With the desire to climb the highest mountain in Australia, I started to do some research. With a height of 2,228 metres above sea level, Mount Kosciusko in the Kosciuszko National Park NSW, is the highest point in Australia.
After a little research, there seemed to be two popular options to hiking Mount Kosciuszko.
1) Drive to Charlotte Pass and take on 7.7 km to Rawson Pass. From there it’s a 1.6 km hike to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko.
2) Kosciusko Express, a chairlift that runs from Thredbo up the mountain. It covers 2 km in distance and climbs 560 metres in height. From the chairlift, it’s only a mere 6.5 km hike to the Mt Kosciuszko summit.
Being the serious mountain climbers/hikers that we are, we thought the Kosciuszko Express sounded like the better option. We had never been on a chairlift either so we could hardly say no to that!
The road trip to Snowy Mountains
Making our way from the Hunter Valley, we were up at 3 am and were graced with a balmy 14°C. Four hours later we watched the sun rise while we were having breakfast at a pie shop right beside ‘Rambo’, the Big Merino in Goulburn. Standing at a whopping 15.2 m tall, how could we not check out the giant sheep?
After another three hours of watching the temperature drop, we finally arrived in Thredbo and the 9°C temps (in April) sure let us know. Wearing only t-shirts and board shorts, it was at this point we realised we may have overlooked a crucial piece of research. Thankfully we had hoodies and track pants with us as we planned to camp that night.
The Australian Alps
As it turns out, the Snowy Mountains are called that for a reason. Yep, even in April there was snow at the top. That was another big thing that I overlooked. Our bodies were working harder due to the cold, our noses were running and the wind was drying our mouths out, so it was harder to breath. As we were hiking Mount Kosciuszko we worked out if that we had regular breaks and sipped water each time, it helped make the hike easier.
The Kosciuszko Express chairlift
We were a little nervous about the chairlift so we watched a few people get on before we joined the queue to buy chairlift passes – $53 ($35 adult, $18 child). Looking at the crash mats as you get on, it is clear not everyone makes it. As we pulled the safety bar down it sling shots us off the concrete and up the mountain. Swinging gently in the breeze, we were trying to decide if this was a good option.
Once we had ridden the lift, our nerves somewhat subsided and we jumped on repeat rides excitedly.
As we approached the top of the chairlift, we noticed there were a couple of serious hikers below that were struggling with the incline. It was at this is point we both realised we had made the right choice in taking the Kosciuszko Express. While we were kicking back, looking around and just enjoying the amazing views, we had covered 2 km and gone up 560 m without even breaking a sweat.
The Mt Kosciuszko hike
Climbing Australia’s highest mountain is nothing like climbing the likes of Mt Everest, you don’t need a be a mountaineer to make it to the summit. The Mt Kosciuszko walk provides a clear walk way right up to the top. You don’t even need to be in peak physical condition; just take a good set of closed in shoes, plenty of water and the appropriate clothes for the season. Obviously the fitter you are the easier it will be.
The best thing about the 6.5 km hike is the way it’s broken up with four check points. There are three main ridge lines you will cross with a lookout at the first two, then Rawson Pass and onto the summit of Mt Kosciuszko. The metal walkway has plaques every 500 m telling you how far you have to go and while the first few were disheartening, the last ones are a great encouragement to keep pushing on.
The challenges of hiking Mount Kosciuszko
At the first ridge you will come to Kosciuszko Lookout, from here you will get your first glimpses of Mt Kosciuszko. This 1.9 km section is all up hill and it’s where I realised how unfit I am.
The next ridge you will come to is Cootapatamba Lookout, this overlooks Lake Cootapatamba. This section is also 1.9 kms and is approximately a 40/60 split downhill vs uphill. It was much more enjoyable.
From here its now an easy 750 m to Rawson Pass. It’s a great place to have a rest as there are toilets and lots of information to read on rocks.
The last challenge before victory was to hike 1.67 km as it climbs up 128 m from Rawson Pass to the summit. This is the hardest part of the whole Mt Kosciuszko hike but there are plenty of great places to rest on the way up.
On top of the world
After hiking for a little over 2 hours (including all our breaks), we were on top of the highest point in Australia, feeling on top of the world. We did it! What an incredible feeling.
The views were amazing and well worth the hike.
The walk back down was so much easier and as most was downhill, it took us around 1 1/2 hours to complete. We rewarded ourselves with a hot chocolate at Eagles Nest Restaurant at the top of the chairlift. This also gave us a moment to warm up. With time to spare, we decided to ride the chairlift a few times and just soak in the amazing views.
Camping the night
On the way up to Thredbo there are two main campgrounds, Thredbo Diggings and Ngarigo. We had planned to stay at Thredbo Diggings campground but when we entered the National Park there were signs stating that both were full. Hopeful that the camping situation had changed during our hike, as we drove back down the mountain we decided to check the campgrounds out. After all, we only needed a little space to roll out two swags.
Both of the NSW National Parks campgrounds are flat and grassy with the pristine Thredbo River running alongside them. They have long drop toilets, picnic tables, campfire bbq’s and they are free. Well camping is free but you have to buy a National Park pass for Koscioszko National park. It cost $17 but it’s more expensive in snow season so check NSW NPWS for more info.
We decided to stay at Ngarigo campground. We found a little slice of paradise, rolled out the swags and kicked back by the fire listening to the beautiful sounds of the river in the background. The stars were amazing between the ridges and as the sky was so dark and clear, we could even see the Milky Way.
Climb Mount Kosciuszko – you can do it
Climbing to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It’s definitely a bucket list item.
You don’t need to be an athlete to make it to the top, just make sure you are well prepared. There were plenty of children, elderly and pie eaters like myself on the track; so anyone can do it.
Kosciuszko National Park is an absolutely beautiful part of Australia and well worth exploring. We have only just scratched the surface, we will definitely be back for more.