16 Peaks (26/1/2017)

Australia’s 16 tallest peaks are:

  1. Mt Kosciuszko 2,228 m
  2. Mt Townsend 2,209 m
  3. Mt Twynam 2,196 m
  4. Ram’s Head 2,193 m
  5. UPER (Unnamed Peak on Etheridge Ridge) 2,180 m
  6. Ram’s Head North 2,177 m
  7. Alice Rawson Peak 2,167 m
  8. UPSWAP (Unnamed Peak Southwest of Abbott Peak – near Byatts Camp) 2,159 m
  9. Abbott Peak 2,145 m
  10. Carruther’s Peak 2,142 m
  11. UPNWMT (Unnamed Peak Northwest of Mt Twynam) 2,136 m
  12. Mt Northcote 2,131 m
  13. Mueller’s Peak 2,125 m
  14. Little Twynam 2,120 m
  15. Mt Lee 2,105 m
  16. Mt Clark 2,100 m

And luckily for us, they are all within the same area in Kosciuszko National Park. So off we went on Australia Day to try and do all of them in a single day. How hard could it be?

Spoiler alert: hard. Here’s the data from my GPS:

If you’re interested, you can download the Google Earth file of the track here!

Most of the crew of 15 doing the trek camped a few KMs into the hike up the first ridge, but we elected to sleep in a bed and started in the dark from Charlotte’s Pass. As we got up the trail, the sun rising behind us led to spectacular views over the headwaters of the Snowy River.

By the time we met up with the others a fog had set in, obscuring the sunrise.

But as they finished breakfast and packed up I just got to watch the most beautiful glow from the top of Australia.

As we went on, the mist lifted pretty quickly as we headed up to our first peak, Mt Twynam.

We were above the tree-line all day, so we quickly lost our jackets as the sun kept us very warm all day. We got up to the summit where we set up the first of our sixteen peak group shots. Mark had signs printed up for each one and was in charge of the group photos, so you’ll have to talk to him to see us in all our sweaty glory.

It was here I unveiled my little spin on the 16 peaks hike… A sip of Japanese whisky at the top of each peak.

And so began a long day of ups and downs…

Stopping often for snacks and photos…

Lots of rest breaks to regain our energy…

And more photos…

A lot of the day blurred in together, especially as we put the kilometres under our boots. So this will not be a step-by-step recount of the trek. Oh no, a lot of it was just me sweating and panting and trying to keep up with the rest of them. The order we did them in was:

  1. Mt Twynam
  2. Little Twynam
  4. Carruther’s Peak
  5. Mt Lee
  6. Mt Northcote
  7. Mt Clark
  8. Mt Townsend
  9. Alice Rawson Peak (which I think we pulled up just short of)
  10. Abbot Peak
  11. UPSWAP
  12. Mueller’s Peak
  13. Mt Kosciuszko
  14. UPER
  15. Ram’s Head North
  16. Ram’s Head

The one thing I wasn’t expecting to see was snow. But it was there, right in the middle of summer. I even had some snowballs pegged at me.

My old housemate/close friend/ten-pin bowling team mate passed away on these snow fields 7 years ago, to needless to say I was not happy to see this snow. Not at all.

I even poured some whisky out for him.

Michael, being Michael, was always taking little treks to climb up things off our path.

Dan, being Dan, got extra thirsty and drank the snow melt fresh from the source.

Michael then decided to grab some snow and cool down his beer before we hit the biggest peak of them all, Mt Kosciuszko.

The tallest one of them all was also the busiest and the most disappointing, but it was still great to get up there (amongst the crowds that took the ski lift up). But for one brief minute I was the tallest thing in Australia.

If it wasn’t for these two, I wouldn’t be on this adventure.

Thank you Mark for dreaming up, planning and organising this trip and putting up with my very infrequent email replies, and thanks Michael for extending the invite to me. It had been 4.5 years since my last adventure with these two, but hopefully it’s not our last.

At this point we were 13 peaks in and I think every one was over the moon when they came across this wonderful sign:

I think we stopped here longer than we should have, but that little slice of luxury really picked us up for the last 3 peaks.

We were truly blessed by the weather gods. Despite rain in the days leading up and some threatening clouds, we stayed dry all day. If you ignore the sweat dripping off me that is.

When we got to the last peak, we were greeted with a few surprises! The first surprise, Mark made us patches!

The second surprise, Mark had hidden an esky full of cold beers and soft drinks at the top! We all thought it was a joke at first, but goddamn what a great surprise.

Although after finishing my bottle of whiskey (which was very, very warm at this point) I settled for the soft drink.

The third surprise was the worst part of the day (in my opinion). We finished too late to get the ski lift down, so we had to walk 4kms down a very steep ski slope to Thredbo. I took no photos of this, because it was just a hard, painful, slow slog, descending over 700 metres in elevation.

The whole day was so much fun though, and as we enjoyed some amazing soups (thanks Mark’s mum!) and stretched out a lot of aches it dawned on us what we did. At one point during the day we bumped into a park ranger who even thought we were a little bit crazy. Most people only do the 10 peaks in a day, he told us. The 16 was very rare indeed.

Thank you once again Mark for putting it all together.

We recovered the next day with some disc golf and a lot of beers in Jindabyne.

And also chucked some touristy things in Canberra on the way out…

I took many, many, many more photos, all of which you can see in the gallery below: