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!)

Snapshots from Wollongong – Mt Keira

Gum leaf on the track

M is for Mt Keira.

Mt Keira and Mt Kembla although not mighty alps, dominate the Illawarra Escarpment.  These landforms are of considerable significance to the local Dharawal people,  who refer to Mt Kembla as the men’s mountain and  Mt Keira as the women’s mountain.

Along with Mt Keira and Mt Kembla, there are also other suburbs called Mt Pleasant, Mt St Thomas, Marshall Mount and Mt Ousley.

Mt Keira

 

Mt Keira is a small residential suburb on the side of Mt Keira itself. This flat peak of mostly sandstone rises 434 M above sea level.  Only 460 families call Mt Keira home, but it is a very popular recreational venue for visitors and locals alike. There is a charming picnic ground at Byarong Park which is also one of the trailheads for the Mt Keira Ring Track. In addition to this walking track, there are few sidetracks and other mountain bike tracks which are well used.

There is both a Scout Camp and a Guides Camp, parts of which can be hired for private functions.

Mt Keira Ring Track

The Ring Track is around 5.5 km long and encircles the Mt  Keira Summit. The track has recently been renovated, and you can now walk all the way around. Before this, the section below the Mt Kiera Lookout was closed due to rock falls. The renovation has seen the installation of hundreds of steps and a few boardwalks.

There is a Summit Park, which has a cafe. The cafe opens Thursdays – Sundays and has a magnificent view over the entire Wollongong coastal plain.

I walked the Ring Track on the first weekend in October 2019.  It took me longer than I expected because I took wrong turns, twice. While it is well signposted there are a few anomalies with the directional markers which meant I missed the two crucial turns. The 5.5 km walk became 10.7 km!

I was pleased to come across a stand of waratahs which I otherwise would have missed so being lost was a serendipitous adventure.  Waratahs are NSW State emblem and are relatively rare. Their showy, glossy red flowers really stand out in the olive green Australian bushscape.

Mt Keira is definitely worth a visit. Take your walking shoes and a picnic basket.