Kosciuszko I: Kosciuszko Summit Wheelchair Challenge
Ok, so the first question is, “Why climb Kosciuszko? Doesn’t that make eight summits?”
Well yes, it does make eight 7 Summits which granted, doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it all comes down to the definition of a continent. There are geographical continents defined by landmass on a single tectonic plate, there are political continents defined but country borders, and a whole lot of other variations.
When it comes to the 7 Summits, there are actually 2 lists:
- The Bass List: Named after Dick Bass, the first man to complete this version, which treats Australia as a continent with Kosciusko being the high point.
- The Messner List: Named after Reinhold Messner, the first man to complete this version, which extends the Australian continent out to Australasia with Carstensz Pyramid being the high point.
To avoid any ambiguity and to meet the requirements of Guinness World Records I am climbing both Kosciusko and Carstensz. But regardless of that, with Australia being my home continent, there is no way I was going to leave Kosciuszko out. So eight 7 Summits it is!
Rotary Kosciuszko Summit Wheelchair Challenge
When the Rotary Club of Turramurra heard about my 7 Summits challenge in late 2017 they wanted to get behind it and help raise awareness and funds for SpinalCure and Surf Life Saving. A small committee was quickly set up and they set about organising what many told them was impossible within the timeframe; a fundraising event taking wheelchair participants to the top of Australia’s highest mountain. Recruiting assistance from the local Cooma Rotary Club, jointly they organized a superb event scheduled for Saturday 3rd March. So in heading back to Australia, my plan was to not only climb Kosciuszko as part of my Project 7in4 but also participate in the Rotary Kosciuszko Summit Wheelchair Challenge supporting the wheelchair participants achieve their own personal goals.
Week in Sydney
Since arriving back in Sydney last Sunday (25th February) I spent most of the week running around town on various errands. Highest priority was sorting out my Russian visa which I need before I depart again on Wednesday for Elbrus. Nothing like a last minute rush. My application is now filed and handed in personally to the Russian Consulate in Sydney. Hopefully, my approved visa will come through either tomorrow or Tuesday otherwise I am in a bit of trouble. Second highest priority was washing my clothes which had become a live science experiment since I departed back in early January and had started to take on a rather unpleasant smell. In between that my sister, Tanya, had me booked up with several media appointments and we also had a bit of spare time to play the tourist in the city I grew up in.
With a few chores out of the way, last Friday (2nd March) Mum, Dad, Cathy (my aunty) and I drove down to Jindabyne. Many other family and friends were coming down separately as well which was amazing.
Sunrise Run to the Top of Australia
Before the Rotary Kosciuszko Summit Wheelchair Challenge kicked off at 08:00 yesterday (Saturday) morning, I wanted to scout out the route. I somehow managed to convince my brother, Rick, to wake up at stupid o’clock and come with me.
Our alarms went off at 04:00 and we left trying not to wake too many others in the lodge where we were staying at the Jindabyne Sport and Recreation Centre. By 05:00 we were standing at the trailhead at Charlotte Pass. Being pre-dawn, it was dark and the morning spring air in the Snowy Mountains was cool and crisp. With head torches on it took 50min to jog the 9km up to the summit cairn marking the top of Kosciuszko, which sadly was under reconstruction and wrapped in blue plastic.
We were aiming to be on the top in time for sunrise but didn’t actually check what time sunrise was. It was still pitch black when we got up there at 05:50 with just the faintest orange glow on the horizon. We sat down and waited for about 30min by which stage it was getting a bit lighter but still no sunrise. We were getting too cold sitting still in nothing more than shorts and a light thermal top so started running back down. The sun eventually did rise sometime during our 40min jog back to the start of the trailhead at Charlotte Pass.
It was a beautiful morning and for me, it was very special to be able to share it with Rick. For 30min we were able to sit quietly on top of Australia, the only two up there, looking out over the top of the magnificent Snowy Mountains silhouetted against the faint orange glow of the slowly rising sun on the horizon. It was a wonderful morning, well worth the early wake-up call.
A Great Event for a Great Cause
Back at Charlotte Pass by 07:00, Cooma Rotary had a bacon and egg BBQ breakfast on the go and participants for the Rotary Kosciuszko Summit Wheelchair Challenge were just starting to arrive and register. It was a wonderful turn out with 6 wheelchair participants and approximately 100 people in total with supporters and volunteers from several organizations including the local State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service. Together everyone got to the top of Kosciuszko and back down, completing the 18km round trip in a very slick 5hrs 45min. Not even a broken wheelchair could slow the team down. The day was wrapped up with and an event dinner that evening back at the Jindabyne Sport and Rec Centre. It was wonderful to be able to partake in such an amazing day in support of such great causes, SpinalCure and Surf Life Saving.
A huge congratulations to all the wheelchair participants! Your strength and determination is inspirational and it was a privilege to be able to share this memorable event with you.
Special thanks to everyone who joined in on the weekend and made it such a memorable event. Special mention must go to the Turramurra and Cooma Rotary Clubs for their tireless work in organising such a seamless event, to the National Parks for their assistance, to the supporters and volunteers from the many organisations involved including the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service, and to the team at Aussie Fluid Power for supporting the day and donating beanies for the kids. Personally, I’d also like to thank all my family and friends who made the trip down and joined in for the weekend. It was wonderful to see you all there.
Here is a short video of the weekend from the talented Leighton and Mikayla Smith from New Heights Adventure Blog:
For me now it is back to Sydney. Tomorrow I need to head into town to check on the status of my Russian Visa application and hopefully fly back out on Wednesday.