Getting lost in the Kosciuszko Wilderness
My Experience on Mt Kosciusko
My name is Peter Hosking. I am writing this because I survived 26 hours on of Mt. Kosciuszko.
On Monday the 10th of October 2012, I set out from Thredbo for the summit of Mt Kosciusko. I bought a day ticket for passengers to get up to the top station from Thredbo.
I climbed up to the top of Kosciusko by lunchtime. I took some photos and hung out at the top of Australia for about 30 mins. I then descended too Seamens Hut which is at 2030 Meters. (approx 200mtrs shy of the summit).
At this stage I stayed in the hut for about 2 hours as there was two other groups. One was a middle aged gentleman who was up there hiking and camping out for a couple weeks. The others was a couple who were climbing up to the summit before traversing over the Charlottes Pass.
I had a cup of coffee and a couple nut and whet bars and some baked beans.
About 4pm i decided I am going to head back for Thredbo. (my first mistake).
The weather report was that it was clear and fine at Thredbo and was not expected any snow or bad weather. I know this because I checked it before I left my place.
The other gentleman who was in Seamans Hut said if I was too descend the east face not the north face as there was a storm brewing and it would be very hard to see where I was going and to cut back over and then drop down into Thredbo.
I set out from Seamans Hut with the weather clear (except for the front on the north side which we were on the south so It wasn’t affecting us at this stage), This weather changed very quickly and within an hour of setting off i was in a blizzard and whiteout. I lost all my sense of direction only to know I had to head down.
I climbed down for the next few hours at which point I realised I was going to be there the night. So I made a basic snow cave and broke branches of the trees to insulate underneath as well as a snow break to stop the snow from dumping on me.
I was in the snow cave for a couple hours at which point it was about 8pm.
My phone had gone dead about 4pm and now my head torch had gone and was now without light except for the moon light.
At this time I saw head lights of a passing car on Alpine way and decided that i would climb through the night to get down by the morning.
This is were everything really went pear shape.
As I was climbing down my straps for my snow shoes snapped and so I used a piece of string from Seamen’s Hut to mend it.
I was climbing through bush and shrubs with my snow shoes on was able to stay on top of the trees/ shrubs but occasionally fell through. There was once or twice that I twisted my ankle as I came down through the shrubs not to mention cut my hands open and fell over a few times and got scratches on my back and stomach. I fell into a couple small streams/ puddles so my feet were wet and cold.
I was not aware of time but I was not making much progress through the night and was stopping every between thirty minus and 1 hour for a 10 min break and to have something to eat/ drink.
About 3 or 4am I stopped and got under a rock and sheltered myself from the snow storm and wind and laid down for maybe 10 or 20 mins. I woke up shivering and very very cold.
I started praying and asked the Lord to get me through this and to show me the right way down/ out. I then started crying.
By this stage my hands and feet were so cold due to my gloves wet and boots soaked so I peed on my hands to warm them up.
I knew if I fell a sleep I would be in a really bad place so I got up and kept moving. Later I was told that last season a doctor died and a group of 5 people died in a snow cave when it snowed over and the suffocated. I now can see the similarities between the doctor and myself.
So I made myself get up stop crying and keep going.
At sunrise I could feel the warmth from the sun coming over me and was so nice to feel. I was following a stream down the mountain as I had heard from Bear Grylls that most streams either lead to the sea or the town (I was hoping for the later).
So after camping under rocks trees and shrubs and climbing off Mt Kosciuszko it was not twilight and I could see where I was walking. By this stage I had lost one of my water bottles (lost the lid so was not much point holding onto it) and also my ski gloves.
About 6am I tried my iPhone one last time to see if I could get my bearings and get back to Thredbo to my surprise it turned on and I had phone coverage so I got on my maps app and figured out I had come down the next gully over from Thredbo and all I needed to do was get to the top of the ridge and I would see Alpine Way and my way back to Thredbo.
So I pushed through the heavy undergrowth and got to the top of the ridge and saw the sight I was looking for all night.The road. I climbed down the ridge and waded through three of four streams (my feet were soaked anyway so it didn’t matter at this stage of getting wet). Then climbed up to the road where I flagged down a man in a four wheel drive carrying a boat and told him I had been lost all night and I need to get to the medical centre.
The Medical centre was closed so I went into the ticket office where I asked eagerly (while they were serving customers) that I had just spent the night in the wilderness and I needed medical help urgently. At this point I collapsed and three people came running over and took all my wet clothes off and got me a cup of coffee and then took me up to the operations room where it was heated and got me some jackets and called the ambulance.
Then the ambulance came and checked me out and confirmed that my toes and fingers were frost bitten and I was suffering from hyperthermia. Thanks to me keeping going through the night I was able to keep my core temperature up enough to hold the worst of the frost bight and any permanent damage (I was concerned I would loose some fingers or toes).
After I had warmed up I was told about two groups who had not made it out and that there was a doctor who was in the same scenario but died after falling a sleep.
With me I had an apple a mandarin two bottles of sports drink and a couple nut bars.
I did go prepared that it was going to be cold so I did have my thermal socks and thermal underwear on as well as beanie, gloves moon boots, and my ski gear on as well as a face mask.
After I got home and the ambulance released me. I drove home and I slept for 24 hours straight. I woke up after this to find cuts all over my body. I could not feel my fingers or toes (I could hit them on the kitchen table without feeling any pain).
This experience didn't scare me off from the snow or being in the mountains. In fact the following year I bought season passes for both Perisher and Thredbo and learned to ski.
After this experience I learned that quality clothing in a alpine environment was essential and necessary. I have sourced the best quality gear from suppliers all over the world.
The main piece of clothing I learned from this is quality gloves and quality outer clothing. Please peruse our website to get the best quality gear at affordable prices.