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state budget allocation to Falls to Hotham Crossing

Mountain Journal reported recently that Parks Victoria had released its final Master Plan for the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing: a five day serviced hiking opportunity in the Alpine National Park. In the state budget for 2018/19, there was an allocation of funds to help make the project a reality.

The proposal has been widely criticised because it will help open up previously undeveloped areas near Mt Feathertop and allow private development within the Alpine National Park.

Continue reading “state budget allocation to Falls to Hotham Crossing”

Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing ‘resurfaces’

The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) reports that ‘Originally proposed in a 2008 (and long obsolete) Nature Based Tourism Strategy, a Falls to Hotham ‘icon’ tourist walk has been re-invigorated yet again’.

For some background to this project, check this page for various articles from Mountain Journal.

Continue reading “Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing ‘resurfaces’”

Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing Final Master Plan released

Several years ago, Tourism Victoria suggested that Victoria needed four ‘iconic walks’ in order to help ensure the state became a bushwalking destination. One of these was the ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’.

After a great deal of work, the final masterplan for the walk has been released by Parks Victoria.

Continue reading “Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing Final Master Plan released”

The ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ upgrade

The Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing is described as “a mid-distance hiking experience through the unique and captivating Australian alpine environment”. There are plans to re-route it to make it a 56 kilometre trip and a Draft Master Plan has been released. Public comment is welcome before December 19.

Parks Victoria says “the walk will be supplemented with high quality accommodation options and interpretation that enable a range of visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty and stories of Victoria’s High Country”.

Continue reading “The ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ upgrade”

Major re-route of Falls to Hotham alpine crossing proposed

Tourism North East has called for feedback on the master plan for the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing walk. This has been billed as an ‘iconic’ walk which links the two resorts via the Bogong High Plains and Cobungra Gap, and is generally done over three days. A permit is required to camp at the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing campsites.

There is a proposal for a major re-alignment of the walk, which instead of skirting the High Plains, cuts out to Tawonga Huts then down into the Kiewa Valley and up Mt Feathertop. This new proposal would require substantial new track building up the Diamantina Spur. The initial public consultation period for the Plan is over.

Continue reading “Major re-route of Falls to Hotham alpine crossing proposed”

Hotham to Falls walk upgraded, more developments to come?

The much touted ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ has received a substantial injection of funds in order to increase visitation.

The Border Mail reports that

on the Falls to Hotham track, starting the descent to Cobungra Gap
on the Falls to Hotham track, starting the descent to Cobungra Gap

An $800,000 upgrade to the 37-kilometre trek has been completed and Benalla MP Bill Sykes launched it as one of Victoria’s iconic walks at the weekend.

The upgrade includes camping platforms at Cope and Dibbins Hut, signage and track development.

“The camping platforms maintain the vegetation in the area because they are elevated so people can pitch their tents without degradation,” he said.

“It’s also more comfortable for campers because there will be a breeze from below in the summer time and in the event it rains they are not going to get a wet backside.”

Dr Sykes also announced $50,000 of funding from the Victorian Regional Growth Fund to create a master plan for the next stage of the upgrade.

He said it could include looking at accommodation options along the track.

“There are people like me who are very happy to put in the kilometres during the day but would like a comfy bed at night,” he said.

“Some are happy to rough it with a stretcher and a sleeping bag but then there are others who are happy to be out in the elements but have the comforts of home.

“It widens the appeal if you have that option available.”

The master plan will also include route extensions and Dr Sykes said he wanted to encourage people with beginner and advanced routes.

He said the track upgrades were a priority because there was a growing band of people who enjoyed walking and the companionship gained from doing it in groups.

“We’ve got a magnificent scenery and we will be recognised for the beautiful high country and river valleys.”

Dr Sykes said the upgrade and master plan will lead to economic benefits.

“It will be measured in millions and millions of dollars no question about that,” he said.

Guided walking tours is another initiative Dr Sykes believes will boost tourism.

It’s great to encourage people to get out and walking in national parks. But with the pro-development in parks agenda of the current government, we should always be a bit cautious about their motivations.

For instance, what does ‘accommodation options along the track’ mean? Private huts along the route, as is the case in Tasmania?

In March 2013, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change released the Tourism Investment Opportunities of Significance in National Parks Guidelines, an information pack to guide potential investors through the process of gaining approvals and ‘taking their plans to fruition’.

The government has said it will support “sensible and sensitive developments in national parks provided they complement environmental, heritage and other values and generate a net public benefit.”

The government has also announced that it intends to introduce fees for overnight hiking in national parks.

It would appear that doing the ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ will attract a fee of $30, plus a $10 admin fee for the booking.

A new year. The old threats continue.

Well, we’re on the other side of New Year. Phew. I hope that you’re enjoying some good mountain time over summer and getting a recharge. There’s lots to do this year.

There are a range of environmental issues that have been bubbling away over the last year, and each of them have campaigns which could use some extra support if you have the time or resources. Here’s a sample of what’s going on. 

Continue reading “A new year. The old threats continue.”

2020. It’s been fun. Let’s move on.

Wow. What a year. Crazy summer fires. Covid lockdowns. Terrible winter snow pack, but also some incredible snow storms. Lots of fighting over our mountains, including the endless culture war argument about horses. Kind of glad it’s almost at an end.

We all know the story: a dry winter and spring led to a horror summer, with massive fires across the eastern Victorian high countrySnowy Mountains and Brindabellas. Luckily Tasmania got off easy last summer.

Then the lockdown(s), which hit mountain and valley towns in Victoria especially hard, isolated Tasmania, and closed the NSW/ Victorian border. The economic impacts of these events will last for a long time.

And then there were the ongoing arguments about how to treat our mountains. It felt like issues were widespread this year. Here’s a few of them:

Continue reading “2020. It’s been fun. Let’s move on.”

No commercial development on ‘the People’s mountain’!

The Falls to Hotham Crossing is a lovely three day walk from the resort town of Falls Creek, across the Bogong High Plains, to Mt Hotham. Managed by Parks Victoria, you need to book to use the designated campsites near Cope Hut and Dibbins hut. It is a hugely popular walk.

There are also plans to extend and reroute the Crossing, turning it a five day ‘serviced hiking opportunity’ in the Alpine National Park. In the state budget for 2018/19, there was an allocation of funds to help make the project a reality. Now additional funds have been allocated to continue the planning for the project, including Stage 1 of the construction.

The proposal has been widely criticised because it will help open up previously undeveloped areas near Mt Feathertop and allow private development within the Alpine National Park. It will see a major upgrade of the route that currently follows Diamantina Spur up to the Razorback from the West Kiewa valley.

The Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing is part of a ‘branded portfolio’ of four long-distance walks known as ‘Walk Victoria’s Icons’ and is being strongly backed by the Victorian government. Outdoor, nature based tourism is a great thing. It’s good for individual and public health, and great for regional economies. However, private commercial development within a national park is strongly opposed by many people. 

Continue reading “No commercial development on ‘the People’s mountain’!”

Support mountain businesses this summer

As 2020 races towards Christmas and New Year, lots of us are thinking about presents and holidays. Here’s a few ideas about some of the great businesses in north east VIC that you could support. As we all know, these regions were hard hit by last summer’s fires, two rounds of pandemic lockdown and a shortened ski season.

This is like #emptyesky for gear and adventure operators.

Continue reading “Support mountain businesses this summer”

Mountain Journal turns six

Summer feels like a blur of heat and blinding sun. Finally we seem to be turning into autumn dominated weather patterns. The earth seems richer, with so much life everywhere, like everything is breathing out after the anxious wait for rain. In my recent wanders through the high country, springs and headwater streams are running, and the nights are getting cooler.

Thankfully there were no big fires in the Australian alps this summer, but Tasmania got hammered by a long fire season that started early and just kept going. While fire crews fought to protect human assets in the west and north west, fires got up into the high country of the central plateau and did terrible damage to the sub alpine areas in places like Lake Mackenzie. Thousand year old pencil pines were devastated, country that won’t fully recover in our lifetime. It is hard not to see the hand of climate change in these fires, and the world seems the poorer for the loss of large areas of the high country, which will not fully recover in our lifetimes.

When I reflect back on the last year, one thing that strikes me is the waning influence of the climate deniers. Bit by bit, the ‘light bulb’ is clicking on over more and more people. Polling here and around the world shows greater acceptance of the fact that climate change is happening and that humans have a hand in it.

This is welcome news.

Our planet went through a dramatic year in 2015. We experienced the warmest year on record. There are various reports that the far north – places like Alaska, Greenland and the north of Russia did not experience ‘true’ winter. And climate experts have revealed that February was the warmest month in recorded history, surpassing the previous global monthly record – set in December. An unprecedented heating of our world is now under way.

With the current El Niño weather event only now beginning to tail off, meteorologists believe that this year is destined to be the hottest on record, warmer even than 2015.

Like other mountain obsessed people, I’m starting to track the weather with a view to understanding what winter will be like. A weakening El Niño could be good news in terms of snow fall, but its too early to tell. I look forward to the first forecast from Grasshopper on the Mountain Watch site.

 

Looking at visitation to Mountain Journal over the past year, it feels quite a lot like the year before:

  • As is often the case, the ‘sidecountry stash’ page got the most visits. This covers easy-to-access skiing and riding terrain close to the Hotham ski resort in Victoria
  • The backcountry film festival page was the second most popular section (and like last year I’ve struggled to lock in a suitable venue in Melbourne. But stand by for an announcement in the next 2 weeks, and a show in May)
  • Then there were the various walking guides to trips on the central plateau (some of which is now – tragically – burnt after this summers fires). The Ducane Traverse (a fantastic, and challenging, offtrack trip between the Overland Track and the Ducane Range) also got a lot of visits.
  • A walking guide to low impact hiking (called Treading Softly in the Bush) got a lot of attention. To my mind, the guide contains the basic info everyone needs to have to minimise their impact when travelling through precious wild areas, so it’s heartening that so many people checked out the guide.
  • The upgrade of the ‘Falls to Hotham Crossing’ walk also got many views and some commentary. This is a walk that people have been doing for decades but has now been formalised as an ‘iconic walk’, in the hope of attracting new visitors, and probably visitors who need a bit more help in getting into the back country. There is an unresolved question of whether a substantial upgrade of the trail up Diamantina Spur on Mt Feathertop will be incorporated into the walk.
  • Fires and climate. There are various pages on MJ that cover the link between climate change and fire regimes, and these were all viewed frequently in 2015, especially the coverage of the 2016 fires in Tasmania. MJ coverage focused on the Central Plateau rather than the north west. We helped in the call for an inquiry into the fires, and will continue to cover the recovery efforts in coming years.

There is now also an events page on MJ.

Thanks for checking out the site, for the comments and feedback. There is a lot of extra info posted on the MJ facebook page. I’m always happy to receive tip offs about upcoming events or issues, just email them through: cam.walker@foe.org.au

See you out on the trails (or maybe in a micro brewery) somewhere.

Cam

 

National poll finds overwhelming support for protecting Australia’s wilderness

As a number of state governments continue to pursue commercial tourism options  in national parks and World Heritage Areas, a recent poll shows that these moves are out of step with community opinion. A Roy Morgan poll has found 90% of Australians support the protection of Australia’s wilderness areas. Of significance is the fact that support is high across the political spectrum, with 86% of Coalition voters, 92% of Labor voters and 94% of Greens voters agreeing wilderness should be protected.

Continue reading “National poll finds overwhelming support for protecting Australia’s wilderness”

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