Snowy Mountains: Highest Mountain Range in Australia

The Snowy Mountains are close to Cooma and many people go to Thredbo and Kosiosko to ski. I remember at the turn of the year 2000. My friend Russell and his wife and child and myself and partner went to Kosiosko. We camped at a camping ground. Then by impulse at 3am we decided to climb the mountain. I remember having a sleeping bag wrapped around my shoulders and we walked and talked. There were many people on the track and it was cold and pitch black. I might add this was summer here in Australia. Yet I was blowing steam as it was cold. We got to the summit at dawn and watched the cloud that formed around us slowly dissipate and reveal the valleys and rocks formations we had passed. On going down the mountain I was amazed to see rocks everywhere, a thousand stonehenges, the landscape was filled with these rocks, looked to me like a luna scape. I couldn’t think of a better place to be at the turn of the century, the highest point in Australia.

Here is an overview of The Snowy Mountains, courtesy of Wikipedia. We have many folk legends about The man from Snowy River and the brave stockmen in this area. Of course the indigneous history is astounding also and they themselves were excellent horsemen and trackers. I am not far from this area where I am staying today and loving the fresh air and mountain landscape with clean rivers flowing past. Absolutely beautiful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowy_Mountains

The Snowy Mountains, known informally as “The Snowies”, are the highest Australian mountain range and contain the Australian mainland’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, which reaches 2,228 metres AHD, approximately 7310 feet.

The range contains the five highest peaks on the Australian mainland, all above 2100 metres (6890 feet). They are located in southern New South Wales and are part of the larger Australian Alps and the Great Dividing Range. This is mainland Australia’s only true Alpine region with large natural snowfalls every winter. Snow normally falls the most during June, July and Early August. Most of the snow has melted by Late Spring. The Tasmanian highlands are the other Alpine region in Australia.

It is host to the Mountain Plum-pine, a low-lying type of conifer suspected of being the world’s oldest living organism.[citation needed] It is one of the centres of the Australian ski industry during the winter months.

The Alpine Way and the Snowy Mountains Highway are the major roads through the Snowy Mountains.

The mountain range is thought to have had Aboriginal occupation for twenty thousand years. Large scale inter-tribal gatherings were held in the High Country during summer for collective feasting on the Bogong moth. This practice continued until around 1865.[1]

The area was first explored by Europeans in 1835, and in 1840, Edmund Strzelecki ascended Mount Kosciuszko and named it after a Polish patriot. High country stockmen followed who used the Snowy Mountains for grazing during the summer months. Banjo Paterson’s famous poem The Man From Snowy River recalls this era. The cattle graziers have left a legacy of mountain huts scattered across the area. Today these huts are maintained by the National Parks and Wildlife Service or volunteer organisations like the.[2]

In the 19th century gold was mined on the high plains near Kiandra. At its height this community had a population of about 4,000 people, and ran 14 hotels. Since the last resident left in 1974, Kiandra has become a ghost town of ruins and abandoned diggings.[3]

The Kosciuszko National Park came into existence as the National Chase Snowy Mountains on December 5, 1906. In 1944 this became the Kosciuszko State Park, and then the Kosciuszko National Park in 1967.[4]

Recreational skiing began at Kiandra in the 1860s and experienced a boom in the 20th century following the commencement of the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme between 1949 and 1976 which brought many European workers to the district and opened up access to the ranges.

Skiing

The discovery of gold at Kiandra (elevation 1,400 m or 4,600 ft), in 1859, briefly enticed a population of thousands above the snowline and saw the introduction of recreational skiing to the Snowy Mountains around 1861.[5] The Kiandra Goldrush was short-lived, but the township remained a service centre for recreational and survival skiing for over a century. Australia’s first T-Bar, was installed at Kiandra in 1957, but the ski facilities were finally shifted up the hill to Selwyn Snowfields in 1978.[6] Steeper slopes and more reliable snows lie further to the south and in the 20th Century, the focus of recreational skiing in New South Wales shifted southward, to the Mount Kosciuszko region.

The first Kosciuszko Chalet was built at Charlotte Pass in 1930, giving relatively comfortable access to Australia’s highest terrain.[8] In 1964, Australia briefly boasted the “World’s Longest Chairlift”, designed to carry skiers from the Thredbo Valley to Charlotte Pass, but technical difficulties soon closed the facility.[9][10] At 1760m, Charlotte Pass has the highest village base elevation of any Australia ski resort and can only be accessed via over-snow transport in winter.[11] The growing number of ski enthusiasts heading to Charlotte Pass led to the establishment of a cafe at Smiggin Holes around 1939, where horse drawn sleighs would deliver skiers to be begin the arduous ski to the Kosciusko Chalet.[12] It was the construction of the vast Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme from 1949 that really opened up the Snowy Mountains for large scale development of a ski industry and led to the establishment of Thredbo and Perisher as leading Australian resorts.[13][14] The Construction of Guthega Dam brought skiers to the isolated Guthega district and a rope tow was installed there in 1957.[15]

Skifields up by Kosciusko’s side were also established during this period, though their existence is now little realised. The Australian Alpine Club was founded in 1950 by Charles Anton. Huts were constructed in the “Backcountry” close to Mount Kosciusko, including Kunama Hut, which opened for the 1953 season. A rope tow was installed on Mount Northcote at the site and opened in 1954. The site proved excellent for speed skiing, but the hut was destroyed in an avalanche, which also killed one person, in 1956.[16]

Anton also recognised the potential of the Thredbo Valley for construction of a major resort and village, with good vertical terrain. Construction began in 1957.[13] Today, Thredbo has 14 ski-lifts and possesses Australia’s longest ski resort run, the 5.9 km from Karel’s T-Bar to Friday Flat; Australia’s greatest vertical drop of 672m; and the highest lifted point in Australia at 2037m[17][18]

The last establishment of a major skifield in NSW came with the development of Mount Blue Cow in the 1980s. In 1987 the Swiss designed Skitube Alpine Railway opened to deliver skiers from Bullocks Flat, on the Alpine Way, to Perisher Valley and to Blue Cow, which also opened in 1987.[14] The operators of Blue Cow purchased Guthega in 1991, and the new combined resort later merged with Perisher-Smiggins to become the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere.[19] In 2009 Perisher had 48 lifts covering 1,245 hectares and four village base areas: Perisher Valley, Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes and Guthega.

Snowy Mountains Scheme

The Snowy Mountains also feed the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers from the Tooma River, Whites River and Yarrangobilly River. The range is perhaps best known for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a project to dam the Snowy River, providing both water for irrigation and hydroelectricity.

The project began in 1949 employing a hundred thousand men, two-thirds of whom came from thirty other countries during the post-World War II years. Socially this project symbolises a period during which Australia became an ethnic “melting pot” of the twentieth century but which also changed Australia’s character and increased its appreciation for a wide range of cultural diversity.

The Scheme built several temporary towns for its construction workers, several of which have become permanent: Cabramurra (the highest town in Australia); and Khancoban. Additionally, the economy of Cooma has been sustained by the Scheme.[citation needed] Townships at Adaminaby, Jindabyne and Talbingo were inundated by the construction of Lakes Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Talbingo.[21][22][23] Improved vehicular access to the High Country enabled ski-resort villages to be constructed at Thredbo and Guthega in the 1950s by ex-Snowy Scheme workers who realised the potential for expansion of the Australian ski industry.[24][25]

By 1974, 145 kilometres (90 mi) of underground tunnels and 80 kilometres (50 mi) of aqueducts connected the sixteen dams, seven power stations (two underground), and one pumping station.[26] The American Society of Civil Engineers has rated the Snowy Scheme as “a world-class civil engineering project”.

The principle lakes created by the scheme include: Lake Eucumbene, Blowering Dam, Talbingo Dam, Lake Jindabyne and Tantangara Dam.

The Snowy Mountains also feed the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers from the Tooma River, Whites River and Yarrangobilly River. The range is perhaps best known for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a project to dam the Snowy River, providing both water for irrigation and hydroelectricity.

The project began in 1949 employing a hundred thousand men, two-thirds of whom came from thirty other countries during the post-World War II years. Socially this project symbolises a period during which Australia became an ethnic “melting pot” of the twentieth century but which also changed Australia’s character and increased its appreciation for a wide range of cultural diversity.

The Scheme built several temporary towns for its construction workers, several of which have become permanent: Cabramurra (the highest town in Australia); and Khancoban. Additionally, the economy of Cooma has been sustained by the Scheme.[citation needed] Townships at Adaminaby, Jindabyne and Talbingo were inundated by the construction of Lakes Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Talbingo.[21][22][23] Improved vehicular access to the High Country enabled ski-resort villages to be constructed at Thredbo and Guthega in the 1950s by ex-Snowy Scheme workers who realised the potential for expansion of the Australian ski industry.[24][25]

By 1974, 145 kilometres (90 mi) of underground tunnels and 80 kilometres (50 mi) of aqueducts connected the sixteen dams, seven power stations (two underground), and one pumping station.[26] The American Society of Civil Engineers has rated the Snowy Scheme as “a world-class civil engineering project”.

The principle lakes created by the scheme include: Lake Eucumbene, Blowering Dam, Talbingo Dam, Lake Jindabyne and Tantangara Dam.

The Snowy Mountains also feed the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers from the Tooma River, Whites River and Yarrangobilly River. The range is perhaps best known for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a project to dam the Snowy River, providing both water for irrigation and hydroelectricity.

The project began in 1949 employing a hundred thousand men, two-thirds of whom came from thirty other countries during the post-World War II years. Socially this project symbolises a period during which Australia became an ethnic “melting pot” of the twentieth century but which also changed Australia’s character and increased its appreciation for a wide range of cultural diversity.

The Scheme built several temporary towns for its construction workers, several of which have become permanent: Cabramurra (the highest town in Australia); and Khancoban. Additionally, the economy of Cooma has been sustained by the Scheme.[citation needed] Townships at Adaminaby, Jindabyne and Talbingo were inundated by the construction of Lakes Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Talbingo.[21][22][23] Improved vehicular access to the High Country enabled ski-resort villages to be constructed at Thredbo and Guthega in the 1950s by ex-Snowy Scheme workers who realised the potential for expansion of the Australian ski industry.[24][25]

By 1974, 145 kilometres (90 mi) of underground tunnels and 80 kilometres (50 mi) of aqueducts connected the sixteen dams, seven power stations (two underground), and one pumping station.[26] The American Society of Civil Engineers has rated the Snowy Scheme as “a world-class civil engineering project”.

The principle lakes created by the scheme include: Lake Eucumbene, Blowering Dam, Talbingo Dam, Lake Jindabyne and Tantangara Dam.

Climate

The higher regions of the park experience an alpine climate which is unusual on mainland Australia. However, only the peaks of the main range are subject to consistent heavy winter snow. The climate station at Charlotte Pass recorded Australia’s lowest temperature of -23.0°C on 28 June 1994

Glacial Lakes

Part of the mountains known as Main Range contains mainland Australia’s five glacial lakes.[28] The largest of these lakes is Blue Lake, one of the headwaters of the Snowy River. The other four glacial lakes are Lake Albina, Lake Cootapatamba, Club Lake and Headley Tarn.

During the last ice age, which peaked about 20,000 years ago in the Pleistocene epoch, the highest peaks of the main range near Mount Kosciuszko experienced a climate which favoured the formation of glaciers, evidence of which can still be seen today. Cirques moraines, tarn lakes, roche moutonnées and other glacial features can all be seen in the area. Lake Cootapatamba, which was formed by an ice spilling from Mount Kosciuszko’s southern flank, is the highest lake on the Australian mainland. Lake Albina, Club Lake, Blue Lake, and Hedley Tarn also have glacial origins.[29]

There is some disagreement as to exactly how widespread Pleistocene glaciation was on the main range, and little or no evidence from earlier glacial periods exists. The ‘David Moraine’, a one kilometre long ridge running across Spencers Creek valley seems to indicate a larger glacier existed in this area at some time, however the glacial origin of this feature is disputed.[30]

There is evidence of periglacial activity in the area. Solifluction appears to have created terraces on the north west flank of Mount Northcote. Frost heave is also a significant agent of soil erosion in the Kosciuszko Area.

Ecology

The Snowy Mountains cover a variety of climatic regions which support several distinct ecosystems. The alpine area above the tree line, is one of the most fragile and covers the smallest area. This area is a patchwork of alpine heaths, herbfields, feldmarks, bogs and fens. The windswept feldmark ecotope is endemic to the alpine region, and covers a mere 300,000 m². It is most vulnerable to the wandering footsteps of unmindful tourists.

Fauna

Many rare or threatened plant and animal species occur within the Snowy Mountains.[31] The Kosciuszko National Park is home to one of Australia’s most threatened species the Corroboree frog. The endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum and the more common Dusky Antechinus are located in the high country of the park.

By 2008, wild horse numbers in the National Park had reached 1,700 with that figure growing by 300 each year, resulting in park authorities coordinating their culling and relocation.

Flora

The high country is dominated by alpine woodlands, characterised by the Snow Gum. Montane and wet sclerophyll forest also occur across the ranges, supporting large stands of Alpine Ash and Mountain Gum. In the southern Byadbo wilderness area, dry sclerophyll and wattle forests predominate. Amongst the many different native trees in the park, the large Chinese Elm has become naturalised.

The bushfires in 2003 damaged tree cover in the region. Fires are a natural feature of the park ecosystem, but it will take some time for the region to return to its pre 2003 condition.

 
Mohandas Gandhi

“Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion.”

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