Making the trek to Australia’s highest peak during the warmer months is much like a long afternoon stroll, except with an unforgettable wow factor
The adventures to be had in Kosciuszko National Park are no secret – thousands of weekenders don skis and boards and flock to Thredbo during winter each year. But before the mountain freezes and after it defrosts, this sweeping range reveals some seriously fascinating scenery.
All you have to do is swap your board for some boots.
While it mightn’t award the bragging rights of, say, scaling the cliffs and ravines of Everest, Australia’s highest peak has plenty of alpinist appeal – especially if you tackle it from the base of Thredbo’s ski fields, where steep ski runs become challenging hiking trails after the snow melts.
For those seeking a more leisurely ascent, the Kosciuszko Express chair lift operates year-round and makes short work of the steepest leg. Taking the chair up is preferred by many, and with good reason – boasting a birds-eye view of the Snowy Mountains, the picturesque alpine village and dozens of cyclists carving out downhill runs, the lift is an adventure in itself.
And what’s more, it drops you off at the start of various mountaintop walks. Some weave you through granite crags, forests of snow gums, through Brumby territory and along Thredbo River, but it’s Mt Kosciuszko’s summit that draws most walkers – the opportunity to stand on top of Australia, and feel on top of the world.
From here, it’s 13km-return on an elevated grate path. It’s an easy half-day walk and those between seven and 70 years old, and even the odd toddler strapped into a backpack, ramble the trail. And apart from a short up-hill stint to the crest, there’s nothing too arduous about it, which means your only concern is drinking in the simply mesmerising terrain.
Low-hanging cloud formations drift against blue skies that stretch forever. Boulders shaped by wind, snow and ice stand in precarious towers called tors. A tundra carpet of grass, heath and moss shimmers with pristine pools and creeks. Mid-way you’ll be privy to the highest lakes in the country and waterholes formed by glacial action. This popular photo-op also offers a vantage point of your final destination – the summit – which gently nudges the horizon.
Take a backpack, pack a sandwich and picnic above the clouds where trees won’t grow and the only place to go is down. Lap up 360-degree views, breathe clean mountain air and take a photo with your fellow mountaineers. But do remember to dress appropriately – at 2,228 meters above sea level, the sun can be harsh and the weather unpredictable. Layering is key and a waterproof shell will mean the difference between an unforgettable journey to the summit and a waterlogged uphill trudge. Also, don’t forget sunscreen.
After reaching the summit, wander back the way you came, but before taking the chairlift down, stop in at Eagles Nest – Australia’s highest restaurant perched at 1,937 metres above sea level. Marvel at 270-degree views while enjoying a schooner of cold Kosciuszko pale ale. You’ve earned it.
By Suzanne Chellingworth
Thredbo is a 5.5 hour drive from Sydney or 2.5 from Canberra. Friendly staff at the Information Centre or Valley Terminal ticket office are available year-round to answer questions. w: www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Kosciuszko-National-Park/Kosciuszko-walk/walking e: firstname.lastname@example.org t: (02) 6459 4100