The spectacular Mount Kosciuszko walk takes you to the top of Australia. The landmark walk can even be enjoyed by the kids.
Travellers love exploring the longest, biggest and widest of things. So, as Australia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko is a national treasure. There is something special about standing on its summit and realising no one else in Australia can look down on you.
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It is a beautiful landscape too. So often, you hear Australia defined by its white sandy beaches or the red of the outback.
But the alpine high country in summer is no less impressive. Imagine a vista of mountain peaks, granite ridgelines, streams and fields of wildflowers. On the walk to the summit you’ll see Australia’s highest lake – Lake Cootapatamba.
Mount Kosciuszko is also very accessible. For most of us, it’s easier to get to than Central Australia or the Kimberley. The best thing though, is how achievable getting to the summit is.
mt kosciuszko walk
Mt Kosciuszko tops out at 2228 metres. If you think you need to be a skilled mountaineer to reach the peak, think again. By the time you drive as far up the mountain as you’re allowed, you are at an elevation of around 1200m. You’re already halfway there but it gets better – there’s a chairlift.
The Kosciuszko Express Chairlift carries you to an elevation of around 1700 metres. For our kids, who occasionally have an aversion to walking, it was a dream come true. But there’s more to the chairlift than placating complaining children. It also provides great views of the mountains and valleys around Thredbo. The ride takes around 15 minutes so there is plenty of time to take some great pictures.
Once you get off the chairlift, without even breaking a sweat, you only have an ascent of around 500 metres to go. Needless to say, adjusting to the altitude isn’t an issue. Spread over a walk of about seven kilometres, the rest of the hike never gets all that challenging.
To put Mount Kosciuszko’s climber-friendly status in perspective, consider this. If you wanted to summit the highest peak on another continent, at best, you would be in for a climb over twice the height.
A working knowledge of ice axes, crampons and bottled oxygen would also be a pre-requisite. And, I dare say, there wouldn’t be a chairlift in sight. If you climb Mt Kosciusko in summer, a hat, drink bottle and precautionary long sleeve top will do the trick. Of course, always check the conditions before you go.
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My Little Sherpa
We were at Mount Kosciuszko in January. The cool alpine air was a refreshing change to the usual heat of summer. Base camp for our expedition was Kosciusko National Park. It’s a beautiful place with abundant wildlife and white trunked snow gums.
I expected to be making the climb on my own. Nat was keen to put her feet up and enjoy the views from the bottom lookout. True to her aversion to long walks, one of the kids had made their lack of interest clear. To my surprise, the other child was very keen. Concerned his enthusiasm might flag half way up, we spent several minutes testing his level of commitment.
Despite painting the worst scenario of fatigue that we could, he wasn’t deterred. The gentle, meandering path, glorious sunshine and an opportunity to be away from his sister for a couple of hours were all too tempting.
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The track is impossible to stray off as, in fine weather; it’s the human version of the Princes Highway. If it’s separation from humanity you’re after, this isn’t the trek for you. The path is a couple of meters wide and you walk on either a patterned metal grate or well-trodden earth.
The landscape is glorious. On the day of our climb it was set against a clear, deep blue sky. There were creeks and streams flushing their way down hillsides. Sapphire blue pools nestled in the laps of gentle slopes and billy buttons and silver snow daisies carpeting the hillsides. In every direction you could see for kilometre after kilometre and all the while ahead of you was the finishing point of the country’s tallest mountain.
Spotting the peak isn’t as easy you might think. Not far from the Kosciuszko summit is another mountain top that you would swear is taller. It is a couple of meters short of Mt Kosciuszko, but you need to look hard to believe it.
My walking companion loved the climb; his mood buoyed by older hikers amazed that he was walking that far. Little did they know that he would have run up there if I’d let him. The only thing that made our progress a little uncomfortable was a strong breeze. It at least made for cool walking conditions.
On top of Australia
The final metres of the path corkscrew around the mountain which has the effect of building the suspense as you near the top. When you round the last corner and finally have a 360 degree view from the summit it’s an exciting moment. No, you haven’t had to negotiate any icy crevasses. Even so, it’s easy to appreciate the significance of where you are standing.
We took photographs for other hikers and had the favour returned for us. We looked to the west and had someone point out the tallest peak in Victoria. I nodded some pretend interest. In my head though I thought who cares about Victoria’s tallest mountain? I’m on top of Australia!
Our eyes fed on the panoramic views and we inhaled all the fresh air our lungs could hold. I turned to my co-climber to share a reflection on the significance of our location. He looked at me and said that it was so windy snot was being blown out of his nose.
I hoped that that wouldn’t be his lasting memory of Mount Kosciuszko, but it was hard to ignore the strengthening wind. We turned and took in one last panoramic view then began our descent.
Winter peak (Alpine Way, Kosciuszko Rd and Link Road) From start of June long weekend to end of October long weekend: $29 per vehicle per day
Rest of the year (Alpine Way and Kosciuszko Road only) $17 per vehicle per day
Day passes, multi-day passes and annual passes available from NPWS visitor centres, local agents and operating vehicle entry stations. Click here for more information
All Parks Pass – For all parks in NSW (including Kosciuszko NP) $190 (1 year) / $335 (2 years)