Although most people visit the Snowy Mountains for the snow, high country hiking in summer allows you to see the mountains in a whole new light. This six day hike from Kosciuszko to Kiandra treks 125km through the backcountry.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Ngarigo and Walgalu Nations, the traditional Countries of the Ngarigo and Walgalu people who have occupied and cared for these lands for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
Backcountry Hiking Across The Snowy Mountains
With one week off in January and state borders slamming shut to Sydney-siders like us, my partner and I decided to do an iconic NSW hike, the K2K – Kosciuszko to Kiandra.
We started at Charlotte Pass, heading southwest along the Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk before joining the Main Range Track. Thredbo and Dead Horse Gap are other viable starting points, but Charlotte Pass let us begin at the highest elevation and avoid a brutal uphill slog on our first day when our packs were at their heaviest.
It took us six days to cover 125km, camping and visiting huts along the way.
Day 1 – Charlotte Pass, Kosciuszko, Blue Lake
We booked a lift with Snowy Mountains Shuttles from Jindabyne to Charlotte Pass for a 9:30am start. It was a day of spectacular alpine scenery as we followed the very well established track past Seamans Hut, where we stopped for a snack, then to Kosciuszko summit, where we had lunch.
Remember, these huts are heritage and should only be used for emergency accommodation. Make sure you still pack your tent!
Read more: The Kosciuszko Huts Association Code
After that we joined the Main Range Track, which took us past incredible views of Lake Albina. When the Main Range Track dropped down towards Blue Lake, we diverged to stay on the ridge above the lake.
We came into sight of Blue Lake on our right by around 4:30pm, and camped on the other side of the ridge. (It’s forbidden to camp in the catchment area.)
Read more: How To Poo in The Bush
After the crowds at the Kosciuszko summit, it was nice to be totally alone, with views of the rolling hills turning blue in the distance. There were an awful lot of March flies though. They were big but slow – it was like swatting mice. (Yeah, you heard me, national park be damned, I took out about 20 of the lil fuckers.)
Day 2 – Blue Lake to White’s River Hut
We headed along the ridges and rolling hills, past granite peaks, then dropped down into the valley to Whites River Hut. The scenery was spectacular, and for a lot of the day we were still at around 2,000 metres elevation which gave it a definite alpine feel.
It was a hot day though, with no shade for most of it as we were above the tree line. The track also wasn’t always easy to find and we drifted a little off course a couple of times.
We arrived at the hut at around 3:30pm, planning on just stopping in for a rest and a snack before continuing. But Whites River is a pretty nice hut and after some other hikers warned us that there was quite a crowd at Schlink (the next hut along), we decided to call it a day.
Hot snack tip! Our snack that day was chocolate chia pudding, one of my greatest hiking food inventions to date – chia seeds, powdered coconut milk, cacao powder, and a bit of sugar. All ingredients are available from Woolies.
Carry them pre-mixed in a ziplock bag, and to prepare just put in a bowl, add cold water, stir, and wait five minutes. Weighs basically nothing, tastes amazing, and is choc-full of nutritious calories. You’re welcome.
Day 3 – Whites River Hut to Derschkos Hut
We walked along road or fire trails the whole way on day three so navigation was easy. As we walked, we had views down the valley and towards Mt Jagungal in front of us. Back the way we’d come we could still see Mt Kosciuszko and Mt Townsend in the distance.
We found tiny patches of shade to rest in, but the landscape was still very open, and hot. We stopped in at Valentine Hut after 10km for an early lunch and to enjoy the serenity before continuing on to Derschkos Hut, which despite being a slight detour off the main track was a gorgeous hut, and we had it all to ourselves.
Day 4 – Derschkos Hut to campsite by Mckeahnies Creek
We saw a huge variety of wildflowers each day of the hike, and today there were more than ever, with loads of bright yellow paper daisies. We briefly considered a side trip up Mt Jagungal, but decided to keep going.
We stopped in at O’Keefes Hut though, which was worthwhile as the hut was wallpapered with pages from newspapers from the 1930s and 40s. We spent an entertaining hour reading articles about the Second World War and whether unmarried women over 28 should be considered ‘old maids’ or ‘flappers’.
For the most part, the walking was through rolling hills, with gentle up and down and generally easy going. We saw a lot of damage from the fires the year before, although also quite a bit of regrowth.
We set up camp by a creek surrounded by long grass. The hot weather we’d begun with had cooled, and the nights were getting chilly. As much as I was enjoying the hike, I was also starting to really look forward to a pub meal and a beer in just a couple of days.
Day 5 – Mckechnies Creek to (the site of the former) Four Mile Hut
This day’s walking was mostly through landscape that’d been burned in the fires. It was also the most challenging navigation-wise, as after a few kilometres the track faded and disappeared, not reappearing for most of the day.
Read more: How To Hike Off-Track
For a while there was tape on trees to guide us, but that stopped when the trees stopped. We had some stunning views though, especially as we came around Tabletop Mountain.
We were headed to Four Mile Hut – a chap we’d met along the way had insisted it was still standing. I was a little surprised to think it’d survived the fires when everything else had clearly been burned, but we were looking forward to a night with a hut again. We arrived to discover the hut had not in fact survived the fires. But it was a lovely campsite nonetheless, with a nearby creek.
Day 6 – (The former) Four Mile Hut to Kiandra
This was meant to be an easy 7km walk out, but a slight wrong turn saw us head up towards Mt Selwyn. We enjoyed excellent views of Three Mile Dam followed by a gruelling trail-free slog back down to join our track to Kiandra.
Kiandra isn’t really a town, just the abandoned, and now burnt, remnants of an old gold rush settlement, so we had arranged a lift to Adaminaby, 40km down the road, where we’d booked a room at the Snowgoose Hotel.
Our lift was with a man called Raj, who we’d met by posting on the Adaminaby Facebook group a week earlier and offering to pay cash to anyone who’d drive us.
Raj was an utter champion who arrived early in a car so nice we felt bad getting into it with our filthy clothes and shoes. He offered us bottled water and dropped us at the hotel, where we were allowed to check in early.
By 1pm we were showered and enjoying steak, chips, and beers in the bistro. We followed this with coffee and donuts from the bakery over the road, and a nap, before heading back down to the bistro for dinner.
The next adventure plan is to do it all again – on skis in winter.
- Trip Intention Form! Don’t forget to fill one out before heading hitting the trail
- Sleep system – be prepared for subzero temperatures, or blizzards, even in mid-summer
- Warm clothes – in case of freezing temps at night
- Lightweight clothes – in case of hot weather during the day
- Cooking equipment
- Water sterilisation equipment – we used Lifestraws and loved them. Lots of the water we drank was quite stagnant, so having a device that filtered out the floaty bits as well was a definite bonus.
- Sun protection – hat, sunnies, sunscreen. Above the tree line there’s very little shade.
- Head torch
- Maps/GPS – Make sure you’re equipped to navigate without a track
- First aid kit
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
How To Get There
There’s no public transport to the start and end points, so we took Snowy Mountains Shuttles from Jindabyne to Charlotte Pass ($160 for two people).
At the end Raj picked us up in Kiandra and then took us to Cooma the next day, for a total of $220. (Jindabyne and Cooma are both well-serviced by buses.)
A Note on Navigation
We made the controversial navigation decision to just use map apps on our phones (AllTrails and FatMap). We each had maps downloaded onto our phones, so if one phone broke we had a back up. We also took a power bank and a lightweight solar panel to ensure both phones would stay charged.
It’s worth noting though, that although GPS meant our maps always showed us where we were, it’s not a substitute for being able to read a map.
When we had to navigate, we found our way by reading the contour lines and understanding we had to follow the ridge, skirt around the side of a hill or drop into a valley – not by trying to keep the blue dot on the black line.
Read more: Navigating With a Map & Compass
Duration / Distance / Elevation Gain
6 days / 125km / 3278m
Photos by Wendy Bruere and Peter Rohde