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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Vertical Life magazine

Vertical Life is a great online climbing magazine put together by a bunch of Australian climbers (you can subscribe to their online magazine here). Every two years, they produce a printed version of the magazine, which features a range of articles and images from the online version. It is edited by Ross Taylor and Simon Madden. The 2016 edition is now available. They describe it as a ‘handsome, collectible print tome that collects all of the best content published in the digital issues of Vertical Life during 2014 and 2015’.

The print version of VL is more a journal than a magazine, in some ways similar to the annual ‘Ascent’ edition of the Rock and Ice magazine put out in the USA, being stronger on reflecting on climbing rather than focusing on the latest new routes. The 2016 offering has a nice set of stories that cover a good cross section of the Australian outdoor climbing scene:

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Ski mountaineering introduction courses

Main Range Backcountry is offering ski mountaineering courses this winter.

There will be four one day courses held this September, on the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains.

The course is designed to teach basic rope handling and movement on snow and ice with crampons and ice axes.

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Backcountry film festival in Sydney

Saturday April 30 at 7.30pm.

The NSW Nordic Ski Club is hosting a screening of the Backcountry Film Festival – this Film Festival features 9 short snow and ski films selected by the American Winter Wildlands Alliance. The Festival is renowned for its mix of professional and grassroots films, from well-known filmmakers who search backcountry corners across the globe to submit their best work to first-timers who take a video camera out on their weekend excursions.

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Mt Geryon

I don’t know any Indigenous stories about Mt Geryon, in the southern end of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. But I do often wonder what it must have been like for the people’s who lived and passed through the incredible mountain country of central western Tasmania. To approach this mountain up Pine Valley and finally to reach the small clearing (the old ‘climbers camp’) where the bulky western face suddenly reveals itself is always an impressive, and to me, spiritual, experience. I wonder if they climbed this peak.

So many of the features of this region have been loaded down with Biblical titles or names from the Greek Classics, something that irks me whenever I scan the map or skyline. There are some great names: I love Innes High Rocky in the south west. And closer to Geryon, there is Fury Gorge, Pencil Pine Bluff, Cathedral Mountain, High Dome, Walled Mountain, The Never Never, and the beautifully appropriate Pool of Memories. These names evoke something of the place. Peaks named after early explorers also make sense. But just reeling off a list of names from western mythology seems lazy and disrespectful. But I can live with Geryon. The three-bodied giant of Greek Mythology.

It is such a dramatic mountain, squeezed up the end of Pine Valley up against the Ducane range, and hidden in behind the bulkier looking Acropolis when seen from lake St Clair. It provides a dramatic and other worldly aspect to dinner when you’re sitting in Bert Nichols hut on the Overland track. If the word charismatic can be applied to a mountain, then it certainly applies to Geryon. Its dramatic rocky faces on the east and west constantly change their moods and even from The Labyrinth it presents itself as a ‘real’ mountain, with another thousand feet of cliffs and dramatic skyline above the Labyrinth plateau. It can be mild in The Labyrinth and storming up on Geryon and the Ducane Range. The Cephessis scree, which runs from the base of the western face down almost to Cephissus Creek, is an amazing feature, and acts as a giant staircase that leads you right to the cliffs.

Full story here.

AdventurePro Video Festival to show at Mt Buller

Having received an overwhelmingly positive response from its original screening in Mansfield, the AdventurePro Video Festival is now going on tour.

A grassroots adventure film competition organised by AdventurePro is due to reappear for a screening at Mount Buller in July.

The collection of locally-produced adventure films was shown at Mansfield’s Armchair Cinema last month and provided an opportunity for independent filmmakers to win a cash prize.

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ski mountaineering courses

Main Range Backcountry is offering ski mountaineering courses on the Main Range in the Snowies.

They say:

The rope can be a valuable tool for ski touring, but without any training in its use, can be dangerous or even provide a false sense of security. This course is designed to teach you basic rope handling and movement on snow and ice with crampons and ice axes. If you have a small group, the day can be customised to your needs, whether you want to access and ski big lines, with a larger margin of safety or are looking at getting into mountaineering from hiking or climbing.

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Climate change and the mountain environment. The denial continues

A few years ago I traveled with a Sherpa climber who had summited on Mt Everest many times, set some speed records, and even helped carry a statue of the Buddha to the summit. I remember him talking about how the mountain was becoming more dangerous because of global warming, with more exposed rocky sections and risk of ice fall.

Every year, as I wait for the season forecast, like other skiers and riders I hope for the best. A good year – like the one we just had – seems like a blessing when you consider what we know about climate change and the likely impacts on mountain environments world-wide in coming years. Climate change is coming and ignoring the science will not make it go away.

I find it remarkable that ski resorts in Australia, who by definition rely on good winter snow falls, have generally ignored the issue of global warming. I find it strange, and sad, that we have so few famous Australian skiers and riders willing to speak out on the issue. I look to the example of people like boarder Jeremy Jones, the inspiration of Protect Our Winters, and initiatives like The Little Things, a snowboard movie project based on environmentally conscious riders who are inspirational through their riding, as well as their sustainable ways of living and thinking.

So, lacking local leadership from the snow sports community and industry, we still need to look overseas for some inspiration. I thought these recent comments from alpinist Kitty Calhoun (lifted from the Patagonia Australia) blog were worth sharing.

“I’m here to tell a story about a Last Ascent. A route that I climbed, that may not get a repeat because of climate change. It’s hard to admit that the mountains are changing but they are. We may or may not be able to affect climate change, but I think we should at least try and I have a new approach.

We many not agree on what is causing climate change, but all can agree on the fact that it is occurring. Alpinists are like canaries in a coal mine in that we see changes that have occurred on the glaciers in our lifetime. These changes are evident not only far away in the Himalayas, but in our own back yards. Routes that my son may have dreamed of climbing are falling apart and no longer safe. I will highlight a few climbing objectives that I have done, that may not get a repeat ascent due to unsafe conditions brought by climate change. Climbers generally celebrate a first ascent of a route. The concept of doing a last ascent never occurred to the generation before me. Some argue that it is self-aggrandizing to think we could affect climate change, but I think it is worth a try.

My lifestyle of minimalism has been the key to my success in the mountains and I think it can provide a framework for interaction with our environment. Minimalism is not simply “doing without”, but a constant reassessment and focus on what is important. Alpinism and the more general concept of minimalism is a fundamental choice about the way we live – it is an attempt at a more “mindful” way of life. This attitude is critical to our relationship with the mountains and the earth”.

Australian backcountry film festival – Spring 2014

For the past four years, the backcountry film festival has been attracting good numbers of people, and has been showing in more locations across south eastern Australia.

It seems like it might be time to have our own festival – with films made in Australia.

At previous Melbourne shows, we have added a film about skiing and boarding on The Bluff (No Lift Lines Here), and this year saw OFF GRID, a new effort on Mt Bogong from SoO Airtime.

The plan is to hold an Australian backcountry film festival in late spring 2014 with only local content. There are some fantastic film makers out there, and we hope to be able to showcase some of these.

We are seeking expressions of interest from film makers who would like to submit films.

Any human and gravity powered backcountry adventure would be welcome: walking, skiing, boarding, MTBing, paddling, climbing, …

As this is an entirely volunteer effort, with no budget, we are not able to offer payment for showing the films.

Films can be in two length categories. We hope to show an hours worth of short films (3 to 7 minutes) then up to 2 longer films (30 – 40 minutes each).

At this point we are looking at doing a Melbourne showing, with the ability to offer the festival to other places once its packaged up. The aim is to do a low fuss mini film festival, so we’d appreciate getting the films in a format that allows us to put them onto a single dvd.

If you’re keen, please get in touch: cam.walker@foe.org.au

I would also love to hear from anyone keen to volunteer their skills to turn the individual films into a package and for help with logistics.

Global rock climbers alarmed at cable car proposal

This is impressive. A remarkable group of climbers have joined together to express their opposition to the proposed cable car development on Mt Wellington/ kunanyi in Hobart. There are some real luminaries of the climbing world signed on, and this will help bring international attention to this ridiculous project.

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