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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Avalanche

Mountain winter events 2021

Recent snowfalls across the Alps has got every snow lover excited about winter. Here is an initial list of snow related events happening across Victoria, NSW and the ACT this winter.

Please check here for a list of tour guides, all avalanche training providers, and gear hire options.

Continue reading “Mountain winter events 2021”

Get the skills you need for a Winter of Awesome

Last winter was pretty ‘ordinary’ in terms of the snow pack, and many people were unable to get into the mountains because of lock down. However, in the places where outdoor adventure was allowed, it was clear that there was a boom in visitation to side country (areas in or near ski resorts) and backcountry (more remote areas).

It has been the same this winter in North America, with some significant results. The New York Times reports:

‘In the throes of a pandemic that has made the indoors inherently dangerous, tens of thousands more Americans than usual have flocked outdoors, fleeing crowded cities for national parks and the public lands around them. But as these hordes of inexperienced adventurers explore the treacherous terrain of the backcountry, many inevitably call for help. It has strained the patchwork, volunteer-based search-and-rescue system in America’s West’.

This winter we have to expect lots of new and inexperienced people getting out of resort and into the higher peaks.

This will bring lots of impacts to our precious high country – especially around human waste (check here for our Let’s talk about poo guide to managing human waste in the backcountry). It also brings risks to inexperienced skiers and riders, and others in the mountains who may need to assist people and groups in difficulty, and put strain on police and volunteer search and rescue groups like Alpine Search and Rescue and the SES.

Here are some ideas on getting skills if you’re planning to head out into higher mountain environments this winter.

Continue reading “Get the skills you need for a Winter of Awesome”

Heading to the Backcountry this Season? Stay safe with a AST1 Course

If you’re a Splitboarder and want to be part of an EXTENDED Alpine Safety Training (AST1) course in Victoria – a collaboration between Alpine Access Australia and the Let’s Split crew – read on!

Continue reading “Heading to the Backcountry this Season? Stay safe with a AST1 Course”

Paradise at 12,000 feet

It was the end of day four on our 160 kilometre ski tour from the resort town of Aspen to Vail, in central Colorado. We’d had a brutal day, with an early start at 11,300 feet, a long descent off the edge of the Continental Divide, endless touring through deep fresh snow, and a final punishing two hour climb to Jackal hut. But tomorrow was the big day.

Perched on the edge of a meadow with jaw dropping views to Mt Elbert, the highest of Colorado’s 14K peaks, Jackal is a solid log cabin with a big front deck that is owned by the 10th Mountain Division Huts Association. On day five we left the hut just after dawn, shuffling through a dark spruce forest onto a long ridge that climbed towards the 12,000 foot mark. The plan was to take a high route over the mountains to our next destination – Shrine Mountain – rather than a lower and more complex trail below the treeline. I’d been struggling with the downhill sections, and was dreading the descent off the other side.

Continue reading “Paradise at 12,000 feet”

Avalanche refresher course at Hotham

If you’ve done an AST1 avalanche course in the past and want to brush up on your avalanche skills before the Spring touring season or getting into the backcountry overseas – Alpine Access Australia is offering an AST1 Refresher. It will happen the day before the Victorian backcountry festival starts.

It consists of a day in the backcountry, with a hands-on approach covering

  • multiple burial companion rescue,
  • terrain and route selection,
  • snowpack analysis, weather and safe backcountry choices.

At Mt Hotham, Friday 6th September.

Details, gear list and bookings available here.

Beacon search station at Mt Hotham

Rolf Schönfeld is a local from north east Victoria with a passion for backcountry safety. This winter he has set up an avalanche beacon search station close to the summit of Mt Hotham. It is located on the Great Alpine Road near the parking spot for The Cross, between Diamantina hut and the Loch carpark. If you’re traveling past and spot Rolf’s red land cruiser, drop by and brush up on your beacon search skills.

20190821_153957He is also offering avalanche beacon training as part of the Victorian backcountry festival, which will happen at Mt Hotham over the weekend of September 7 and 8 (check here for full details).

There is a crowd fund campaign to establish a permanent Avalanche Training Centre (ATC) at Hotham, which would be a permanent version of the system for training transceiver and probe search that Rolf sets up at The Cross. To find out more about this project to GoFundATC, check here.

Rolf runs a business called Rescue Technologies – you can find out more here.

20190821_152349
Rolf

 

Australia’s largest avalanche on record?

Mountain Sports Collective (MSC) is reporting a large avalanche on the Etheridge Ridge in the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains and other avalanche activity in the area, including Leatherbarrell Creek. A person was caught in the main slide and partially buried, but was uninjured. This highlights the need to be very mindful of conditions in the backcountry at present.

Continue reading “Australia’s largest avalanche on record?”

Snow! Be careful out there.

It’s being billed as the best single snow event of the winter. Regardless of the title or hype, its certainly a fantastic dump across all the mountains of the mainland and Tasmania.

But it has also led to serious avalanche potential. Here is a summary of the current (AUG 9) Mountain Sports Collective backcountry conditions bulletin.

Continue reading “Snow! Be careful out there.”

Winter is back! Be careful out there.

Woo hoo! Winter is back! Finally, good conditions in the backcountry. But with heavy snowfalls that have accumulated on almost non existent base, and high winds moving snow around onto the leeward side of slopes, take care out there.

Mountain Sports Collective (MSC) reports that ‘the rate of accumulation, particularly on aspects lee to the north west is a problem. A considerable wind slab avalanche hazard exists as observed at both Falls Creek and Mt Hotham resorts and believed to be widespread particularly in the alpine (above 1650m)’.

These conditions exist across the Alps.

Check here for the MSC Backcountry conditions bulletins before heading out.

MSC says: ‘Conservative terrain choices are advised for travelers in the backcountry for the foreseeable future’.

 

Avalanche Training Australia

Avalanche Training Australia (ATA) is the Australian arm for avalanche training courses of Whiteroom in Australia. ATA as a brand is new over the past few years but Whiteroom has been running courses in Australia for many years.

Avalanche Training Australia is licensed by Avalanche NZ to offer accredited 2-day Avalanche Awareness and 4-day Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance courses during the Australian winter.

Continue reading “Avalanche Training Australia”

Avalanche Warning upgraded to ‘High Danger’

UPDATE. WED August 8, 2018

MSC have issued a ‘High Danger’ warning.

They say:

“The current conditions on the range are about as bad as we have seen in the four year span of running the program. Equal to the various ‘Blizzards of OZ’ in 17 and the various other events of triggered slides swept riders and buried them, and as of the time of writing there have been no incidents. We aren’t out of the woods yet, and that’s the real cut and thrust of this message. This event will linger for the next 48hrs+ so hold the charge, and urge the rest of your immediate pow chasing mates to heed the warning until the snow has settled.”

Additionally, Mt Stirling ski patrol has closed Stanley Bowl:

‘Traditionally Stanley Bowl is considered safe from avalanches. But the conditions we have observed which include a cornice with a large fracture through it are severe enough for us to feel the need to close it’.

Bill Barker from Mt Hotham patrol says:

There is ‘considerable avalanche danger in the back-country again today. There was several reports of skier triggered avalanches yesterday, and the weak layer that produced these still exists today but it is now buried deeper in the snowpack which will result in larger avalanches if it releases today.

Continue reading “Avalanche Warning upgraded to ‘High Danger’”

Avalanche Safety Training 2 Day & 4 Day Courses

Avalanche Training Australia in conjunction with Avalanche NZ is proud to offer accredited 2-day Avalanche Awareness and 4-day Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance courses during the 2018 Australian winter.

These will be held out of Falls Creek in north eastern Victoria.

Continue reading “Avalanche Safety Training 2 Day & 4 Day Courses”

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