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: firstname.lastname@example.org
See you out on the trails (or maybe in a micro brewery) somewhere.