Camping out on the main range of Kosciuszko National Park sounds wilder than an ep of Bear Grylls – add some snow into the mix and you’ve got yourself a bonafide expedition.
- Entry-level snow camping experience
- High-country views
- Big skies
- Short and sweet overnighter
Snow, but not too much
On the surface, this sounds like the kind of trip that’s way beyond your average weekend warrior, demanding expensive gear, extensive know-how, and the survival skills of British Commando. But in reality, the Main Range is super accessible. Hiking for less than an hour from the top of the Thredbo chairlift, or Charlottes Pass carpark, is more than enough to get you far out beyond the sights and sounds of civilisation.
Jon and I had been dreaming up a mountain-top campout for a while, and with the snow dwindling in Kosci, the trip was a goer.
Bags packed for a cheeky midweek overnighter, we drove to the mountains, parked up in Thredbo and caught the chairlift to the top. I felt like a bit of a plum sitting on the chairlift, bag full of winter gear, thermals, gloves, two jackets and an expedition tent, as the spring sun shone down on us. To be honest, I was warm enough in shorts and a t-shirt and we hadn’t even started walking yet.
Getting ‘Out There’ Doesn’t Take Long
Arriving at the top, we disembarked, slung heavy packs over our shoulders and started along the paved path into the mountains. Before long, we turned off towards Dead Horse Gap, on a snowier, slipperier and less well-trodden path. This was exactly what I was hoping for. In no time at all, the sight of the chairlift disappeared and we were swept up in the silent majesty that is the Main Range.
As early afternoon neared, we struck camp, ditched our heavy bags in favour of cameras and tripods, and headed for a grander summit to watch the sunset. As the light waned and temperatures dipped, I was glad to have some warmer layers to slap on up top. Shorts were possibly a bad call and, as the snow level increased, socks became soggier and feet chillier. In retrospect, snowshoes would have been dreamy.
Shooting In The Moonlight
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset behind the peaks and then the full moon began its steady rise from down the valley. This was definitely a blessing as we were able to use the moonlight to find our way back to camp. The frigid cold and our rumbling bellies hurried us to camp where pre-made containers of spicy beans and hipster bread were waiting to warm our bodies and souls.
Night came quickly and the moon got brighter and brighter – it was like camping under a streetlight at your local Big4. Undeterred by the bulbous moon (actually, we were encouraged by it), we headed out after dinner to take some long exposures that captured the moonlit landscape.
I felt like a kid on Christmas morning up there; it was like our own private winter playground. I was running around in the moonlight, playing with a new camera and tripod setup, and getting some much-needed tips from Jon. Hot tip number 1 – go adventuring with a pro photographer. Just remember to be kind to yourself when comparing your shots afterward.
Once we’d exhausted the winter landscape, and with toes resembling frozen peas, we climbed into our sacks, ready to sleep through ‘til sunrise. Or so I thought.
I’d brought a new sleeping bag that made confident promises of a -7 rating. So I was expecting to be snug as a bug, in a brand new rug. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case as I spent the night mystified by my lack of warmth, piling on more layers, zipping my bag even higher and cursing my poor choice in bag. I was also quietly cursing Jon as he kept reminding me how warm he was in his decade-old Kathmandu sleeping bag. Cheers mate!
Thankfully Night Doesn’t Last Forever
6.00am eventually rolled around and we hopped up, jumped into all of our clothes and got ready for sunrise. Boy was I happy when those first warming tendrils of light crept onto my toes and up my body. Before long I was basking like a lizard, feeling my body come back to life as I shook off the frosty shackles of the night before.
Sunrise was a stormer, Jon’s porridge was exceptional, and that first mountaintop coffee finished way too soon. 8.00am saw us fully-loaded once more, heading back down the mountain, tired but immensely satisfied with a night on the Main Range.
Despite a cold and sleepless night, this winter micro definitely goes down as a success story. I might just bring a different sleeping bag and a hot water bottle next time.
- Tent and sleeping gear – we had an expedition-grade tent that was possibly overkill for the conditions, but it’s the mountains so you’re best off being over-prepared
- A distress beacon – again, you never know up there
- First aid equipment
- Camera and tripod
- Food and water (enough for two days minimum)
- Poop equipment – gotta pack it out people!
- Waterproof hiking boots (and snowshoes)
- Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for it to change
How To Get There
Drive to Thredbo. Catch the scenic chairlift to the top and head out in your chosen directions. Check out the NSW Parks website as there are some camping restrictions out on the Main Range.
Intermediate – This adventure is best suited to fit walkers with recent overnight hiking experience. Be aware that changeable weather, blizzards or white-outs, can make for dangerous conditions and unexpected delays.
Distance Covered / Duration
8km return hiking / 2 days
All photography by Jon Harris (except one by the author)
Heed the call of the mountains