Mount Kosciuszko is a mountain located in the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales. With a height of 2,228 metres (7,310 ft) above sea level, it is the highest mountain on the Australian continent (i.e., not including its external territories). It was named by the Polish explorer Paul Edmund Strzelecki in 1840, in honour of the Polish national hero and hero of the American Revolutionary War General Tadeusz Kościuszko, because of its perceived resemblance to the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków.
The name of the mountain was previously spelt “Mount Kosciusko”, an Anglicisation, but the spelling “Mount Kosciuszko” was officially adopted in 1997 by the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. The traditional English pronunciation of Kosciuszko is but the pronunciation is now sometimes used, which is substantially closer to the Polish pronunciation.
There are several native Aboriginal (Ngarigo) names associated with the mountain, with some confusion as to the exact sounds. These are Jagungal, Jar-gan-gil, Tar-gan-gil, Tackingal, all of which mean “Table Top Mountain.”
Various measurements of the peak originally called Kosciuszko showed it to be slightly lower than its neighbour, Mount Townsend. The names of the mountains were swapped by the New South Wales Lands Department, so that Mount Kosciuszko remains the name of the highest peak of Australia, and Mount Townsend ranks as second. The 1863 picture by Eugene von Guerard hanging in the National Gallery of Australia titled “Northeast view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko” is actually from Mount Townsend.
When considering all of Oceania as a continent, Mount Kosciuszko is overshadowed by Puncak Jaya in Papua, Indonesia, also called Carstensz Pyramid. Different versions of the Seven Summits climbing challenge depend on which is chosen to be the “Australia” peak.
Mount Kosciuszko is the highest summit in Australia (not including its external territories). There is a road to Charlotte Pass, from which an 8-kilometre (5 mi) path leads to the summit. Anyone with a modest level of fitness can walk to the top. Until 1977 it was possible to drive through Rawson Pass to within a few metres of the summit. The walking track to Mount Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass is in fact that road, which was closed to public motor vehicle access due to environmental concerns. This track is also used by cyclists as far as Rawson Pass, where they must leave their bicycles at a bike-rack and continue onto the summit track on foot.
The peak may also be approached from Thredbo, which is a shorter 6.5 kilometres (4 mi), and should take approximately 3 to 3.5 hours for a round trip. It’s not a difficult walk and is supported by a chairlift all-year round. From the top of the chairlift there is a raised mesh walkway to the summit to protect the native vegetation and prevent erosion. Both tracks meet at Rawson Pass for the final climb to the Kosciuszko summit. Australia’s highest public toilet was built in 2007 at Rawson Pass at an altitude of 2,100 metres (6,900 ft). As over 100,000 people are now visiting the mountain each summer, human waste management is becoming a serious issue.
The peak and the surrounding areas are snow-covered in winter and spring (usually beginning in June and continuing until October or later). The road from Charlotte Pass and the track from Thredbo are marked by snow poles and provide a guide for cross-country skiers.
Kosciuszko National Park is also the location of the downhill ski slopes closest to Canberra and Sydney, containing the Thredbo, Charlotte Pass, and Perisher Blue ski resorts. Mount Kosciuszko may have been ascended by Indigenous Australians long before the first recorded ascent by Europeans.
Each year in December, an ultramarathon running race called the Coast to Kosciuszko ascends to the top of Mount Kosciuszko after starting at the coast 240 kilometres (150 mi) away. Paul Every, who is credited as being the one who thought of holding such a race, was the inaugural co-winner in 2004.