- 2 years ago
16 March 2022
It’s that time of year again when hundreds of people prepare to descend on Thredbo in preparation for the annual pilgrimage up Merritts Track and along the boardwalk to Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. It’s a fabulous community event bringing patients, families, doctors and pharma employees together, raising money for a great cause.
This year will be MedNews’ second Kosi Challenge, now in its tenth year. As a keen hiker comfortable with a pack on my back, I thought any rooky hikers may appreciate a few tips on how to prepare. It’s not long but it can be a bitter experience if you aren’t dressed for the conditions (just ask those who wore shorts last year).
Unlike 2020 when the sun shone, this year is shaping up to be like last year – cold, overcast, and quite likely wet. The forecast for Thredbo Village is 7 to 14 degrees but if you think that’s okay, it is likely to be considerably colder once you get to Eagles Nest. Add in windchill and the trudge along the boardwalk may start to feel like a hike in the Antarctic. So have enough gear to cover all exposed skin as best you can: long pants, long tops, windproof jackets, rain gear, beanies and gloves. You might look overdressed but at least you will be warm.
I favour woollen gear (shout out to Icebreaker) and layers. A wool singlet, a wool long sleeve top, and a softshell jacket for keeping out the wind and the rain. Puffer jackets will keep you warm if it’s dry but wet feathers are heavy and provide zero insulation, whereas wool is still warm even when wet. I also love a wool ‘snood’ (gaiter) around my neck so I can pull it up over my mouth and nose if it gets cold – which also makes it Covid friendly!
Long pants are essential, or shorts with tights underneath. Use Skins or even some thick stockings (Bamboo work well). Avoid jeans or anything that will stick to your legs or be heavy when wet, and take a rain jacket or poncho. You don’t need the latest high-tech gear – good, old-fashioned plastic raincoats still keep you dry, you just sweat a little more underneath.
On your feet, well, hiking boots if you have them and they’re worn in, or any shoes with good grip. Hikers favour a Vibram sole for grip (like on Merrells) but if you don’t have anything like this, look at the soles of your runners. If they are smooth, they will slip on a wet metal boardwalk making them potentially a lot more hazardous than the hike.
I also take wool in my medical kit to stuff into my socks if I get a rubbing spot. I got a pack of recyclable wool felt in a food delivery recently so will bring it with me – feel free to find me in the bar on Friday night if you want some. A small medical kit is also a good idea – bandaids, antiseptic, the usual. The air is thinner up high so Ventolin is a good idea for asthmatics.
Water is a must – try to carry two litres, and make sure to drink even if it’s cold. If you have an insulated bottle, fill it with hot water or coffee at breakfast and bring a mug with you. Having everyone look at you with envy while you cradle your steaming cup will make carrying it up so worth it.
Lollies are a great sugar hit but just that – a hit that doesn’t last long. Protein bars are better and will give you more energy. Sandwiches may get soggy and be hard to eat if it’s raining, so make sure you have snacks that are accessible and easy to digest. You won’t want to sit around for very long if it’s cold, so I’m a huge fan of a small tub of peanut butter and some carrot sticks or crackers.
There are two toilet blocks on the hike but last year one was closed, so be prepared. It’s fine to ‘go bush’ but be sure to find a spot away from watercourses and follow the absolute number one rule of the bush – leave nothing behind. What goes up the mountain, comes down the mountain, lolly wrappers and all.
Last, keep to the track. If bad weather rolls in, the last place you want to be is a long way from the boardwalk checking out the scenery. While hundreds of people make enough noise to guide you back, you won’t want to be testing your navigation skills in a thick fog.
The Kosi Challenge is a great event with safety marshalls in high-vis orange vests along the way, so if you’re adequately prepared for the conditions at the top of the mountain you will enjoy a fun, safe and relatively brisk walk to the top of Australia. MedNews will be there so if you recognise us, please say hi.
While this year’s weather may not be perfect, cancer is a lot more uncomfortable than a day’s walk regardless of the conditions so if you haven’t yet donated, now is a great time to do so. You can contribute to the MedNews’ MedTwos team here, or pick any team – it all goes to Rare Cancers Australia, and we know Team RCA team puts every dollar raised to good use.