Snowy Mountains of Australia
There are many fantastic trails that weave in and out of the Snowies; the best walk by far is the 13-mile Summit Walk/Main Range loop. Starting at Charlotte's Passthe highest ski resort in the Snowy Mountainsthe path climbs slowly up a park maintenance service trail. The gradual incline up to Mount Kosciuszko is not exciting, but is a good warm-up for what's to come.
The entire hike is far above the treeline and, therefore, highly exposed. But despite the remoteness of the high alpine environment, there is life above 6,000 feet. After the snow melts in October or November, the mountains come alive with wildflowers. Vast slopes of snow daisies, alpine buttercups, billy buttons, and royal bluebells form a tapestry of rich color. Several species of wildlife also thrive here, including the elusive Mountain pygmy possum, bush rats, and the dusky antechinus (a mouse-like mammal). If you're lucky you can sometimes catch a glimpse of Peregrine falcons and Wedge-tailed eagles hovering overhead.
The top of Mount Kosciuszko is about one mile past Seaman's Hut on the Summit Walk (there are over 100 "huts" scattered throughout the national park, open to all in need of emergency shelter). While Mount Kosciuszko is not steep nor pinnacled, it is the highest point in Australia. Still, making it to the top is rewarding, if mostly for the amazing 360-degree view of the entire range of the Australian Alps.
Once you've climbed Kosciuszko, continue along the ridge on the Main Range track towards Mullers and Northcote Pass, then on to Carruthers Peak. From here you are in full view of the Snowy's three glacial lakesBlue Lake, Lake Albina, and Club Lakeas well as the last stretch of trail back to Charlotte's Pass.
The final descent brings you down into a valley where you cross the headwaters of the Snowy River, made famous by Australia's legendary poet "Banjo" Paterson in his epic ballad, "The Man from Snowy River." Today, the river is dammed under the Snowy Mountain Scheme to provide hydroelectricity and irrigation to Victoria and New South Wales, but still serves as a great rest stop before hiking the last mile uphill.
Although the entire track can be done in a day, it's worth taking some gear and spending a night or two in the backcountry. The views are spectacular, and the solitude and peacefulness are things not so easily found in the rapidly growing cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and elsewhere in the world.
The best months for walking in the high altitude areas are from November to April, and the alpine flowers can be seen at their best in January. Keep in mind that there's very little ozone layer to speak of over Australiait's wise to cover up and apply several layers of sunscreen before you begin. Camping is permitted virtually anywhere in the park, except in the catchment areas of the glacial lakes. For more information, contact the Snowy Region Visitor Centre in Jindabyne at: +61/2-6450-5600. Please note that wildfires in summer 2002-03 resulted in severe damage in both New South Wales and Victoria. Before visiting, please check with the New South Wales and Victoria park services for up-to-date information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication