Me: “Hey Greg, you free the first week of Jan?”
Me: “Sweet, wanna go hike for 5 days in Kosciuszko National Park?”
Greg: “Yeah sounds good”
And just like that, I had an epic start to 2018.
The point of the trip was to take it easy, slow down, enjoy camp life and relax over the holidays, so just 20km days were the goal. This was a big change for me, but something I needed to learn how to do.
The trip started on New Years Eve with a 5hr road trip listening to classics. As a result “Dancing in the moonlight” became the theme song, stuck in our heads for the next 5 days.
We caught the chairlift to Threadbo top Station and walked to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m), Australia’s highest peak to farewell the year. Along the way we passed a large snow patch, so I of course scooped up a snowball and nursed it in my frozen hands to the top. The novelty was worth it, being able to throw Australia’s highest snowball.
After all the photos we dropped down to Wilkinson’s Creek to camp for the night, joining a group of other friends. Walking to a natural lookout in the valley we sat and watched the sun set for the last time in 2017. It was magical. A special moment shared with those who made the effort to hike out there, and a chance to reflect on the great trips we’d had together through the year.
We did sparklers at 10:30pm (the kids fireworks) so early rising hikers could go to bed, then Greg and I stayed up (only just) till midnight entertained by chatter and wine. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
The next morning we eventually got up and sweated out the previous night’s poison, greeted by an immediate hill (aka a slap in the face). We made it up Carruthers Peak (2,145m) where I got my first March Fly bite (those bastards hurt) and we enjoyed the spectacular view. My hike poles also officially received their names, Sally and Ann. Aside from learning to relax the other goal for this trip was to make friends with my new gear.
My poor legs got sunburnt the day prior, and then even more roasted in the patches I’d missed the following day. We made what Greg called the “Catastrophic sun cream mistake” by not taking enough. He asked when we left the car “have you got sun cream?” Which I replied “Yes”, meaning he unpacked his. What I didn’t mention was it was a tiny half full 50ml bottle. It’s all in the details…
Walking through fields of wildflowers we summited Mount Tate (2,068m), stopping near the top for a break. It’s here I drifted into a sweet nap, finally relaxed enough to enjoy slowed down hiking. Then Greg woke me up, and made me climb to the windy cold top and got the classic sulky teenager flashback summit photo of me. This is why I don’t nap, I always wake up grumpy.
As we crossed Consett Stephen Pass we decided to stop and make camp next time we see water. Once we found a stream we refilled our bottles and half set up the tent before deciding we’d get smashed by the wind so packed up and kept moving till we found somewhere better. What we ended up with was a squashy spot slightly narrower than the tent between two rocks. It did the job, and despite the dodgy lumpy tent site, this ended up being my favourite spot because of the views.
Managing my sunburnt legs and lack of sun cream I swapped out for tights on days 3&4. It was hot, but worth the protection….hiking pants (and more sun cream) is now on my future pack list.
We dropped down the ridge into Guthega, pestered by hundreds of March flies and waist high shrubs closing in on each side of the track. My sun burnt legs were grateful for the protection of tights, though shrubs meant Sally & Ann were put away, meaning my poor knees coped the weight of a full pack downhill.
Just like we had 6 months earlier we followed the trail to Illawong hut, only this time we weren’t surrounded by snow. During Summer months the terrain is very different, there are stairs which I didn’t know existed, but the familiarity of the River remained the same.
After the hut we agreed to go the “Greg way”…meaning off trail and following the Snowy River until we reached Spencer Creek where we would set up camp.
3hrs later of rock hopping and pushing through waist high scrub we popped out at the perfect site by the Creek. As we later learned, water equals mosquitoes so retreated to the safety of the tent by 5pm. Come dinner time I bravely ventured outside the netting protected by my rain pants and down jacket while I furiously filtered and boiled water surrounded by swarms of buzzing, biting blood suckers. I’d like it recorded here that Greg officially owes me one.
Starting the morning on a high we summited Mount Stilwell (2,054m) then lazed in the sun for morning tea. My pack officially received her name, Betty, which I used for the rest of the trip, and will continue to do so. My pink kids dork hat is now the last item I’m yet to be friends with…(spoiler alert, we never really got there).
Following the pole line from Mt Stilwell we made it to the illusive “restaurant ruins” near Charlottes Pass that we never reached in our winter trip. Greg was thrilled being his 7th attempt to reach the location, though he still vows to return in winter to see it in its glory.
The rest of the day was easy walking along the pole line to reach the Snowy River near Seaman’s Hut. We again found an off track tent site tucked behind some rocks and lazed by the river for the afternoon.
By the river I retaped some new blisters, and discovered my awful new tan lines from socks and knee strapping. The sun burn had calmed enough to be back in shorts and I had just a day left to try and even things out. [Update: things didn’t even out…my colleagues think it’s hilarious]
For the last morning of the trip I gave up on trying to beat Greg being ready to leave first (which I never won), instead I slept in and enjoyed my coffee while we aired our sleeping bag and tent from condensation.
We bagged our summit early in the morning, scrambling up rocks to the top of Rams Head North (2,177m) and caught up on the outside world using reception we found at the top. Shortly after we continued to the close by Rams Head (1,993m) and spotted some brumbies off in the distance. Curiously we decided to head into the valley for a closer look, and amazingly we travelled close to a km until we were within 50m. While keeping an eye out, they weren’t at all phased despite having a foal with them, so we took some quite photos then continued our trek home, walking down the T-bar clearing into Thredbo Top Station.
Once we arrived at the car we were on a mission, rushing into Jindabyne for pies, and stopping at the dam for our first proper rinse in 5 days before the long drive back to Sydney. Greg: “Reckon we should warn everyone before we get in?” “Naahhhh”.
Officially my longest trip, I totally loved being outside for so long. It’s something I reckon I could get used to….
Photo Credit for most images in this post: Greg Pearce