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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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local culture

The perfect back country camp

I love this story. As a climber I have spent weeks at a time living in the camp at Arapiles in western VIC (The Pines is always an entertaining place). Lifer climbers (as opposed to weekenders) are great at dossing out and living cheap. From the stone hut in the car park above Buffalo Gorge, to roadside camps in the Grampians, there are dozens of established, and well known, camping spots in the climbing world where you’ll often find other climbers.

I know of fewer such spots in the back country skiing world. Known campsites accessible by road where you can park yourself for a while without too much hassle.

Continue reading “The perfect back country camp”

In praise of huts

Tawonga Huts, Bogong High Plains, VIC
Tawonga Huts, Bogong High Plains, VIC

Huts in the mountains can be a vexed issue. Huts will tend to attract people and so tend to concentrate visitation within a larger area. As one example, most people who climb Mt Bogong tend to then turn towards Cleve Cole hut rather than head across to the Hooker Plateau. This tendency to influence visitation can be both good and bad.

They are part of the cultural history of the high country, and reflect major stages in the post colonisation era: cattle grazing, forestry, hydro, even fire watch towers and, more recently, huts built for recreational purposes. We also have a number of strange and random anomalies, ones that don’t really make sense: Craig’s hut near Mt Stirling as an example, which was built as a set for a film. There are, of course, those whose primary function is safety, such as Seaman’s hut near Mt Kosciusko, and huts that belong to clubs or even schools (Geelong Grammar on Mt Stirling).

I have always tended towards the position that we don’t need more huts in the high country. With incremental pressure as ski resorts increase their footprint and the risk of private developments within Victorian national parks and the precedent of private enterprise in a number of Tasmanian parks, I don’t think we need more infrastructure. There have been some hut removals that make ecological sense (such as Albina Lodge, above the western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains). I certainly understand the need for huts in strategic spots for safety. And I do appreciate the history of these places, the incredible work of getting materials into hut sites in the early days and the bush skills of the builders. I love the work of Klaus Hueneke, who has chronicled the heritage of the huts.

the hut at Lake Nameless
the hut at Lake Nameless, Central TAS

With the rise in wildfire over the past decade, we have lost many of the iconic huts. There have been some excellent rebuild efforts, such as Michel’s at Mt Bogong. The Victorian High Country Huts Association was founded after the major bushfires of February 2003, to try and preserve remaining huts. Some huts are looked after by organisations and this can give people a strong connection to ‘their’ hut, and various groups exist to look out for huts in general (partial list below).

For me, it’s a rare thing to find a hut that is more appealing than a tent, but amongst my favourites are Seamen’s and the ‘Schlink Hilton’ in the Snowies, Vallejo Gantner at Macalister Springs, Cleve Cole on Bogong (of course), and the hut at Lake Nameless in Central Tasmania. I love the location of the ridiculously ugly house on Mt Wills.

For hut fans, we have recently been posting photos on Mountain Journal’s facebook page. Please feel free to join in and post your favourite pics.

the hut at Newgate Tarn, TAS
the hut at Newgate Tarn, TAS

I recently spotted the article below, highlighting the value of the ‘secret’ hut stash around many resorts, the little known hang out spot. I remember a rough hut that lasted several years on the northern slopes of The Bluff in Victoria which was popular with some backcountry skiers and boarders. I went to look for it one spring and it was gone (it had been tarp and pole heavy, more a glorified camp than a hut).

What I loved about this article is that it highlights that for all of us who use huts, there are personal and social memories that build up: of friendship, adventure, good dinners, long and late night conversations with strangers. I held my 30th birthday at Vallejo Gantner hut and have spent the last 4 new years at Bluff Spur hut on Mt Stirling with a big gang of friends. Part of the cultural – as opposed to technical – history is preserved in log books and, increasingly, on line. For instance, check the newsletters from the Mt Bogong Club, who have been looking after the Cleve Cole hut since 1965. In many countries there is the tradition of the hut warden, which can add to the sense of hut culture. I like the short film Winters of my Life, an appreciation of the decades-long service of Howard Weamer, who for the past 35 years has spent his winters as a hutkeeper in Yosemite’s backcountry.

Twilight Tarn, TAS
Twilight Tarn, TAS

Shacktivities

From Powder magazine.

Secret stashes, shacks included, are a part of skiing in the same way that early mornings and long drives are. If you are dedicated you will have yours, you’ll know the good ones, and the people to share them with inbounds and out. People who love the mountains cultivated them, probably long before you got there.

 Some contacts

Kosciusko huts association.

Victorian High Country Huts Association.

Buffalo Chalet facing partial demolition, renovation, reopening

Image: Sustainable Melbourne
Image: Sustainable Melbourne

The Mt Buffalo chalet is more than a century old, and an icon of the Victorian mountains. There is nothing else remotely like it, inter twined as it is with the post invasion history of the Buffalo Plateau. The chalet is included in the Victorian Heritage Register for its architectural, historical and social significance.

It was closed in 2007, and has been in deterioration since then.

There have been various attempts to save the Chalet, get it renovated and reopened, but as time goes by, the damage to the building continues to grow, making any plan to re-open the whole building for accommodation ever more unlikely.

There are now plans to lift heritage protections to allow demolition of several sections of the lodge.

The Government wants to re-open the publicly-owned building as a visitor day centre and cafe in a $7.5 million restoration.

There is a good story from Chris McLennan of The Weekly Times about the current state of the Chalet and the plans to demolish part of it and reopen the front section of the building.

 

greetings from the Wonnangatta

'keep it cool. Stop climate change'. Dinner Plain, June 2011

Ben Laycock is a “painter and occasional sculptor” from Castlemaine in Central Victoria. His wonderfully vivid paintings are his interpretation of the essence of the landscapes he visits and works in. He is turning his hand to writing and we will feature some of his work on the site in coming months.

His first installment, ‘greetings from the Wonnangatta’, is now on the site. It involves reflections from a week picking walnuts on the Wonnangatta River near Dargo.

Check here for a profile and the first story.

news from the Strathbogie Ranges

The following are two great community sites from the Strathbogie Ranges, an outlier to the Vic Alps. The more regional sites the better!

Strathbogie Ranges – Nature View

Flora, fauna & natural history of the Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria

This blog is about observations & issues concerning the natural history of the Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria, Australia.
The Strathbogie Ranges are located in north-east Victoria, Australia. The Ranges include several districts (e.g. Strathbogie, Ruffy, Highlands), but support no towns (Strathbogie does have a General Store and Ruffy has the Pantry) and no major through-roads. Towns on the plains surrounding the Ranges include:

* Seymour to the south-west
* Euroa, Violet Town & Benalla to the north
* Yea & Alexandra to the south, and
* Mansfield to the south-east

The Ranges are separated from the main Great Dividing Range by the valleys and floodplains created by the Goulburn and Broken Rivers. Being separate from nearby areas of similar elevation and high rainfall has resulted in some interesting and unique biogeographic and ecological patterns.

If you’d like to add your own observations just leave a comment under the relevant post. If you’d like to contribute your own posts, email me and I’ll sign you up (bertram.lobert@activ8.net.au). You don’t need a photo to contribute, all your nature observations are welcome. This blog is part of a larger project to record biodiversity and natural history information from across the Strathbogies.

You can find their site here.

Images: Strathbogie Ranges – Nature View

Strathbogie community website

It’s a new way for residents and landholders to stay in touch and communicate with each other.  We may be a small and scattered community but, with increasing use of computers and email, this site offers the opportunity to keep informed about events, to comment about Tableland issues, to contribute ideas, to catch up with each other, to buy and sell, and to show off our creativity.

FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW THE AREA, the small community of the Strathbogie Tableland is located on an elevated plateau in the Strathbogie Ranges. Two hundred kilometres northeast of Melbourne, it is surrounded by forests, farmland and granite hills.

The environment is beautiful with its native bush, birds and animals. While many people have spent their entire lives on the tableland, others are increasingly choosing to leave city life and move up to live here permanently.
You can find their site here.

the Monaro tablelands

Image: Andrew Stanger

Andrew Stanger lives on the Monaro tablelands in south eastern NSW.

As a recent arrival to the region, he is, as he puts it “taking some time to acclimatise” because of the often harse nature of the environment. But equally, “there is something distinctive about this place and the landscape and the people” that has him captivated and intrigued.

You can find his writing on adapting to life on the Monaro here.

call out for mountain poetry and songs

Young Alpine Ash, near Dinner Plain, VIC

Andy Kimber lives on the Warby Ranges near Glenrowan. He has a life long connection with the valleys and mountains of north east Victoria, and has written extensively abut the area, in various forms including songs, as well as helping engender a sense of place for many people in the region, especially students he has taught over the years.

He would be interested in any poems or songs about the mountain valleys of the North East. If you have some, or know where to find some, please email him: andykimber@netc.net.au

And stay tuned for a review of his daughters album ‘Sounds like Thunder’ soon, featuring some fine tracks, including about the Victorian high country.

a chat with Deb Foskey, Cabanandra, East Gippsland

Deb at the Bowen River

“I’ve been a few things in my life – teacher, scholar, activist, candidate and Member of Parliament – but like most people I have ended up as a consultant….”

“It might be too late to change the world, but its a way of life for me. At the broad scale, I am pessimistic about the future of our planet and the wellbeing of its creatures, including us”.

“But I am heartened to see small groups of people everywhere making a difference, taking their local futures into their own hands. Groups of people well networked, sharing fun as well as work, whether its in Transition Towns type of movements, Boobook Declarations, producers markets, organic farming or community working bees are what is going to make the difference. Politicians seem pretty disinterested and unaware of rural communities, so they are likely to leave us alone to get on with it!”

You can read the story here.

W Tree

W Tree is a small vibrant community of about 85 people in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in East Gippsland, Victoria, about 80 km from Lakes Entrance and 20 kms north of Buchan.

W Tree is the home of two ecovillages – Mt Murrindal co-op and Sunrise Farm, one Tibetan Buddhist center , a number of different ecosensitive businesses and very creative & entreprenurial people .

It is surrounded by forest, both rainforest areas and State Forest. Rainforest in the area includes such species as Muttonwood, Lilly Pilly, Sassafras and Sweet Pittosporum. The Snowy River National Park and the Alpine National Park are both within an hours drive, the world famous Buchan Caves are 20 minutes away. The Snowy River is popular with both tourists and locals, and rafting and whitewater trips are a fantastic way to see the magnificent gorges.

In 2009 they hosted a spirit of place festival (details here).

For further information on the community, check here.

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