It was 6am on a Saturday when we pulled out onto the highway in an old blue Forester. The four of us had decided to spend a couple days hiking around Mt Kosciuszko. If you were to tell people that we were planning on sleeping that night, on the highest peak on the continent, they would have been seriously alarmed at our sheer lack of planning. We had a borrowed 6-man tent that we’d never set up, one torch and maps we’d printed off the night before. We had no serious cold weather gear – no thermals. But this was Kozzie, how hard could it be? Climbing the mountain was almost a rite of passage. Sure, we’d left it late in the year, but driving through Perisher the ski slopes were a reassuring shade of brown, rather than white. As the car climbed up the road the air became a little clearer and a little colder. As it turns out we had cut it fine, it started snowing properly the next weekend – we’d just snuck in.
Our lack of adequate planning couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. We blasted Young Thug as we drove through Cooma and hoped that Triple J would read out our text on air. When we arrived at the foot of the trail, some essential hiking business was sorted, and then we finally assembled the packs in some semblance of manageable and started around the Summit Trail toward Blue Lake.
Feeling elevated, we set a solid pace on the paved track and climbed toward Currathers Peak. We reached Blue Lake around lunchtime, and settled on a little escarpment with a glorious view of the lake to have a bite. Famished, we dug into our staple for the trip: fried rice. With capitalist fervour and Ford-like efficiency we had cooked about 2 or 3 kilos of the stuff – plenty left to reheat at Hancock later in the week. We sampled the glassy, fresh water of the Blue Lake, took a few Snapchats at Headly Tate, shouldered our packs and continued the climb towards Kozzie.
We almost came unstuck that afternoon. Our instructions weren’t as clear as they had once seemed, and as we searched for a turn off that would lead us to a plateau sheltered from the wind, the fog set in. Visibility dropped to about 5 metres and the sun was quickly setting. We knew we were close to the plateau, but couldn’t decide which crag it was sitting behind – they were all buffeted by the wind. We decided to cut our losses and set up the tent behind a mountain of rocks – the wind picked up and we weighed the tent down with scavenged stones as our fingers went numb.
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t get the best sleep. The wind howled all night, and we collectively awoke at 3am to the sound of ripping – the tent poles snapped in half from the wind and the roof collapsed in on us. We had a curious sense of hysteria, combined with sleepy apathy – we grouped our sleeping bags together and laughed at the wind ripping through our shelter until the morning.
Despite knowing next to nothing about hiking or mountain climbing, as we leisurely strolled to the top of the mountain the following day, we felt like veterans. We had conquered a night on the mountain. We swaggered past those who had arrived that morning as they took photos on the peak, still feeling buzzed and a little proud we’d actually made it this far. The last challenge came when we returned home. It wasn’t our tent that the mountain had destroyed – we’d borrowed it from a mate. In the end, we traded the tent for 8 cases of beer, a deal both parties were happy with. Of course the beer was Kosciusko Pale Ale.