We (my father and I) head into the Jagungal Wilderness, with the aim of ascending Mt Jagungal, early on a Thursday morning. There’s no-one around, as we sign the log book at the Round Mountain trailhead at 7:15am and head down the well-marked Round Mountain Trail that will take us into the Jagungal Wilderness.
After 1.5km we veer left onto the the Farm Ridge Trail and drop down to the Tumut River. Taking our shoes off to cross the icy water, we climb steeply up the ridge on the other side.
Once we’re on the ridge it’s fairly easy walking, with Mt Jagungal on the horizon, almost directly in front of us.
After about five hours walking we turn right onto the Grey Mare Trail, which is part of the Australian Alps Walking Route (AAWT). Shortly after we reach O’Keefes Hut, where we have our lunch. Built in 1934 by AS O’Keefe to support local grazing, the hut was burnt down in 2003 and rebuilt in 2007-8 (about 20m from the original site). While only intended as an emergency shelter, it’s a cosy refuge with basic furniture and old newspapers lining the walls. O’Keefes Hut is considered one of the most important huts in Kosciuszko National Park for survival and shelter.
From here we walk another half an hour or so further south, leaving our packs at the meteorological station (1660m) at about 3pm before tackling the (untracked) Mt Jagungal from the north.
It’s an impressive view from the Jagungal summit, with bare, grassy hills in every direction and some higher peaks with snow remaining further to the south (Mount Jagungal is the seventh-highest mountain in Australia and Mt Jagungal is the dominant peak in the ‘Jagungal Wilderness Area’.).
We take a slightly different route down Mt Jagungal, past a small patch of remnant snow and back to the Grey Mare Trail, where we re-shoulder our packs.
The snow gums around the foot of Mt Jagungal, like many others in the area, have been burnt in recent fires. Growing between 1,300 and 1,800 metres above sea level, snow gums (eucalyptus pauciflora) can live up to 500 years. While they are “fire adapted” (they can survive or regenerate after fire), a severe fire in 2003 and many years of drought are putting pressure on these trees.
Continuing along the Grey Mare Trail, we re-cross the Tumut River (a few hundred meters from its source) and shortly after this we reach the Round Mountain Trail. This is our furthest point south: from here we are heading north and returning to our car via the Round Mountain Trail.
We have another hour of walking, before we set-up camp around 6:30pm, a couple of kilometres after Derschko’s Hut, near a small creek. As we eat dinner, Mount Jagungal “glows” in the distance from the setting sun.
We set off at 7:15am on the the following day along the Round Mountain Trail, with only about 12km ahead of us.
It’s easy walking on a wide trail; I’ve got a painful blister so I decide to walk in my socks, which works fine on the soft dirt track.
The trail continues along the open, alpine landscape… there’s a last ford across a small creek about 1.5km before the end of the walk. Near the creek we see a snake curled up in the long grass – one of the few animals we see other than a wild brumby.
By 9:30am we’re back at the car for the drive home to Sydney… we’ve had great weather, and have encountered no other walkers in our 1.5 day hike which makes it feel like a wilderness experience, despite being mostly on well-marked trails.
When to visit Mount Jagungal
You’ll some serious alpine gear to undertake the Mount Jagungal hike in winter… and Tooma Road is usually closed between the June and October long weekends. It can also get fairly hot in summer. The best time of year is late spring / early summer and autumn.
More information on Mt Jagungal
- Tooma Road is closed in winter (and may also be intermittently closed due to flooding)
- Huts are intended for emergency use – carry a tent for overnight walks
- John & Lyn Daly, Take a Walk in Kosciuszko National Park” (p.92) covers a longer version of this walk