Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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On top of this corner of the world

I decided to take a few days of holiday and head up into New South Wales to visit Kosciuszko National Park, home to Australia’s tallest mountain. At 2228m, Mt Kosciuszko is the smallest of all the continental highest points*, but it still manages to surpass the other country summits that I have climbed (Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa in Wales, at a mere 1085m … and Bukit Timah Hill in Singapore, which is a piddling 165m pimple; clearly my mountaineering experiences are rather limited!)

It was a glorious day, and so I decided to do the full 24km hike to the summit and then around the Main Range track. This involved an 8km walk up to the summit from Charlotte’s Pass, along the side of the valley containing the famous Snowy River. The photo at right shows the main range, with the Snowy cutting its way down the middle, and my upward route (not shown) going up to the left to the unseen summit of Kosciuszko, and then the return track that I came down in the afternoon — having traversed the horizon — can be seen on the right.

I just love alpine terrain. The trees disappeared at about the 1850m level, and all that remained was a vast snow plain, with low shrubs and granite boulders, cut by mountain creeks and dotted with occasional tarns. It was hard to capture the grandness of it all; I felt like a mere speck on the landscape, especially later in the day when I was completing the circuit far from the madding crowds (and, in fact, the madding crowds were smaller than they can be because I had timed my visit to avoid the school holidays).

At the summit the obligatory photos were taken; there was a handful of other people who arrived around the same time as me, and so we offered to take photos of each other. Kosciuszko is not a particularly dramatic peak, which means that it is difficult to identify from afar. It is a bump that just happens to be taller than others on the main range, and, indeed, in the past there was some debate as to which particular bump was the tallest. Apparently another bump was regarded as being taller for quite some time, and when it was realised that it wasn’t they moved the name Mt Kosciuszko over to the newly identified higher point. Having taken photos, quite a few of the summiteers (myself included) took advantage of the existence of the otherwise absent mobile phone reception to brag about our accomplishments to friends and family.

From the summit I continued across the main range track. This track is longer and less popular than the other shorter routes; in fact most people take the chairlift up from Thredbo and complete the 13km return doddle (I can say this from a position of self-asserted virtuousness, having completed the more strenuous circuit!). Although I encountered a few people — from a group of walking-stick-toting retirees from a bushwalking club, to a solitary walker who look woefully underequipped — for most of the time I was on my own, with just the sky above, the late summer wildflowers scattered across the slopes, and the track scratching out its scar ahead and behind me as it made its undulating way across the ridge. I really enjoyed the solitude of this walk.

There are five glacial lakes up here which are remnants from an ice age. The prettiest of these is Blue Lake, seen in the panorama below. I remember seeing its photo on a calendar as a kid and thinking that I would love to see it one day. Now I have, and it was well worth it.

The final bit of fun for the trip was to cross the Snowy River at its confluence with Club Lake Creek, as seen in the photo at right. Recent rains meant that not all the stepping stones were above the water line, and in the end I gave up wasting time worrying about keeping my balance and just ploughed across through the water. It meant I had wet boots for a while, and so some extra essences have been added to the Yorkshire moor and Victorian temperate rainforest flavours that characterise my aromatic footwear.

I was a little weary when I got back to the car, especially since the last 500m or so were quite steep despite requiring only four pebbles, but I just had enough time and energy for a 3km diversion to visit Rainbow Lake, a lovely gem of a lake on the lower slopes of the range.

I took many photos of the day’s travels, although it was hard to capture the vastness of the place and the light was often tricky. There are photos of the Kosciuszko circuit walk here, and the Rainbow Lake walk and some images of snow gums can be found here (the two pages are linked).

* Strictly speaking it isn’t the highest point in continental Australia either, since the continent includes Papua New Guinea.

1 comment to On top of this corner of the world

  • Muzza

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about this walk. I did it around 10 years ago but went anticlockwise. There were no stepping stones across the Snowy River, so it was off with the shoes and sock and walk across.

    It probably didn’t matter, because my feet got wet walking through the extensive snow drifts still there in November. But the vastness and the solitude filled me with awe. (You didn’t mention the mozzies at the top, so maybe I was unlucky, but they were huge and numerous).

    I also did the chairlift walk the day before and it is a doddle, although in my case, I had to walk all the way down because the chairlift had finished for the day.

    Great photos! They bring back wonderful memories. I must do the walk again.

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