Friday, March 5, 2010

Mount Kosciuszko - Summit day!


Conquering Mount Kasciuszko, the highest pinnacle of mainland Australia, on Australia day! How much more Australian can it get? :-) As mentioned in the previous post we set out on our endeavor very early in the morning, to be able to make it back to Sydney before night fall. In reality we had heaps of time, since the climb is indeed quite gentle and can be done easily as a half day walk.


Crossing the Snowy river once again, we took the time to examine the crystal clear water and managed to spot a bit of underwater wildlife. The fishes of the alpine region of Kosciuszko have a very interesting story. Being a fish high up on a mountain does obviously have its difficulties, since water, as I am sure you readers are aware of, runs down when given a chance. So as a fish you either have to use enormous amounts of energy "staying high" or find steady water - like Blue Lake - and stay there at the cost of isolating yourself in a restricted area.

Indeed Blue Lake holds an endemic subspecies of the Galaxias family, obviously in close family to the small Galaxias sp. of the snowy river - like the one in the picture above - it has been isolated long enough to become a species of its own. In fact, if you "dive" into the literature you realize that the parting of water in the Kosciuszko National Park has lead to a number of fish subspecies each filling their own little niche of habitat. Exciting stuff!

With all that excitement going on around us it took a while to make it to the summit, but we finally found ourselves at the target of our walk, 2228m above sea level, Mount Kosciuszko! When coming from Charlotte Pass the "peak" looks quite flat and boring, but standing on the top you have some very impressive views.

Walking in the Kosciuszko National Park during Australian summer is absolutely fantastic, nowhere else in Australia (except maybe for Tasmania) can you do some serious hiking this time of year without having to bring your own body-weight in drinking water. The morning walk to the top had near perfect temperature and standing admiring the views was nearly a bit chill - very nice indeed!

Realizing that the ascent had taken slightly longer than expected we cranked up the speed a bit and pushed rapidly down the mountain. Guess we were all ready to get back to Sydney, there is something about coming home that is nearly as good as being on the move .. and I was super excited about getting the pictures onto the computer.

Again it was astonishing seeing the variation and quantity of the wildflowers along the path, during the ascent you noticed how a type of plants start being more common and then slowly disappears again as you go higher, each species having its own optimum micro habitat.


I really would have liked not having to name those grasshoppers, but since they are here on the blog I should at least give a qualified(?) guess. The one above gave me a hard time and only after realizing that the red dots are not a part of the grasshoppers natural coloration it started working out. After looking into a bit of grasshopper literature I found a Monistria sp. that looked quite similar and then it did not take long to find the Spotted Mountain Grasshopper Monistria concinna .. It should have been easy; it is spotted and we saw it while bushwalking in the mountains! :-) Best guess for the grasshopper in the picture below is probably an Yellow winged locust Gastrimargus musicus, you may argue that the wings are not yellow (I can reveal that I had the same thought), but apparently they are when unfolded! - see here :-) .. however, as always any suggestions are very welcome.

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