Elevation: 7,310 feet (2,228 meters)
Location: Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia.
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. It is not, however, the highest mountain on Australian territory. Mawson Peak on Heard Island, an Australian territory in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica and between Australia and Africa, is the highest peak in any state and territory in Australia. Mawson Peak, a snow-covered volcano, rises to 9,006 feet (2,745 meters).
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. Kosciuszko itself straddles the border between North South Wales and Victoria. Glaciers chiseled out the mountain, leaving glacial features like cirques and moraines, during the Pleistocene Epoch over 20,000 years ag.
Mount Kosciuszko is the centerpiece of 1,664,314-acre Kosciuszko National Park, Australia largest national park. The park was designated a 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.
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. The area also has Australia’s only ski areas.
Polish explorer Count Pawel Edmund Strzelecki named Mount Kosciuszko in 1840 for 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. He was a defensive expert who created fortifications for Saratoga, Philadelphia, and West Point. He later urged that the Military Academy be situated at West Point. He was also friends with 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, writing 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 mountain name was misspelled in English as Kosciusko but changed by the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales to the proper Polish spelling Kosciuszko in 1997.
The name is pronounced in Australia as: kozzy-OS-ko. The proper Polish pronunciation is: kosh-CHOOSH-ko.
There are several native Aboriginal 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.”
Mount Kosciuszko, the lowest of the Seven Summits or 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 climb to the roof of Australia every year.
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 basically just a hike while Carstensz is technically the most difficult of the Seven Summits to climb.
Australia’s highest toilet is at Rawson’s Pass just below Kosciuszko’s summit to accommodate the masses and keep human waste from being a worse problem that what it already is.