IF THERE IS A MOUNTAIN THAT EVERYONE CAN CLIMB AND STAND AT THE ROOFTOP OF A CONTINENT, ALMOST REGARDLESS OF THEIR AGE, SKILLS OR CONDITION, THEN IT WOULD BE MOUNT KOSCIUSZKO IN AUSTRALIA.
Name: Mount Kosciuszko
Height: 2,228 metres (7,309 feet)
Location: Thredbo-Perisher area, Snowy Mountain Range, Australia
First Climbed: 12 March 1840 by geologist Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki
Climb Time: 4 - 5 hours
Best Season to Climb: Year round (expect snow from June to October)
Introduction to MOUNT Kosciuszko.
Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak of the Australian continent, is 2,228 meters (7,309 feet) high and it is located in the Thredbo-Perisher area in the largest Australian national park - Kosciuszko National Park.
Although it is the largest mountain on this continent, Mount Kosciuszko is not the highest mountain belonging to the Australian territory. The highest peak is Mount McClintock in the Australian Antarctic Territory with the height of 3490 metres (11450 feet). But, it is actually frequently disputed as one of the 7 summits because the Australia's Mount Kosciuszko and New Guinea's Carstensz Pyramid, aka Puncak Jaya, are both located on the Oceania continent. Dick Bass, the first man who conquered all 7 summits, chose Australia as one of the continents and its Mount Koscuszko as one of the 7 summits. Ultimately, Pat Morrow and Reinhold Messner agreed that Carstensz Pyramid on Irian Jaya (Papua) in Indonesia's New Guinea was the true highpoint for the Australasian continental mass, and today it is officially considered one of the 7 summits. Still, some mountaineers try to summit all peaks including Mount Kosciuszko, to meet both the Bass and the Messner lists.
Mount Kosciuszko is popular with local people and tourists because there are many ski resorts within the National Park, which offers wide range of sport activities. Other than divine scenery and unique history, another thing that attracts visitors is its proximity to the big cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
Climbing to the top, you can see natural treasures that are not always the first association to Australia - the incredible peaks of the snow-capped Australian Alpine Mountains and the Snowy River, which has been immortalised through traditional and modern culture.
History of MOUNT KOSCIUSZKO.
The Snowy Mountains have been home to many Aboriginal tribes for more than 20,000 years. They were coming to this area during the summer months to carry out their ceremonies and to feast. Some of their activities affected the area, like collecting bogong moths. They were making nutritious meals cooking the moths in the ash, thus this ritual made the moths move from their original habitat in southern Queensland.
One of the Aboriginal groups were Ngarigo people, who were traditionally from the Monaro, Australian Alpine regions of Victoria and New South Wales. The Ngarigo also inhabited the Queanbeyan area. The tribe was coming to the mountain for hunting, but the land was later occupied by Europeans, who were running sheep which was why the Ngarigo slowly left this area. The second reason that led to the dramatic decrease of the Ngarigo population was the appearance of diseases such as smallpox, influenza, syphilis and tuberculoses, all introduced by Europeans.
Although Sir Strzelecki was the first known person to climb the summit of Mount Kosciuszko in March 1840, there are opinions that the first man who climbed to the top was naturalist John Lhotsky. It is known that he was travelling through the Snowy River area and Monaro in 1834.
The same year when the first official climb of the mountain took place, cattlemen realised how valuable this land would be for the cattle grazing. They brought their cattle to spring grazing, demonstrating their own riding skills at the same time. About the skills and the lifestyle of the cattlemen, a well-known poem was written. "Men From the Snowy River” by Australian poet Banjo Peterson was, in 1982, turned into a movie.
As for the Kosciuszko National Park, it was founded in 1906 and was originally called National Chase Snowy Mountains. The development and expansion of this area were rapidly taking place between 1949 and 1974, when thousands of workers built tunnels, hydroelectric stations and dams to make a system ,which is today known as the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Skiing in the Snowy Mountains region began around 1850, and since 1957 famous ski resorts such as Thredbo Village, Perisher Valley, Mount Selwyn and Charlotte Pass were set up.
Geography of MOUNT KOSCIUSZKO.
This mountain with the unusual name lies in the southeast of Australia, near the border with the states of Victoria and New South Wales. It belongs to the Snowy Mountains region that includes the five largest peaks of this continent - Mounts Townsend, Twunam, North Ramshead and Mount Carruthers. All the above-mentioned mountains reach more than 2,100 feet (7,000 feet) above the sea level. Further, Snowy Mountains region is just the southern part of the Great Dividing Range.
Snowy Mountains are part of Australia's hydroelectric network. The snow, which melts from them, fills the rivers and the water reserves. Mount Kosciuszko is the snowiest and coldest region of Australia, and the snow is present on its top in the period from June until October.
During the periods of Ordovician to Lower Devonian, 490-355 million years ago, the mountain was formed of granite rocks. For a long period of elevation, overlapping and erosion, the landscape of the terrain have changed and it now differs from the other mountainous areas, such as the Himalayas and the Andes. No volcanic activity had influenced the formation of Mount Kosciuszko. The mountain range is now defined by erosive rocks and is divided by streams of rivers that have made deep valleys, such as the Thredbo River.
On the top, you can find eroded granite intrusions as well as great boulders above the heavily eroded sedimentary rocks.
Wildlife of MOUNT KOSCIUSZKO.
Kosciuszko National Park was declared to be a World Biosphere Reserve, in 1997 by the UNESCO. The area is rich in various species of flora and fauna. This national park is a place with true alpine environment, which makes it unique in Australia.
During the winter and the summer, the climate of this mountain significantly differs, which impacts the vegetation. When the days are warm, Mount Kosciuszko is a home of colourful flowers, and in the winter the mountain is white with snow.
The famous plant growing in this field is Snow Gum (Cabbage gum) whose large and strong branches can bend under the heavy snow. This is a rare tree (some call it a bush) that grows at the high altitudes and that shows its ability to survive in the deep snow.
During the Australian summer, in month of January and February, the mountain becomes colourful and covered in mountain wild flowers and plants. The vegetation is truly diverse and includes fields where snow daisies, mountain roses, snow grass, mountain eyebrights, and the alpine mint bush grow. The area also includes spaces like heaths and alpine bogs that are parts of the natural mosaic of Mount Kosciuszko.
Many plants found in the higher elevation cling on to the rocks reminding the observer on bonsai pants.
This mountain is a habitat for many animals like wallabies, squirrel glider and platypus. Mount Kosciuszko is a home to the unusual pygmy possum, which can be found in just one more place in the world - inside the Alpine National Park in Victoria.
This animal, with the size of the mouse, has the light grey or brown fur. The fur protects pygmy possum against cold in the winter days. This species is the only Australian marsupial that hibernates during the winter, as well as the only possum that lives on earth.
Interestingly, the fossil of this animal was found in 1894. Until 1966 it was believed that the pygmy possum had extinct, until they accidentally found it. Males grow only up to 110 mm and can weigh up to 55 g, while females are slightly larger and heavier - they grow up to 111 mm and weigh up to 80 g.
The highest Australian mountain is also the home for more than 200 bird species including wedge-tailed eagles, emus, magpies, kestrels and cockatoos.
FIRST ASCENT OF MOUNTAIN
The first European who climbed the highest mountain on this continent was Polish explorer Sir Paul Strzelecki. He decided to name the crown of Australia by the Polish revolutionary, the eighteenth-century national hero of several countries (Poland, USA, Belarus and Lithuania) and the true nature lover - Tadeus Kosciuszko. This mountain reminded Strzelecki of the place where General Kosciuszko was buried.
Strelecki arrived in Australia in 1839 and until his departure in 1843, he covered more than 11,000 km of the continent. He was one of the first Europeans that led an expedition in this region. Many geographical spots bear his name like the Strzelecki Desert in South Australia and Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria.
According to his claims, in the evening of the 12th of March 1840, he left his expedition team and climbed to the summit alone.
CLIMBING AND HIKING GUIDE
Considering that the altitude of this mountain is 2,228 meters, climbing is a pleasant experience that is certainly worth a try. The mountain is popular among nature lovers of all ages and fitness levels. Although not among the tallest mountains, it is still located in one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. There are a lot of lookouts in which hikers can enjoy the view and clean air, and since it is recognised natural treasure, the roads and sightings are marked and well-maintained.
From the Charlottes Pass, there are two routes that lead to the summit. If you are more into long round trip, these routes can be combined. The Summit Walk route is approximately 9 kilometres long, in a good condition, therefore it is not very difficult to take. This path is the old service road and ranger cars are still using it.
There are many beautiful views to be seen taking The Summit Walk, like the one down into the valley with the Snowy River. When you descend into the valley, next step is crossing the Snowy River and continuing with a steady climb. Enjoying the view, you will soon pass Seaman`s Hut. The hut, which was built in 1928, is the shelter for today`s users and the memorial to skiers who passed away in an accident on the mountain.
There is also a possibility of cycling across this road. If you are riding a bike, you should leave it at Rawson Pass where bike stands are located. Then walk for the 1,4 kilometres to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko.
The path itself does not require much physical readiness from the walkers, but it requires of them to admire the summer flowers in yellow, pink and white colour, grass that resembles the plants from the tundra, as well as the magnificent view. In winter, the track is very popular among skiers and snowboarders.
Climbing and hiking can be done all year, but it should be remembered that snow is present on the mountain from June to October.
Another option is taking a walk via Thredbo Village using a chairlift, which will carry you for the most of the route. It will leave you a relatively small distance to walk - just a few hundred of metres from the metal walkway to the summit of the mountain. This small portion of the walking route is rather horizontal, thus suitable for everyone who wants to enjoy being on the highest peak of Australia.
The Main Range Route is about 12,5 kilometres long in one way and it also can be completed in one day. The route also starts at Charlottes Pass and the first part leads you down to the valley and Snowy River. After crossing the river by hopping the rocks, the harder part of the route awaits for you. There are a lot of ridges that can foul up your orientation. There are also many rocks where you can take some rest. This route is, just like others, very well-maintained. Another benefit of choosing this way is the amazing view of Blue Lake. You can also go down to the lake`s edge, before returning to your path.
From Blue Lake, walking will become more difficult because it is a pretty rocky terrain, and there is no more path but the track. With the route changing its direction to the south-east, you will look toward Mount Sentinel. The track continues high up to the “crown of Australia.” This route is recommended for the more adventurous nature lovers and can be planned to last two or three days.
In addition to this, winter ice climbing can be done above Club Lake and the Watson`s Crags. Both are accessible from the Main Range route.