Kosciuszko FAQ
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Here are some common questions about climbing Kosciuszko. I am focusing on the Thredbo side because I climbed (hiked) it and it is the most common route. This was one of my Memories are Everything®expeditions. Since I am not a guide nor a professional climber, this information is based on my experience and are my opinions so always consult with a professional before making any serious climbing decisions!

About Kosciuszko Training, Gear & Communication Expedition Basics My Experience

About Kosciuszko

Q: Where is it
Known by the Aboriginal's as Tan Gan Gil, "Kozzy" is located in Australia in New South Wales and is also a local ski area in the Kosciuszko National Park. The nearest largest city is Cannabera and is equidistant between Sydney and Melbourne (6-8 hour drive). Mount Kosciuszko is part of the Snowy Mountains in the Great Dividing Range. The first recorded ascent was in 1840 by Polish explorer Paul Strzelecki but was most likely climbed (hiked) for centuries by the local Aboriginal people of the Monaro, according to local information. It is sometimes consider the highest in Oceania but Carstensz Pyramid holds that honor. View Kosciuszko on a larger map.

Q: When is it usually climbed (hiked)?
A: The normal climbing season is Australia's summer ( November to May) due to lack of snow; but can be climbed (hiked) year-round with proper equipment. From June through October plan on dealing with snow. The summit was snow covered for my hike in Mid October.

Q: I understand that Kosciuszko's is just a simple walk-up. How hard is it?
A: It is not a climb per se, but really a simple walk or hike. All you need are good shoes and a jacket in the summer adding snow gear for winter travel when snow covered. But there is a little known more difficult route - The Hannels Spur Track.

Q: How does Kosciuszko compare with the other 7 Summits?
A: It is the easiest of them all and very enjoyable. The Kosciuszko National Park is a beautiful environment and you have all the comforts of a world class ski resort if desired.

Q: Is a Kosciuszko climb dangerous?
A: Can be if the weather turns on you. I have heard many stories from other 7 Summit climbers about being lost or struggling with high winds, deep snow or drifts. So monitoring the weather is important, just like for any outdoor activity.

Q: How many people had summited and how many people had died trying?
A: It is estimated that over 100,000 people hike Kosciuszko each year. There has been the rare death in the area, mostly in the winter.

Training, Gear & Communication:

Q: How did you train for this climb?
A: This was part of my  7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories are Everything® project. So I had climbed (hiked) almost continuously throughout 2010 and 2011 either in training or on the climbs.  I was in excellent condition both the physically and mentally for this climb. But I suggest the usual training regime of running, light weight and aerobic conditioning. Please see my training page for more ideas.

Q: Was altitude a problem on this climb at 7,000'?
A: Not really, even for the people I observed walking up. However, it can always be a surprise. Many people feel some type of AMS above 8,000'. As I mentioned before, I had already climbed (hiked) seven other 7 Summits peaks in the previous 11 months plus Carstensz four days before, so I was in excellent condition and never felt the altitude.

Q: Can you prepare for the altitude?
A: Not really. The common approach is to move slowly up the mountain (1000' a day maximum) spending your days at a higher altitude than where you sleep up until your summit bid. The human body simply does not function well at high altitudes and especially above 8000m (26,300'). As you go higher, the barometric pressure decreases, although the air still contains 21% oxygen, every breath contains less molecules of oxygen.

Everest legend Tom Hornbein explained it to the American Lung Association this way:

The lower oxygen stimulates chemoreceptors that initiate an increase in breathing, resulting in a lowering of the partial pressure of CO2 and hence more alkaline blood pH. The kidneys begin to unload bicarbonate to compensate. Though this adaptation can take many days, up to 80% occurs just in the first 48 to 72 hours. There are many other physiologic changes going on, among them the stimulus of low oxygen to release the hormone, erythropoietin to stimulate more red blood cell production, a physiological and still acceptable form of blood doping that enhances endurance performance at low altitudes. Adaptive changes are not always good for one’s health. Some South American high altitude residents can have what’s called chronic mountain sickness, resulting from too many red blood cells; their blood can be up to 84-85% red blood cells. The increased blood viscosity and sometimes associated pulmonary hypertension can result in right heart failure.

You cannot do much to acclimatize while at a low altitude but there are companies that claim to help the acclimatization process through specially designed tents that simulate the reduced oxygen levels at higher elevations. I have no personal experience with these systems but you can find more details at the Hypoxico website. They cost about $7,000 or can be rented for about $170 a week. Outside Magazine posted an article in 2013 questioning their effectiveness.

Q: What kind of equipment did you use?
Click for a larger view of my Everest gear. A: I used simple trekking clothing but carried a warmth and wind layer in my pack plus a pair of gloves and knit hat, the same gear I used on the lower parts of Kilimanjaro. I have a gear page for reference. I am very pleased with all my gear but had a few standouts that I note on my gear page.

Q: Anything special in your gear for Kosciuszko?
A: Not really, just a good pair of sunglasses because I had excellent weather in mid October with temps in the high 60sF. I would carry bug spray in the main summer time. But Kosciuszko can be extremely cold and windy at times so multiple layers are required. My boots were the Montrail High top and were fine for the snow covered sections near the summit.

Q: Did you use a satellite phone?
A: For details on my expedition communications, please see this tutorial. I used an Iridium phone to post dispatches on this site. Cell phones connections are available.

Expedition Basics

Q: Which route is most popular?
A: There are three routes but most people use the easy Thredbo trail from the Kosciuszko Express ski lift from the village of Thredbo by far. It is 8 miles round trip with an elevation gain from 6,354' to 7,310'. The other route is a little more difficult - from Charlotte Pass (6,026') is longer (11 miles round trip) and follows a dirt road. The third and least known is the Hannels Spur Track 9.5 miles with the largest vertical gain in all of Australia at 5,900 feet.

Thanks to reader Stewart Aickin for updating me on this route. He adds that the Hannels Spur Track was the same route that explorer Sir Paul Strzelecki climbed and ‘discovered’ Mt. Kosciusko in 1840. It is also the same route that the cattlemen once used to annually muster the cattle up from the Murray valley to high country (around Kosi.) to graze throughout the summer. The many aboriginals tribes from the Murray valley also used this same route annually for 1000s of years to climb Kosciuszko to feast over the summer months on the ‘delicacies' of Bogong moths. It approaches Mt. Kosciuszko from the NW - with the trailhead near Geehi. (Geehi is a simple camping area on the Alpine Way road).

Q: How long will it take?
A: A few hours depending on your pace and intensity. But this is one to be enjoyed and not rushed.

Q: How much does a standard climb cost with and without a guide?
A: There is a $16 AUD park entrance fee and $25 AUD ski lift fee if you climb from Thredbo. Hotels and food are expensive in the ski resort village of Thredbo. You can hire a guide in Thredbo which some people do in the winter. There are daily guided walks in the summer for $40 AUD.

Q: Do I need a permit to climb?
A: No, only a park entrance pass which can be bought at the park gate.

Q: Do I really need a guide for Kosciuszko?
A: Only if you are trying it in some extreme conditions where you want to depend on local knowledge. Otherwise with 100,000 people a year hiking it, you will rarely be alone, even though I was when I was on the summit for about 20 minutes.

My 2011 Experience

Elbrus summit Q: Did you summit?
A: Yes, I reached the summit on October 27, 2011.

Q: What was the route to the summit like?
A: I took the Kosciuszko Express chair lift and then followed the raised metal walkway (there to protect the tundra) that ended at the junction with the road from Charlotte Pass. In mid October, the summit was covered with snow, so much so in 2011 that the normal dirt summit path was completely covered and inaccessible due to large cornices. So I took a direct line, like the other 100 people that day, to the summit in the snow. I took about an hour to cover the 4 miles to the summit and spent over an hour on top and then about 45 minutes to return the the restaurant (Eagles Nest) at the top of the lift.

Q: What kind of weather conditions did you have?
A: It was amazingly perfect, temps in the mid 60'sF, lite breeze, clear blue skies. However, the day before and after it was cloudy and rainy!

Q: Would you climb Kosciuszko again?
A: Absolutely if I was in the area. It is a wonderful part of Australia.

Bottom Line

Kosciuszko is located in a beautiful area. The rolling hills and mountains plus the high alpine environment is very serene and peaceful - even with the crowds! It was fun to see so many people reach the summit and celebrate their success. This was my last climb for the 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories are Everything®. Sometimes, a mountain does not have to be high to be fun.