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Mt Kosciuszko Summit via Hannels Spur

Mt Kosciuszko is Australia’s Highest Peak at 2,228m (7,310ft). It is small by international standards and more of a plateau when you get there, but it enjoys a full panoramic 360⁰ view across the stunning Australian alps. If you want a challenge, try accessing it via Hannels Spur ascending 1800mtrs in 8kms from the Western Fall region of the Great Dividing Range.

It can be walked in a single day with a choice of two exit destinations from Mt Kosciuszko Lookout. Choose Rawson Pass to exit at Charlotte Pass or the Kosciuszko Summit Track to reach Thredbo, via chair lift or several walking tracks. Both are one-way routes requiring a car shuttle. 

We chose the Thredbo exit via Dead Horse Gap Track walking 23.5km over 2 days. 

For the shortest route to Thredbo Village, catch the Kosciuszko Express Chair Lift from Thredbo Top Station. Remember the last ride down, (an added charge) is at 4.30pm. 

For the most direct walking track, choose Merritts Nature Track. Although short in distance at only 4km, this stepped path is steep and may further tire fatigued legs. The gentler but longer, more scenic alternative is Dead Horse Gap Track (4km) joining Thredbo River Walk (a gentle 4km) for a total 8km descent. 

Note: Thredbo River Walk is closed due to flood damage (Feb 2022 advice). Park car at Dead Horse Gap Carpark or road walk back to Thredbo Village.

Grade 5: Suitable for fit hikers with good navigational skills. 1800m ascent of Hannels Spur over 8kms is not to be underestimated. Take plenty of water and electrolytes in warm weather to prevent heat exhaustion, hiking poles for added grip, map, PLB and take frequent rest stops when needed.

Navigation

NSW Topo Maps loaded to Avenza Map App–8525-3S Youngal, 8525-2S Perisher Valley and 8524-N Thredbo. Or you may wish to layer reputable GPX files from experienced hikers over Avenza or other recognised navigation apps. Images referenced here are supplied from the AllTrails app and a Great Walks of the Kosciuszko Region guidebook.

Track Terrain

From Geehi Campground you start with a wade through Geehi River to resume Hannels Spur Track on the other side. The river can be thigh high and fast flowing in wet seasons, so please take care crossing. Afterwards follow a 4WD trail to the first Hannels Spur wooden signpost where the track narrows winding its way steeply through dry sclerophyll forest. 

Stringybark, broad-leaf and narrow-leaf Peppermint trees are plentiful below 1100mtrs, Mountain Gum and Alpine Ash prevail in the 1100-1400mtr zone and stunted Snow Gum, mostly petrified from past bushfires, appear at the 1400-1800mtr mark. Reflective orange markers have been placed above head height on tree trunks to mark the way. I’d still bring other forms of navigation tools, such as online or real paper maps, for clarity on the track’s location. We found many orange markers had fallen on the ground. I found trekking poles invaluable on this steep, unrelenting ascent. 

When you near the top of Hannels Spur, the orange markers become less frequent. And despite better visibility in good weather, seeing the path becomes more cumbersome. Previous hikers have left small cairns which help, but don’t rely on them. 

After leaving the tree line around the 1800mtr mark, you enter the Alpine Tract, a typical feldmark terrain of wide expanses of dwarf shrubs, herbs, lichens, and bogs. The track is hidden beneath these low-lying shrubs and requires great concentration to avoid rolling your ankle as you navigate your way across bogs and rivulet water courses. 

Once you reach the Main Range Track, it becomes easier with well-established landscaped dirt and granite stoned tracks. From the Kosciuszko Summit Walk junction with Main Range Track, you follow a metal walkway to Thredbo Top Station to catch the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift from Eagle’s Nest to Thredbo Village. If you choose to walk, stepped landscaped tracks resume at both Merritt’s Nature Track and Dead Horse Gap Track

Tips

This walk is more manageable if broken into two days. Choose the first day to tackle the steep Hannels Spur ascent and wild camp near Wilkinsons Creek for ready access to water at the 10.5 to 13.5km mark. You will reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko early the next morning with a short 2 to 5km gentle ascent. After that, it’s mostly downhill for the rest of the day. 

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 

Park one car at Thredbo Long Stay P4 Car Park. Drive 45mins on a windy road from Thredbo Village to Geehi Flat Campground, a delightfully spacious camping area with several toilet amenities and table/bench seats available. Soak up your surroundings and enjoy a nice car camping meal. Have a refreshing dip in the Geehi River. Visit historical Geehi Hut and take in the epic views of the Western Fall region of the Great Dividing Range with Hannels Spur, your intended route tomorrow, clearly visible. 

Day 2 

Today’s mileage will be 10.5 to 13.5kms but you can camp earlier at either Moiras Flat (at 6.5km) or Byatts Camp (at 8.5km) if the going is tough. Moiras Flat has access to a trickling stream for water resupply. It’s also a good spot for a lunch break after the steep climb, but be aware there’s little cover, and you’ll be exposed on a hot summer’s day. 

Byatts Camp is a small dry campsite at the top of Hannels Spur. The worst of the elevation has passed, but navigation beyond Byatts Camp requires concentration as you enter the dense alpine heathland zone interspersed with dense dwarf heaths and bog lands. The path is hard to see, and it may be wise to camp at Byatts Camp if fatigue is building and you wish to avoid injury from falls. 

We persevered another 2kms, walking carefully through dense scrubland before settling on a gently sloping wild camp site nestled behind boulders with easy access to Wilkinsons Creek at the 10.4km mark. 

Day 3

Starting at 8am on fresh legs, we easily traverse the boglands surrounding Wilkinsons Creek before ascending to join the Main Range Track near Muellers Pass. At the junction with the Summit Track, we discard our heavy backpacks to stroll the last few kilometres to Mt Kosciuszko Summit to stand jubilant and proud at the top of Australia’s tallest mountain. 

From here it’s mainly downhill, my favourite way, if knees are behaving themselves. Retrieving our backpacks, we head to real toilets with toilet paper at Rawson Pass. This is the route you’d take to return to Charlotte Pass if you had opted to use this town as your car shuttle location. 

Instead, we join the metal walkway’s Main Range/Summit Track heading towards Thredbo High Station at Eagle’s Nest, where you can catch the Express Chair Lift to Thredbo Village. 

We pass Lake Cootapatamba on our right as we descend. 

View to Thredbo Top Station from Rams Head

Just before reaching Eagle’s Nest, we divert to Dead Horse Gap Track for a 4km descent to the valley floor. It joins with the Thredbo River Walk, usually a leisurely 4km stroll into Thredbo Village. Unfortunately, 2022’s wet summer has caused recent landslides on this track and this track is closed until further notice. There’s a $300 on-the-spot fine if you’re seen attempting it. To overcome this unexpected closure, one walker from our group takes the Chair Lift to Thredbo, retrieves her car, and then meets us at the end of Dead Horse Gap. Total mileage over two days is 23.5km.   

Dead Horse Gap Track is a pleasant undulating walk, first traversing Ramshead Range, before dipping into sub-alpine snow gum territory amid granite boulders and petrified trees from past bushfires. An old chair lift seat, a reminder of this town’s strong ski history, proves a pleasant resting spot as we amble along the hillside. If you are lucky, you may see wild horses, brumbies, amidst the dense tree cover. 

After being picked up, we return to Thredbo Village, book into the local YHA for a refreshing shower and then spend the afternoon resting. You could leave this day, but one car must return a walker to the car we left in Geehi Flat campground. This is a 1.5hr out-and-back drive from Thredbo Village.

Day 4

Return home, in our case, a 5.5-to-6-hour journey to Sydney. 

Equipment

Even in summer, come prepared for inclement weather. It is significantly cooler at elevation, and weather can change rapidly. Bring a rain jacket which can also act as a wind jacket, rain pants, a light fleece, first aid kit, sunscreen, enough water (min. 1 litre for every 6kms walked), or water treatment solutions if sourcing water from mountain streams, and adequate food for energy. I often carry electrolyte tablets to add to water to replace salts lost with sweat if the walk is hot and/or strenuous. Of course, include all the other provisions needed for safe overnight camping – an appropriate-sized backpack to carry your load, tent, and sleep system including sleeping bag, sleeping mat with a suitable R rating, and an ultralight inflatable pillow or stuff sack filled with soft spare clothes for a comfortable night’s sleep. 

I recommend trekking poles for Hannels Spur and Dead Horse Gap if knees are sore, but they’re unnecessary for the steel walkways from Thredbo Top Station to junction with Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk. Here, I find them more of a hindrance than help. The rubber stoppers on the end of your poles often get caught in the open mesh and dislodge. I recommend stowing them away for the metal walkway sections.

Getting There

The closest town to Mt Kosciuszko is Thredbo, a 5.5-hour 500km drive from Sydney. 

Visit www.thredbo.com.au to find out what’s on in Thredbo when you arrive, location of restaurant and retail outlets, recreation activities available (hiking and mountain biking in summer and skiing in winter), how to secure lift passes, pick up maps for self-guided walks and book guided walks if desired.

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