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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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mountains

Happy international mountain day!

December 11 is designated by the UN as international mountain day.

In the promo for the day, the UN notes:

“Almost one billion people live in mountain areas, and over half the human population depends on mountains for water, food and clean energy. Yet mountains are under threat from climate change, land degradation, over exploitation and natural disasters, with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for mountain communities and the rest of the world”.

True. But today I feel like ignoring the (very real) threats to the mountains we know and love, and instead focus on how much the existence of mountains improves our lives.

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Summer events in the Australian Alps

Mountain Journal often advertises high energy events like trail running, road riding, cross country races, etc. But summer is also a good time to relax, take it easy, and chill out with friends. Here are some listings for festivals, low key nature events, and social gatherings that are happening in the Alps over summer 2017/18.

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A non profit system for mountain huts?

One of my key addictions in life is to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Wonderful mountains, fantastic snow, endless terrain, cool towns. And one of the best backcountry hut networks on the planet.

10th Mountain Huts is a non profit that owns and rents out backcountry cabins to skiers, hikers and mountain bikers (they also rent out a number of privately owned cabins). Most are fairly similar: they are based on a log construction and built on two levels, and they have everything you need for multiday trips: a kitchen with gas burners and all the gear you need to cook, a wood fired stove with large basin for melting snow, a small solar PV system for basic lighting, and even a small library (and mattresses – sheer luxury!). It means you can do multi day trips without the need for tents, stoves and fuel, and cooking gear. Many of the huts are above 11,000 feet asl, in mind blowingly gorgeous locations. And because you need to book them, you’re guaranteed of getting a bed.

Which, of course, gets me thinking about our hut system here in Australia. I’m not suggesting we set up a similar network. But as a non profit, 10th Mountain fills an interesting gap in the network of backcountry huts that tend to exist in mountain environments.

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Lamont magazine

Any skier, rider or MTB enthusiast who has travelled in North America will know that there is a wealth of mountain themed magazines and media on that continent. Journals that celebrate the people and culture of mountain towns, the outdoor life, and the landscapes that make it all possible. Australia, with a much smaller population and a lot fewer mountain towns, has traditionally been a bit sparse when it comes to this type of media.

So, it’s a real delight to see a new magazine which is seeking to explore and celebrate the ‘mountains and the people whose lives and loves are in them’.

Lamont magazine is the brainchild of Jindabyne-based photographer Mandy Lamont, and describes itself as a ‘mountain lifestyle magazine’. Having worked hard to make her life in the high country sustainable through pursing a range of ventures, she is now sharing her love of the mountains with others through this magazine.

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As we get older, the forests get younger

In recent weeks we have heard the astonishing news that ‘up to half’ of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef may have died in the past two years. This confirms the worst fears of environmentalists and scientists and has led to an outpouring of grief by many people. It seems that, day by day, our world gets poorer as we lose iconic landscapes.

Many people know it: they can see landscapes that are disappearing or changing before their eyes. ‘Climate tourism’ (‘see the glaciers before they melt’) is actually a thing. Yet we continue, as a society, as if everything is normal.

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The romance of the fire lookout

As a mountain obsessed teenager, I naturally drifted towards working in the mountains. I planted trees on the Monaro Tablelands, did some fire crew work, applied for jobs at ski resorts. I found myself the dream job for a few months, helping renovate a 100 year old store in a town in the mountains of eastern Alaska … But the ultimate romantic job was fire lookout, of course.

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World Mountain Day

World Mountain Day is on December 11. While it has a theme each year (see below), for me it’s a chance to reflect on how much mountains influence my life and how much I enjoy being in them.

Wherever you are, I hope you have a great day.

According to the United Nations, the theme in 2016 is:

“Mountain Cultures: Celebrating diversity and strengthening identity”

Covering around 22 percent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth. They not only provide sustenance and wellbeing to 915 million mountain people around the world, representing 13 percent of global population, but mountains also indirectly benefit billions more living downstream.

Mountain Cultures

This year, the celebration of this Day aims to highlight Mountain Cultures. Mountains host communities with ancient cultures and traditions, and are places of religious worship, pilgrimage and rituals all over the world. The concept of traditional heritage, culture and spirituality is intrinsically linked with peoples’ livelihoods in the mountains, where it is often traditional lifestyles that determine the way people make a living and subsist.

[IMAGE: Mt Geryon in Tasmania is one of my favourite mountains].

 

The Mountain Legacy Project

The Mountain Legacy Project, or MLP, is “an interdisciplinary collaboration focused on exploring change in Canada’s mountain environments. Utilizing over 140,000 images taken by land surveyors from 1861 – 1953, MLP researchers seek to re-photograph these images as accurately as possible and make the resulting image pairs available for further investigation”.

It compares the original landscape shown in the early photos with ones taken in the same place over the past few years. It allows you look at the changes in many thousands of places – mountains, valleys and so on – over time. And the results are incredible. While it documents the development of towns, roads, changes in land management, the impact of logging operations and wildfire, etc, the most striking aspect is the change to snowpack and ice fields during this time.

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Highline Magazine signs off

One of the inspirations for Mountain Journal was a magazine that came out of Colorado called the Mountain Gazette. The Gazette lived through various incarnations from the early 1970s onwards and was, in the words of one of its founders, “generally about the mountains”. Quirky, alternative, sometimes very political, and with fantastic writing about life in the mountains and the landscapes that sustain and draw people to that part of the world. It had fantastic covers, with wonderfully evocative art work.

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