The Aussie 10 Peaks
Taking a group of adventure-seekers to the highest points of Australia is all in a day's work for Mountain Designs Adventure Ambassadors Glenn and Alyssa Azar. The 'Aussie 10 Peaks' is a regular event on the calendar for Glenn's outdoor business Adventure Professionals, and the pair recently closed out 2019 with another trip to the top of Kosciuszko. Read on for Glenn's review and learn more about this cool adventure that happens to be right here in our own Australian backyard.
Awesome Adventure In Our Own Backyard
The Aussie 10 Peaks is a local adventure that you don't hear about too often but one that we run regularly. It's the ten highest peaks in the Kosciuszko National Park and all above 2,000m. Now I know what all the serious mountaineers are thinking - this isn't climbing, there are no real mountains in Australia and technically they are correct. However, The Aussie 10 Peaks is an adventure that people can underestimate at their peril. It's a great local adventure that really does challenge you.
The Peak List
Let's start with the what the ten highest peaks are in height order.
- Mount Kosciuszko - 2,228 metres
- Mount Townsend - 2,209m
- Mount Twynam - 2,195m
- Ramshead - 2,190m
- 'Unnamed Peak' on Etheridge Ridge - 2,180m
- Ramshead North - 2,177m
- Alice Rawson Peak - 2,160m
- 'Unnamed Peak' SW of Abbott Peak - 2,159m
- Abbott Peak - 2,145m
- Carruthers Peak - 2,145m
This adventure started for us back in the early to mid-2000's when the Kokoda Track was really starting to grow in popularity. Kokoda introduced many day-to-day people to the wonderful world of adventure that we all know and love. With that introduction came a desire to do even more and as people asked for new adventures, we took them on a lot of the standards - Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro and locally in Hobart, The Overland Track.
Kosciuszko as a day walk is fairly simple and well mapped out. It's in-and-out in one day and we got to thinking, there's so much beauty out here, why don't we go and explore it? So explore it we did. With a good friend at the time and former Army buddy who lived in the area, we set about looking for something that would challenge people more whilst also giving them amazing views, an amazing experience and yes, still ticking off Australia's highest point on the mainland - Mount Kosciuszko. The Aussie 10 Peaks was born. We now run this adventure numerous times a year and the one thing I personally love is you never know what you're going to get.
Glenn, pictured here with Alyssa on the trek, has been running The Aussie 10 Peaks challenge for over 15 years.
Hitting the ten summits requires over 50km of hiking spread over two days.
Setting Forth From Charlotte's Pass
I drove from Brisbane to Canberra in my trusty old Land Rover Discovery 110 (ex-Australian Army Model) to meet the team before we all headed inland for 2.5 hours to Jindabyne. We based ourselves at Lake Crackenback Resort for this adventure (hey it doesn't all have to be hard work right?!). I briefed the team about what to expect and checked their equipment. It was a beautiful, sunny day and some members of the team asked if they really needed to bring all their cold and wet weather gear (think GORE-TEX jackets, hard and soft shell jackets, thermals, gloves, beanies etc). I told them that we bring everything because you never know what the mountains will bring you and I have been caught out many times. One lady asked if I was sure because she didn't want to carry too much extra if she didn't need to and the weather on the Thursday we arrived was nothing short of sensational.
The next day we were up early and departed Lake Crackenback at 5am for a 45-minute drive to Charlotte's Pass, which is our Day One start point. As we arrived at the pass, the wind was blowing an absolute gale and the skies were overcast. We had every piece of clothing on and everyone was already happy with that decision.
Pro Tip: Bring gear for all conditions. No matter the season or predicted weather, you should always adventure with all contingencies covered. The outdoors is an unforgiving place to get caught short on your gear.
We started following the trail from Charlotte's Pass towards the Kosciuszko Summit although it was not our intention to hit Kosciuszko this day, we would save that for our last peak tomorrow. Today we would skirt around the right hand edge of Kosciuszko, then drop down the back of the Main Range track to hit four peaks across the back first. We pushed to Seaman's Hut, about 7km from Charlotte's Pass and the weather was windy but not too bad. We stopped to regroup there and chat about the history of this location.
Seaman's Hut is an alpine hut and memorial located in New South Wales, Australia. It was built following the death in 1928 of two skiers, W. Laurie Seaman and Evan Hayes. Seaman's family built the hut to provide shelter to future users of the park, in order to prevent recurrence of a similar tragedy. Seaman's Hut is constructed from rock and has two rooms and a foyer for firewood storage. The floor is plank flooring. It was at this point that the weather decided to put on display the exact reason we carry all of our gear with us. It started to rain and the wind became nothing less than gale-force, which had the rain hitting us hard on an almost-vertical plane. Now we were having a true adventure.
The weather started to look ominous as we approached Seaman's Hut.
Our First Summit
We pushed on passed the right-hand ridge of Kosciuszko and off the Main Range track to commence dropping down to a small river line. We then pushed up to our first peak, which is often named Byatt's Camp or 'unnamed peak' SW of Abbott Peak. We stood triumphantly on our first peak 4.5 hours after we set out.
The next three peaks are on the same ridge line and quite close together so we quickly managed to stand on the top of Abbott Peak, Mount Townsend and Alice Rawson Peak. An interesting side note - when Polish explorer Pawel Edmund Strzelecki first surveyed this region, he named Mount Townsend as the highest mountain and called it Mount Kosciuszko in honour of Polish-Lithuanian freedom fighter General Tadeusz Kosciuszko. What we now know as Mount Kosciuszko was later named Mount Townsend. In the 1940's the names were reversed to be what they are today, with Kosciuszko being the highest and Townsend being the second highest.
The group worked hard up through the snow and was duly rewarded with their first summit.
Taking in the 'unnamed peak' SW of Abbott Peak, before ticking off Abbott Peak, Mount Townsend and Alice Rawson Peak.
Taking A Rain Check On Carruthers
Once our team reached Alice Rawson Peak we made our way down into a steep valley, which meant an equally steep climb up the other side bringing us back onto the Main Range track. The wind up here was so strong that it was blowing us off the track. I would estimate 100-120km/h. It was truly unbelievable! We made our way to our fifth peak for the day - Carruthers Peak - where the weather really turned nasty. Wind, rain and now lightning! It was around 3pm by this stage and we were a few kilometres from our finish point at Charlotte's Pass, so I made the decision to forego the intended sixth peak for this day, Mt Twynam, and head for home which was still a couple of hours away.
Pro-Tip: Have a plan. Whether you're in the mountains or on any adventure, this is vital. But never be pig-headed about it. If the safest decision for yourself or anyone trekking with you is to head for home and not complete the intended objective, then always be willing and flexible enough to make the smart call. The mountains will always be there.
We made our way back to Charlotte's Pass which included a barefoot crossing of the Snowy River - very invigorating to say the least. Then back to the bus for the drive back to Lake Crackenback. We completed five peaks and approximately 29km of off-track trekking. It was a good day and the team returned home in need of a well-earned rest, which was aided by some wood-fired pizzas and few celebratory drinks.
Crossing the famous Snowy River was an icy experience to say the least.
Day Two Begins...And Ends
We started day two with a warm breakfast at the resort before heading to Thredbo at 8am. The weather was worse than the day before. Now it was snowing, sleeting and raining, but still we decided to push on and see what we found out in the mountains. We took a chairlift from Thredbo to Eagle's Nest and commenced our trek towards our intended four peaks for the day: Ramshead, Ramshead North, Etheridge Ridge and the big one, Mount Kosciuszko. This is a 22km day and normally takes a good six hours.
Day two started from Thredbo but Mother Nature would soon show her true force.
As we got out on the Main Range track, the weather really turned it on. It progressively got worse and worse, with gale-force winds, heavy snow/sleet and visibility at about 200m. We pushed on for over an hour, making very slow progress. Our team made up of 22-year-olds through to 74-year-olds were stoic and determined. We put our heads down, pulled our GORE-TEX ON even tighter and ploughed on. Eventually the visibility was less than 100m. As experienced adventure leaders, my daughter Alyssa and I had a quick chat and we made the decision that just had to be made - we turned the team for home. Our Aussie 10 Peaks adventure was over.
Gale-force winds, heavy snow and poor visibility greeted us on the Main Range track.
Ok, things are getting a bit nasty now.
Still all smiles despite the weather - perhaps it's his Mountain Designs Pro Elite Lite Speed GORE-TEX Shell Jacket.
We made our way back to Thredbo and headed for home. While many people were no doubt disappointed in the fact we only hit 5 peaks out of our intended 10, they also understood that this was the safest and best decision we could make. Personally, I find pleasure or perhaps accomplishment is a better word, in pitting myself against mother nature knowing that I can never win that contest but instead get to ask myself: am I able to handle what she throws at me? There's a perverse kind of pleasure in this. As one of billions of animals on this planet we have the choice to adapt to the environment and conditions thrown at us or not, much like life.
There's something empowering about going through what we went through on this adventure, and perhaps something even more beneficial than if we'd hit all 10 peaks in perfect conditions. This trip we all had to dig into our depths of resilience and perseverance. This is exactly what adventure is about for us. It's why we use the hashtag #notdeadyet because we want to live our lives to the fullest. We want to live the depth of our lives, not just the length of it. This is adventure.
This is why we adventure.