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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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VIC Backcountry Festival 2020

Lots of people are asking whether the Backcountry Festival will happen this year. The short answer is YES, providing Mt Hotham is open and backcountry access is allowed.

With the COVID-19 pandemic requiring society wide shut down of non essential activity, it is not yet certain whether the 2020 ski season will happen. Obviously, like all other snow lovers, we are anxiously waiting for the government announcement on whether ski season will proceed, and if it does, in what form.

Because the festival is not scheduled until the end of winter (September 4 – 6), we are hopeful that the festival will be able to proceed.

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The Central Plateau from the air

These images were taken from a lovely 46 minute video of ‘a flight over the Tasmanian Highlands on a mostly sunny autumn afternoon’ from Gary J McArthur (whose account is called Wandering Foxbat). This film is available here. He posts many great videos of flying over Tasmania.

He flies over Mt Roland, down along the western edge of the Central Plateau to the Ducane Range, then north to Cradle Mountain.

I couldn’t resist taking a few images from the video of some of my favourite peaks.

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Snow! Plans.

This current burst of cold has certainly made the conversation about ski season more real. Many of us are expecting an announcement – at least in Victoria – by mid May (the 11th is the date that the Victorian government will announce what next for the society wide lock down). The NSW police commissioner has said the state’s restrictions on outdoor movements and public gatherings would remain in force for at least 90 days, but that he was hopeful of being able to relax them beyond that date: 29 June.

For business operators, international instructors, local staff, and all snow lovers the wait is agonising.

I recently posted a poll on twitter, asking what people thought would happen this winter: a full ski season. Late start. Or no season at all – with or without the option of backcountry skiing. It was a small group that responded, but around 2 thirds felt there would be no season.

Continue reading “Snow! Plans.”

A remote area firefighting force for Victoria

For the last few months I have been talking with various land managers and career and volunteer firefighters about whether Victoria should establish a remote area firefighting capacity of volunteer fire fighters.

NSW has such a force: the Rural Fire Service (RFS) has Remote Area Fire Teams, with around 500 active volunteer firefighters.

It is clear climate change will make fire seasons more intense and will also lead to an increase in ‘dry lightning’ strikes, which will increase the number of wildfires. The value of the NSW model is shown by the effectiveness of their teams in stopping small fires becoming blazes: for instance, in the 2018/19 fire season the Rapid Aerial Response Teams responded to 77 incidents, and were able to keep 90 percent of the fires they attended contained to less than 10 hectares in size.

I think we should create a similar group in Victoria.

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Mountain Journal highlights, April 2020

Some highlights from MJ’s stories during April 2020. More fire news than I expected, with some reflections on the impacts of last summer and post logging burning in full swing. Plus new research into alpine zones and efforts to help Alpine Ash forests recover through aerial seeding. And Mountain Cosmos – a website dedicated to podcasts about the mountain life.

  Continue reading “Mountain Journal highlights, April 2020”

Climate change may push some species to higher elevations

We know that climate change poses an existential threat to the mountain environments that we love. A new study reveals that mountain-dwelling plants and animals fleeing warming temperatures by retreating to higher elevations may ‘find refuge from reduced human pressure’.

Being northern hemisphere based, it is of limited value here in Australia because our habitation in, and use of, mountainous areas is very different to Europe or Asia. However, it is another reminder that, as species, move uphill as temperatures climb, there is a real risk that true alpine environments will ‘run out of mountain’ and be lost for all time.

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News from home

I feel lucky to be living in a small country town, with a Parks Vic reserve in the gully below us, and endless opportunities for walking and MTB riding. It’s been a mild and gorgeous autumn so far, with a good bit of rain. I’m keeping in touch with friends, family and workmates (although feel that I now spend most of my life in Zoom meetings) and I feel grateful to have a safe place to be during the pandemic.

But cabin fever is setting in. Its Easter, but we need to stay home and not travel for adventures (and the alpine parks are closed). We really don’t know what will happen with ski season – will it happen at all, or will it start late? (There are growing conversations about a ‘delayed’ ski season rather than an outright cancellation). Will the national parks be open if the resorts are closed? What about backcountry huts? So many unknowns. All we can do is wait. Be patient. Watch some films and read some stuff, and be kind to each other.

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In praise of the Home Range

 

We all know that air travel has a huge environmental impact. Taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year. As a keen skier and walker I love an overseas adventure as much as the next addict. But having done lots of overseas trips I figure I’ve consumed well beyond a fair share of carbon, and try to stick close to home for my adventures nowadays (despite falling off the wagon and visiting Colorado a couple of times in recent years).

There is, of course, the allure of skiing new mountains (and the fantastic snow that comes with higher altitude and latitude, and grander terrain) but there is also the allure of staying at home, of deepening connection with the local hills and valleys. Even here in the south east, there is lifetimes worth of terrain to walk and big patches to ski and ride. Factor in Tasmania, and you have several lifetimes worth. I’m still yet to make it into the Cobberas in winter, am long overdue for another visit to the ‘interior’ ranges of the Howitt Plains and Mt Clear in the central Victorian Alps, or walk the Overland Track in peak snow conditions.

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Campaign against Mount Wellington cable car keeps growing

The long campaign against a cable car that has been proposed for kunanyi/ Mt Wellington, in Hobart, has entered a pivotal moment, with the developers having lodged a development application for the proposal.

In response, local group Residents Opposed to the Cable Car has issued a statement outlining how they will be ramping up their campaign against this unpopular and destructive project.

Continue reading “Campaign against Mount Wellington cable car keeps growing”

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