One of the highlights of my year so far, and indeed one of the year’s biggest achievements for me had been climbing the highest mountain in Australia, Mount Kosciusko, in southern New South Wales not so far from the Victorian border. If you have seen the vlog directly below this paragraph from when I visited Victoria’s Mount Baw Baw, you will see me mention Mount Kosciusko as I am walking to the summit. It was at this very point that the idea crept into my head to visit Australia’s highest peak.
My wife and I already had plans for visiting Merimbula, and I could see on the map that actually it wasn’t that far to Kosciusko from there, around four hours. I also realised that I knew so little about the mountain, so I had to work out if I was to visit it, how would I go about it?
We decided to stay in the alpine village of Thredbo, where the easiest and most convenient access to hiking to the summit. We booked the Thredbo Alpine Hotel (review will be coming in the next few weeks and a vlog five minute review in the second half of the year) which for $269AUD gave us a room, breakfast and chairlift tickets up to the start of the main hike to the peak of Kosciusko. It also was a brilliantly located hotel literally across the road from the start of the chairlift ride.
The day arrived, a Sunday in March, for us to head up. My mum had previously hiked there and gave us a lot of advice. She was concerned about footwear (but I only had sneakers) as the trail was muddy. And the weather could change at any time of the year and there could be snow, and it could change fast so we needed plenty of clothing, gloves and a warm woolen hat. So we made sure we had all of that!
The day started in Merimbula as we headed west inland towards Thredbo. Naturally I missed the turn off on the road to Bega (although I didn’t realise it at the time) and took the next one. So this added half an hour onto our journey. The journey was really beautiful, we had mostly blue skies so we were pretty lucky all up. We had to pass over a pass on the way there where the road was very windy and steep, and the temperature plummeted, then we came out the other side (and down).
Eventually we pulled into Thredbo, where petrol was $2.77 a litre (the most expensive I have seen in Australia in my LIFE) and there aren’t that many roads. But it was fairly busy considering it wasn’t snow season, unlike Mt Baw Baw which was basically deserted when I was there. Found the hotel very quickly and easily. It was around 130pm by this time, and we were told that the chairlift closed at 430pm. My wife wasn’t too keen to use the chairlift at all, and they said it would be easy enough to walk downhill back to Thredbo from the top of the chairlift, so it all seemed pretty good.
It was a quick chairlift ride to the top, my wife didn’t enjoy it much as was very glad to not be returning that way as going down is worse than going up! The top of the chairlift is at 1930 metres or so, the peak of Mount Kosciusko is at 2228 metres, so we had to ascend 300 metres. It was around a 7km one way hike that we had been told took 2 – 2.5 hours to complete each way, so we knew we would be too late to get the last chairlift back to Thredbo.
Still, we started the walk, and none of what my mum had warned us about came to pass! Firstly, most of the 7km is on this metal grate. The weather was cool, but still around 10 degrees Celsius and didn’t change much whilst we were up there, so we didn’t need the extra stuff at all (I certainly didn’t need gloves). My wife feels the cold so she was a little rugged up – there was a bit of wind so that was chilly.
I was worried about how I would go. I had climbed a mountain in Tajikistan, that was the last sort of serious hike I have done back before Covid in October 2019, and I had struggled big time. This wasn’t anywhere near that altitude which was over 3000 metres I think. But still, it was a lot longer than my 90 minute return hike on Mt Baw Baw in February. Still, I had lost a fair bit of weight over the previous six months so I hoped I would be okay.
In fact I was quite amazed at the ease of the hike. The metal grate path certainly helped a lot, but there were only a couple of short sections that were steep, it was generally pretty gradual. There aren’t a lot of spots of significance on the way up, and it’s pretty bare up there, low lying vegetation, a few creeks, a view valleys and peaks to photograph. I mean, it was a beautiful place to be, but no waterfalls or exceptional places to stop for a break, and no real shelter from the wind either.
Rawson’s Pass is a point where some tracks intersect and there is an extensive network of alpine tracks up there for those who want to do multi day treks and the like, as well as a sign post or two and of course, toilets, the only ones found on the course.
From there it was around 1.69km to the peak. This part of the track was paved stones for a bit and then a mostly gravel track. As it wound around and up to the peak, it got steeper, but I was happy to find that I was energised and powered on, in complete contrast to when I hiked in Tajikistan! And I made it to the peak, we – my wife and I – made it to the peak in one hour 53 minutes, including a toilet stop, so we did it in less than the estimated time!
I was actually pretty happy, I felt like I had achieved something this year and there was a great view across so many peaks out there. The weather remained the same, we’d done well! And all was left to walk back down.
This is where what had been a successful venture turned on us, and particularly me! Going down often is worse than going up, and traversing the 7 kilometres back to the top of the chairlift was hard enough. We got back at 537pm exactly, just over and hour after the chairlift closed. Then well, it was onto the gravel road to get back to Thredbo and this is where our troubles really began.
The road was very steep – far steeper than the route from the top of chairlift to the summit. And the light gravel was very loose under foot. In fact my wife actually fell a couple of times. There was a walking path we found, and thought it would be a better option, and possibly it was but it was a path in very poor condition, and it obviously had had water run down it and wear it out. Some of the steps were very high.
It was another hour and half or more until we got back to Thredbo on this unreliable track. Crossing the downhill ski runs at times, but also in the dense forest. And there was a big step in front of me. I thought I was being careful, but I came down on the side of my left foot. I moved my weight to the right to compensate, and hit the inside of the ankle on a rock! I regathered myself, I’ve hurt my ankle worse in the past, so I grinned and carried on. There was a bit of pain and I must have pulled a few muscles, but I could manage.
I had to walk very slowly at times, I was ultra cautious. I didn’t have any hiking boots (although I do now) so I was in sneakers, not the best footwear for such a hike. Thankfully it was still daylight savings and we got back before the sun disappeared. My legs and feet were so sore, not just from coming down on the ankle, but from the constant walking downhill for hours. The next day I was driving back to Melbourne, I was so sore the whole drive. When we would stop for a rest and get out of the car, I really felt it. I am sure the pain was made worse by the fact that I am in the second half of my 40s now.
But writing about it now 6 – 7 weeks later, well, my ankle was okay by 7 days, and I still feel proud of the hike. It’s a rewarding and pretty easy hike all said, from the top of chairlift. The climb down to Thredbo or in the opposite direction though is seriously hard walk and not for the feint-hearted.
Thanks for joining me today! Take care, and May the Journey Never End!