While it’s pointless to compete with the Himalayas, it’s good to remind ourselves that just six hours’ drive from Sydney is Australia’s own tallest mountain range and one of the most popular national parks in Australia, with its own set of epic statistics. Kosciuszko National Park is home to plants and animals you won’t find anywhere else on the planet. It’s also the biggest national park in NSW, and Kosciuszko and the posse of peaks surrounding it make up Australia’s 10 highest.
Did you know: Mt Kosciuszko isn’t considered one of the Seven Summits anymore… Though it was on Richard Bass’s original 1985 list, our Kozzie was rudely replaced by Carstenz Pyramid, Indonesia, the highest peak in Oceania.
Alright, so you’ve probably skied at Perisher or Thredbo before, and that’s awesome. But there’s so much more going on that’s begging for a closer look. The best thing about this mountain range is that its peaks are all pretty close together, so even if you’re relatively new to climbing, you can check off 10 summits in four days – averaging six hours a day – and live to blog the tale.
Did you know: Before you set off, get well-versed in alpine safety, including hypothermia prevention and backcountry camping. Fill out a trip intention form at the Snowy Region Visitor Centre in Jindabyne as a just-in-case.
At this point you have to decide how hardcore you are and how hardcore you want to be. The easier option is Main Range walk, which is a 7-9 hour, 22km loop from Charlotte Pass, but it doesn’t take in all 10 peaks.
The gnarlier route more your thing? Well, it ranges from 45 to 65km and you can customise the trek to suit. To give you an idea, the average walker takes about 25 hours to reach all 10 peaks. Three years before reaching the summit of Everest, Alyssa Azar conquered Australia’s 10 in 17 hours, but it’s probably not worth trying to beat her record, so take time to find the right route around each mountain in order to scale the peaks safely. A 4-day backcountry camping trip means you can do it all without being forced to break into a jog. You can leave your gear at base camp for easier summiting, and you’ll never miss a sunrise or sunset.
Quick tip: Make sure you show up packing the right gear for your trek: you’re gonna need it. Bring plenty of water and clothing for all weather conditions, and if you plan to go off-track make sure you’ve packed a topographic map and a GPS.
After crossing the Snowy River, on Main Range walk, you’ll head up to the lookout over Blue Lake, one of the park’s five minty-fresh glacial lakes, at which point most tourists will ‘look out’ then turn back. But not you, you’re hardcore, remember? Keep going and you’ll get your first glimpse of the steep and jagged western faces of most of the top 10.
As you push ahead, your trail g’days will get increasingly further apart. In lieu of people you might see the adorable mountain pygmy-possum (yep, found nowhere else in the world), but be aware they only come out at night.
Here’s a summary of the top of the tops: at 2228m, Mount Kosciuszko’s number-one status means it’s popular – so get there early. The best way to see it is from the rocky summit of its second-in-charge, the infinitely more rugged Mt Townsend. Tread with caution atop this jagged summit of granite, but make sure you enjoy the views across to Kozzie and down the Western Fall. Twynam comes in at third (from here you can access one of those no-name mountains) but some say it’s the most prominent.
Views from Rams Head into the plateau make it another beloved summit, but it has another boulder peak, so careful up there. And then there’s the unnamed peak on Etheridge Ridge to the east of Kosciuszko: it requires some more manoeuvring but boasts views over the Snowy River valley.
North Rams Head might only be Australia’s sixth-highest mountain but it’s apparently the most mountainous of them all. We’re talking gymnastic rock scrambles up massive piles of boulders, and jagged granite tors. Hopefully your phone works at this altitude because Rams Head tarn is a must-have Instagram moment.
Alice Rawson and Abbott Peak, along with Townsend and Byatts Camp, make up the Abbott Range, while Carruthers Peak and littlest Northcote complete the picture. Speaking of pictures, the latter’s 360 degree view of the valley and Lake Albina is one of the best to be seen in the park, and definitely worth the epic trek you’ve endured so far.
While this is entry-level mountaineering, it does require some level of navigational skill and proper gear (leave your Converse at home!). Camping en route requires a bit of foresight too: even when the weather’s good, the trip is above tree-line (that’s very high for the layman) so it can get freezing, especially at night, and it can snow any time of year (it isn’t called the Snowy Mountains for nothing). Invest in a decent down sleeping bag and make sure your mates do the same. Camping isn’t allowed in the catchments of Kosciuszko’s glacial lakes but there are good sites at Wilkinsons Creek (the most popular but rarely crowded), Merritts and Strzelecki creeks and Muellers Pass.
If you’d rather let someone else lead the way, K7 Adventures has 3-day guided tours climbing the 10 summits and there are plenty of guided day walks to some of the main peaks.
At the end of the four days sucking in alpine air, you might be hankering for a beer (or three), and you will of course be sufficiently catered for at Jindabyne and Thredbo. That first foamy sip could be the start of a whole new adventure.