In January, my friend Shell and I hiked the Main Range at Kosciuszko National Park. It was my friend’s first attempt at self-sustained hiking-camping and I was there as I had previous experience.
We registered at the Jindabyne Visitors Centre and hired a personal life beacon (PLB). The rangers at the centre warned us of a cold front closing in that evening. We decided to continue, but with caution and contingency plans in mind.
We parked at Charlotte Pass, and there a ranger approached us. He (She?) advised us that track to Blue Lake via the Snowy River became impassable from the previous night’s heavy rainfall. With the ranger’s help we took an alternative route; backtracking towards Wilkinson’s Creek, passing Seaman’s Hut, which we could use if things turned bad.
For three hours we hired before reaching the hut. Upon entering the hut, we met a group of dishevelled men stoking the fire to dry their clothes. They had camped their from the night before, beginning their hike at 9pm and were caught in the downpour. They were not prepared as most wore only running gear with nothing for the rain. The group have been friends for nearly twenty years and catch up annually to hike. As unprepared as they were, they needed to make their way back, even if their clothes were damp. Shell and I told them of the ranger at the base of the mountain, if they needed the help.
Across the valley, you could see the low-laying clouds roll down the hills and across the track in thick blankets. Shell said it was like the scenes from Game of Thrones, when the white walkers attack. Laughing, we kept joking about white walkers.
The hike was an easy 8km flat path to Mouth Kosciuszko, stopping frequently to snap photos of the spectacular views the National Park offered.
We were approached by rangers and the police if we had seen a group of young women wearing summer clothing during our walk. We told them we hadn’t, but would keep an eye for them. It is common on nature reserves where extreme conditions occur and some travellers have not given enough research or preparation. And when this happens, they need to be rescued.
After summiting the highest peak, Shell and I headed back down to Wilkinson’s Creek to find a place set up camp. We found a beautiful location that overlooked the river, with large rocks to shelter the tents from the strong winds. But after some dinner, the weather deteriorated. Shell agreed that we should make for Seaman’s hut. As we packed down our camp, the wind increased (later reported to be seventy kilometres per hour), then rain poured down, then hail, and then snow. When we were about halfway there, a thick fog smothered us, and we were only able to see two metres in front of us.
At last light, we reached the hut. We quickly built a fire in the draughty stove and hung everything up to dry. We tried to sleep, but the wind howled through through the night, rattling windows and doors and screaming through the wood burner chimney.
The next morning, we could see snow on the doors and windows. Exhausted from the stressful night, and finding the day in a snowstorm, we returned to car, instead of risking completing the circuit.
We we returned to the Visitor’s Centre to return the PLB, we heard that another group of hikers were rescued after their tents failed in the storm.
In the end, it didn’t go as planned, but Shell got some camping experience and I learned a new way to build a fire in draughty conditions. And we got to see some beautiful country with good company.