Hiking to the top of Mount Kosciuszko will be one of my 2018 highlights. It was also a challenging way of starting 2018!
Starting at 5am in the dark, witnessing the sunrise over the mountains, getting caught by a thick fog at the top, but then looking over the Snowy Mountains a couple of hours later with a beautiful sky, touching patches of perpetual snow along the way and finally sticking my feet in the cold Blue Lake water…an incredible experience!
Australia Day being on a Friday, it was a great opportunity to have a weekend getaway. So with a couple of friends, we decided to go for a little adventure. It’s a long drive from Sydney – about 6 hours – but definitely worth it. We stopped at different places along the way to make the most of our trip but I will mainly describe here the hike in the Snowy Mountains.
We already knew we wanted to be challenged. That’s why we opted for the longer and toughest option, a 22km hike starting in Charlotte Pass on the Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk and going back on the Main Range track. From Charlotte Pass that’s the only loop possible. However, you can also head to Thredbo Village where a 15min Express Chairlift will take you higher up and you will ‘only’ have to complete a 13km return walk. Please be aware before starting your hike, it is recommended to complete a trip intention form in case of something unexpected happens.
The idea was to hike quite early in the morning on Saturday as it was supposed to rain later on that day. However the forecast got worst and we decided to start even earlier. Setting up my alarm clock for 3.30am wasn’t an easy thing I tell you! Interesting to note that many people do the entire hike by night to see the sunrise from the “roof of Australia”, quite an experience I imagine. Hopefully I would do that next time I’m around.
The following “morning” – not to say in the middle of the night – we were ready and jumped into the car for a 45-minute ride to Charlotte Pass where it all begins. Driving by night is a challenge by itself in Australia, especially in rural areas. It’s incredible the number of wildlife we spotted on the way: 12 kangaroos/wallabies, 4 wombats, 3 deers, 1 rabbit and few unknown creatures… Please ensure you are careful if you decide to do so!
Once we arrived in Charlotte Pass, I was really surprised of finding about 15 cars already parked. I learnt later than in addition to people looking for the sunrise at the top, some others do overnight hikes as few other tracks start from here. Walking through the dark is not easy, even with a torch. What I probably liked the most is the feeling of freedom you get: all nighttime noises were amplified, a sky was full of shining stars and even if I couldn’t see much, I already imagined how beautiful landscapes were around me.
This peaceful moment was suddenly interrupted by a terrible noise behind us… the worst is that you can’t see anything coming. After turning the light in the right direction we saw a big deer eating and walking around… even if there is no bear in Australia, you never know what kind of deadly animal you could meet sometimes! Luckily that deer was just peacefully enjoying an early breakfast.
Progressively, we were able to see and admire landscapes around us. A couple of hours following that unexpected encounter, the sun started rising right behind the mountains in a majestic pink and red sky. As this occurred when we were walking through the scenic Snowy River valley, we were rewarded by an incredible view over the entire place. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm!
After crossing the valley, the walk goes up to Seaman’s Hut. Long story short, this hut was built in 1929 in the memory of two skiers who lost their lives in a blizzard on 14 August 1928. The shelter is now here to prevent this to happen again and can be use by adventurers in the event of extreme conditions. Soon after the sun rose, mist progressively gathered around us and within minutes, we couldn’t see more than 3 meters ahead of us! That’s the beauty of mountains, everything happens so quickly.
Globally, it took us about 3 hours to get to the top of Mount Kosciusko (2,228m). Even though we were a bit disappointed as we could only see fog around us once there, we were at least the only ones and could take as many pictures as we wanted. We also decided to have our first “lunch break”. Well, knowing we had breakfast at 3.30am it kind of makes sense to eat your sandwich at 8.30am, isn’t it?
We were hoping the mist would go away but half an hour later nothing had changed. It was getting colder so we packed up and starting our descent following the Main Range walking track. Luckily, as we were going down, the weather started to improve and an hour later we were able to spot a bit of sun through the clouds.
The Main Range track is much more demanding in comparison to the Summit walk. It is exactly the kind of mountain walk you would expect, narrow and uneven, better look before you leap! But it’s worth the challenge: we were rewarded by incredible landscapes and the view across the Australian Alps stretches as far as the eye can see.
This part of the hike is a beautiful journey on a small meandering track passing by old rock formations, beautiful valleys and several small lakes (such as Lake Albina and Club Lake). If you are there during spring, that’s even better as you could observe nature waking up after winter and see wildflowers bloom. As we were going forward, we were delighted to spot in and there enchanting snow gums. I even went off track to get a bit of it in my hands, exciting!
A couple of hours after leaving Mt Kosciuszko we arrived to the second highest point of the hike, Mt Carruthers (2,145m). I have no words to describe how gorgeous the view was. The sky wasn’t as dark as it was previously and we had a 360° view of the Snowy Mountains. The best view comes after the hardest climb. Totally true.
From this peak, most of the track goes down but you will steed need a lot of energy as you are not arrived yet. The last step of the hike is an optional return walk to the glacial Blue Lake, nestled in the hollow of a small valley. I know you might be tempted to skip this after hiking for such long hours but the walk is not that long and definitely worth it. Please be aware you might need to go a bit off tracks if you want to reach the shores of the lake. I stayed there few minutes, trying to relax with my feet immersed in the cold water – quite a good feeling after so much effort.
Back on the track for the last part, we crossed a small stream and then a bigger one before taking the last climb to Charlotte Pass. We were lucky to be done just before the rain started at 1pm. Exhausted but happy to finish after 8 hours hiking! I loved it, not only because of the incredible views and landscapes I saw along the way but also because of the efforts it requires. Hopefully I will be back some times to experience other adventures in the Kosciuszko National Park.