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Chasing the First Light: Sunrise Hiking to the Top of Australia

12 hiking women dressed in warm jackets, hats and beanies, celebrate with hands in the air to celebrate reaching  the top of Mount Kosciuszko, glowing sky in the background.
Women Embrace Adventure, top of Kosciuszko for sunrise

2:30am alarm, oh so jarring, as the cold of the morning hits but the excitement of what’s to come kicks in. Layers on, breakfast packed (snacks and lunch, too, it’s going to be a long day) hot cuppa in hand for 3:00am departure. It’s clear as a bell and oh so chilly. The stars are amazing, the Milky Way so close you could almost reach out and grab a star.

We drive slow, the wildlife of the high country is active in dark of the very early morning; wombats, wallabies, rabbits, deer all on the road as we climb to our start point.

We arrive at Charlotte Pass, the only car on the road, the entire trail to our selves for the duration of the hike.

Head torches on, nervous wees done, and we start right on time at 4:00am, still pitch black and getting colder as we go. -3.5° as we set off but the layers are working a treat. Boldly starting colder is a fab rule as the muscles start to heat up as the trail steadily rises towards the top of Australia.

The group splits with the speed demons up the front with Margie and the steady walkers down the back with Sharon. Slow and steady we climb, a red glow on the horizon. Shooting stars guide the way. We pass Seaman’s Hut, a stream of red and white lights in the blackness, snaking up the trail.

We regroup at Rawson Pass for a toilet break and a quick snack to begin the climb to the top. Twighlight reveals the stunning terrain we’ve been walking for the past 7kms, and wow, what a stunner this place is.

The trail now rockier underfoot, it’s a bit harder to maintain the quick pace, puddles are frozen solid, our water bladders, too. Note to self, bottles are best in alpine conditions…

Getting to the top is tough, steady up hill, and spectacular as the horizon tints hot pink and orange, the sunrise only moments away. We arrive at the summit, 2228 metres elevation, with excited cheers.

The first at the top snapping photos in the gloomy light and cheering on the stragglers at the back who feel every single step up the mountain. Support, encouragement, accomplishment and celebration bring tears to a few eyes.

We have the summit of Kosi all to ourselves, not another living soul, an absolute miracle or maybe testament that we are a bit crazy to start hiking at 4am.

We don a few more layers to keep out the biting chill and enjoy a hot cuppa as the sun finally emerges over the horizon, the sky quickly brightening to blues, mauves and dusky pink.

Thousands of photos taken, a quick moment of reflection and a bit more celebration we continue our journey, some continuing 14 km more to conquer The Main Range, past lakes Albina, Club and Blue, up Mount Curruthers and across the fabled Snowy River, we meet back at Charlotte Pass. 9 hours and 23 kms of hiking later…

Feet are sore, legs are aching, and smiles are huge as the reality of ‘type 2’ fun kicks in. We thank the weather gods for blessing us with absolutely perfect blue bird weather, a rarity in this part of the world.

The rugged Main Range, the very rooftop of Australia, Mount Kosciuszko, where the views across the Australian Alps stretch as far as the eye can see, and we are so glad we came on this day to witness the sheer beauty of this place.


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