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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Main Range Snowy Mountains

SplitFest 2017

As far as I’m concerned, SplitFest – the Splitboarding festival – is the highlight of the winter backcountry calendar.

You get a great party in Jindabyne on the Friday night, a camp out up in the mountains at Island Bend with a big mob of fantastic people, and an outing with Adam West, who will share his knowledge of the backcountry, reading terrain and all things splitboarding.

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SplitFest 2017

The NSW Splitfest DownUnder will be held on weekend of the 25-27th of August in the NSW main range.

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Lets talk about poo

The Main Range area of the Snowy Mountains is a small and much loved area with some of Australia’s finest alpine terrain. It is popular with overnight walkers, skiers and riders and while the Parks service prohibits camping within the catchments of the glacial lakes on the range, there are still lots of great spots to stay.

But the problem of human waste is becoming one that backcountry users need to deal with. In places like the Main Range, the time has come to extend the concept of ‘if you carry it in, you can carry it out’. As Andrew Stanger says in this article, “just as dog owners must now collect their pooches poops, it is time for people to do the same when venturing into the great outdoors. People need to bag their poops, take them out and dispose of them appropriately”.

Here’s how you can do it:

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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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Snow Safety Australia

Anyone who backcountry skis or rides outside Australia will know about the need to be careful of avalanche risk. Many regions around the world with lots of backcountry or mountaineering terrain will have online or phone service avalanche information which can be consulted before heading out into the hills.

With our moderate sized mountains and lower avalanche risk, many Australians are not aware that there are actually dangers to be found in our backcountry.

Now we have our first avalanche/ conditions info service: Snow Safety Australia.

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In praise of huts 2

Mountain Journal has previously covered the issue of huts in the high country. As we said then:

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)”.

With growing risk of wildfire, and many huts simply ageing and starting to fall apart, there is the chance that the overall number of huts will decline in coming years. Some are carefully looked after (the Kosciusko Huts Association lists the known caretakers of huts in the Snowy Mountains) but others are falling into disrepair.

I am more interested in indigenous history of the high country than huts, but I do appreciate the cultural value they hold for many people and the practical value of refuge huts.

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Splitfest 2015

The NSW Splitfest DownUnder will be held on weekend of the 21-23rd of August in the NSW main range.

You can
Register here.

We will be holding the Friday night entertainment at the Banjo Paterson Inn in Jindabyne, Starting @ 6pm
1 Kosciuszko Road, Jindabyne

The weekend will be spent out on the Main Range.

You have the option to stay in Jindabyne, camp in the National Park or out on the peaks.

There will be rental gear available to those who need it. Jump on board and meet some new touring partners, the more the merrier!

This is a free event, there are no guides so you must be able to make your own terrain decisions.

Further information available here.

 

Climbing The Sentinel – from the west

Photo:The Sentinel, by James Morrow, OZBC.net

The western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains are the premier backcountry ski and boarding destination in Australia.

And while people have been riding out there since at least the 1940s, the slopes have been getting a lot of coverage in recent years.

While the classic book is still Skiing the Western Faces of Kosciusko, by Alan Andrews, there are lots of other reports and even films coming out about skiing and boarding these impressive slopes. John Blankenstein has written a number of great trip reports from the Slopes, and Nic Rivers recently released a short film, called Find Your Line, of John snow boarding Watsons Crag.

There’s a brilliant front cover story in the current edition of Transfer magazine, the upcoming Roof of Oz film project, and a number of other magazines have covered the western faces. Stephen Curtains classic telemark film, Winter Dreaming, has a lot of action from Little Austria and other sections of the Slopes.

No matter which way you get to the western slopes, the main drop of mountains from Abbott Peak to about Mt Tate, you’re in a for a few hours of work. The shortest routes are from the top station at Thredbo or via Perisher to Charlotte Pass. You can also skin up via a number of routes from Guthega or, if you’re hard core, Dead Horse Gap.

But who would think of climbing from the west side? The views from The Alpine Way (the road between Thredbo and Khancoban) are some of the best alpine vistas in the whole country, but the slopes of the western faces sit so far above the road that they feel like they’re on another planet.

Enter Jack Skilbeck.

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Ozlaska

Backcountry is the new black.

In the last few years, all things backcountry have come in from the fringe, and are now ubiquitous, featuring in films, magazines, books, and gear. I assume that for most people its slightly voyeuristic. People like to read about the amazing runs on offer in the backcountry without necessarily actually getting out there themselves. But there certainly is a new generation of skiers and boarders heading out for an adventure, and BC specific gear is one of the growth areas in the snow equipment industry.

Here in Australia, attention has tended to focus on two of our most spectacular BC destinations: Mt Bogong in Victoria, and the western slopes of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains (yes, there is lots more on offer, often harder to access and perhaps less iconic. Then there’s Tasmania, which has some insanely good terrain on the rare occasion that it actually comes into shape for riding. But that’s another story).

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