Monday, April 4, 2011
Kosciuszo & Muellers Peak & Townsend, NSW, Australia
2011 April: Climb Mt Kosciuszko, Muellers Peak, Mt Townsend from Dead Horse Gap - NSW, Australia
In 2014 April, I climbed Kosciuszko, Townsend & Twynam - the 3 highest peaks in Australia all in one day. Photos and write up of the climb are in:
- Mt Kosciuszko, 2228 meters, highest mountain in Australia
- Muellers Peak, 2125 meters, 14th highest peak in Australia
- Mt Townsend, 2209 meters, 2nd highest mountain in Australia
Ricky and I are on a mission to climb the highest peak of every State and Territories in Australia, called State-8 peaks. Scroll forward to the Appendix section for links to the trip reports on these 8 peaks.
By the way, I have compiled a list of all peaks in Australia above 2000 meters, called Paul Ma's A2K peaks. The list and the rankings of the peaks are in this website:
Here is a little known fact ... Mt Townsend was once thought to be the highest mountain in Australia. At the time, it was called Mt Kosciuszko; and Kosciuszko was called Townsend. Later on, when more accurate measurement was made, rather than trying to re-educate the public on the real highest mountain, the NSW Lands Department decided it was easier to simply swap the names instead!!! How interesting!!!
And because Mt Townsend is only a little lower than Mt Kosciuszko, there is a tradition that all hikers who climb Mt Townsend should bring a rock from the bottom and add it to the top, thus restoring it to its former glory as the highest mountain in Australia!!! ... more on this later.
- Start from Dead Horse Gap carpark about 4.5 km west of Thredbo.
- Walk on the Dead Horse Gap Track.
- Then on the Kosciuszko Walk to Kosciuszko summit.
- Come down from Kosciuszko summit, get onto the Main Range Track.
- When near Muellers Peak, get off the track to climb to its peak.
- From the top of Muellers Peak, head directly to Mt Townsend.
- From Mt Townsend peak, follow a trail to Muellers Pass where it joins the Main Range Track.
- Retrace steps (but bypass Kosciuszko summit) back to Dead Horse Gap carpark.
Hiking time and distance
Day trip: 9 hrs 45 min, 29.5 km
1:100,000 8525 Kosciuszko or the finer detailed 1:25,000 8525-2S Perisher Valley
You should be able to find some contour maps on the internet too. For example, from:
Although it is a sunny day with no clouds, it is quite cool, about 10 degrees Celsius. I only drink about 2 litres of water.
At 6:15am, Ricky and I start our hike from Dead Horse Gap carpark which is about 4.5 km west of Thredbo. The carpark is on the south side of the Alpine Way.
You know you've parked the car in the right place if you can see a locked trail heading southward with a sign saying "Cascade Trail". However, this is not the trail you want to walk on. Rather, you should cross the road, then you will see a sign saying "Australian Alps Walking Track". Follow it for about a minute and it will cross the Threbo River. Once you are over the river, there should be another sign pointing to Dead Horse Gap Track.
The Dead Horse Gap Track is a well defined and well trodden trail. You start off in a forest of snow gums. As you climb higher, you pass a distinct boundary where the snow gums disappear and only alpine grass are left to grow.
4.3 km later, we arrive at the junction of Kosciuszko Walk trail.
Almost the entire Kosciuszko Walk trail is a metal mesh walkway raised above the ground to allow creatures/grass to crawl/grow underneath it. It is fun to walk on it - you can feel the vibration of other hikers walking many many paces away ... well, I find it interesting.
The trail passes through the headwaters of Snowy River. There is no specific spot where the Snowy River rises. Many small creeks come together to form larger creeks, and the larger creeks join together to form the Snowy River. There are tiny native fish called Mountain Galaxias swimming in the creeks. They are supposed to be able to climb out of the water to sun themselves on the rocks. But we don't notice any on this trip.
The mesh walkway goes all the way to Rawson Pass. On its way there, you get a good view of Lake Cootapatamba, Australia's highest named lake.
Rawson Pass is a good place to take a rest. It has toilet facilities. In fact, Australia's highest dunny is here, opened in 2007, so it is quite new. This is also where the mesh walkway gives way to an unsealed road. Cars used to be able to drive from Charlotte Pass to Rawson Pass, then to the Kosciuszko Summit ... not any more. The entire road is now reserved for hikers only.
We are at the summit at 9:20am. There is no one there at the time, but I am sure someone would have been there earlier ... because it is quite popular to climb up here in the early mornings in the dark so as to watch the sunrise from the roof of Australia.
Well, Ricky and I have now climbed the highest peaks together in the 5 eastern States/Territories ... Qld's Bartle Frere last year, ACT's Bimberi this Jan, Tas' Ossa in Feb, Vic's Bogong in March, and now NSW's Kosciuszko. Current plan is the climb NT, SA and WA's highest mountains sometime next year.
Naturally one gets a fantastic 360 degree view from the summit. In particular, to the north, Muellers Peak and Mt Townsend now beckon us to climb them. Mt Townsend is a cragy peak more majestic than the gentle round dome of Kosciuszko. No wonder in the past Mt Townsend was thought to be higher than Kosciuszko.
After a mandatory photo session, it is down the summit for 1 km to meet up with the Main Range Track; and we are on our way to Muellers Peak.
The Main Range Track doesn't go through the summit of Muellers Peak. Instead, it skirts its eastern flank. At the point of closes approach, we get off the track and head directly towards the peak. You won't be disappointed when you get to the top. There is a marvellous view of beautiful Albina Lake in blue, reflecting the colour of a perfectly cloudless sky!
It would have been so nice if we can stay there for a long while to enjoy the scene ... but we still have Mt Townsend to climb which is 2 km away towards the north-west. So it is down the peak and make a direct beeline for it. On the way, we meet up with a narrow foot track and follow it all the way to the base of Mt Townsend. The final 40 meters is an ascent on an almost vertical cliff made of loose rock boulders ... sounds challenging to climb, but it turns out to be not too difficult ... and soon we find ourselves at the top of Australia's 2nd highest mountain!
The view from Mt Townsend is impressive ...
• There are the four peaks which make up the Abbott Range - Byatts Camp, Abbot Peak, Mt Townsend and Alice Rawson Peak. (I climbed them all in 2014 December. Photos and write up of that trip are in: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/lee-northcote-clarke-abbott-range.html
• There is the steep drop into the valley to the West.
• To the south is a broad vista across Wilkinsons Valley onto the north face of Mt Kosciuszko. We can see hikers as tiny ants at the Kosciuszko summit. We are tempted to shout to them to come over and join us at Mt Townsend.
The day is perfect ... blue sky, hardly any wind. We enjoy our lunch here at the top.
I forgot to bring a rock up here as an effort to make Mt Townsend higher than Kosciuszko. On leaving the summit, I absentmindedly leave an aluminium water bottle there ... obviously my subconscious is doing my bidding to leave something behind to make Mt Townsend higher!!!
Apart from Ricky almost stepping on a deadly venomous Eastern Brown Snake when we were near our car, the return trip is uneventful. From Mt Townsend, we follow a foot track all the way to Muellers pass which is the saddle point between Muellers Peak and Mt Kosciuszko. For reasons I don't understand, this foot track is not marked on any of the contour maps.
At Muellers Pass, the foot track joins the Main Range Track. Once on the Main Range Track, We simply retrace our steps to Rawson Pass, then through Kosciuszko Walk and through Dead Horse Gap Track back to the car.
06:15 Start walking from Dead Horse Gap carpark
07:35 4.3 km later, arrive at junction of Kosciuszko Walk trail
08:45 4.5 km later, arrive at Rawson Pass
----- 15 min rest
09:00 Leave Rawson Pass
09:20 1.7 km later, arrive at Kosciuszko Summit
----- 35 min rest
09:55 Leave Kosciuszko Summit
10:45 3.5 km later, arrive at Muellers Peak
----- 10 min rest
10:55 Leave Muellers Peak
11:35 2 km later, arrive at Mt Townsend
----- 35 min lunch
12:10 Leave Mt Townsend
12:50 2.5 km later, arrive at Muellers Pass
13:20 2.2 km later, arrive at Rawson Pass
14:10 4.5 km later, arrive at junction to Dead Horse Gap Track
15:30 4.3 km later, arrive at Dead Horse Gap carpark
----- Total: 9 hrs 15 min, 29.5 km
Pictures (To enlarge a photo, click on it.)
1.) Start of the Dead Horse Gap Track - It is mostly uphill and it will join up with the Kosciuszko Walk trail 4.3 km later near Thredbo Top Station.
2.) The very small blue building slightly to the left of the centre of this pic is Thredbo Top Station (looks blue here, but it is actually gray). In winter, skiers take a chairlift, get off here, then ski down the valley. Not sure what is the purpose of the fences across the centre patch of this pic. Perhaps to warn skiers of the steep downhill cliff dipping into the valley?
3.) Dead Horse Gap Track ends here. We will turn left onto the Kosciuszko Walk trail and head towards Mt Kosciuszko. Turn right is to Thedbo Top Station, the small blue building (looks blue here, but it is actually gray). Eagle Nest Restaurant is inside the Thredbo Top Station. Instead of the uphill hike on the Dead Horse Gap Track, we could have taken a chairlift to here too. Ah, but that is cheating, right?
4.) Mt Kosciuszko summit is the gentle rounded dome in the centre of this pic. The metal mesh walkway goes all the way to its foot hill (Rawson Pass). The walkway is not galvanized, hence its rusty appearance ... because alpine plants have a low tolerance to zinc used in the galvanizing process.
5.) On the way to the summit, we pass this beautifully blue lake called Lake Cootapatamba, the highest named lake in Australia.
6.) This is Rawson Pass, right at the foothill of Kosciuszko summit. The trail coming from the right edge is the Kosciuszko Walk tail ... that is where we came from. The structure in the middle of this pic is the highest toilet in Australia. Well, if climbing high mountains is not your cup of tea, perhaps you maybe interested in visiting the highest dunny in Australia!!!
7.) The small figure near the right edge is me taking photos. (Click on the pic to enlarge it.)
You can see 3 trails here:
- The trail from the left edge is from Charlotte Pass, and ends at Rawson Pass which is slightly on the right of the centre of this pic.
- The trail to the bottom left corner is the Main Range Track and goes to other peaks in the Snowy Mountains. We will be on this trail later on to Muellers Peak and Mt Townsend.
- I am standing on a trail which goes to the right edge. It will lead to Mt Kosciuszko summit. This is where we are going now.
8, 9.) The Kosciuszko summit is in front, not far to go now.
10.) Here it is, the Kosciuszko summit, 2228 meters, highest point in Australia!!! It took us 3 hrs to reach here from the start of Dead Horse Gap Track.
11.) I lugged a heavy tripod all the way here!!! Time to put it into good use!!!
12.) From Kosciuszko summit, we can see:
- Muellers Peak, the pyramid shape mountain in the centre of this pic.
- Mt Townsend, 2nd peak from the left edge (the highest peak in this pic)
And we are going there!!!
13.) We are now on the Main Range Track, on our way to Muellers Peak which is the pyramid shaped mountain just in front of us.
Mt Townsend is the high peak on its left.
14.) Looking back ... the large round dome on the right is Mt Kosciuszko. The small figure in this pic is me climbing up Muellers Peak.
15.) Ricky is heading towards Muellers Peak. Mt Townsend is on the left.
16.) I am at the top of Muellers Peak. It has a very nice view of the blue Albina Lake.
17.) We are looking at Mt Townsend from Muellers Peak. We are going there!!!
18.) Not far to go to Mt Townsend now.
19.) A precariously positioned large granite block near the summit of Mt Townsend. Ricky took this nice picture and many others in this blog.
20.) The small figure near the centre of this pic is me. (Click on the pic to enlarge it.) The final ascent to Mt Townsend summit is to climb up this near-vertical slope of loose boulders.
21, 22.) We made it to Mt Townsend summit, 2209 meters, 2nd highest mountain in Australia!!! It took us about 5.5 hrs to reach here from the start of Dead Horse Gap Track.
23.) View form Mt Townsend ... the large mountain in front is Mt Kosciuszko.
24.) Returning back to our car, Ricky almost steps on a snake.
25.) It is a Eastern Brown Snake, often referred to as Common Brown Snake, and is the second most venomous land snake in the world ... see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_brown_snake
Appendix: State-8 Peaks
I've now climbed 5 of the highest peaks in the 8 Australian States/Territories ... called State-8 peaks. Links to the other 4 mountains are:
- 2010 Oct, Qld - Mt Bartle Frere
- 2011 Jan, ACT - Bimberi Peak
- 2011 Feb, Tas - Mt Ossa
- 2011 Mar, Vic - Mt Bogong
Post script !!!
- 2012 July, climbed Mt Zeil in NT
- 2012 August, climbed Mt Meharry in WA
- 2013 May, climbed Mt Woodroffe in SA
This completes my mission of climbing the State-8 peaks !!!