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Mt Kosciuszko, Australia

Kosciuszko is the highest mountain in Australia, and one of the Seven Summits, with a height of 7,309’. It is located near the town of Thredbo, about a six hour drive south of Sydney. It belongs to the Snowy Mountain range, which runs over 300 miles. It’s the main attraction of Kosciuszko National Park, a park that covers around 2,600 square miles of the province of New South Wales. The higher regions of the park possess an alpine climate which is unusual on mainland Australia. However, only the peaks of the main range receive consistent heavy winter snow. The weather station at Charlotte Pass recorded Australia’s lowest temperature, -11°F, on June 29, 1994.

It was named by Sir Paul Strzlecki, a Polish explorer who discovered made the first recorded ascent of the peak in 1840. He named it Kosciuszko in honor of the Polish leader and patriot Tadeusz Kosciuszko. It is very popular among hikers in the summertime, and skiers in winter.

In March 2007, I traveled to Sydney, Australia, looking to reach my fifth summit of the Seven Summits. I was joined on this trip by my friend Collette, who accompanied me on the long flight over. Once in Sydney, my Aussie climbing friend Tony Rac, was waiting for us to join our adventure. After checking into our hotel, our first stop was to get some coffee. The time difference was 18 hours ahead from what it was at my home. We went to see a museum, and then a zoo that had a lot of beautiful native Australian animals.

The next morning we had an exciting event climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, a once in a lifetime thing to do. It definitely offered the best views of the entire city of Sydney and the harbor. It was quite a thrill. We also explored the famous Opera House and many other sights of Sydney.

Finally, after resting and sightseeing in Sydney, it was time to head south towards Kosciuszko. Tony acted as our driver and tour guide. That was a good thing, because I could never get used to driving on the other side of the road as they do. We stopped in Canberra, which is the Capitol of Australia, for a little rest and sightseeing. From there we hit the road again and at last that evening arrived in Jindabyne in time for dinner.

On March 28, after breakfast, we traveled to Kosciuszko. We entered the park and pretty soon we were starting the hike up. The weather was good, but it looked like something would be moving in later. It was not too cold, and just a little windy.

The hike to Kosciuszko is very straightforward, but very beautiful. The park looks to be very well taken care of. I enjoyed the green scenery and the overall peace of the surroundings. It was extremely relaxing and weird at the same time. Most of my summits have been hard and stressful, watching all the time for changes in weather. So it was about time that I actually relaxed and enjoyed the walk to the top. We continued hiking and after awhile we got to the top. It was windy, but no rain or snow. I summited at 11:15am on March 28, 2007. Continuing my tradition, I got my Costa Rican flag out, and took a photo at the top of summit #5. With my friends Tony and Collette, we celebrated our accomplishment. There wasn’t too many people, but yes, a lot of wind. We stayed at the summit for a little while, and soon began our descent, since we were anxious to properly celebrate another summit down! One more, one less to go.

Even though Kosciuszko did not have the obstacles and dangers inherit in most of my other climbs, I never assumed for sure that the summit was a done deal. Mountains are mountains, and they make their own weather, and should always be respected no matter their size. Many climbers have taken Kosciuszko for granted, only to be sadly turned back by its unexpectedly difficult weather changes. There is a notorious story my friend Tony told me. Two climbers were climbing the seven summits, and had only Kosciuszko left to do. Since they were sure Kosciuszko was such an easy climb, they decided to make it more challenging by climbing it in winter. Only the mountain had a different idea, and through a winter blizzard at them in the midst of their climb. No summit! They were forced to schedule a second trip down under to complete their quest.

On the drive back to our hotel, we were surprised by a huge kangaroo jumping in front of our car. He was big and beautiful, but I didn’t have time to take a photo. That night we had a celebration dinner and the next day we drove back to Sydney.

After returning to the Sydney area, we traveled to the Blue Mountains Park and saw the famous Three Sisters. We hiked around and enjoyed all the beauty the park has to offer.

Australia is a huge country, and extremely gorgeous. I only had time to see a small amount of it, but what I saw was enough to convince me of its great qualities. The Aussie people are very friendly and have a great sense of humor. The also have a great pride in their country. It was an unforgettable trip. Thanks to my friend Tony, for accompanying me and showing me his lovely country.

In the mountain climbing world, there is a dispute between the summit of Kosciuszko and Carstenz Pyramid, as the top of the Oceania continent. Dick Bass is generally regarded as the first person to do the seven summits. He finished with the Kosciuszko summit, and not Carstenz Pyramid. After that, the controversy between the two peaks began, so most climbers doing the seven summits now do both, in order to be on both lists – the Kosciuszko list and the Carstenz Pyramid list. So that means there are actually 8 summits in the Seven Summits! I personally, plan to do both summits and be on both lists. However, since Carstenz Pyramid has a standard cost of around $18,500 to climb it, I have no hurry to do it yet since my priorities right now are Mt Everest and the Vinson Massif of Antarctica. After that, I will return to climb Carstenz at the end for the finale of my project.

Now I will continue training and hope to have the luck to be able to have the chance to make my first attempt for the summit of Everest in the spring of 2008. For those who keep questioning me, “Which mountain is next?” yes, the answer is MT EVEREST. The time is finally here, and I’m prepared mentally and physically to confront the biggest task of my life and the ultimate challenge of the mountaineering world.

Thank you all for your continued support and for following my quest.

Gineth Soto

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