The highest peak in Australia, standing at 2228 metres above sea level.

It was discovered in 1839 by Polish explorer Count Strzelecki after he crossed the Australian Alps. Strzelecki was the first man to climb the mountain and named it after a Polish democratic political leader, Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

Strzelecki misspelt the Kosciuszko's name as "Kosciusko" and so the mountain was spelt the same way. It was not until March 1997 that the Geographical Names Board announced that the mountain and surrounding national park of the same name would now be spelt with a "z" -- Kosciuszko (pronounced kozz-ee-OSS-koe).

It was our last day in Thredbo, and the cross-country aficionado in our group of skiers has planned an expedition to Mount Kosciuszko. We had rented the gear in Jindabyne yesterday afternoon, so, after we wake and pack, all it takes is twenty-eight dollar chairlift ride and the first hills of the Main Range of the Australian Alps are in sight.

Now, Australia is the flattest, driest country on earth, and you would be forgiven for thinking the only geographic relief is that great big red rock in the middle of the desert. This is not quite the case. In the south-east, roughly half-way between Sydney and Melbourne, the highest parts of the Great Dividing Range rise above the treeline, and receive moderate snowfalls in winter. Several ski resorts operate in these mountains.

However, unlike the tall, young, steep, and jagged mountains in neighbouring New Zealand, the mountains in Australia are old, gentle, and worn down. Mainland Australia has not seen any vigorous geological activity in some time. My high school geography teacher explained, almost apologetically, that once upon a time Australia used to have several glaciers. They are now long gone, having left behind a couple of glacial valleys and a grand total of five glacial lakes, all of which you can visit in a short day's walk.

The central issue that comes out of all this is that Mount Kosciuszko, although technically the highest mountain in Australia and one of the Seven Summits, is in reality a medium-sized hill, a six-kilometre stroll from Thredbo top station over a gently undulating plateau. In summer, there's a well-maintained raised metal walkway, complete with informative signs about the native flora and fauna. At Rawson's Pass, it meets up with a road - you can actually drive to the summit, although only authorized national park vehicles are allowed now. In winter, the snowbound trail is marked with orange poles. I've climbed it several times in summer, once with my family when I was a kid, and later when we did it for a geography excursion.

The neighbouring Mount Townsend, Australia's second-highest mountain, is much more serious looking, and was long thought to be the higher peak. There is some controversy as to whether it was the mountain Count Strzelecki actually named Kosciuszko. Australia's steepest vertical relief can be found between Townsend's summit and the Geehi river valley to the north.

All this geographical trivia is somewhere in the back of my mind as we set off from the top the chairlift. It's very late in the season, and while the south-facing slopes still had plenty of snow, the northern ones were bare grass and rock. We would ski up a snowdrift as far as we could, and then take off our skis and walk a short distance to the next one. I've never been cross-country skiing before - I've been strictly a downhill guy - but this isn't to hard. A gliding walking motion, and damn, you can move so fast uphill. It does feel a lot closer to nature, a lot less artificial. Plus the skis are so light, and the boots are pretty much just hiking boots. Positively pleasant to walk in. The weather is beautiful and there isn't a cloud in the sky. But it's die-of-exposure-overnight windy.

Unfortunately, pretty soon my mate's girlfriend (who has never been skiing before, and has been really struggling) hits a block, and there's lots of falling and whining and tantrums and we take an hour to go the first 100m. Eventually I lose it slightly and make some jab about shutting up and actually trying, or going back to the restaurant and we'll cover your gear hire. This seems to work. Soon we reach the Kosciuszko lookout and take a break: the mountain is now visible in the distance, with the upper reaches of the resort still visible down behind us.

So we slowly progress, following the biggest snowdrifts along the ridges. To our left is the prominent tor called the Ramshead. We cross over heaps of small rivulets; the headwaters of the Snowy River, made famous by Banjo Patterson. We break for lunch at about the half-way mark, below the Etheridge ridge and out of the wind. It's already past midday and we aren't moving fast. It's proposed that the aforementioned struggling girlfriend could wait here, while the rest of us make a push for Kosciuszko. It will probably take us more than an hour. But we seem to converge on this plan, and she at least looks relieved she won't have to ski any further for now.

So we put on the afterburners and push up another snowdrift to the top of the final ridge. Lake Cootapatamba (one of the glacial lakes) and Rawson Pass appear beyond. The permanent cornice above Cootapatamba is huge, about a kilometre long, and snakes down the entire south ridge. I wish I had some downhill skis. We walk across the bare saddle at Rawson Pass and click into the skis at the base of Kosciuszko proper. This is the first serious climb, and we start a slow zigzagging traverse up the eastern face, passing a few hikers. It's actually steepish, and as we stop for a short break I sip from my water bottle and bask in the sun and feel like I'm climbing a mountain.

The top...I break out of my pace and start sprinting or whatever you call it on these skis. The ridge keeps rolling away in front of me, it's further than it looks but there's the road and I now I can see the cairn at the summit...

We have reached Australia's highest point. The roof of the Antipodes. One of the seven summits. To be greeted by a group of bogan snowboarders drinking a case of Victoria Bitter. Maybe, as my friend says, it's just a little too accessible to the general public. We get one of the snowboarders to take a group picture, and celebrate with chocolate.

Now, for the fun bit! We get to ski down Kosciuszko. Now I really want some downhill skis...AAAAAAH MY HEELS ARE LIFTING! PIECE OF SHIT TOOTHPICKS! **CRASH**. The events of the previous sentence are subsequently repeated several times. I positively bounce down Mt Kosciuszko on my arse. Suitably humbled, I regrouped with the others at the bottom, and everybody made it back to the top of the chairlift safely.

Based on an old blog post of mine. If you're interested in further reading about Mount Kosciuszko and the Australian high country, you might try the books Skiing the Western Faces - Kosciusko, by Alan Andrews, and Kiandra to Kosciusko, by Klaus Hueneke.

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