The Snowy Mountains are in the south east of New South Wales, and are the highest point in Australia’s Great Dividing Range. Much of the region is incorporated into Kosciuszko National Park. At 2,228m, Mount Kosciuszko is the highest peak on the Australian mainland. The flat expanse of the Monaro High Plain to the east of the region is sheep country renowned for the quality of its Merino wool.
The alpine climate is characterised by cool, crisp air. Temperatures average from minus 6 degrees Celsius in July, and 21 degrees Celsius in January. The Snowy Mountains is one of the few regions that experiences four distinct seasons. Mountain weather can be extremely unpredictable and walkers are advised to be prepared for all conditions and check weather forecasts before setting out. The cool evenings experienced throughout most of the year mean it’s wise to rug up at night.
Facts and figures
Mount Kosciuszko is 2,228 metres high, and is the highest peak on the Australian mainland.
At 6,900 sq kms, Kosciuszko National Park is the largest in New South Wales.
In 1997 Kosciuszko National Park was given international significance by being declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Cabramurra is the highest town in Australia.
The population of the Snowy Mountains region is approximately 34,500.
The northernmost extremity of the Snowy Mountains lies only 30kms west of the ACT.
The southern end of the region is marked by a 1,951 metre high peak called South Rams Head, and is only 10kms from the Victorian border.
More than half of the 250 square kilometres of alpine habitat in Australia falls inside the Snowy region’s boundaries.
Around 3 million people visit Kosciuszko National Park each year and some 30,000 make the trek to the top of Mount Kosciuszko.
During the most recent ice age, the area around Mount Kosciuszko was the only part of mainland Australia to be covered by glaciers. The glaciers left their mark on the mountains, most notably by gouging 13 enormous cirques, four of which are deep enough to be permanently filled with water; these are known as glacial lakes.
Alpine environment helps scientists
Unlike mountain regions elsewhere, the Australian Alps are covered by a mantle of vegetation, thanks to the bogs and fens that fill high country valleys and hollows. These wetlands act like sponges, retaining water from rain and melting snow. As a result, they help prevent erosion and keep the slopes moist. Some alpine peat bogs are metres deep and contain plant matter 15,000 years old, giving scientists valuable information about climate change over the years.