Jagungal Hutfest

Route on ridewithgps.com
Words & Photos by Ty Domin
Illustration by @leeleebefrank

4 minutes

The Jagungal Wilderness is located just north of Kosciuszko Main Range, within Kosciusko National Park, New South Wales. If you have ventured to the summit of the highest mountain in Australia you have seen Mount Jagungal jutting from the horizon as you celebrated. Little known to most is the fact that there are dozens of huts located throughout the High Country between Canberra and Melbourne and a large number of them are located within the Jagungal Wilderness, pristine and quant due to their inaccessibility by vehicle or anyone less than the most energetic human powered cross-country traveller. These huts are dwindling in numbers with every season of fires and we make the most of getting to them whenever possible.

Valentines Hut, taken during a bikepacking trip in the Jagungal

Historical Huts of the Jagungal

While there is little evidence of the 7000 years of Ngarigo habitation in the mountains, the first European explorers, squatters and stockmen came through in the 1830’s and left their mark in many ways, one of them being the dozens or so huts and homesteads still littering the landscape.

Furthermore, the Snowy Scheme, ski clubs and National Parks established a number of more modern huts. While most the original users have long moved on, their huts serve modern purposes, mostly recreation and safety during inclement weather, but we find them to be the perfect impetus to design routes through the mountains, linking them one by one and providing that little endorphin rush every time we ‘bag-a-hut’!

Snowy Plains Fire Trail to Schlink Pass Road

The Jagungal can be a hiking and biking thoroughfare between Long Plain and the Main Range if you are taking the path less trodden through the high country, and as such we have criss-crossed it numerous times utilising access points from Tooma Rd and Tolbar Rd (from the North) and Schlink Pass Rd (from the South).

Unfortunately, with Tooma Rd and surrounds being closed on the western side since the 2020 fires, the possibility of an overnight loop inside Jagungal were slim due to the steep natural boundary range along the Eastern edge of the wilderness area. That was until I did my research and confirmed that Snowy Plains Fire Trail was indeed a public easement, allowing access from the North East and, when coupled with Schlink Pass Rd to the South, creating a sizeable loop with over ten huts on route!

Derschkos Hut at sunset, Jagungal Wilderness
bikepacking bike loaded with bikepacking bags being ridden through a river crossing in the Jagungal Wilderness

The Jagungal Ain’t Easy

The thing to know before you decide to visit Jagungal is that nothing is easy. We often joke that biking in Jagungal is just a faster way of hiking because at least you can roll down the hills. We weren’t even inside Jagungal yet and after parking our vans at Island Bend Camp Ground we had climbed 450 vertical metres in 5km, only to lose that elevation and climb it again before we reached Jagungal for real.

120km and 3500 vertical metres of climbing in 24 hours isn’t a small task on loaded bikes on any terrain but we were feeling it by the time the sun was setting on the first day and crawled into Derschkos Hut, a sentimental favourite of mine. Relentless would be the best way to describe the terrain and it never eased, even the bitumen descent to the cars was punctuated by energy sapping climbs.

If you are up for the challenge, just let it be known that we are relatively well versed in backing up 200+km days in the saddle, both bikepack racing and casually between pubs, but we wouldn’t shoe horn this route into a 24hr trip again!

Bonus points if you hike the 5km return ascent of Mt Jugungal. You will not regret it.

2020 Fire Updates

While none of the huts on this specific route were impacted by the recent fires, it is important to investigate the condition of any huts you may find yourself relying on in case of emergency, as well as making yourself aware of the rules and etiquette involved in utilising the huts. Sadly, in the vicinity of this route, two huts were raised in the Jan/Dec fires, being Happys Hut and Round Mountain Hut.

Of course, once you have experienced the magic of these hidden gems I have no doubt you will agree that Kosciuszko Huts Association membership fees go to a good cause and will sign up yourself (literally the cost of a couple of nights in a cheap caravan park).

Fireplace inside Round Mountain Hut, in the Jagungal Wilderness

Round Mountain Hut RIP

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