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A couple of months ago, I discovered the infamous Aussie 10, a 3 day hike that ticked off Australia’s 10 highest summits (plus a few more). It required a fair bit of navigation and involved camping freely within the park. It seemed like a good challenge and an awesome achievement. I managed to find two friends who were keen, and we set the date for December.
After work on Thursday, our group of 'Happy Hikers' began the drive down to Kosciusko National Park. We decided to break the trip up by spending Thursday night in Cooma so we could rise early on Friday to pick up a PLB and check into the Snowy Visitor Centre to register our trip.
We began our walk from Charlottes Pass, following the Main Range Track up until the Blue Lake. We then pulled out our map and compass, identified our first peak as Mt Twynam and headed up to the summit. Looking back, this was the hardest summit. Due to all the unexpected snow, we were unable to walk along the ridge line and instead, climbed straight up the base of the mountain. It was incredibly challenging and diminished our spirits for the remaining nine peaks. However, soon after summiting our second mountain, Carruther’s Peak, we realised that the rest of the peaks wouldn’t require as much elevation gain. Thank god, our spirits were high again.
Our final peak for the first day was Mt Northcote. Having begun our hike at 9.30am, we were exhausted and the push for that final summit really tested our spirits. The view from the top was more than rewarding, offering panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. We could spot a few other campers in the area and decided to head towards them.
Upon descending, we filled our bottles up at Albina Lake and began to set up camp. It was a little windy the first night, and we decided to camp at Muellers Pass. We had 8 summits to tick off the next day so we needed a good sleep.
Unfortunately, after a rather restless night due to the winds, we woke early. We boiled some porridge and packed one of our tents down. Our route allowed us to complete our first four summits without our packs. We left them behind at our campsite as we began our mornings hike.
We decided to tackle Muellers Peak before continuing on to Alice Rawson (2160m), Mount Townsend (2209m), Abbot Peak (2145m) and Byatts Camp (2159m). These peaks were all extremely challenging, involving rock scrambles, difficulty in identifying the summits and significant off-track navigation. We were always on the lookout for snakes and spiders and concentrating on not rolling our ankles on the uneven ground. The views from the top of these mountains was spectacular, overlooking Mt Kosciusko, the Wilkinson Valley and our campsite on Muellers Peak. It was incredible to see just how far we had walked.
After returning to camp, we packed up our gear, ate some lunch and continued on to climb Australia’s highest mountain. Sitting at 2228m, Mt Kosciusko would be our easiest climb, following the Main Range track. The track continues to the summit of the mountain, involving no technical abilities and an easy incline. Reaching the top, we were again rewarded with spectacular views and a busy mountain. Thanks to the perfect weather, there were a lot of people climbing Mt Kosciusko on Saturday. Having taken our summit photos, snacked on some trail mix, we headed off to North Rams Head and Rams Head, grateful to be back off track and away from the day trippers.
Arriving at North Rams Head, we decided to push on and climb both North Rams (2177m) and Rams Head Mountain (2190m). We were eager to set up camp but wanted to push as many summits into day two as possible. The summit of North Rams Head was one of the most impressive of the ten, dominating the landscape with a large pile of rocks as the summit. Upon reaching the top of Rams Head North, we pulled out the compass and identified Rams Head Peak in the disatnce. Setting off, we headed towards our bearing, anxious of how much sunlight was left in the day.
We finished climbing at about 6.30pm. The wind was catching and the temperature was dropping. We headed back to North Rams Head to set up camp. We scouted around the area until we found what we thought would be the most sheltered area to pitch our tents, behind a large pile of rocks. I had checked the weather forecast and knew the winds would be a little worse than the previous night. After pitching our tents, eating a bowl of Moroccan lamb and a cup of tea, we bunkered down in our sleeping bags. We had been careful to ensure we had pitched our tents down and faced them in the appropriate direction to the wind.
At about 8pm, the wind really began to pick up. The wind was bashing against our tents, threatening to pull them down. By 11pm, it was only getting worse. Our tents were flapping wildly and our MSR was struggling to stay up. We made a quick decision to pack the MSR down in the 80km winds and bunker down in the smaller, remaining tent. We had resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t be getting any sleep. The wind was so bad throughout the night, that we had to gaffer tape the tent poles together and hold onto the corners all night. We shared one sleeping bag, knowing very well that the tent could collapse at any moment. At about 3am, the roof of the tent began to tear. We checked our watches and promised to depart as soon as the sun was up. At 4am, we quickly pulled the remaining tent down in the 100km winds, packed our bags and set off towards Charlottes Pass.
That morning, we were exhausted. We hadn’t slept for 3 hours and we had one peak to go. Grateful that we had pushed to complete the last two the night before, in our drowsy state, we agreed to finish the last. Trying to climb the mountain on Etheridge Ridge was comical. As each gust of wind hit, we were blown sideways. We held onto each for balance and as soon as we reached the top, we turned around and headed back down. We had two hours of walking til we were back in the shelter of our car at Charlottes Pass.
Climbing Australia’s top 10 peaks was most certainly a challenge. The hiking was exhausting, long and difficult. The amount of snow on the trail was a constant reminder of how harsh an alpine region can be. Despite the lack of sleep, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. The challenge was extremely rewarding. The scenery was absolutely insane. At times, I could have thought I was trekking in Nepal. Despite the fact that these mountains were not above 2300m, the views and the wilderness surrounding Kosciusko National Park is beautiful. I will definitely be returning to do some more hiking in the park.
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