a two deviations out to Mount Townsend and the Blue Lake, which would total 27.7km and an overnight camp along the track. We had prepared food especially for the hike and brought lightweight tents, gear, and all weather clothing, yet I still managed to forget to bring a sleeping mat (*rolls eyes*).

We parked the car at the trail head above Charlotte Pass and decided to do the Main Range Walk in the reverse order heading out towards Seamans Hut and summit Kozzie on the first day. The reason we did the hike in the reverse order was to beat the crowds to the top. The weather was pretty bad when we started the hike, with very limited visibility and the weather forecasting rain and strong winds early that day, but it was still set to clear up later in the day and for the next day, and we didn’t want to be held up on the track behind a long line of hikers.

Siu On, Jel and Tim at the start of the Main Range Walk

We walked towards Kozzie along a very flat and well maintained track, passing over the Snowy River, the bouldery and beautiful alpine landscape; which made me feel like I was somewhere in the European Alps – although I can’t say I heard any yodeling in those weather conditions since we were the only people hiking along this way. And after a few hours we reached Seamans Hut and took a break to check out the hut and the map. Just as we were about to leave the clouds parted and the sun came out, so we quickly headed back onto the track to summit whilst the weather was good. On a side note, Seamans hut is only meant for day use or emergency night shelter, and things should be left in the condition that they were found in; so don’t plan on staying overnight here unless it really is an emergency.

Seamans Hut on Mount Kosciuszko

Once you come to Rawson Pass you know you’re near the top as that’s where the Thredbo chairlift meets the Main Range Walk. Most people who summit Kozzie take the chairlift up and down, and you’ll see large crowds of people heading from that direction. This is also the last toilet stop before the top and you’ll find toilet facilities here, as well as bike racks to lock your bike up to if you cycled up (no bikes past this point though).

I have to admit that reaching the top of Kosciuszko was a little deflating. After summiting and walking through Mount Fuji’s Torii Gate I was expecting to be greeted with some sort of mound, or gate, or something! Instead I walked up to a very rocky and flat area with a small indistinguishable stone plinth that people were struggling to get a picture with. Siu On and I tried to stand on it but could barely fit two people on it, but I just felt it needed something unique to say that ‘ got on you for making it to the top of the highest point of Australia’. But then again I feel like I need a pat on the back for doing mundane things like the dishes, but for something like this I thought it would be nice to have something uniquely identifiable, to mark  the occasion and encourage more people to summit Kozzie.

At the top of Kosciuszko

Overnight camping on Mt Townsend

This was my first real overnight hike, and I was really excited to have the freedom of finding a spot and setting up camp wherever we felt suited. However, there is a lot of prep that should go into long or overnight hikes because you do need to carry all your own gear with you. Besides the obvious items like a portable tent, sleeping bag, mat and food and cooking items; make sure that you’re also dressed for the elements. Even though we were here in late March and should typically be rather warm, we had rain, fog, hot sun and near zero degree temperatures on the hike. I would definitely bring a good base layer of thermals, wet weather gear (I did get good use out of my rain pants and puffy jacket), light weight clothing and a pair of sturdy hiking boots (especially if you go off the trail).

Camping on Mount Townsend in Kosciuszko

Mount Townsend itself isn’t too far from the Kozzie summit, however you’ll be walking over some loose rock and steep inclines to get there, so it may not be great for those with bad knees (like myself). Despite that you’ll be rewarded with stunning mountain views and a private and secluded campsite. Otherwise you can just about camp anywhere provided you’re not near a Lake or within a catchment area (and these will be sign posted).

A dip in the Blue Lake

Our friend Tim is a Hydrogeologist so he likes water, a lot. And crossing the Snowy River and seeing the Blue Lake was a kind of a big deal for him, which is why we made the detour to the Blue Lake. Besides drinking from pure water sources and looking at drainage and pipes, Tim also like swimming in crystal clear water. There were no signs saying that you couldn’t swim in the Blue Lake, and Tim was definitely the only person game enough to brave the very chilly waters, of which I totally chickened out of. That and I just about died on the descent down to the Blue Lake which brings me to my point; don’t look for the short cut on a topographical map because it’s mostly likely dangerous or ridiculously STEEP. After the descent to the Blue Lake my hip flexor and knee just gave up on me and it took a long and painful hobble down to the lake, with a lot of tears too.

The Blue Lake is absolutely beautiful though, and it did make for a peaceful lunch stop whilst we dipped our feet in for some relief, and Tim dipped himself in it (definitely don’t drink from this lake!). If you’re going to walk from Charlotte’s Pass to the Blue Lake without doing the Main Range Walk, it’s about a 10km return trip to the lookout.

Blue Lake at Kosciusko National Park

Mount Kozzie Hiking Tips

  • If you’re short on time, or don’t feel like walking too much, you can catch the chairlift up from Thredbo and make the short walk towards Rawson Pass and on to the top. Although, prices do apply if you take the chairlift.
  • For an easy finish to the Main Range Track, start in the direction that goes downhill and crosses the river first. It was pretty brutal walking up that right at the end of the hike especially after my knee and hip flexor were aching!
  • There are a lot of other hiking trails in the area around Thredbo that don’t require much effort as well, and you can check them out right here.
  • Some areas in the Park are off limits, and generally these are close to lakes or run off areas. There are signs up around the place indicating where you cannot camp.
  • Fires in the National Park are subject to conditions and if you’re at a campsite (such as Thredbo Diggings) you can only use the designated fire pits. Along the Main Range Walk and around Mount Kosciuszko you can only use a small portable gas stove to cook with.

Jel on Kosciusko's Main Range Walk

Although the Main Range Walk is doable in a day, we felt it would be more enjoyable experience to take our time and split it up over two days, and include a few side trips to another Mountain and the Blue Lake. There is actually a lot to do and see in Kosciuszko National Park, and I am hoping that Siu On and I can get back here in the spring time to see the wildflowers, explore the northern part of the national park and do more long hikes to some of the old historical huts that litter the area. I’m definitely looking forward to returning here!

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Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.