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Main Range Loop Track – Mt Kosciuszko

Due to unexpected changes in the itinerary for my Great Southern Road Trip I was able to walk the Main Range Loop Track to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko from Charlottes Pass. It was a fine sunny day with an expected maximum of 19oC and winds up to 25 kph.

While Australia’s highest peak comes in at a little more than a quarter of Everest it is still worth the investment of time to complete the 22 km circuit. For a start you can do it in a T-shirt and you don’t need oxygen! Oh and there are toilets near the top!

At the start.

Three ways to the roof of Australia

You can reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko three ways ranging from super easy to harder then hardest. The easiest option is to use the chairlift from Thredbo. Next you can walk straight up the 8.8 km of the Kosciuszko Walk from Charlottes Pass and return downhill by the same route or take the chairlift back to Thredbo. This of course will only work if you are able to use a shuttle service to drop you off at Charlottes Pass.

A harder but certainly do-able option even for Old Chooks like me, is the more circuitous Main Range Loop Track. This track also starts at Charlottes Pass and the return portion from the summit is via the Kosciuszko Walking Track. The NSW National Parks website has some good information. You can find the map on AllTrails and ViewRanger. (Search using Kosciuszko Main Range Track).

Higher altitude mean higher fitness required

You need a good level of fitness for the longer walks as both have sustained uphill sections (as you’d expect to get to a summit) but also because for those who are not used to walking at higher altitudes there may be some increased difficulty due to less oxygen.

The shorter Kosciuszko Track is also very popular with trail bikers although you can not take your bike right up to the summit. The tracks are snow bound in winter so you should consider doing the walk in late spring to early winter, (September – June) although if cross country skiing or snowshoeing is your thing, the tracks remain open. 

Main Range Loop Track

The track is very well made and maintained as it is a very popular route. In some sections it is paved with actual pavers you’d use in your own yard. In other areas there are large granite flagstones, a metal boardwalk and plastic webbing on steeper sections which holds the loose scree in place. It is wide enough to walk two abreast except on the metal boardwalk and one short narrow section above Lake Albina. 

Lake Albina

Being a circuit track you could go either clockwise or anticlockwise. I would recommend going anticlockwise (and so does the signage) because the first section of the track is a very steep section heading down to a stream. The thought of doing this as your last kilometre after already having walked 21 km is not very inviting! The downhill walk using the Kosciuszko Walking Track is much more palatable!

At the very start of the track you need to cross a small creek. It is very clear and deeper than it looks! While there are stepping stones I still ended up with a boot full of water! (Given how well made the rest of the track is it is surprising that there is not a board walk over the creek?)

In season there are lots of delicate little wildflowers in the alpine meadows and around the gurgling streams. The views are expansive and the outcrops of granite add interest to the treeless slopes. There are no small shrubs or trees at this altitude, only low ground covers. 

Fees, toilets and that sort of stuff. 

You need to pay to access the National Park unless you already have an All Parks Annual Pass. The fee varies throughout the year and is more expensive in winter during the ski season. 

People at the Summit

The recommended time to complete the track is 7 – 9 hours so you will need to take food and water for a whole day. There is a lodge and cafe at Charlottes Pass where you can get a simple meal and coffee. 

There are toilets at Charlottes Pass and more near the summit. As stated it is a very popular walk so there are lots of people on good weather days. Along with the lack of vegetation this makes it a bit difficult to take a quick squat with your waste bag on the way!

Always be mindful that mountain weather can change very rapidly and it can get cold even in summer, so take layers! (And another pair of socks for when you get your boot full of water 500 metres from the start of the track!)

Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip Part 2: A Sudden Change of Plans.

Ten days into my Great Southern Road Trip many a cliche is leaping into my head

  • The best laid schemes of mice and men
  • If anything can go wrong it will
  • If life gives you lemons make lemonade
  • Every cloud has a silver lining

There are no doubt many others that would fit my current (first world) predicament! After much procrastination and side stepping in the last months of 2020, I went ahead with my road trip to Coastal Victoria and Tasmania. All was going well. My tent-erecting  skills were improving and my detailed planning was reaping benefits.

Going to the races was not on the original plan but it was fun!

Everything was going smoothly.

And then….

And then the Premier of the State of Victoria declared an immediate snap five day lockdown due to increasing COVID numbers. EEEEEK what should I do?

I was very much enjoying the small town of Mallacoota which is just on the other side of the border, but I didn’t want to be stuck there for another 5 days! So I did what nearly everyone else in the caravan park did, I packed up in a hurry and hightailed it over the border before the midnight curfew.

Aslings Beach Eden, not on the original itinerary.

I cancelled all my upcoming accomodation in Victoria even those bookings beyond the proposed lifting of the lock down, because if there is nothing else we have learnt from the COVID pandemic, it’s that you need a Plan B, C and D! I didn’t want to risk getting into Tasmania.

I checked the Tasmanian border entry conditions and it seems that the best plan is to stay out of Victoria altogether. I am in a holding pattern, waiting to make a quick nonstop dash from the NSW border to the Port of Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania. 

Jincumbilly: A unintended treat!

Lemonade aplenty. 

I have been able to make plenty of “lemonade” by staying in Eden and doing another long walk in Ben Boyd National Park, catching  up with friends in Berridale, doing the Main Range Loop Track walk in Kosciuszko National Park, and revisiting Braidwood. I have another couple of days to fill in and will drift back to the coast before making my way westward to Wagga. From here I will be able to drive directly to Melbourne on a single tank of petrol without needing to stop. 

Would not have done this either!

Off the bucket list.

In the scheme of things my inconvenience has been trivial. It’s not like I had to cancel my wedding like many Victorians were forced to do. My payments have all been refunded. The most disappointing cancellation has been the walk to Wilson’s Promontory to stay at the lighthouse. This was on my 60 for 60 list and now I won’t have the opportunity to do it before my birthday. I might have to extend the deadline!

Light to Light Walk.

The Light to Light walk is a 30 km (one way) route that hugs the coast in Ben Boyd National Park. The Park is on the very far south coast of NSW and near the town of Eden. Being less than 100km to the Victorian border, Eden is a “bubble town”, that is in these times of COVID, special rules apply because people in the area do business with both states. I was back in Eden unexpectedly as my Great Southern Road Trip plans were disrupted because of a COVID lockdown in Victoria. This meant I needed to scurry very quickly back to NSW or risk not being able to get into Tasmania.

Remnants of burnt trees at the Tower end

Start either end.

The walk can be tackled from either end. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service recommend it as a multi-day walk and there are several campsites along the route. They also offer a shuttle service so you can park at one end and start from the other. You can see their website for information about this.

A few days ago I did a 16 km there and back walk from the Green Cape Lighthouse to Bittangabee (Bit-tan-ga-bee) Camp Ground and today because of the change in circumstances, namely Victoria being in a 5 day snap lock down,  I did the a 20 km there and back walk from Boyds Tower. I have therefore done the two ends but not the middle sections in a pincer movement of sorts!

The walk is rated as a Grade 4 because of its length. The track is well made, mostly loose sandy soil but also some harder rocky sections. 

Green Cape Lighthouse

From Green Cape to Bitangabee

It was a cloudy, cool start to the day which was perfect for a longish walk. The goal was to get to Bitangabee and back before lunch time. With frequent photo stops, the return walk took me around 3½ hours.

Open Heathland near the Green Cape lighthouse

There are frequent waymarkers and the track map is also available on AllTrails,  although I could not find it on ViewRanger. 

From this end the track runs through coastal heath land with lots of twittering birds. I saw flashes of a greenish parrots which disappeared into the ground cover and I presume these were the vulnerable eastern ground parrot. Aside from this I also saw a small marsupial perhaps a potteroo, a wallaby, some lyrebirds, black cockatoos, bugs of various sorts and plenty of wildflowers. 

The track was a fair distance from the ocean and although there were a few ups and downs it was more or less level.

Boyds Tower to (just past) Mowarry Beach. 

On this leg, which came as an unexpected treat due to enforced changes to my holiday plans, I decided to do ten kilometres (or 3 hours whichever came first) out and then return. I was not really sure where this would get me but I thought 20 km was enough for one day. It was a much hotter day and the sky was mostly clear. 

Boyd’s Tower

Boyds Tower, built in 1847,  is a rather elegant sandstone structure that was never actually a lighthouse. Although built with the intention of being a lighthouse,  permission was never granted  and it ended up being a whale spotting tower instead. I guess Light to Light sounds much more poetic than Light to Whale Spotter! 

The track  is still relatively flat and sandy  but this area was devasted by the January 2020 fires and the ecology of the bush land, greatly changed. Catherdrals of tea-tree are burnt out remnants, weeds have taken over and there is very little shade for the first five kilometres. However on the bright side, if there could ever be a bright side to these climate change induced fires, is that the reduced vegetation has opened up expansive views of the ocean and the rocky foreshore. 

Haven for Geology Lovers

And oh what a foreshore! Geology nerds get down there! There are massive, varied colored layers of sedimentary rocks with easy-to-see folding,faulting and tilting. The base layer (or rather the lowest layer you can see) is a rich rust red with a lighter grey-green layer over it. The red is more friable than the greenish layer and there are deep cut outs where the waves have eroded the material. 

As part of the walk you cross several rocky beaches and a striking beach aptly called Red Sands Beach has small smooth red pebbles rather than sand. Mowarry Beach on the other hand has soft, squeaky white sand. The water by contrast is clear and either deep sapphire blue or ultramarine in areas where it has a white sandy bottom.

Mowarry Beach

I saw and heard fewer birds in this section of the walk but did see three large goannas and lots of locusts and dragonflies. 

There was a small asymmetrical daisy-like flower which was a haven for bees and butterflies and it seemed to be benefitting from the lack of tree cover. 

As this section had been so fire affected many of the waymarkers were missing or badly burnt and I needed to refer to the AllTrails map a few times to confirm the direction as there were some other criss crossing paths. 

Fees, toilets and that sort of stuff

Unless you already have an Annual NSW National Parks and Wildlife Park Pass, you will need to pay the park use fee of about $9 per day. If you intend on camping there are also fees for this and bookings are essential.

On the northern walk there were toilets at the Tower but no others along the route. From the south end there were toilets at the Lighthouse and then again at the campground at Bittangabee. You might want to think about carrying waste bags with you. 

You can stay at the Lighthouse (like I did) which is lovely for prices ranging from $125 – $400 per night.

There is no fresh water available for day use or campers so make sure you carry plenty. The National Park website is a good source of information.

If I had known I was going to have some extra time in this area I would have planned to do the whole walk. 

The views are certainly worth the effort!