Overview of Australia's Mount Kosciuszko

What Climbers Should Know About the Highest Mountain in Australia

Winter Sunset at the Highest Australian Mountain

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Located in the Main Range of New South Wales in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko is located in Kosciuszko National Park, which is part of the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.

  • Elevation: 7,310 feet (2,228 meters).
  • Prominence: 7,310 feet (2,228 meters)
  • Location: Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Coordinates: -36.455981 S / 148.263333 W
  • First Ascent: First ascent by an expedition led by Polish explorer Count Pawel Edmund Strzelecki, 1840.

Mount Kosciuszko is the highest mountain on the Australian continent, but it is not the highest mountain on Australian territory. That distinction belongs to Mawson Peak on Heard Island—an Australian territory in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica. Located between Australia and Africa, snow-covered Mawson Peak is the highest mountain in any state and territory in Australia. A snow-covered Volcano, Mawson Peak, rises to 9,006 feet (2,745 meters).

But on the Australian mainland, Mount Kosciuszko holds honors as the highest mountain with a height of 7,310 ft (2,228 meters), just slightly higher than nearby Mount Townsend. 

High Point of Great Dividing Range

Mount Kosciuszko is the high point of the Great Dividing Range, a long mountain range that runs along the entire eastern part of Australia from Queensland to Victoria. Mount Kosciuszko itself is in New South Wales a few miles from its border with Victoria. Glaciers chiseled out the mountain, leaving glacial features such cirques (rounded glacial valleys) and moraines, during the Pleistocene Epoch, over 20,000 years ago.

Kosciuszko National Park

Mount Kosciuszko is the centerpiece of 1,664,314-acre Kosciuszko National Park, Australia largest national park. The park was designated a The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve in 1977 for its many unusual alpine plants and animals. The alpine zone on Mount Kosciuszko includes many rare and endemic plants and flowers that are found nowhere else in the world.

Snowiest Place in Australia

The Mount Kosciuszko area is the coldest and snowiest part of Australia, which is mostly an arid and hot continent. Snow covers the mountain from June through October, and the area hosts Australia’s only ski areas: The Thredbo and Perisher ski resorts.

Named for a Polish Explorer

Polish explorer Count Pawel Edmund Strzelecki, famous for his exploration of Australia, named Mount Kosciuszko in 1840 in honor of the Polish hero General Tadeusz Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko (1746-1817) joined the American Army during the Revolution, eventually rising to the rank of General as well as being the Deputy Engineer for the army. Kosciuszko was a defensive expert who created fortifications for Saratoga, Philadelphia, and West Point, and in later years urged that the Military Academy situated at West Point.

A close friend of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Kosciuszko returned to Poland in 1787 and waged war against neighboring countries for Polish independence. Later, he retired to Switzerland to write books about military strategy. After his death in 1817, Kosciuszko was hailed not only as a Polish patriot but also as a great American and a true citizen of the world.

The tongue-twisting name Kosciuszko is pronounced in Australia as kozzy-OS-ko. However, the proper Polish pronunciation is kosh-CHOOSH-ko. Aussies often just called the mountain "Kossy."

Aboriginal Names for Mountain

There are several native Aboriginal names associated with the mountain, with some confusion as to the exact pronunciation of the words. The names include Jagungal, Jar-gan-gil, Tar-gan-gil, Tackingal—all of which mean “Table-Top Mountain.”

Easiest of the Seven Summits

Mount Kosciuszko, the lowest of the Seven Summits (the seven highest points on the seven continents) is also the easiest to climb. The main trail to the summit is an easy 5.5-mile-long hike that is crowded with trekkers all summer. As many as 100,000 people climb to the roof of Australia every year.

Kosciuszko vs. Carstensz Pyramid

Whether or not Mount Kosciuszko is one of the true Seven Summits is debated by all climbers attempting to climb the highest points on the seven continents. While Kosciuszko is the highest point on the Australian continent, many purists contend that the true high point is Carstensz Pyramid in Irian Jaya, which is part of Oceania and on the same continental plate as Australia. The difficulty of the two peaks also enters the discussion, since Kosciuszko is just a hike, while Carstensz Pyramid is technically one of the most difficult of the Seven Summits to climb. Many Seven Summiteers climb them both to avoid the "for-and-against" argument.

Australia's Highest Toilet

Australia’s highest toilet is at Rawson’s Pass, just below Kosciuszko’s summit. It exists to accommodate the masses of hikers and to keep human waste from being an even more severe problem.