For months now, I, together with Adrian and Kieren from Domayne, have been planning to climb the ten tallest peaks in Australia. These occur along the same arc transcribed about 10km from Thredbo village and encompass a walk of about 36km. It is possible to bag all ten summits in about 3 days and we were resolved to do just that.
Now, Adrian and Kieren are both devotees of a certain Bear Grylls and were treating the undertaking as an exercise in Bear Grylls style survivalist adventure. I, on the other hand, being a kayaker and similarly disposed toward adventure, was equally resolved to be totally prepared for anything.
Finally, we prepared our annual leave from work and took the trip down to the Snowy Mountains on Friday (15th January). After taking every precaution and packing my new Sea to Summit pack, I waited for the boys to pick me up. As I did so I discovered my pack weighed in at about 40kg! There was nothing I could leave behind so I just had to put up with it. Anyway, we got to Thredbo in about 7 hours and made our way to the ski lift to the top of the escarpment. Alarm bells were ringing already as my pack was frightfully heavy but I had to soldier on.
At the top of the chairlift, we hit the road and took our first bearing. Our initial plan was to leave the tourist track and hike to the Rams Head range where we would bag North and South Rams Head peaks. It was here that problem number 2 hit us. The terrain in Kosciuszko National Park is a lot more difficult than we thought. There are no trees but the ground is covered in tufts of tough and thick grass which grows amongst the liberally strewn glacial granite rocks and boulders. There are also large patches of heath and sedge and a spiky groundcover that lives over bogs. So the going is very tough, step by step, and extremely fatiguing. By the time we got to Rams Head, we were exhausted.
At Rams Head we dropped our packs and climbed a rocky crag we assumed was North Rams Head but on reaching the top discovered that it was only a smallish pile of granite boulders and that the real Rams Head loomed about half a kilometer to the west. We sure had a lot to learn.
It was getting late in the afternoon so we found a great little camp site amongst the granite and set up for the night but since we still had a few hours of light, we decided to bag Rams Head and get it out of the way. This was a pretty easy scramble up a grassy and very rocky incline only made difficult by our fatigue and generally poor physical condition. On top the view was incredible. Views over the Rams Head range showed an enormous landscape of crags and strewn granite boulders. This is a massive country and even though our mountains are hills compared to the rest of the world, this landscape is still formidable and of colossal scale. To the north lie Lake Cootapatamba, a small glacial lake nestled in the eastern valley of Mount Kosciuszko. This would be our destination tomorrow but tonight I would give the other lads a demonstration in comfortable camping.
The upside of a 40kg pack is the stuff inside. My Trangia and gas converter were instant hits as were my little bags of essentials like tea, coffee and sugar. Adrian and Kieren were traveling light but with firewood in the alpine zone non-existent, they were reduced to lighting a fire with dried horse dung and an old signpost. Our carried water also ran out but there is plentiful water in the little brooks that are everywhere. Giardia is a possible threat so to be sure we boiled all mountain water. I was envious of the boys light loads but I think they were just as envious of my more luxurious living. That luxury would run out tomorrow.