In this video Stevo, my father Kevin and I head from Dead Horse Gap to camp at Cascade Hut. We meet up with our friend Dave who had been walking the Australian Alps Walking Track. The following day Stevo and I tackle Mount Kosiuszko which is Australia’s highest peak. We went the tough way and it was a day of distance with lots of ascent climbed in amazing weather.
I awoke early after a great nights sleep to the sound of kookaburras in the trees surrounding Cascade Hut, a sound that feels truly Australian. On venturing outside I was treated by the warmth of the sun piercing through the trees and the mist rising from the valley below the hut. Dave was already up and was in the process of getting the fire going again.
Stevo and I had decided the night before that we would get on our way early so we could climb Kosciuszko, the others would follow on afterwards and meet us down in the Thredbo. As we’d slept in the hut it was a simple matter of getting coffee, followed by chucking a few things in the bags and heading off.
What a difference 24 hours makes, this time the day before it was thick cloud and intermittent rain and hail. We really had dropped lucky with the weather on our day to head to the top of Australia. The night before, Dave had given me his Australian Alpine Walking Track book to have a quick read. He had been walking the route and we had gone to meet him on the final leg of his journey. The book noted that there was a more interesting way of getting to Kosciuszko from Dead Horse Gap than the standard path to the top of the Ski Lift and in to the summit… We decided we’d go for it and go via South Rams Head, Rams Head and as you’d imagine… North Rams Head. Once back at the car we dropped our overnight kit, grabbed some more food and off we went on the climb up to South Rams Head.
Perhaps the most important note mentioned by the book was that the path becomes very faint as you reach the flanks of the rocky summit of South Rams Head. It really did vanish but we were prepared for a little bit of off piste walking. Dave had given us his printed copy of the guide book and I was armed with the map, compass and a pre plotted route on ViewRanger.
Perhaps one of the most stunning things about hiking in the Alpine region at this time of year is the abundance of wild flowers, regrettably I didn’t get any pictures but it really was a carpet of colour the likes of which I’d never seen before. We went hiking in the French Alps in 2016 and I was impressed by the flowers there, the Australian Alpine flowers however were much more spectacular.
The route suggested in the guide book led us from South Rams Head and skirted along the western side of Rams Head. We picked our way through tussocks of grass, small streams, wild flowers and snow patches. All of this while trying to keep one step ahead of the persuing horse flies, I hate those things 🙂 I would’ve loved to have taken a break and took in the surrounding vistas but those little blighters just won’t allow it, unless you don’t have an ounce of skin on show haha.
The going was tough at times and it was made a little harder by the fact that we had hiked out from Cascade hut that morning, the energy levels were good but the terrain can really sap it quickly. As I’ve found when walking in the moors of the Peak District, going off piste and climbing in and out of peat groughs can really kill the energy reserves. As there was no distinction path today it was tricky at times to pick the best line and not to stray off a bearing or course.
The route we had plotted eventually joined up with the path leading up from the top of the ski lifts to the summit. The path is a gently meandering metal grid to minimise erosion on the landscape, at times it feels very sterile but I’m fully aware of pressure to protect areas from damage. We have the same problems where I usually walk back in the Peak District in England, a path gets muddy and people naturally find a drier route which results in those paths getting wider and wider hence more damage to the area. Anyway…. back to the action…. As the temperature had climbed the gridded path was a welcome relief as it allowed us to make fast progress to our goal. The off piste section was spectacular but the going had been pretty slow while navigating around nature’s little obstacles.
The final section to the top of Kosciuszko was very easy going, a graded path suitable for vehicles and not what I’d really expected when climbing one of the 7 Continental Summits. I like to prepare well for walks but I don’t like to ruin too much of the suprise by overdoing the research, I was aware it can be a pretty easy walk but it’s almost wheelchair accessible from the Ski Lift to the summit… Almost, there are a few steps on the gridded path but nothing major.
The route up to the top was busy with people heading down, you can buy a return pass for the ski lifts so they weren’t hanging around as the last lift leaves at 17:00. Stevo and I had the summit to ourselves and the views were absolutely spectacular. The sun had been beating down on us all day so we spent a good 10-15 minutes at the tip taking in the views are drinking lots of water. We had been harvesting water supplies at every opportunity as that was our main concern doing the longer route today. I’ll admit that I foolishly left my hat back at the car when we swapped our kit, I’d been talking to another hiker and completely forgot to pick it up. I’d even had it on my head moments before leaving but had taken it off to remove a layer. Needless to say I caught the sun a bit during today’s adventure, In truth I caught the sun a lot during the day and I certainly paid the price the following week. I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia and that was the first time I’d allowed myself to get caught out. You live and learn.
The route back down from the top was a gentle meander following the gridded path all the way back down to the top of the Ski Lift. We had missed it’s final return journey but the views were spectacular as we walked down in to the valley.
We arrived back down in Thredbo about 10 hours after leaving Cascade Hut. We had covered 30 kilometres and climbed 1,400 metres of ascent during the day. Although we were absolutely shattered by the end it had been a great experience. It would have been a little better with more breeze and perhaps a few degrees less heat but other than that it’s a day I’ll never forget. I’d wanted to climb Kosciuszko since I first visited the National Park back in 2003, my father had picked me up from Melbourne airport and we’d toured the alpine range on our way in to New South Wales. We camped at Thredbo Diggings and it was one of the coldest nights i’ve ever had while out camping. I’d come to Australia equipped for Summer in the days before I’d done much camping myself as an adult 🙂 That trip planted a seed and I knew I needed to return and I’m so glad we did. A huge thank you to my father for arranging this mini adventure while Stevo and I were in Australia. Thank you to you for reading and watching.
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All music by Dean Read. Footage shot with a Canon 7D with a 17-40mm lens and it was edited in iMovie.