It’s 4:45am on December 28th of 2016. The alarm just went off and the day that I have been dreaming about for months, if not years, has just started. My wife Anne-Cecile, my 2 children Estelle and Damien, and I are about to hike Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia and one of the famed seven summits (the highest mountain on each of the 7 continents).
After exploring Sydney for one week and trying to adjust to the new time zone (16 hours ahead of Boston), we left the city, drove 300 miles (470km) and arrived under the pouring rain in Jindabyne, NSW. It is a mountain resort town and a popular holiday destination due largely to its location as a gateway to the Snowy Mountains and Kosciuszko National Park. After checking in to our apartment and getting settled, we ate dinner and started preparing our backpacks for what I thought would be a relatively easy hike. After all, the loop that I had planned to do was only 13 miles (21km) with a total of 2,000 feet (611m) in elevation. We had checked the weather and it would be cloudy and windy but the temperature would be mild, around 65 degrees F (12C). Estelle then found out that there was still snow on the mountain. I was very surprised to hear that and became slightly anxious because although Anne-Cecile is very fit and athletic, she is more of a beach person than a mountain person, and hiking is not her number one choice of activities. However, it was very important to me that we all stood on top of Kosciuszko, so I tried my best to play it cool and dismissed this new information.
We left the apartment around 6am and drove the 30 miles to Charlotte Pass, the beginning of the hike. We started immediately as I was eager to beat the crowd at the top, also taking into consideration that we had to drive to Melbourne in the afternoon, a 7hr road trip. The mountain range was pretty barren and limited in greenery, but the view even at the trailhead was to die for. The Main Range Track started by going down 1 mile to the Snowy River that we had to go across via stepping-stones, then went up gradually for about 3 miles. We were all happy and cheerful and except for a flock of screeching crows, the mountain was silent. We arrived at the top of this uphill stretch, where we could see on our right Blue Lake, the largest glacial lake in mainland Australia. After a quick pause for water and photography, we kept going along the crest of the mountain range. However, the wind was now blowing really hard, and we were hiking directly against it. Then, after another mile, more difficulties came our way with our first patch of snow and ice covering the trail. It was a small (about 100 feet long) and easy to cross but soon thereafter appeared a much larger one. A misstep here wouldn’t be dangerous as it was on a flat surface, but I could sense that Anne-Cecile was not a happy camper. I held her hand (always a gentleman!) as we walked on the snow, making our way safely back on the trail. As we approached the intersection of Main Range Track and Summit Walk, which was only 1 mile from the summit, we hit the last section of snow but this time, it was too steep to go across. We had to go around by going uphill through rocks. We all managed it as seasoned scramblers (just kidding!), knowing that the summit was within our reach. At the intersection with the Summit Walk Trail, we turned right and found ourselves with dozens of other hikers who took a more direct and easier route via Summit Walk or even took a chairlift up Thredbo. Estelle and Damien went ahead of us as now the trail was circling around the last part of the mountain and with less than 500 feet to go. Finally, after hiking for 3 1/2hrs, Anne-Cecile and I joined our children and we all stood on top of Mount Kosciuszko. 2228m above sea level and the highest point in Australia!
We took a summit picture next to the rock despite the wind blowing so hard it was challenging to stand up. After a quick rest and snack, we started hiking down the mountain via the Summit Walk. As we walked down the mountain, we all still felt pretty good and for me relieved and proud that we all did it together. I thought it would be an easy hike but it was harder than I expected. Despite some challenges and my concerns that she would not be able to do it, Anne-Cecile was up to the task and I am extremely proud of her. Estelle and Damien are both outdoorsy and love this kind of challenge, despite (or because of) living in NYC and Boston. They enjoyed hiking Kosciuszko and I can’t wait to do more hikes with them. The final miles went by really quickly and we were back in our car in no time. All in all, it took us 5 ½ hrs to complete the hike and was a great experience. This summit picture of us standing on top of Australia was something that I have dreamt of for years and it will stay with me for the rest of my life.
1 down, 14 to go!