It’s no secret that I love mountains. I’ll go out of my way to look at one, walk around one, climb to the top, or just sit on a ledge and stare. I’m rarely happier than after an above-treeline hike that leaves me with sore feet, aching thighs, and a black line of dirt right where my hiking socks meet my legs. Given that, it was pretty clear that our Australian adventure would find us heading inland to the Australian Alps at some point. Happily, that put us on a direct line to Kosciuszko National Park, named for the highest mountain on the continent. I was considering peaking it – after all, I’ve not topped any of the Seven Summits, and this one is both the easiest to climb and the hardest to spell.
The drive inland was an easy jaunt through farms and ranges, climbing slowly to the lake town of Jindabyne. We stocked up with a couple nights’ food, then found our way to the Kosciusko Tourist Park, up the hill from town but below the big mountains. It’s a nice place; definitely the most campground-like of any of the caravan parks we’d seen. Sites are spaced relatively far apart, and kangaroos lounge around in the afternoons. It was about a third full, which was about how things have been on this trip. Post-summer but before school holidays is a good time to be here.
Naturally, I looked in the national park handout about climbing the peak. You can approach it from a few different sides, and one of them was at Charlotte Pass, up the road from where we were staying. We headed up to Charlotte the next day, blasting through our morning routine and packing up the campervan in record time to hit the road ahead of a planned closure for the Snowy Classic bike race. Charlotte Pass was pretty slammed with other folks who had the same idea – it’s a popular trailhead. Most people seemed to be headed to Kosciusko via the Summit Trail for a long 18km day hike. Not with a five year old, thanks! We debated heading to the Blue Lake Lookout, but that would have been a down-up-down-up slog. So, we (and Julie is to thank for this, consistently reminding me of what Fiona is capable of, and that hiking a five year old to her limits is no fun at all) went with a shorter hike to the top of Mt. Stilwell. It was fantastic. I was so proud of Fiona – she barely complained, and had a ball finding odd flowers, goggling at the enormous jumping crickets, and spinning tales about the magic crystal we we would find at the top.
In the back of my head I still had a Kosciusko summit plan. If we went to the Thredbo chairlift the next day, all of us could take the 1.5km trail to the Kosciusko lookout, and I could light out on my own and trail-run my way to the summit, adding an extra 9km and (I thought) maybe an hour and a half. Seemed doable.
We stopped in Thredbo the next day on our way out of the area, and it was a lovely place. Beards, beers, mountain bikes, ski shops… all surrounded by pretty shear peaks on either side. The weekend-long bike event meant that the place was a mob scene, so we had to park a bit out of town. By the time we got to the Thredbo lift, got tickets to the top, and started walking, it was well past noon. It was a wonderful walk. Slightly uphill, breezy in that lonely-mountaintop way, views for miles and miles behind us.
We stopped at the lookout and saw the mountain – a large rockpile at the apex of a long ridge, hardly differentiated from the similarly sized peaks around it. Crows flew around. We chatted with a couple from Queensland who were doing a similar route to us. And, as I sat there, the last remaining summit wish was washed right out of me. Doing that speed hike just didn’t seem all that fun. (I also found out you aren’t allowed to run on that path anyway.) Turn myself into jelly and delay the next leg of our trip so I could… what, exactly? Say I’d done it? Thousands of people summit this mountain every year. I didn’t need to be one of them.
Age. It lends a bit of perspective sometimes. Also, hiking with Fiona is a different kind of adventure; it’s really something to see things through her eyes. It’s a different view, if you will. Kinda like being at the top of a mountain. But a four-foot tall one who points out all kinds of amazing things I would otherwise power right past. We summited a mountain together as a family – not the one I was originally thinking of, but… I think I liked the view from this one better.