'There's been a slight change of plan,' our guide, Glen, explains as we check our gear at the hiking headquarters at Lake Crackenback Resort. 'We'll be more or less doing the day-two part of the walk first and day one tomorrow, because the weather could turn against us by then.' In the high country of Australia's Kosciuszko National Park the weather is an important consideration and the head guide with Kosciuszko Alpine Guided Walks makes decisions with safety in mind. So it's off to Thredbo, where we ride the chairlift up the first part before starting the hike to Australia's highest peak. Mountain ridges form an eerie landscape from granite boulders, while near the trail the ground is covered in wildflowers. Flowering species include mountain celery, lilac-coloured eyebright, the sweet-smelling yellow flowers of alpine stackhousia and silver snow daisies. Much of the track comprises a raised metal walkway constructed to help prevent erosion and safeguard the flora. During a midmorning break we shelter beneath a ridge and look back over the ground we've covered. At the moment the sun is out and the path is proving quite popular. Along the next leg, walkers pass us, oblivious to the significance of the small stream just off the trail. This is the beginning of the Snowy River, a waterway that became legendary in the late 19th century because of Banjo Paterson's poem The Man from Snowy River. Next, we stop to see Lake Cootapatamba, which is naturally dammed behind moraines - piles of rock left behind by receding glaciers. Approaching Rawson's Pass, our guide explains that human waste is the greatest problem for the glacial lakes and therefore no camping is allowed in the catchment area. It's also why the National Parks and Wildlife Service is installing toilet facilities at the pass as part of its management plan, described (by someone with a sense of humour) as 'taking care of business'. With the sign indicating only 1.4km remain of the 6.5km uphill hike, we push on to the peak. From the trail we can see the state of Victoria across the mountain ranges. The wind picks up as we approach the summit and it's time to break out my fleece, despite it being midsummer. Suddenly, we've arrived. Despite the howling wind there is something of a carnival atmosphere among the walkers at the top. I daresay it was a much lonelier day when Polish explorer Pawel Edmund Strzelecki climbed this peak in 1840 and named it after a national hero. Kosciuszko is Australia's highest mountain, at 2,228 metres, and it feels special to be here. I recall the lines of admiration from Paterson's famous poem: 'Kosciuszko, where the pine-clad ridges raise their torn and rugged battlements on high, where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze at midnight in the cold and frosty sky.' But with the weather beginning to turn it doesn't look like there will be any stars tonight and we quickly begin our descent. The landscape of granite boulders takes on an ominous appearance but we reach Thredbo without mishap. As part of the altered itinerary, we're driven to a low-altitude location where a short hike along the Thredbo River brings us to our campsite, which has already been prepared. It's a peaceful spot where we enjoy the relaxed ambience at a dinner cooked by our camp manager, Nick. We also learn a thing or two about the modern eco-friendly camping toilet. The hiking company makes sure absolutely nothing is left behind - a conscientious application of Australia's Leave No Trace programme, which promotes responsible outdoor travel and recreation. Next morning, the weather is mild and sunny but looks like it might close in on the high country. By the time we arrive at Charlotte Pass we are already putting on wet-weather gear. An early highlight of the walk to Blue Lake is using stepping stones to cross the Snowy River, which by this point has become a substantial body of water. Taking the path up the other side, we stop to chat to a group from a Melbourne bushwalking club who are returning from a four-day adventure. Soon afterwards the rain and wind hit us hard, but when they ease, the alpine environment seems all the more beautiful, a wild world in which eerie rock formations disappear into low-lying cloud. We reach the information sign giving details about Blue Lake but, alas, we can see nothing because the glacial body of water has vanished, enveloped by the mist. Pushing on a little farther, we come to an area where boulders provide a sheltered spot for lunch. Here the camaraderie of the group is evident: we laugh about the weather and how our only visitors are two large Australian ravens that observe us as if they can't quite believe their eyes. The mist creates an other-worldly feeling as it swirls among the contorted shapes of the snow gums visible on the way back to Charlotte Pass. When it lifts I recognise their coloured stripes, made famous in so many paintings of the Australian bush. Back in the luxury of Lake Crackenback Resort, I sit with new-found friends and talk about the day. All agree it has been exhilarating; we feel a sense of achievement at having battled the elements - we feel alive. Getting there: Cathay Pacific ( www.cathaypacific.com ), Qantas ( www.qantas.com.au ) and Virgin Atlantic ( www.virginatlantic.com.hk ) fly from Hong Kong to Sydney. Qantas flies from Sydney to Canberra, from where Lake Crackenback in the Snowy Mountains is a two-hour drive. For information about Kosciuszko Alpine Guided Walks, see www.novotellakecrackenback.com.au .