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!)

Musings on Tourism in Edinburgh.

The interminable bagpipe playing continues unabated as you move from one corner to the other. Some pipers clearly know only one piece. If you stand in the same place long enough you hear them play it again and again. 

National Portrait Gallery

My last stop in Scotland is Edinburgh. I am glad I didn’t come here first,  it would have swayed my opinion of this wonderful place.

The sun is shining down on the people sitting outside one of the authentic Scottish pubs. Authentic, except everyone there is not from Edinburgh. Not even the staff.

Waverly Station

Some of my melancholy may stem from the fact that I fly home tomorrow and my big adventure ends. I think some stems from the fact that this city is in danger of losing itself. Losing itself up the arse of overtourism. I wrote about this in a previous post and here I find myself conflicted again.

St Giles Kirk

National art gallery

I am a tourist.

I am in Edinburgh.

I’m part of the problem. 

There is absolutely no doubt that this is a place to visit. 

The architecture? Sublime! 

The history? Incredibly long and intriguing.

The winding streets and narrow closes (laneways)  a photographer’s delight.

But the people? So many people. Jostling and bustling.

Selfie after selfie. In front of the castle. In front of the Kirk. In front of the shops with the fake wisteria.

Street performance getting ready

Plenty of stairs!

We’ll all have the same photos. I retreated to the Galleries and the breathtakingly magnificent Scottish Museum.

I wish I could have been here 30 years ago. (But with the same digital technology I have now!!) Then,  it would have been truly spectacular!

What do we do? What do we do? There is obviously too much money sloshing around in the collective travel bucket of the world, including my own.  I feel badly for the people who do call this place home. They have lost their city. AirBnB has taken up most the properties nearest the city and people can not find places to live. Their pubs are crowded, their streets noisy. I apologize for the contribution I made.

Next big adventure? Definitely most definitely, has to be in Australia. 

A day on Rousay, Orkney Islands

It was a case of a proverb being lived out in real life. As I stood with the bright hot sun shining on my face, I watched the hay baler wrapping up the cut silage like a spider wraps up a fly. Even from this distance you could hear the black plastic peeling off its spool. 

The liquorice log plopped onto the field and the tractor moved on. In the neighbouring paddock, the slasher was busily mowing down the long stalks of green and leaving them in neat trails behind. A mass of seabirds wheeling above catching any insects that were trying to escape the blades of the tractor. A case of out the blade and into the gulls mouth. 

I had seen this process back in Australia and in Canada and the US. The only differences here were that the bundles left behind were black rather than pink or green and the birds trailing behind were a different species. I surmised the black was to allow greater absorption of heat and hence faster fermentation of the silage.

Same same but different. 

Walking on a little, we moved out of the way of the tractor carrying four bales to the ever growing pile that was up against an enormous stone farm shed. The shed was an impressive structure with a curved roof. Rich farmers I thought to myself.

I was surprised when our guide took us into the shed and we discovered it was filled with another stone building. A much older one. The outer more modern building was there to protect the crumbling ruins from the elements.

The Midhowe Chambered Tomb is surrounded by gantries so you can look down into it rather than walk through it. These types of ruins are in as much peril from scrambling humans as they are from the fierce weather. The interpretive sign gives you context and the deduced purpose of the building. A burial chamber with individual stalls and shelving for the bodies. Twenty five skeletons were removed and taken to XYZ Museum. (Research needed! 😃) Your mind can make a good picture of what it may have been like 5,000 odd years ago.

A few more metres along the shore line is a broch – a circular dwelling with rooms, dividers and built in cupboards! The ancient story continues with a Norse dwelling and a very ruined medieval church.  

“They say if you kick the ground in Orkney, it bleeds archeology”  our walking guide tells us as we look over the trail of ruins behind us.

Ahead, are much more modern buildings, the actual farm sheds and the tents of an active archaeological dig at Swandro . The lead archeologist greeted us at a big sign board which showed an aerial view of the dig. She explained to us in detail, what they were doing and what they had found, before taking us to view the shovel wielding, brush dusting students and volunteers who were doing the actual digging. They too were basking in the lovely sunshine and light breeze. This dig is a race against time because it is right on the beach and is being rapidly eroded. The site is of particular significance because of the metallurgical evidence they have found which shows the Smithy was using zinc. This was well ahead of the expected time frame for zinc use in these parts. Her talk ended with a plea for much needed donations to continue their work.

In the afternoon we walked across a patch of typical Scottish moorland with the heather just beginning to bloom. The boggy ground caused a few slips and falls. The descent brought us back to the ferry wharf, a tea house, Orkney Icecream and a much needed toilet! 

Perhaps because the walk had not been so physically challenging, I decided to push myself by ordering Haggis and Claptrap for dinner at the Ayre Hotel. Claptrap is a mash made from potato and turnip. Haggis, well you know what haggis is. I have a violent aversion to offal but decided to step up to the plate and be a brave old chook! I’m afraid it was a challenge too far. After 3 – 4 mouthfuls the offally flavour became overwhelming and I could go no further. I should be content in the knowledge that at least I gave it a go and it was a one in a lifetime occurrence. 

The Claptrap on the other hand? Quite good!