Well, this was one of the big adventures on my 12 in 2 list (12 adventures I want to accomplish in 2 years).
I made sure there were lots of smaller, easily achieveable dreams on the list to help motivate me to tackle the large, scary ones—like hiking the 20 kilometre (12.4 mile) Main Range Track in Kosciuszko National Park. My sister agreed to hike with me, which made it even more exciting.
Given the scale of this adventure, I did all the planning I could manage but still wondered whether we could actually pull it off! We had to consider partners and children (who were staying at home), potential illness, weather... I joked that just like if you reach your mid-20s you're more likely to grow old, if we managed to get ourselves on the road to Jindabyne then the weekend was more likely to go ahead!
The Main Range Track is a loop walk starting and finishing at Charlotte Pass in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. The track heads over peaks and passes in a majestic and hauntingly beautiful alpine region, near the beginning of the Snowy River, and surrounded by masses of fragile alpine grasses and low plants. The area has its own climate. It can be warm and sunny in the valley towns such as Thredbo and Jindabyne, while blowing a gale and snowing on the peaks (Mt Kosciuszko sits at 2,228 metres or 7,310 feet).
At the beginning of the Main Range Track loop walk (Charlotte Pass)
Actually, this is precisely what the weather turned out to be like.
The week before we were due to hike, the weather deteriorated in the mountains. The night before saw a severe weather warning advising people to postpone back country travel. We prepared our gear and hiking packs anyway, ready to see what the morning would bring.
When we woke after a stormy and windy night in Jindabyne, the weather warning had been cancelled, and conditions were expected to clear in the mountains by the afternoon. With this in mind, we ate breakfast, packed the car, and drove early to Charlotte Pass.
When we stepped out of the car, it was blowing a gale and visibility was low. We decided to hike in as far as Blue Lake (5 kilometres one way) and re-assess.
About 30 minutes into the walk, after crossing the Snowy River and Carruthers Creek on stepping stones before climbing up out of the Charlotte Pass valley, we came across our first fellow hiker. He had walked in to Blue Lake but was heading back due to the bad weather.
The next hikers we stopped to talk to were a group of four that had camped in the mountains the night before! Their tent had broken and they wanted to know how far it was to get off the mountain and out of the weather. They looked exhausted and no wonder: the previous night's weather report included a minimum temperature of minus 10 degrees Celcius and wind gusts of 137 kilometres (85 miles) per hour.
Blue Lake? It's over there somewhere...
When we arrived at Blue Lake we couldn't actually see it :) This was our potential turnaround point. But there were still a number of elements in our favour: we had the right gear (I had overpacked and my outdoor educator sister had underpacked but between us we were just right!); we had notified people who cared (always important) of our route, direction, and times; and had a forecast for clearing weather.
We continued on. We weren't giving up easily!
The wind became stronger the higher up in the mountains we climbed. (Weather readings later showed wind averaging 60 to 80 kilometres [37 to 49 miles] per hour with gusts of up to 113  and temperatures hovering around zero all day.) Along some sections of the track, we linked arms for stability. And we laughed into the wind as we were having so much fun!
It was difficult to get out of the wind, but we found a lovely sheltered creek bed for morning tea, and some rocks on the leeward side of Mt Northcote for lunch. Never has fresh bread and thick slices of cheese accompanied by hot chocolate from a thermos tasted so good!
The blowing mist lifted occasionally for beautiful fleeting glimpses of Lake Albina...
...and views over the valley toward Charlotte Pass.
Three hours into to the walk we'd managed to cover about 10 kilometres. It was only that we'd memorised the landmarks along the track that we knew where we were. Although the weather wasn't improving as forecast, we decided we may as well keep going as we were halfway around and the last section of the track was the easy section with a wide gravel access road from Rawson Pass back to Charlotte Pass.
As we reached Rawson Pass we again met up with a few hikers from earlier in the day who had walked out from Blue Lake and had decided to take the wider track to Rawson Pass. They continued on to summit Mt Kosciuszko. By this stage, I had started to feel nauseous. This has happened both times I've been up around 2,000 metres (6,561 feet)—it seems very low for altitude sickness! We vowed to do another trip to test this theory out :)
It was really cold!
We stopped to look at the well-designed Seamans Hut before heading back out into the weather for the last stretch of track. As I closed the door behind me, I heard a "tink, tink, tink" on the hood of my jacket and looked around for rain. IT WAS SNOW! I've never been in falling snow before, and it was driving sideways more than it was drifting gently but it was incredibly beautiful. It continued to snow for the last 6 kilometres of our walk.
I had trouble fully appreciating the snow though as by this stage all I could do was put one foot in front of the other and fight the nausea. After a quick vomit (sorry!), I felt tremendously better and could again enjoy the final stretch.
We finished back at Charlotte Pass six and a half hours after we started, feeling satisfied and grateful to have had the opportunity to hike the Main Range Track. We drove back to Jindabyne for warm baths with Epsom salts followed by dinner out. Our efforts hobbling up and down the stairs to get to our room left the hotel staff rather amused.
I learned a lot about myself and had a blast sharing an adventure with my sister. I learned to never underestimate the weather; but also to never underestimate how much I am capable of. I was also reminded of why I designed the 12 in 2 challenge for myself—It's proving to be an excellent way of easing myself into a more adventurous life with regular time to enjoy my interests.
If you feel lost in the busyness of life, or have trouble squeezing in some time for yourself, have a go at the 12 in 2 challenge and let me know how you go!