Whether you’re a 93-year-old, a parent lugging a baby, or a middle-aged cyclist, reaching the summit of Australia’s highest mountain is achievable – and epic.
I’m huffing over a rented mountain bike, halfway up Kosciuszko, Australia’s tallest mountain, and I have, once again, misplaced my children. Ten minutes into our big ride they disappear into the mist. This is a welcome and entirely expected development. I click down another gear and meander up the gently sloping path. Any slower and I would literally fall over.
It’s early January and the hills are alive with the sound of exertion.
All kinds of people have set off from Charlotte Pass and are huffing their way up to the 2228m summit. Experienced and novice hikers, extended family groups, toddlers snuggled into papooses, an inspiring 93-year-old on his annual pilgrimage, pairs of joggers and pelotons of straining cyclists in more Lycra than is strictly necessary.
The weather swirls around us, revealing and concealing. If this was the tallest peak in almost any other country, we would be hair-brained maniacs for pushing for the summit today. But living on the world’s oldest and flattest continent has advantages for modestly ambitious, middle-aged mountaineers.
I’ve made this journey once before, in winter on cross-country skis, when the land was coated in lumpy, marzipan white. But it’s the summer months when the snow base melts that the high country reveals its subtle and delicate beauty.
I pause frequently to suck in alpine air and take in the majesty of my surroundings. My camera attempts to frame a dozen little scenes: a stand of twisted snow gums tattooed in swirling sap, granite boulders bearded with stringy moss, rolling meadows dotted with yellow, white, and purple wildflowers and divided by crystal-clear mountain streams.
The stormy weather gives the journey a more adventurous feel. You imagine Vikings or hobbits up ahead on the path, ducking out of view just as you round a corner. And when the mountain gods finally breath in and suck the cloud briefly away you see for miles.
None of this makes much of an impression on my teenage boys who are busting to get to the summit so they can rocket straight back down again. We’ve promised them a full day of thrashing dual-suspension bikes down the berms and jumps at Thredbo Resort as a reward for this day of site-seeing and summitting.
Mountain biking has transformed Thredbo and Jindabyne into booming adventure hubs during the summer months. There are all kinds of trails for all kinds of ability levels but for me the Kosciuszko Summit Trail ticks the most boxes.
The final summit ascent is for walkers only. We park our bikes at Australia’s highest bike rack (Rawson Pass) and join a line of pilgrims snaking up into the clouds. What do we see when we reach the ultimate peak and are briefly the highest people on this ancient land?
I’d be happy to supply you with all the right adjectives but describing it feels inadequate and like too much of a spoiler. Climb it yourself. You’ll see.
The Mount Kosciuszko Summit Trail starts from Charlotte Pass and is 18.6km return.
Pack warm, layered clothing, sunscreen, food and water. The weather can change suddenly.
Mountain bikes can be hired from Thredbo Village, Lake Crackenback Resort or Jindabyne.
The trail is easy to follow and is rated Grade 3 in difficulty.
Bikes are only permitted as far as Rawson Pass.
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com