- Photo Essays
As I trek on a mountain’s edge in sub-zero temperatures through the most vicious of snowstorms….I forget for a moment that I am still in Australia.
When planning this late-spring hiking and photography trip to the Snowy Mountains in south eastern Australia, I was quietly hoping for a few scant remnants of the winter snowfall – if only to add a little drama to my landscape photographs! The current reality of mountain blizzards and vast stretches of thigh-deep snow was not exactly what I had envisioned.
There are so few areas of this desert continent where you can trek at an altitude above the tree line. On the rim of Australia’s highest mountain, in the untamed wilderness of Kosciuszko National Park, memories of deserts, trees and white beaches are long forgotten. This is the Australian Alps, the High Country and at 2,228 meters, the summit of Mount Kosciuszko exists just up ahead of us….somewhere beneath all this snow.
Within moments the sky darkens and the landscape changes yet again. The already freezing temperature plummets, along with any remaining visibility; it is white on white. Large snowdrifts collide with footprints of trekkers from earlier today; and then even they disappear completely in the whiteout.
But I am not here solely to hike.
This mountain landscape is one of the most stunning in Australia and is a landscape photographers dream! Above the tree line it is a minimalist landscape and it is the smaller details that catch my eye. The crazy weather is only making this day of hiking and photography more interesting and the snow, fog and moody skies are perfect conditions for capturing dramatic landscape photographs.
With a ferocious head wind that makes the attempt at forward motion seem futile, I trudge those final steps up to the summit. At the top of Australia my hands are numb, my eyes are stinging from the assault of millions of tiny snowflakes, and the whiteout means I can’t see a thing, but…we have the top of Mount Kosciuszko to ourselves.
Mount Kosciuszko is a pretty laidback notch in the belt for those on a quest to conquer the world’s 7 Summits, a popular mountaineering feat of summiting the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Walking the 22km Main Range Circuit is the best way to make a decent day hike out of it with a climb of around 920 meters and a few gorgeous glacial lakes to distract you from the extra exertion. The Blue Lake in particular is a great place to wile away the hours with your camera.
We make the descent from Kosciuszko’s summit through soupy fog, and eventually, forests of gnarled Aussie Snow Gums remind us that despite the snow, we are in fact still in Australia. The muted light and misty air transforms the landscape into something of an enchanted forest.
This snowfall turns out to be only the beginning. By the following day, our vistas of Snow Gums and Alpine wilderness have transformed into a virtual winter playground with 20cm of fresh snow settling overnight. My camera and I could not be happier!
We recover from our summit hike and scrutinise our photos over a shot (or two) of schnapps at the local Wild Brumby Distillery near Jindabyne before heading to Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa for some much deserved rest and relaxation. After three days of hiking up and down mountains with a backpack of cameras, lenses and a tripod…I do what any other weary hiker would: I head straight to the day spa!