Kosciuszko

I stayed in Canberra for a few days and then it was time to see Kosciuszko. I had never heard of the mountain before doing some research on Australia and thought it was a cool idea to go hike the tallest mountain there.I had no idea what the weather would be like and how much snow would be there.I stayed near Dalgety for the night and then headed out through Jindabyne to Charlotte's pass to begin the journey up Mount Kosciuszko. On the way out we ran into some cattle on the road which slowed us up a bit. It was an obvious reminder that we were not in the city any more!IMG_0349Jindabyne and Thredbo are sleepy little towns that come alive during the ski season. Australia has just started to get some snow so the good snow is right around the corner. They're similar to Courtenay on the Vancouver Island, although a little less so now since the highway goes straight to Mount Washington. Both the towns are fairly small and offer accomodation and transportation to the mountain along with heaps of outdoor shops for renting and buying gear. Just past Jindabyne we went into Kosciusko National Park. Day passes to get into the park are about $12 and annual ones $190. I was fortunate to be with a couple of volunteer firefighters that get annual passes to all the parks.Climbing up to Charlotte's Pass we went over a few little streams and past the coldest weather station in Australia. We went past Perisher Ski Resort and could see the dry grassy beginnings of all the incredible cross country ski trails in the area. There is only a tiny bit of snow up there right now and the resorts have started to make snow on the colder nights to help things along. All the trees were still visible as well as the fire damage to them in some of the areas.Many of the forested areas here are hit with fires at one point or another. A lot of the time, the fires aren't hot enough to completely kill everything and life comes back fairly quickly. The heat of the fires open up a lot of seeds of the trees and brush. If it's too hot though, it kills many of the trees and life takes much longer to come back. The burnt, dead trees are a bad fire hazard since they will light up more easily in the future.A little further up the road from Perisher is Charlotte's Pass, the highest village in Australia. It runs a couple lifts here in the winter. In the summer, the road is clear and goes up to a simple roundabout and a bit of parking. Facing out towards Kosciuszko there is a bit of a boardwalk off to the right with some informational signs. Off to the left is the road that winds it's way up Kosciuszko. IMG_0376The route we took is about 18km there and back from the top of Charlotte's Pass. There is also a route that comes out of Thredbo up the chairlift. This trail is a little shorter and runs along a metal boardwalk most of the way. We hiked along the road from Charlotte's Pass that used to be open to vehicles. About half way up there is a little building called Seamens Hut that is maintained by a group of volunteers in the area. It's mainly used for emergencies in the winter but it's a nice little spot to get out of the sun in the summer and have lunch.IMG_0387A couple kilometres after Seamens hut our road meets up with the trail from Thredbo. As we hooked up with the path from Thredbo there weren't many people on the trail but looking up we can see a flood of school aged kids on their way down and sliding on the bit of snow that's there.The trail up to Kozzy(Australian for Kosciuszko) is mixed going from dirt road to inlaid flat rocks to metal boardwalk to this plastic material designed for erosion control. It was thick black plastic and was set into the ground and filled with sand and dirt. It was basically a whole bunch of little pockets that held the dirt and everything else around it in it's place. The pockets that weren't full ended up being quite the tripping hazard.We finally hit the mob of kids coming down from the top and I felt like a fish going upstream. They were not paying attention at all and we ran into a few. They were wearing all sorts of clothing. Some had tights and thing sweaters on and others had huge boots and snowboard gear. I'm assuming it was a guided school tour as the last person had ski patrol gear on and a radio blaring bad music.STA_0410We shared the summit with a young couple with two children who had rode their bicycles most of the way up. They were from Australia but had never been up the mountain. It was chilly at the top so we only stayed for a couple of photos and a voicemail to a friend. We trucked it down the mountain, making sure we didn't slide off the edge on the snowy sections and had lunch at Seamens hut. Apparently the animals that live in there make all the surfaces quite dirty so I was careful not to put any of my food down.The trip down was uneventful and much easier than walking all the way up. The weather was starting to close in so we didn't take our time. By the time we hit the bottom we managed to stay in a pocket of sunshine most of the way up and back. This was very lucky for us. The region is notorious for quick weather changes throwing snow and rain in all directions. We might have had a bit of rain the day before or after but picked the perfect day for the summit.I started reading "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer only a few days ago. They speak extensively in it about the 8,000er's, the 14 tallest mountains on Earth. They fall into this group because they're all above 8,000 metres. Those who summit these tough peaks enter into an elite group of people. Another group, not quite so elite as those that have climbed the 8,000er's, are those that have climbed the 7 summits. This group are the tallest mountains on each of the continents(roughly) and include Mount Everest in Asia, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali in North America, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Elbrus in Europe and Aconcagua in South America.In older texts and lists, Kosciuszko in Australia was the 7th peak in the 7 summits. Since it's ridiculously easy to climb and there is still debate on what counts as a continent over here, the Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, New Guinea tends to me more officially regarded as the 7th peak. It is the highest point in Oceania.I still like to think I've done one of the 7 summits and I'm sure if you asked some of the older climbers, they may say Kosciuszko is the 7th peak. Saying that, I've only got 6(sort of 7) left to go! Who's up for a trip to Kilimanjaro?