Matt McClelland, Best river and alpine walks around Mt Kosciuszko

Best river and alpine walks around Mt Kosciuszko book cover

Book cover (Courtesy: Matt McClelland, Wildwalks)

For many years now, Mr Gums and I have been going to Thredbo in Kosciuszko National Park for a few days in early January. In other words, instead of heading east to the coast, like many of our city’s residents, we head south to the mountains for a bit of R&R involving bushwalking, dining and reading. Over the years I have picked up various guides to help us – field guides to flora and fauna, general activity guides, and so on. But, until recently, I had not found a good comprehensive book on walks in the Park.

This has not totally deterred us. The Park brochures and the various guides I did find provided us with enough information for us to find and undertake walks. However, I’ve always wanted more and, when I was preparing for last year’s trip, I discovered – via Google – a wonderful website called Wildwalks. They had information on some of our favourite walks, but by no means all. However, I was in luck. Late in 2010, as well us updating and expanding their Southern Kosciuszko walks on their website, they published a book, Best river and alpine walks around Mt Kosciuszko, which details over 40 walks in the very area we like to walk, and so, of course, we bought it.

Along the Rennix Track, Kosciuszko National Park

Mr Gums walking through Derwent Speedwell on the Rennix Trail

The Wildwalks people are a generous bunch though: thorough descriptions, with maps, of each of the walks can be downloaded as pdfs from their website. Of course, unless you travel with a printer*, that means you must decide in advance which walks you plan to do. If you have the book, on the other hand, you can select a walk on a whim – or, on the basis of the weather, on how you feel after the previous day’s walk, on whether you are willing to drive to the starting point (as it is a very large national park), on how much of an appetite you want to work up …

But, enough of that, let’s get to the book. It is nicely produced on quality semi-gloss paper. It includes useful material about the park in general (including weather conditions), and about bushwalking (including safety tips) in particular. It has a map at the front with the walks marked on it, and an excellent table listing the walks so that you can see them all at a glance and check length, difficulty level etc. It has a small but useful index. And it is packed with enticing photographs. The bulk of the book is of course devoted to the walks and is organised (and colour-coded) by region, such as the Alpine Way, Guthega, and so on. There is a section, too, on Snowshoe Walks for those hardy people who go to the mountains in the winter.

For each walk the following information is provided:

  • At a glance inset box providing the Grade (difficulty level); Time; Distance and type of walk (one-way, return, etc); Ascent/descent (in metres); Conditions (amount of shade, water crossings etc); and GPS for beginning and end.
  • Brief description of the walk.
  • Finding the track. In other words, how to find the start!
  • Walk directions. Written directions for the walk, with numbered points which are shown on that walk’s map.
  • Map and relief diagram, on both of which are marked the numbers from the Walk directions.
  • Other information as appropriate, such as, for some walks, variations that can be taken.

Last week, we did four of the walks in the book – three we’d done before and one we hadn’t. We found the guide easy to understand and accurate – right down to timing and assessment of “grade”. We particularly valued the climb information provided – both textually and pictorially – for the ascents and descents involved in each walk. We did find the odd discrepancy – mostly a marker mentioned in the guide that we didn’t see on the ground. Perhaps we missed them or, more likely, they have disappeared (faded, fallen over, whatever!). We also noticed that the pdf descriptions of the walks provided a little more detail – such as distance/time information for each point on a walk – and a contour style map rather than the more schematic one in the book. This difference in maps is due, I presume, to space and page size factors – and is not a critical issue: the walks in general are easy to follow and, anyhow, you can print out the pdf in advance (at no charge) if you wish.

A good quality spiral binding, with an inbuilt book/page marker, would probably make the guide more user-friendly when you are on a walk, but spiral bindings (even good ones) are not as sturdy so the glue (perfect) binding style is probably best.

Overall then, a big thumbs up. This is a well-thought out guide prepared by people who clearly know bushwalking and what bushwalkers (particularly casual, recreational ones like us) want (and need). My sense is that the people at Wildwalks are doing this more for the love than the money – and for that I wave my hiking stick at them. If you walk – or plan to walk – in Australia (specifically, at present, in NSW and the ACT), check them out because they currently have over 900 walks documented on their site.

Matt McClelland and the Wildwalks team
Best river and alpine walks about Mt Kosciuszko
Warriewood: Woodslane Press, 2010
250pp.
ISBN: 9781921606045

* or have downloaded them onto some smartphone device in advance (as you can’t rely on reception once you are out on a walk).

Hedonistic hiking

Dead Horse Gap, Kosciuszko National Park

Above the treeline, Dead Horse Gap, Kosciuszko National Park

“Hedonistic hiking” is the title of an article in a glossy little (“free at selected tourist outlets in Australia” but otherwise  $24.95pa) magazine I picked up in Melbourne a couple of months ago. The mag is called essentials magazine: culture, culinary, adventure. Can you tell me how the word “culinary” fits in there syntactically? The issue I picked up (free at some selected outlet obviously) was its – and I quote – “issue 15 mid-spring ‘Chrissy issue’ 2009” edition. What is that? Who is this magazine geared to? Anyhow, the article is essentially (ha!) a promo for gourmet hiking tours in Europe. It caught my eye though because it’s a term that could apply to our annual Thredbo sojourn. We are not campers – and we don’t eat gourmet food on our walks. Rather, we love to bushwalk and then go out and eat (well). Thredbo caters for this predilection of ours in a setting that is both beautiful and compact. We arrive, park our car, check into our lovely studio apartment with its view of the mountains, and then walk and eat to our heart’s delight.

But of course, there is more to this area than hedonism and hiking. Thredbo is in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, the mountains famous for AB Paterson’s “The Man from Snowy River” and Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series of books to name just two cultural icons from the region. Nearby is the town of Jindabyne, the setting for the rather gut-wrenching Australian film of the same name. It was loosely adapted from a Raymond Carver story titled “So much water so close to home”. As lovely as the mountains are, wireless connection here is iffy so I shall sign off, sit back and sip my Chardonnay while I enjoy the sun setting on Crackenback.

POSTSCRIPT: And there are nods to the cultural heritage here, such as Banjo Drive and the Silver Brumby Lodge in Thredbo, and the Man from Snowy River Hotel in Perisher. It’s rather subtle though – the hints are there but it’s not overdone. And there’s nothing wrong with that in a place that wears its commercial side rather lightly too.