|Four men returned tattered, torn and weary on Monday afternoon, after a bush hike to Mount Kosciuszko nearly started a full scale search and research operation.
Dale Torok and Martin Douthitt from Kentucky, USA, accompanied by Polish film maker, Oscar Kantor and Polish photographer, Mariusz Krzyzelewski, had decided to climb the mountain using the same route as explorer, Edmund Strzelecki, travelling from Geehi via Moiras Flats to the summit.
They set off on Saturday morning armed with tents, sleeping bags, food and five litres of water, expecting to refill their water bottles at Moiras Flats spring 6kms away.
However by Saturday lunchtime they had drunk all their water and by nightfall the dense undergrowth and steep incline had defeated them; they still had not found the spring.
Unable to pitch a tent, they slept at an angle on the rocky slope trying to ensure that the possums didn't steal their food.
Mr Torok said: "Trying to find the National Park triangular markers was very difficult. The growth was horrendous; we had no understanding of what we were getting into and everything took ten times longer to do."
On Sunday morning they continued although it wasn't until the afternoon that they arrived at Moiras Flat.
Mr Torok said: "I think I must have drunk about three gallons of that wonderful spring water."
After an hour's stop at Moiras Flat they continued hiking until they broke through the timberline. By then it was dark again and they camped for another night.
But the four men were expected back in Jindabyne by Sunday afternoon and when they hadn't arrived by nightfall, police were alerted.
Police said that if the men hadn't returned by 2pm on Monday they would start a search but a call was received at 1pm Monday to say the four men were safe and making their way down from the summit.
Mr Douthitt said: "It was really a lot tougher than I dreamed it would be and it certainly gives you a lot more respect for Strzelecki and the Aboriginal men who got to the top."
A short film of the journey will be shown at the K'Ozzie Fest in Jindabyne, April 18.
Summit Sun, 25th February 2009
Link to Kentucky press
Link to a poem dedicated to the hikers
Link to an article in Polish