As I approached the final stages of writing up my thesis last year, I couldn't stop thinking about what might be in the "holes". Searching on the Atlas of Living Australia (my go-to resource for all things distribution) revealed zero records of Kosciuscola grasshoppers between Mt Hotham and Mt Buller (60 km as the crow flies) or the Baw Baw Plateau (over 100 km). There are mountains here though. Lots of them. Are there Kosciuscola here? If so this would be an important piece in the Kosciuscola puzzle.
Despite spending a great deal of time up in the mountains over the winter, as I finished writing I felt the pull of the mountains and a need to see more of what they held. Perhaps it was a way to finalise my PhD in my mind. Perhaps it was just a way to refresh and celebrate after four years of hard grind. Perhaps it was a way to say goodbye to my Granddad, who also did research in the mountains and, I think, was a strong albeit indirect influence on my own love of the high country. He passed away in the first year of my PhD. Maybe it was all of the above. Whatever the reason, I decided to walk the length of the Australian high country, following the conveniently-placed Australian Alps Walking Track. Now I could fill all the holes.
The AAWT was a big undertaking for me, and I needed the extra motivation (and info, advice, gear...) from two new friends who were doing the track earlier in the summer to turn the idea into a reality. After a couple of months of intense and frantic planning that included a month at sea on the HMB Endeavour (climbing rigging turns out to be reasonable training for climbing mountains), I took my first steps on the track in late February.
It wouldn't be very interesting to give a blow-by-blow account of the walk. Most days in the first two weeks went something like: eat-walk-eat-walk-eat-walk-look for somewhere shady to hide and do cryptic crosswords-eat-sleep. By day 6, however, there was the exciting addition of the occasional "grasshopper!" to the routine. I was so excited to find Kosciuscola on Mt Skene that one of the first things I did when I arrived there (and realised I had phone reception) was to message a Kosciuscola co-conspirator and share the news.
From there the grasshoppers became more and more common. As a heat-wave hit, I would find them almost as soon as I started walking each day, in the early dawn light. By the end of the first two weeks, I had records from about 20 new locations between the Baw Baw Plateau and Mt Hotham. The first hole had been well and truly filled.