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Winter. Bring It (Again).

After a mild spell of weather over the past week and a bit, winter is due back today with stormy weather and snow down to 500m in Victoria tomorrow.

The snow base has been affected by the recent warmer weather, drizzle and rain, but without too much loss at higher elevations. We are certainly due for a top up. The recent weather will help consolidate the base, and with good falls expected in the next few days, hopefully we will be set up for a long end to the season, well out into the ‘official’ months of spring.

But, as always, we can never take anything for granted – especially snow. Mountain Watch’s snow forecaster Grasshopper warns ‘It may be some time before we’re talking another big dump’ after this one, so get out there if you can.

Check the BOM site for alpine forecasts or the Mountain Watch website.

[Main image: Pinnacle, on the summit of kunanyi / Mount Wellington, this morning 31/7/14]

The Razorback

The death of backpacking?

For anyone who spends time out in nature walking, skiing, climbing, riding, or paddling, it’s always interesting to see who else is out there (separate story coming on this soon). But another aspect of this is how many people are out there. The following excerts come from a longer article on the High Country News (HCN) website by Christopher Ketcham. HCN is based in Colorado.

Mt Field National Park, TAS
Mt Field National Park, TAS

The premise of the story is that fewer younger people are taking up multi day walking. Various reasons are put forward, including the fact that as a (potentially) low consumption activity there is less reason for the outdoor industry to promote it compared with more gear dependent activities like skiing.

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Public gets first look at Alps plan

The following comes from the Victorian National Parks Association’s Phil Ingamells.

It’s been six years in preparation, but the Greater Alpine National Parks Draft Management Plan has at last been released for public comment.

Covering five national parks (Alpine, Baw Baw, Errinundra, Mount Buffalo and Snowy River), as well as the Avon Wilderness Park and six smaller parks and historic reserves, this single management plan deals with nearly one-third of Victoria’s park estate.

Not surprisingly, there is little detail in such a broadscale document – but there are some quite specific proposals, such as the current alpine grazing trial. Roofed ‘retreat style accommodation’ is flagged for Mount Buffalo National Park.

Unfortunately the integrity of the draft plan has been marred by the oddly configured Alpine Advisory Committee, required by law to advise on the plan. The committee was appointed without its full quota of environmental advisors, yet has a majority of mountain cattlemen members and supporters.

The 40 maps available online may be difficult to download, but hard copies can be bought from Parks Victoria for $10, phone 13 1963.

Alternatively, you can view the plan and maps at the VNPA office, just call ahead on 03 9347 5188.

We will outline our response to the plan within a few weeks to help anyone making a submission. Comments on the draft are due by Monday 25 August.

Check the VNPA website for additional information.

Leatherbarrell Creek

Lamont mountain blog

I just discovered a new website, La Mont, from Mandy Lamont, which promises to be a ‘Mountain blog, for mountain folk by mountain folk’.

I call Jindabyne home.  And after spending my first summer here in 2010/2011, my love of the mountains has extended to summer and an ever growing love of mountain biking.  This blog is isn’t about me, it’s  about the mountains that I love, the people and places in them and the adventures within them.

The mountains are now my life.  They’re in my blood, they’re in my name.

You can find the blog here and the facebook page here.

 

cobungra

who – or what – is to blame for declining trout population?

In the following piece from The Weekly Times anglers accuse the environmental policies of the Victorian government for “ruining the state’s trout fishing areas in the high country”.

According to the Times,

“Anglers say the past season was disastrous in terms of lost brown and rainbow trout populations, and fear famous trout rivers are now years from recovery. “It was the worst trout fly fishing season in living memory,” Greenwells Fly Fishing Club at Albury president Des Walters said.

Many blame the widespread removal of non-native willows and poplars on public land under government environmental policy as the chief cause.

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Splitfest – Australia’s backcountry boarding festival

4201417Now in it’s third year, the Splitfest DownUnder is THE gathering for anyone interested in trying out splitboarding or just meeting other people who are into backcountry boarding.

Splitfest is getting closer. Main Range of the Snowies, over the weekend of August 29 – 31.

Full details, including how to register are available here.

1405295737This year there will also be avalanche training courses available before hand. Please check below for details.

If you act quickly, you can still get Splitfest T-Shirts.

The following comes from Adam West.

Avalanche Training

We are conducting AST 1 at Splitfest this year.

Cost: $300

The training will be done by Dave Enright. Dave is the guy you would have seen in the film “Further” from the Japan section. Dave was Jeremy Jones avalanche advisor/guide while filming.

Dave is the owner of Evergreen Outdoor in Hakuba. This is a great opportunity to get some Avi training from one of the best in the world.

There are two courses available, of 8 persons per course. Dates are 27-28th of Aug and 30-31st of Aug.

Get in quick so you don’t miss out. Email me at info@mrbc.com.au indicating which dates suit you to confirm your spot. This will book out fast so “first in best dressed”.

This is a free event, there are no guides so you must be able to make your own terrain decisions.

Organised by FirstLight boards.

Mt Buller is already over developed. Is the road part of a plan to see similar development on Mt Stirling?

$5m road ‘beginning of end’ for Mount Stirling

For background on the road proposal, check here.

If you don’t support secretive decision making by governments, or a new and unnecessary road in an alpine environment, you may want to send a message to the Minister who will take the decision:

Twitter:           @MatthewGuyMP

Email:             matthew.guy@parliament.vic.gov.au

The following update comes from Clay Lucas at The Age.

A move by the Napthine government to decide behind closed doors the fate of a controversial new road linking Mount Buller to Mount Stirling could be the first step in the development of the mountain as a new ski resort, a conservation group says.

Environment groups fought a long-running battle with property heavyweight Rino Grollo from the 1980s over his ultimately withdrawn plans to develop Mount Stirling as a downhill skiing resort.

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GFNP map

Victoria’s Great Forest National Park. It’s Time

The vision for a Great Forests National Park, proposed for the mountains east of Melbourne, is gaining momentum.

logoThe Great Forests National Park proposal is a vision for a multi-tiered parks system for bush users and bush lovers alike.

The tallest flowering trees on Earth grow north-east of Melbourne. In their high canopies dwell owls, gliders and Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s endangered faunal emblem, that lives only in the ash forests of the Central Highlands.

These mountain ash forests have flourished along the Great Divide under rich rainfall patterns. They provide most of Melbourne’s drinking water. They have been shown to be among the most carbon-dense forests on Earth due to the relatively cool climate and rapid growth.
GFNP map
The Park, stretching from Kinglake through to the Baw Baws and north-east to Eildon, will protect the forests of the Central Highlands. It will be a world class reserve in Melbourne’s backyard.

It is time for this great vision to be turned into a National Park.

More information here.

 

Stanley Bowl, Mt Stirling

the year of the Avalanche?

While avalanches are not uncommon in Australia’s high country, they are certainly not a day-to-day part of the backcountry experience.

But the late start to the season, which saw excellent and deep falls across the Alps has seen some strange consolidation in many places, with a resulting increased number of slides as the snow base settles in.

Since the big fall in early July, there has been warmer and cooler cycles and continued snow showers across the Alps. Mt Buller saw a large slide avalanche in the Chutes last week, Stanley Bowl on Mt Stirling was closed, and a lot of the terrain around Feathertop and Hotham felt sketchy in the more avalanche prone areas. There are many reports of cornice collapse and slides from the Main Range of the Snowies.

When we checked snow conditions above the slopes at Stanley Bowl at the weekend (12/ 13 July) there was a clear heavier layer of slightly rain affected snow as the base, with a covering of new snow that cleaved off very easily. While only a few cm deep in places (depending on the aspect, deeper on slopes that collect spindrift) it was certainly a classic avalanche profile. This upper layer is getting heavier and compacting but in our cross sections was a separate strata to the base layer. Slopes that were more sun affected appeared to be in a more stable condition.

Two experienced backcountry snowboarders, Martin Buckland and Daniel Kerry, are currently missing on Mt Bogong and there have been fears stated by search and rescue about avalanche risk on the mountain. Let’s hope they turn up safe and sound soon. (As a tragic update to this story, on July 14, Victoria Police announced they had found one body, subsequently identified as Daniel Kerr, and that an avalanche had caused his death. On July 16, Victoria Police also announced that they had found Martie Buckland’s body).

STAY SAFE

The take home message here is that there are some incredible conditions out there at present and you’d be mad to miss some of the best snow in a decade.

And as pointed out by Bruce Easton, owner of Wilderness Sports and with 30 years experience in the backcountry, people have been reporting “best ever” backcountry conditions. Conditions have been better than average to date, and if people use common sense and stay within experience and what they know, they can have great experiences.

But there is also an enhanced risk of slides, so take care, and check before you drop in on any large backcountry lines. It’s a good idea to ask for some local intell from ski patrol before heading out if you’re starting near a resort, or check sites like Backcountry Forum or Wilderness Sports for conditions in the backcountry.

Personally I don’t carry an avalanche beacon, but a growing number of BC skiers and boarders do. I started, and was caught in, a slide avalanche on the bottom section of Pink Hamburg near Mt Hotham a few years ago. Since then I have been doubly aware of the value of carrying a snow shovel even when touring the side country, and the dangers of skiing/ riding alone.  A trip intentions plan – with good geographic detail about where you intend to ski/ ride, and a reliable person at home who has a definite time to call the emergency services – is really important for small groups intending to ski / board bigger and more remote terrain.

And if a slope is questionable but you do decide to ski/ ride it, then establish basic safety protocol: identify the likely points where a slope may give way and if there are any escape routes or safe points on the way down. Go one at a time while other the party members stand somewhere safe which allows them to observe the full slope so if a slide does happen they can pin point quickly where the debris has settled.

And if you’re not familiar with how to assess terrain for avalanche danger, then consider doing a course. There are 2 courses being offered this year in the Snowies, organised by Main Range Backcountry. They are being held Aug 27 & 28 and Aug 30 & 31st. Full details available here. Its money well spent.

There is a great short film by Fitz Cahall called Strong, about a man who survives an avalanche and goes back a year later to ski the line that almost took his life. The final words from that film says it all:

This year, be safe

But live wild

 

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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