Mount Kosciusko (Australia)


By: Duane McRuer

On Friday, 18 February 1994 Doug Mantle topped Mount Kosciusko (2228 m, 7,310 ft), the highest peak in Australia. This almost trivial hike was the last of the seven continental highpoints for him, ending a sequence which started just over twenty years ago. He had previously climbed McKinley (N. America), Aconcagua (S. America), Elbrus (Europe), Kilimanjaro (Africa), Everest (Asia), and the Vinson Massif (Antarctica).

Doug was accompanied by seven friends (Vi Grasso, Mary and Rayne Motherall, Katie and Bob Hicks, and Batty and Duane McRuer), who had gone to Australia to be present at this conclusive event. In spite of out entreaties, Doug refused to state that this last great assault was also the most difficult - perhaps it was the presence of a class of middle school students and their instructors who shared the summit with us which kept him from such an admission. On the other hand, it might have been the possibility that less energetic hikers could gain the peak via a chair lift, followed by six kilometers on a steel grid work track plus one kilometer on an old road.

While climbing the seven continental summits is a most remarkable feat, a very few others have also done so (although I know of no other Sierra Club member who is in this distinguished company). Other Mantle exploits are unique, including finishing:

  • The Angeles Chapter Sierra Peaks Section (SPS) list (247 Sierra Nevada peaks) four times (no one else has done this more than once);
  • The Angeles Chapter Desert Peaks Section (DPS) list (97 desert peaks in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Mexico) three (almost four) times (no one else has done this mote than twice);
  • The Hundred Peaks List three (one to go for four) times making a triple-triple (no one else has more than one).

On his way he has also climbed the high points of all the western states (the "harder" US high points) and the Mexican volcanoes in the Northern Western Hemisphere; Huascaran and Chimborazo in the Southern Wastern Hemisphere; Kenya in Africa; Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and others in Europe; Mt. Cook in New Zealand; and such assorted major climbs here and there se the Grand Teton and others in the Tetons, Mount Ararat, etc.

On the next day (February 19) he climbed Kosciusko again, and also went over to Mount Townsend (2209m), Australia's second highest. Thus, he has a start on the second time around for the highest, or the first time around for the second highest, of the continents. Of course, he's well along for the latter, with Africa and South America already out of the way -- but Mt Tyree (16,290 ft, in Antarctica) and R2 are very tough!

How the name "Kosciusko" came about for the Australian highpoint is a curiousity. Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciuszko (1746-1817) is, of course, famous in this country for his participation in the Revolutionary War. He came to America from Poland via France in 1776, exhibiting very good sense in fleeing from an irate Cossack father after unsuccessfully trying to elope with the daughter. As a military officer trained in fortification, he was very useful to our side, closing all the roads along the Hudson to Burgoyne's advance thereby contributing to the great American victory at Saratoga and later spending two years fortifying West Point. Although he wee given US citizenship and made a Brigadier General, he went back to Poland in 1781. Poland was, as usual, under extreme pressure from the Russians, who ultimately occupied meet of the country by 1793. The rest of his life was spent as the Great Polish Patriot, leading insurrections, uprisings, and generally raising hell with Catherine the Great, Napoleon, and anyone else who tried to maintain control over what had been Poland.

OK, so that was Kosciusko -- what was the Australian connection? Since the "First Fleet" of convicts landed in Australia in 1788, and Kosciusko had his hands full in Eastern Europe, there was absolutely Dp connection between the man and his namesake mountain during his lifetime. But, Poles are everywhere. From 1839 to 1843; an explorer and scientist, Sir Paul Edmund Strzlecki, knighted for his services to the British crown, explored and surveyed vast areas of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Strzlecki was born in Cluszyna, Poland, in 1797, and grew up with Kosciusko as his great hero. During his explorations of the snowy mountains region of NSW in 1840, he discovered and climbed Australia's highest peak, which he named in honor of the Crest Polish Leader and Patriot. (We heard some local comments that he climbed the wrong mountain, but that may be only an Australian version of another dreadful Polish joker) So, now you know.

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