Kosciuszko National Park, North to South, February 2004

Kosciuszko National Park, North to South, February 2004 - diary

Day 1.

Hut @waypoint DAY1HT

Started well... Gavin in time to the second, Eric ready on time... weather great, forecast good, off we went, Wendy filling everybody in on the chequered family history as we drove.

I was so busy chatting as we passed through Tumut that I forgot to turn off to Lacmalac, and headed off on the Snowy Mountains Highway. It wasn't till we got to the telephone spot, the layby almost at Blowering lake, that I realised what we were doing and turned back - twenty minutes lost, but I suppose that's no big deal, really.

Godfrey waiting in the road as we got to Mack's Crossing. Hello and introductions, a quick photo and that was it, on our way.

The big hill not much of a difficulty, and half way up we met a couple of the local farmers, Dave Smith, was it? Grizzled old chap, but possibly not much older than me when you think of it... anyway, they stopped their ute and had a yarn through the window, and told us that instead of staying at the river we should use the hut just a couple of k's, maybe miles, further along the track. I thought it was very doubtful, but who knows?

The walk was great, rolling countryside, lovely river-side pastures, masses of birdlife, parrots and wattle-birds mostly. Sun shining but not too hot, Gentle breeze... fabulous.

Stupid socks giving me a bit of gyp, at just one spot under the left heel. Tommorrow I'll wear that thin pair of wicking socks under the other pair, and see how that works.

Anyway, we stopped for a rest under the most fantastic apple tree... there were several trees there, but this one was huge, and laden with big and beautiful apples, lots and lots of them.

Eric was slower, worried about his foot, which was hurting in the same way mine was.

We stopped for lunch for a very long sleepy time, and then got to the river very early, at about 2pm.

After a while, about an hour, dozing in the shade of a huge tree, we decided to move on to the hut - several four-wheel-drives came barging through the river - there was a ford to replace the bridge, which was broken in several places, and they waved, but that was all.

So up we got and toddled along - the valley was beautiful, lovely broad pastures bathed in sun and flanked by trees, cattle ambling through long grass, all that sort of stuff. We arrived very shortly at the hut. (I'm writing this at 4 Mile hut, four days later, and trying hard to catch up). We all liked the hut - two big rooms, four beds with mattresses, table, chairs (all broken, but usable), a big verandah partly enclosed with another two bed-frames. Two horses in the home paddock, one very old with hardly any teeth.

I chose to sleep on the verandah with the best mattress, Godfrey inside on another, and Eric and Gareth pitched the tent and slept there.

Explored the Peak river, very small by then, drank some wine which Eric had brought, cooked, talked and had a great time, really, then early to bed, around nine, an hour after sunset.

Great night, very late getaway, with coffee percolated! and a good breakfast. Got away around ten am, and walked further on past the last of the leases (3?) and into forest country. Road winding higher and higher, filled up with water at a tributary which we thought was the Peak, but which wasn't.

Eric slow downhill because his feet were not doing well... his boots allowed too much slippage, and downhill forced his toes into the tip of his boot. We found the turn-off to Atkinsons fire trail without difficulty, but I was immediately filled with foreboding - the trail was locked and heavily overgrown right from the the start. This proved to be the truth... sadly.

The map was pretty accurate - the right streams in the right place, etc, but the going was really rough, brambles and the usual scratchy things clawing out for unguarded parts. The way was fairly steep, too, and we were hot and tired . When we got to the end of the trail, which we followed fairly easily, there was just nothing. Expert map-reading to the fore, with every detail explored, but to no avail. I took a GPS reading, and we were in the right place, but there was simply no north-south trail there, which should have taken us to the peppercorn fire-trail and so to long plain.

So Eric and Gareth beat around the bush for more than half an hour before I insisted that we accept defeat and reatreat back to the Goobarragandra Powerline trail, and thence to Yarrangobilly.

We had no map for that section, and it took till 5.30 to arrive back at the trail. Nevertheless we walked on, mostly uphill, until 6.30, where we stopped at a powerline maintenance track to camp the night. Not too bad a spot, though everybody else seemed very unhappy about the chance of falling limbs from trees, and tried to find places away from trees... of course, the week before a girl camper outside Sydney had been killed by a falling branch.

Great dinner again eaten in double-quick time, though we didn't know when we would next find water and had to be very sparing. We did okay, though, and into bed, driven there by mosquitos and other flies - they were the worst I can ever remember in the mountains.

I camped on the opposite side of the road on a nice flat spot, but under trees, and used only my bivvy bag - there didn't seem much chance of rain. Into my bag double-quick, but it was so hot I was sweating immediately, so got out of my sleeping-bag and lay only in the bivvy. Still really hot and sweating. Had to zip up the bivvy to keep the mossies out, more sweat. I was hoping they would go away as it grew darker, but they didn't.

Went on like that all night, holding just a small gap open around my mouth, afraid of CO2 poisoning.

Half way through the night a funny barking, purring noise nearby, and I got my torch out for a look around - at first nothing, but noticed two golden eyes reflecting the light, with a shadowy shape clinging to the side of the tree... sugar glider? possum? Something like that. Sounds of very small branches falling throughout the night, but nothing bigger.

Tuesday morning

Beautiful day again. Packed up and on the road, not knowing how far to go, nor where the track comes out, except that it will be very near Yarangobilly river on the Snowy Mountains Highway.

Very low on water, considering that we don't know when we can get more, so go on cautiously. But it is a great day with cooling breeze, the country is great, the company is fantastic. Godfrey and I walk together for lots of the time, discussing religion, education, philosophy etc, then we all meet again and couples change.

Eric's feet not good at all, but he struggles slowly on, perhaps 3km per hour, while the rest of us manage around 5, so we stop and wait. It would be kinder to slow down and walk with him, but he doesn't want us to, and it seems patronising, so we go on most of the time and wait for him at various spots - hard to remember to give him long enough to rest, though. Mind you, he does make it clear when he wants to rest and for how long.

At around noon we come across the first signs of water, and around 12.30 we find a small stream. Very snakey. We have seen heaps of tiger snakes, and several smaller 30cm snakes, all of whom simply lie doggo on the trail. We have a long lunch with lots of water, then press on.

Eventually we arrive at the end of the track, the spot where, long ago, I came across that blue tongue. So it's another 2 km on the road to Yarrangobilly.

At Yarrangobillly we meet a scotsman who has been cycling around the world for many years... I think he said since 1998. Carries everything in panniers front and back, everything patched and masking-taped, but all functional.

We look at Eric's feet, and eventually decide to walk on the road for the ten ks to Rules Point. Rain is threatening. The walk is okay from my point of view, but we have come a long way already, and everyone is pretty tired, particularly Godfrey. However, everyone plods on determinedly.

AS we walk it is dawning on me that the best camping place is another two ks after Rules point - the spot on the Murrumbidgee where Wendy and I first camped all those years ago. Particularly if the wind is up, we'd need shelter of some sort.

I say nothing until we are at the top of the hill just past the first the first turn-in to Yarrangobilly caves, from where you can see Rules Point a couple of ks ahead, though it always looks shorter. I broach the subject to them all one-by-one as they come up to me, and they all agree.

When we get back up Long Plain to the turn-off to the camping spot, I point out to Gareth that Long Plain Hut is only two ks away. He thinks we should press on to there. Godfrey rolls up, and I suggest the same thing, and tiredly he says let's press on. So we wait for Eric, and reluctantly he agrees too. So off we plod, me staying behind with Eric. It's not that far, and within half an hour we are in the dry. It had, actually, dried up and was hardly spitting by then. Found a mattress, four inches thick foam, and I made sure Eric got it. I got a piece of carpet, Gareth a smaller bit, and Godfrey one of those cheap, thin earth-mats. So we had a great night on a not-too-hard floor.

Next day 12 ks to Marika on Wallaces Fire trail. Beautiful day again with the same cooling breeze. Ten ks on the road, hard on the feet, though I don't mind it myself. Got to Bullock Hill Horse Camp by noon, talked to young tubby horsewoman who was preparing to ride solo to Tantangarra to meet friends. I asked about the danger of going solo... Got a radio, she said.

Great lunchtime with Gareth and Eric rehearsing Eric for his play... funny to listen to in an American accent.

On then along peppercorn fire trail, then Wallaces after two ks.

Eric very slow now, and the grass much longer than when I was there in January - seemed VERY snakey, so everyone put on gaiters. Got to Marika around 3 pm, but Eric wanted to push on to reduce the distance for the last day. We eventually camped by the road 7ks from 3 mile dam, a great lovely spot, vey comforatable although the grounds looked very tufty.

Went to bed at sundown, and the dew started immediately... I was amazed, it was almost like rain, at least the quantity was. Dripping into my bivvy through the opening. Thank heavens no flies, so I could open the head of the bag up.

In the morning it was really cold, not much above freezing. I got up early and went off into the woods for a strip wash - just a cup of water, for there was none on the track. Everyone up early, but we waited for our gear to dry and didn't move off till 9.30 or so. This suited me, because I thought that Geoff and Andrew would be walking in to meet us on the track, and I didn't want to miss them, or take a different route nearer the lake.

Again, brilliant day with the same cool breeze - how lucky we've been with the weather.

At 11am along come Geoff and Andrew, much to Godfrey's surprise, and we swing along together very happily. By noon we are at three mile with beers in our hands, and shortly I am sorting gear from my supply bag.

Eric tries his CDMA phone and it gets a full signal, so I speak first to Kirsty ( Wendy's business manager) and then to Wendy (my wife), who is pleased.

Eric shows us his feet, and the whole of the ball of the foot is one big blister, torn at the back, at least on one foot.

At about 2 pm we get away, Andrew and I, with hugs to Godfrey and the others.

We head over Mt Selwyn and on to 4 mile hut, for another great night, night five.

Ring the Frenchies for a laugh, and Sharon for an entry in the green thing (the institute newsletter).

Leave 4mile 9.30. Beautiful morning again after another clear & dewy night. V. fit, small splinter in R little finger.

A long day, 22km to the McKeahnies river. Andrew v. tired, walking very slowly. Great rolling country after Dr Phillips hut.

Got in @ 6pm, dinner, wash & bed by 8.30.,

Tomorow 6 km to Mackeys, 16 to O’keefe’s, 18 to Tumut River

Sat 19 th.

Cold early, fairly clear sky. Up @ 6.45

Sun slow to emerge through scattered thin cloud. Andrew slow getting ready - too much gear!

Finally ready @ 8.45

11.15 @ Mackeys. Great hut. Cuppa & dried tents (to find bog paper!).

1.00 @ Doubtful river- great trout stream! I washed Tshirt & shorts, Andrew had a go @ fly fishing- he knows v. little about it. I showed him roll-casting & a few other tricks.

Lunch & hopefully away by 2.15, but more probably by 2.30.

Yes, it was 2.30.

Great afternoon for me, swinging along, but Andrew trailing badly a km behind @ each stop.

Phone signal on the slopes of Jagungal, rang home.

Beautiful evening. Decided on Dershko‘s anyway. Big storms away to the south, huge clouds & lightning. Red sky @ night.

Sunday 20th. Dershko's Hut

Woke to rain. Not too bad at first, but increasing. Pooh!

Undecided what to do. First we're off in the rain, then we're staying put till it ends, then we're staying til 9am to see what happens. Currently, (8am) we're staying til 9 then going on to Grey Mare (8 km) either for lunch or for the night, depending on conditions. Fine. Writing up earlier parts of the diary, kneeling on my gloves with the keyboard on the bench!

Well, I managed to balance the top of the woodbox on my knees, and typed for an hour like that, getting up to date with the diary.

By then the weather had lifted, and though there were still a few sprinkles, we set off. I had a few doubts about how good my jacket was, but the weather gradually improved, and by the time we got to Grey Mare Hut, it was pretty clear, and the jacket had withstood a fair shower without leaking. The breathability seemed not too bad, though it felt as though it was wringing wet inside, especially the arms.

I was against going up the hill to Grey Mare hut, but Andrew really wanted to, so up we went, and had an hour for lunch. As we set out again, the clouds over Valentines seemed very ominous, so we have returned to the hut for an hour or so to see how it goes. I rather suspect that it won't get much better or much worse... it's simply very grey at the moment, no rain, or not more than the occasional spots or two.

I think we are nearly two days ahead of schedule, and if we get to Schlink today we stand a good chance of getting in to Thredbo on Tuesday. I'd personally rather get there on Wednesday, but I wouldn't hang around in camp just for that. If we do get in on Tuesday we'll simply have a totally free day there - and two nights in a nice bed with a shower.

The way I feel now, I would be perfectly happy if only the weather would improve - and this is only one half-bad day.

6.15 - a bad morning it might have been, but the afternoon has been a stinker. We finally set off at 1.45, after two false starts, each time the clouds over Valentines growing darker and running down into the valley. Eventually we decided that we WOULD go, and not turn back even if it turned nasty. The first 3/4 of an hour were fine, with four boots-off river crossings. Then came the first big hill and it started raining just a little way up it. It didn't take too long, maybe twenty minutes (my hill-climbing ability has improved out-of-sight since the Bongong trip in November... I suspect I'm as fit now as I have ever been in my life (or will be again, perhaps).), but by then it was pissing down and blowing hard.

Anyway, we stuck it out. The road went down to the Geehi, where I had intended to camp tomoorow night, Monday, in the original schedule, It would have been okay if the weather had been fine. Another boot-off crossing, but a lovely river to fish (some other time).

Then up the other side, which I had thought was going to be terrible, but which was actually relatively easy, not much more than five minutes, I think. From there we were on a plain rather like Dartmoor, more or less treeless in the main... I suppose we are near the tree line. Andrew thought we were near the Valentine hut remains (the web site had said it had burned down), but he had mistaken the river... it was very small, while the Valentine is another very big river, perhaps bigger than the Geehi at this stage.

The rain was on and off at this stage, and though we were wet it wasn't too bad. We trudged on for less than half an hour, and lo and behold, there was Valentine hut, red-sided and apparently intact. The river crossing was relatively easy, with a nice causeway someone had built across most of it.

Then up the hill to see if the hut was real, and if so, if it was intact. Fortunately it was, and is.

Valentine's hut is pretty good.You come in through the front door and the first thing you see is a Fatso pot-belly from Masport... just like old time, although we didn't have a Fatso.

Beyond that is a main room with a great old table with pegged joints, several chairs with padding intact, several benches. Seat eight, I suppose. Then there are two bunk rooms with three bunks in each, though the bottom bunk in each is a double. No mattresses, of course, so we have to make do with our earth mat type mattress, better than nothing but a bit hard. They are great on earth, but the hardness and flatness of the bunks in all the huts makes them pretty rough to sleep on. However, better to be in here out of the rain than out in a tiny tent!

After we had arrived the rain increased in force until it was absolutely belting down. Handy for collecting water in billys, but otherwise not too good. The Fatso is old and worn and leaking air everywhere, so very innefficient. But better than nothing, and still it warms the hut, which is, today, pretty cold.

It's now 6.45 pm, so I'm hoping no-one else is going to turn up, leaving us free to do our own thing.

Tommorrow, irrespective of weather we are going down to Gungarten Power station. There are three huts on the way, Schlink Hilton, Whites River and Horse Camp, so it shouldn't be too bad. However, it could be unpleasant if it is pissing down all day and we have no-where to stay other than tents.

I think if it is still bad when we reach Horse camp, then we might stay there rather than pressing on with nowhere to stay for the night. We'll see. I'm hoping for another bright and beautiful day, and some warmer weather, too.

Monday 21st Feb - Day 9. It's morning, and we have a new plan.

Over to the west we can see relatively clear sky, but this clear patch is not moving. It rained heavily all night. It is now desultarily spitting, almost from spite, it seems. It just doesn't want to clear away.

We got up at 6.45 after a not-too-bad night - I discovered that I can make the mattress comfortable even on a hard flat surface by really inflating it hard... Bliss!.

I also discovered that I can make a passable pillow by takling my spare clothes and my jacket and stufing them loosely into the sleeping-bag bag... how long it takes to learn!

So, the plan - we wait here till 11 am, then walk to Horse Camp Hut, Schlink Hilton for lunch.

However, if it doesn't clear, we simply stay here another night. This is fine by me, because we have till Thursday to get to Dead Horse Gap, and that's only three easy days away, or two hard days.

The basic route now is Guthega, Perisher, Charlotte's Pass and Kosiuszko, then Dead Horse Gap.

We'll see.

11.30 am. Still undecided. Lots of menacing cloud, spotting, wind has come around to the west, but not strong.

Thinking about noon.

Thinking about 12.30!

Finally got away at 3.15! Rain not too bad, but well wetted by the time we got into Schlink Hilton by 5.30, and it was great! A big wood-stove with glass door, very efficient, big room with lots of windows, beds with matresses!, and pillows!

We decided to stay, as the rain was coming down in stair-rods. It did clear beautifully by eight, though, and we had a great sunset. After dinner we walked up to Schlink pass and phoned home - Wendy at a BPW meeting, but Sam, my son in.

Good night's sleep, up early to a beautiful day, away by eight, stopped at the pass agin to phone home re love and extra supplies.

Whites River hut ok but not great, Horse camp hut very good with stove, loft and good water, good table etc.

Heading for Perisher and up to Seaman's.

Actually went through Guthega, illawong lodge, and up the hill to the saddle between Twynam & little T.

Spent brilliant night a little south of there - windless, frosty, full moon.,

Left @ 8.45, kosie at 11.30.

Great on top of Kosiuszko, many people, good fun place with huge sort of 'Community' spirit, everyone talking to each other. Weather fantastic, calm and totally clear sky.

The night on Twynam was brilliant - in the morning there was frost on the tent, but in my bag I was warm and dry. The dusk the night before was fantastic - blues of all shades as the sun left the land. There was a layer of cloud a couple of fingers above the horizon, and as the sun dropped through it and turned red, the whole scene was lit up in red. Beautiful.

In the morning I woke just before the sun came over the rim of the mountain, and it was similarly fantastically blue, just Mount Townsend lit by the sun. Totally ... well, total.

To the East, a blanket of morning fog covering the land from north to south.

Lunch and beer at Eagle's nest... like an oasis. We have rather gorged ourselves, with wedges, beer, coffee and now hot chocolate. The guy let us recharge our phones here, too... straight out of the blue. Bloody good of him.

So Dead Horse Gap tonight, and meet Geoff at 9.am in the morning.

Thurs 24

Dead Horse Gap . Tents froze last night. After we got in, I washed all the clothes I had on, but the sun went down almost immediately, so I wore damp knickers (leaking cap to bladder) & wet shorts to bed... not too bad. They were dry this morning, of course.

Despite frost, we were both warm & comfortable in bed.

A bit rushed getting ready to walk back to Dead Horse Gap proper this morning, but here now @ ten am,


Geoff rolls up 3 mins later. Beers, slaps on the back, grab supplies, second beers, etc..

On the road by 11.30.

Easy walk in to Cascade Hut, arriving around 2 pm. Two very rude people camped there, an older guy, beautiful young woman. 'Where have you come from?'

'Why do you want to know?' 'Because we're just being polite,' Geoff said. 'We choose not to say ... that's our way.'

And so it went on... quite unpleasant.

Pitched camp, sky looking a little threatening. Still early, might go for a lie-down.

25th-Great night, beautiful morning. Very little dew. Away 8.30

Easy walk to Tin Mine Hut, though fairly hot with no wind. Geoff not doing too well, but I think he'll manage.

Last full day tomorrow. The route looks quite easy, not so much up and down as today. We'll aim for the hut marked a k or so south of Freebody's, which is supposed to be a ruin. Then if all goes well I'll duck down to the border 3 ks south, and Geoff says he might come with me. Back to the hut again for a last night's sleep.

The walk along ninemile fire trail looks all downhill, with maybe a slight uphill to the lip before decending the precipice.

I'll be glad to go home now. The last two days might have been a bit too much, and I'm feeling tired and a bit jaded now.

Fog drifted in after an early dinner, and a bit of wind from the SW, so we moved the tents away from the trees and prepared for a very early night. 7.30!

As we were getting ready two trucks - 4x4 ute-types, one with a canvas covered tray, drove slowly by. Looked as though they were going to come in to the camp-site but changed their minds when they saw tents here... pig hunters or brumby-catchers, we supposed.

So early to bed. I slept very badly, the pillow not quite right - should have used my jacket in the pillow.

Got up at 11pm for a slash and the fog was thick, the droplets forming on my legs.

Rolled about all night, it seemed, and with nearly a full moon, even the fog didn't stop it being light enough in the tent to see fairly well.

Thick fog still around this morning, but I had half expected rain, so this was a bonus. It's eight now, and the sun is just visible through the cloud, so I expect it will burn off pretty soon.

Last full day, roughly 28 hours to go till we meet Helen at Snowy River.

Same truck as last night XKL728,

Passenger with discoloured front tooth, caught me in the nude beside the Ingeegoodbie River.

27th-Last day

Great day yesterday-fog didn't clear till 1 pm, but the road was easy & lovely. Took the short cut just before Freebody's, which naturally took longer as the obvious track became fainter & disappeared. Freebody's a heap of flat iron in a beautifull meadow valley.

Hut with no name a bit of a mess, obviously not adopted by National Parks or KHA.

I went on alone to the border to discover that parks border is 1.5 km north of where the map says.

Noisy night with horses whinnying, dingos howling, fox barking, night-birds calling.

Slight squits this morning.

10 ks out down nine mile fire trail-all downhill.