“What did you get for Christmas?”
“Fat. I got fat.”
So spoketh a meme on social media recently, ringing true for countless celebrators of the holiday season. In order to get ahead of some New Year’s resolutions then, my partner and parents decided to amble up to Jagungal Wilderness Area, within the Kosciuszko* National Park, on the 31st of December.
Mount Jagungal, at 2061 metres, is the highest mountain outside of the Main Range, and it lords over the much lower surrounding plains. Unfortunately, the track between the car park at Round Mountain and our destination of O’Keefe’s Hut descended sharply down to Tumut River before rising up Farm Ridge, so we certainly began working off that extra helping of Christmas pudding early.
It was a warm day, and in spite of the truly glorious swathes of wildflowers, we were glad to drop our packs at the end of the afternoon. The original O’Keefe’s Hut had burned down in the 2003 fires, along with the other 18,700 km² of national park and reserves destroyed during the 2-month-long burn. The new hut was decorated with quite amusing 1930s newspapers, and even included a resident family of Welcome swallows. Best of all, the chairs and dining table were the finest that I’ve ever seen in any hut, and we pulled the chairs outside to enjoy the sunshine before the mosquitoes drove us back.
The next day we dropped our packs at the weather station at the base of Jagungal, and ascended directly up towards the summit. The scrub gave me a moment to miss my gaiters, which I’ve not worn since hiking in Tassie, but we were soon clear of the worst of it and into wildflower country.
The skeletons of snow gum forests stretched across the entire landscape below us, but the bases of most trees were re-shooting, and there were snow gum flowers blooming everywhere. My amateur photographer mother and I slowed down and switched to macro lenses, and she even spotted a fox flying headlong past us.
We reached the rather windy summit, where we admired the few patches of snow still visible on the Main Range and grabbed some photos. We then dropped behind some boulders for scroggin before descending down the well worn track on the far side. There were fewer flowers, but instead amongst the cemetery of pale limbs there was a handful lovely old snow gums that had escaped the fire. Mum spotted a particularly fine specimen, and used her drink bottle to bring out the colours of the trunk.
Back on the firetrail we made good time in returning around Jagungal to the packs for lunch, before we retraced our steps along the firetrail and beyond to Derschkos Hut. Built by Snowy Mountains Authority and used by an hydrologist named Derschkos, the hut is armed with double glazed windows, three rooms and a pot belly stove. Nevertheless, the sloped ground beside the hut is uninspiring for tenting, and my father led us to a beautiful little opening in a grove of snow gums instead. We shared the hut that evening with another family of Welcome Swallows, as well as two young families of fellow bushwalkers.
The next morning we were racing across the fire trail back to Round Mountain when we came across a spectacular meadow of yellow billy buttons. Frolicking amongst them like spring fawns we photographed to our heart’s content, before finishing the circuit back to the car park.
Dad offered to shout us a pub lunch, if we could find one, so we set off for Cabramurra. The highest permanently inhabited town on the Australian continent, it was built in the 1950s by the Snowy Mountains Scheme, and appears somewhat deserted these days. In spite of this, we were offered large, delicious meals for a mere $8 or so each at the local Bistro, and congratulated ourselves on the value for money. So much for New Year’s resolutions!
*I’ve mentioned the strange pronunciation of “Kosciuszko” in a previous post, but I discovered on this walk—thanks to an old Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) newsletter—that there was much furious debate within the KHA when the spelling was changed to include the missing ‘z’! It made for an excellent read.
For a different account of this trip, and some really beautiful photos, see my mother’s description of the adventure.
More photos are on my Flickr album.