5 out of 10 highest in Australia - in one day

On top of Australia!
Before sailing Sydney-Hobart this time, I had an extra day to spend in the country. This was due to unfortunate flight timings around Christmas. I was however happy to spend the time exploring Australia, and chose to hike in Koscuiszko Range.

Here lies the highest mountain of Australia. According to the original list, it was one of the Seven Summits. Today, it's not considered to be that, with Puncak Jaya being the tallest for the continent. But I was not in Indonesia this time, I was in Australia - so Mount Kosciuszko had to do.

Smoke-covered mountain ranges at sunrise
With its 2228 meters above sea level, it's not really much of a challenge for anyone who is reasonably fit and somewhat prepared. There are lifts running to 1937 meters, but of course taking the lift up is never part of my plan. There is also a route where you drive all the way up to 1800+ meters and then walk on the plateau, but this was also not challenging enough.

One of the great views along the hike
I teamed up with a friend who lives down under, arrived to Thredbo after driving from Canberra (dreadful since it was on wrong side of the way), and was ready to spend the whole Christmas Eve hiking.

The path winding upwards... with a bird soaring somewhere up in the sky.
We went off before sunrise, negotiated the steep but well-maintained path upwards as the sky was getting lighter, stopped for a while to watch the sun make its way over the mountain ridges, and continues in a very comfortable pace.

Sun rising just as we pass the tree level.
After reaching the lift station, the place where most would start their ascent, the path becomes much flatter. It is still extremely well-maintained and runs past a few lookouts, a glacier lake, and an area with explanations of how the indigenous people saw this place, and a few insights into their beliefs and world views. This was a place that was powerful.

Amazing views and ambiance.
We were at the summit by the time most people would start their working day. So many hours in front of us, it was a chance to do some more hiking. Andreas had a phone call saying merry Christmas to his family in Sweden, and soon we were good to go.

The very top of Australia.
I did a quick calculation of which of the top 10 peaks in Australia could be covered during these hours, still allowing us to get back on time. Andreas was satisfied with summitting #1 peak, and could provide me with a lookout while I was at the additional summit(s).

Apart from the Kosciuszko trail, which is very well-maintained, there is a narrow path to Mount Townsend, the #2 peak. The scrambling on the top of that peak is a bit challenging if you are not used to bouldering, so do not attempt if you have not practiced prior to this. Same goes for Rams head that's one of the peaks I did not attempt this time. The rest of the peaks can be reached without paths, by walking across the thick alpine vegetation, stony areas, rivers and brooks, and some snow. To save weight and luggage, I did not bring my hiking boots, and relied only on trail running shoes, so my feet took a bit of a beating by the terrain and thick vegetation while reaching the summits. Since my friend was waiting, I tried to be very fast, making way as quickly as I could, and the running shoes made that easier.

Eye-catching boulder formations near the summit of Mount Townsend
I decided to be content with covering half of the ten highest peaks. All of them were above 2106 meters, higher than Kebnekaise. The five peaks are called, in the order of summitting: Mount Kosciusko, Mount Townsend, Alice Rawson Peak, Abbott Peak, and the peak on Etheridge.

Given a bit of time and planning, I could consider summitting all 10 highest in one day, but that would require another trip to here as well as a bit more preparation. Until then, I'll be happy with five 2000+ m peaks on just one Christmas Eve.

All good for today!
The village of Thredbo was covered in smoke, coming from distant fires. Up in the mountains, when standing on a ridge, one side of the horizon would be visible with peaks stretching for a distance, however hazy. The other was bathing in smoke and hidden from sight. Peaks that were close appeared to be further away, because they were covered with haze typical for something you'd see at the horizon.

However, just a few days later, the areas near Kosciuszko Range were burning. Happy I had a chance to be there before, but very saddened by the horrible fires that engulf Australia at the moment. The effect on nature, animals and people is incredible and it's heartbreaking to see. What we can do about it depends on what you are prepared to do as an individual - donate, volunteer, or actively demand changes in climate politics. Just make sure you do something.

Screendump from emergency.vic.gov.au - showing the fires all around the mountain range, even starting at Dead Horse Gap just in Thredbo.