Aussie ABC: M is for Mount Kosciuszko

Last Updated on August 18, 2019 by Red Nomad OZ

Mt Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass Lookout, Snowy Mountains
Mt Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass Lookout, Snowy Mountains

‘Good on ya, love,’ a bloke sang out, one of a trio of pensioners trotting past me as I trudged wearily up the last slight steady impossibly steep incline before the Mt Kosciuszko lookout. Leaving the summit behind I only had 2km of the 13 km (8 miles) round trip summit hike to go, and altitude sickness was kicking in.

Ramshead Range, Mt Kosciuszko Summit Hike
Ramshead Range, Mt Kosciuszko Summit Hike

At least, that’s the only way I can explain the shortness of breath that had turned this last uphill stretch into a taxing climb.

‘You’re the only person we’ve passed all day,’ chirped the pensioner in the exact tone of voice that made me want to slap him silly as the trio left me in their wake.

Cheeky beggar!

Pedantic peak-bagging purists don’t include Mt Kosciuszko as a valid ‘climb’ for the 7 Summits despite it being Australia’s highest point.

Kosciuszko National Park from Mt Kosciuszko Summit
Kosciuszko National Park from Mt Kosciuszko Summit

Puncak Jaya (aka Carstensz Pyramid) in Papua, New Guinea is more than twice as high, they say.

And the Australian continent includes New Guinea, they say. And the island of New Guinea is on the Australian continental shelf, they say. The purists climb both, thus extending their 7 Summits to 8 peaks. That SO makes sense … NOT!

Looking down to Rawsons Pass Loo - Highest Public Amenities in OZ!
Looking down to Rawsons Pass Loo – Highest Public Amenities in OZ!

Although that COULD be the terminal laziness that dogs my footsteps talking …

The smart money says the REAL reason to exclude Mt Kosciuszko has nothing to do with peak bagging and everything to do with mountaineering elitism.

Blue View to Thredbo
Blue View to Thredbo

The ambitious scope, rigorous training schedule and technical skill required to complete the 7 Summits make it a challenge so great that only ~350 climbers have completed since it’s 1985 conception …

… compared to the estimated 100,000 climbers who conquer Mt Kosciuszko each year.

So hardly a mountaineering exclusive, although people like me DO take training seriously and prepare for the rigours of the 2228m (7313 ft) summit ascent by a test climb on Mt Wycheproof, the world’s smallest mountain!

Yes, you heard it here: The summit climb is embarrassingly easy!

13 km to go! Start of Kosciuszko Summit Walk
13 km to go! Start of Kosciuszko Summit Walk

Especially given the most difficult section of the climb – the 600 m (1982 ft) elevation from ski town Thredbo to the Eagle’s Nest restaurant (highest in OZ) – can be completed by chairlift.


From there – a tiny 3.5° C (38° F) the day we climbed – we were above the tree line with a 6.5 km (one way) trek to the top undulating upwards over a 300 m (991 ft) elevation.

Its place in the 7 Summit pantheon isn’t the only controversy surrounding the mountain. A neighbouring peak was originally thought to be the highest and dubbed Mt Kosciuszko, with the current Mt Kosciuszko called Mt Townsend. When a survey showed the mistake, the names were switched so that Kosciuszko remained the name of Australia’s highest peak!

Although ‘peak’ isn’t the right word – it’s more of an imposing rounded dome rising above the surrounding landscape often enough to provide a tantalising glimpse of journey’s end. Or at least the half-way mark because the shortest way back is to return to the chairlift the way you came.

Looking towards Victoria - and a bunch of schoolboys ...
Looking towards Victoria – and a bunch of schoolboys …

But all that is well in the future at the start of the hike with spectacular views WAAAAAY down to Thredbo and up along the rocky Ramshead Range. The kilometres pass quickly along the raised metal walkway that took 17 years to construct that protects the fragile alpine heathland.

Kosciuszko Dead Ahead! 4.5 km to go ... Snowy Mountains, New South Wales
Kosciuszko Dead Ahead! 4.5 km to go … Snowy Mountains, New South Wales

It’s a nostalgic moment as we cross the headwaters of the Snowy River. Pastoral country until being phased out in 1969, Aussie poet ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s classic poem ‘The Man From Snowy River’ superbly captures the legend of this wild high country before the National Park was proclaimed in 1944 and the river harnessed for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme from 1949.

Headwaters of the Snowy River, Mt Kosciuszko Summit Track, Snowy Mountains
Headwaters of the Snowy River, Mt Kosciuszko Summit Track, Snowy Mountains

We climb up to a saddle from the river, and now the Australian records come thick and fast.

Lake Cootapatamba – highest lake and one of 5 mainland glacial lakes; Rawson’s Pass, overlooking highest permanent settlement Charlotte Pass, and location of highest Scenic Public Toilet at 2100 metres; then the final ascent – a relentless climb along the old Charlotte Pass road circling round the dome to the top.

View over Lake Cootapatamba, Australia's highest lake, Kosciuszko Track
View over Lake Cootapatamba, Australia’s highest lake, Kosciuszko Track

And the staggering 360° view over the Main Range, Monaro tablelands and Victorian High Country.

Explorer Paul Strzelecki Statue, Jindabyne, New South Wales
Explorer Paul Strzelecki Statue, Jindabyne, New South Wales

Explorer Count Paul Strzelecki, whose commemorative statue in nearby Jindabyne portrays him as a cross between previous OZ prime minister Bob Hawke and Dracula, was the first to actually record a climb in 1840, although the peak is likely to have been climbed beforehand by local Indigenous people, who called the mountain Tar Gan Gil, and white settlers.

Until 1974, when the road was closed to traffic to help preserve the fragile environment, visitors could drive to the Mt Kosciuszko summit.

And I’ll bet the couple who pushed a pram all the way, and the young man carrying two small children in a backpack wished the road was still open …

Waiting our turn for the obligatory summit shot while an endless stream of school groups took more than their fair share of time at the marker cairn, the clouds rolled in – and justified the winter clothes we’d bought in far below Jindabyne! Although it was worth the purchase price to hear the young salesman describe his phobias – Snakes and even a recent snakebite didn’t bother him; but Spiders? No way! Mad fool!! But I digress …

Summit Proof Shot! Who are these people??!!
Summit Proof Shot! Who are these people??!!

The return trip punctuated by the obligatory tinkle in the highest public toilet in OZ, countless rest exhaustion photo stops, and a voluntary go-slow when I tired of the student wisdom pouring out like … well, lets just say waste … behind me.

‘Sir said life is short,’ one adenoidal youngster stated to a gaggle of giggling comrades. ‘That is incorrect. Life is the longest thing you do,’ he concluded triumphantly.

Words to live by? Words to live without … they passed me, chattering inanely …

No thanks, I can jump from here! View from Kosciuszko Express Chairlift
No thanks, I can jump from here! View from Kosciuszko Express Chairlift

The only cure for altitude sickness is to lose altitude quickly, which the Kosciuszko Express chairlift descent delivers in spades.

It’s almost impossible to take photos while indulging in a long, silent scream with both hands locked in a white-knuckled death grip on the ‘safety’ bar – the only thing between me and the 600m drop to Thredbo …

Thredbo getting closer ...
Thredbo getting closer …

And just like that, my birthday present Kosciuszko adventure was over, leaving me with a fine sense of anti-climax and an almost irresistible urge for a tacky piece of memorabilia like a ‘Kozzie’ snow dome or a ‘Get High’ T-shirt to mark the occasion.

But I settled for posting some photos on Flickr and writing this blog post instead.

Besides … I’ve been to the Mt Kosciuszko summit before!

As shown by this photo from the year … well, I’m sure it’ll be immediately identifiable by the superb example of what the well-dressed mountaineer – a random stranger lucky enough to be captured by Dad’s camera – was wearing! A small clue – we apparently drove to the top …

Mt Kosciuszko Summit in 19??
Mt Kosciuszko Summit in 19??

Tragically, this means I can’t claim to have climbed it twice – but even if I could, it probably doesn’t count if I can’t remember it …

So I’m claiming Kosciuszko as Peak #1 in my 7 Summit Challenge! But don’t hold your breath for the next instalment – I’m going for the slowest 7 Summits ever!

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  1. Welcome. //
    I invite you also to the English version of this website. You will find there a lot of information about the conquest of Mt Kosciuszko the highest peak of Australia, and about Paul Edmund Strzelecki the explorer who gave the mountain its name.

  2. Now that’s serious vintage, Red! And just my era, so I’ll need to be finding similar of the same on a different continent, but the ‘costumes’ won’t differ much methinks 😉 Wow serious climb, bad luck with altitude sickness. We climbed Mountain to Kilimanjaro in 1985 and it was a big thing … lots of people stretcher ed down. Your chair lift ride sounded amazing!

    1. Hahaha, I’m sure mountaineering gear has changed since back then, Jo – at least I hope so!!! Actually, Mt K was embarrassingly easy – even for someone like me who wasn’t that fit (hence the ‘altitude sickness’). I’m sure your mountaineering feat is much more impressive – but you’re right about the chairlift!

  3. I invite you also to the English version of this website. You will find there a lot of information about the conquest of Mt Kosciuszko the highest peak of Australia, and about sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki the explorer who gave the mountain its name.

  4. Ah Ha – I see you are using my Flickr photo link trick on this post. Always a good feeling to pass the knowledge to a fellow blogger.

  5. Oh, you were a cute little mountaineer girl, even back a few years ago! I’d need a lot of camera breaks on that climb and would probably be too exhausted to actually focus to get a picture!

    Driving to the top reminds me of mountain roads in Colorado we’ve driven up and then when we get out to walk reading signs that tell you to beware of altitude sickness…always makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something just to stay alive while riding in the car!

  6. @Betty – It sure is a different part of Australia! Even if I don’t remember it from my first visit … Have a great week!
    @Tina – Thank you! It was a pleasure taking them!!
    @Kath – Haha, ‘virtually’ doing it means you don’t have to ‘actually’ do it, right?!?!?! Only kidding, every Aussie should do this one!! Even if they do have to re-open the road …
    @MJWC – It WAS cold!! Even though the childhood visit was in midsummer, the temperature is never very high up there …
    @Vivid – So glad you enjoyed it!! My pleasure to show you!!
    @Filip – It’s VERY rocky!! But I didn’t notice that when I was little!!
    @Sallie – I can see where the seeds of exploration were planted … but I now LIVE for my ‘camera’ breaks. Just how many pix of a mountain climb can you take, anyway?! LOVE the idea of accomplishing something just by riding in the car – I’ll sure be adopting THAT one!!!

  7. Aren’t you two cute standing on Sumit Proof getting your picture taken…. You guys look cold though.

  8. Thanks for this post, Red, as it feels as though I shared in the climb with you and I’ve never been there before. Yet.

  9. who are these people? love it:)

    congratulations on the climb. What amazing scenery and views!

    Loved looking at your photos!

    simply gorgeous!!


  10. Love that last shot!! Adorable. Congratulations on a tough climb – I felt out of breath just from looking, haha! What a view, well worth the slog and beautifully captured to boot!:)

  11. @curly purplepig – Thanx! It’s so different to other parts of Australia!
    @Saucy Kod – I had a real sense of achievement with this one, although it was a little anticlimactic to find I’d done it before … the rocks in the final ascent were pretty hard on the feet, but I made it up and I made it down!
    @Jeanne – I would have been REALLY peeved if the cloud had blown in earlier and blocked the view!
    @Manzanita – Thanx for dropping by despite your busy schedule! This climb is my way of dancing …
    @LONDONLULU – It’s just like they say about childbirth – once it’s all over you forget the pain!!! Exhausting, yes – but SO worth it!

  12. @Andrew – HAhaha, but think BIG – why not install a chairlift right to the top?!?! Or run 4WD Bus tours to the top?? Although you could almost do that now … so many possibilities!
    @Karen – Does it look how you remember it?? It must have been more difficult back then – the walkway makes it reasonably easy going now!
    @River – The last couple of km has KILLER rocks! The trail is quite hard to walk on, although that could be the laziness talking … or bakery withdrawal …
    @ladyfi – It’s awesome to be as high as you can go in OZ with an uninterrupted view!
    @Carole – Haha, UP doesn’t really work for me either … and I was too knackered by then to be feisty, although my withering look could have curdled milk!

  13. @Mary – I think the narrator’s words lost something in the translation – I was just too knackered to care … and I SO wish you were right about the great legs!
    @TFG – Haha, the camera’s just a prop to make out I’ve actually got a reason OTHER than exhaustion to stop, although the puffing & panting may be a giveaway …
    @Rose – A lot of people didn’t get breathless – the main difficulty is the length of the hike, not the climb itself … but still, I’m SO glad you’re impressed!
    @Fun60 – I’m laughing about it now … there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I’ll be doing any of the others anytime soon!!!

  14. @FruitCake – Fantasies, fantasies … where’s a palanquin when you need one?!?! And a café/bar at the top would be a fine thing too … but I’m sure I’ll be so famous next time that I’ll get the STAR treatment!!!
    @Dina – I couldn’t believe the resemblance!!
    @TMWH – Tons of energy?? You’ve got to be kidding! We relied on good ol’ bakery takeaway to get us to the top!! And I may have made it sound just a teensy bit more difficult than it actually was …
    @George – HHHMMMmmm… I think I need a bit of a breather before I try the next one! Like about 40 years!!!
    @eileeninmd – When I first talked about doing the climb, I couldn’t believe it when Dad told me I’d already been there! I demanded proof, and here it is!!!

  15. Cute picture of you and Pilchard. Congrats to the climber to the top. It always feels so good, doesn’t it?

    I don’t expect you at my blog when it’s dancing. I know it’s not your cuppa tea. I haven’t been around either because I can’t really keep up with the A-Z. This time of the year calls for outside work that has to be done, too…. so I can’t seem get it all in. 🙂

  16. some people just don’t think you’d have an ounce of feisty left in you when on those high altitude climbs; just try me! (you wrote about the pensioner comments – the only person they’d passed….) I’m not one for too much the hard yards UP, so can be a little testy if in the wrong company 🙂

  17. I am amazed that you made the climb even with the altitude change, which no doubt made it harder on you. You are quite feisty there Red. Really nice photo of you n Pilchard and I love the one of your childhood. Good for you and serious challenge. I like the idea of the metal walkway – I also noticed there are lots n lots of rocks n small boulders. Great Photos 🙂

  18. It’s a lot rockier than I expected, although I don’t know why I would expect otherwise.
    Perhaps I thought there’d be snow, being part of the Snowy Mountains as it is.
    It’s a lovely area to look at though.

  19. I always take a small camera on such climbs so I can stop to take a picture. Also gives a chance to breath and rest. You may also have done this, but you had great photographic success.

  20. I enjoyed accompanying you on your trek up the mountain, and I look forward to joining you for the remaining six summits. Your photos are beautiful.

  21. Well done you and what a nice conclusion. As for me, I will wait until The Abbott is elected, sells off the national parks and a developer puts in a proper road.

  22. G’day Red, I’m mighty impressed at your climb (breathless or not!) love that pic of you and Pilchard….. ha ha the proof!
    Terrific series of pics of our great Mt K. really enjoyed it 🙂

  23. I do love the year 19?? photo. All of it, drenched in sights. Words to live without, unreliable narrator~give him a few years.

    Gf, you must have great legs. ~Mary

  24. I read all that, and now I am exhausted! I need a nap to recover. You must have tons of energy to be able to make it to the top, Red!

  25. Frequent photo stops? I’d need an entire crew determined to make a full-length feature film – with full catering and portable private dressing room!
    But well done Red, well done.

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