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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Mt Buller

Crazy conditions in the backcountry

The Alps have a remarkable variety of conditions in the backcountry at present and it would be wise to carefully scope slopes before committing.

In the Hotham area there are significant patches of water ice which have formed over the snow and large areas of ice sheets. In wind affected and exposed locations, the sastrugi can be have and very difficult to ski. But depending on aspect, there are also sun affected slopes that offer forgiving conditions on northerly and north west facing slopes. However, there was a significant sized wet slide of snow at Mt Buller today (Aug 31) and potential for wet slides in other areas that have become loaded with wet and heavy snow. On some slopes in the north east of the state, runs start nicely but have continuous sheet ice on lower sections. This has been reported on popular sidecountry runs like Women’s Downhill at Mt Higginbotham.

The take home message is that there is a wild variety of conditions and some of these are very dangerous. Please be very cautious in your backcountry travels and take particular care to scope slopes for ice before committing.

The tragic death of Dave Blair on Mt Bogong this week underscores the dangerous conditions. It is understood that Dave hit ice and crashed into trees in the Eskdale Spur area. A recent major rescue at Mt Hotham was required after an experienced rider took a long slide on ice and hit a tree in avalanche gully.

Remember to check the Mountain Sports Collective backcountry conditions bulletin before heading out.

[IMAGE: the southern slopes of The Twins in north east Victoria earlier this week. These slopes were dangerously ‘bulletproof’].

UPDATE: SEPT 2

Conditions are still very patchy. For instance, Dargo Bowl at Hotham is skiing nicely, but adjacent slopes are still bullet proof.

Bill Barker, head of Hotham ski patrol says:

“A short period of border-line precipitation during the early evening followed by the cooling in the early hours will mean most aspects and elevations will now have a solid melt freeze surface and will pose a very significant sliding hazard. Solar aspects will soften for good spring turns once the day warms but be very cautions of south facing slopes that will stay hard all day. There may still be patches of dry snow at the very top but this will most likely turn to bullet proof ice mid slope. Take care out there”.

Winter arrives early!

Time for a road trip!

The snow currently hitting the Alps and Tasmania means an early skiing/ riding season at some resorts.

As a result of spectacular snow falls (Hotham is already reporting 65 cm!), a number of resorts are opening early, including:

Perisher, from Friday May 31 (although Perisher Skitube and Shuttle Service between Perisher and Smiggin Holes will not run until June Long Weekend).

Mt Buller (lifts starting June 2, with their new chairlift opening as well).

Mt Buller and Mt Stirling will both officially open on 1 June, offering half price resort entry from Saturday until the Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

Most others are opening over the traditional Queens birthday weekend (June 8 – 10).

And, of course, there is a good cover in the backcountry across higher mountain areas – obviously take care out there as the base will not have consolidated as yet.

Climate change pushes the Mountain Pygmy Possum closer to extinction

The Mountain Pygmypossum, Burramys parvus, is Australia’s only hibernating marsupial.

It is a small, mouse-sized nocturnal marsupial found in dense alpine rock screes and boulder fields, mainly in southern Victoria and around Mount Kosciuszko. The species is currently restricted to three isolated mountain regions:  Mount Blue Cow in Kosciusko National Park in New South Wales, Mount Bogong and Mount Higginbotham/ Mt Loch in the Bogong High Plains in Victoria, and Mount Buller in Victoria.

The biggest threats to the remaining mountain pygmy possum populations include:

Now, recent research underscores the fact that climate change may be posing a major threat to the viability of the species by decimating the moths which act as a major food source for the possum.

The Guardian reports that the Bogong Moth which migrate in their billions to alpine areas have crashed, which is putting extra pressure on the endangered mountain pygmy possum.

Continue reading “Climate change pushes the Mountain Pygmy Possum closer to extinction”

Fires in the VIC High Country

There are a number of fires in the Victorian high country.

These include:

  • Three bushfires ignited by lightning strikes on Wednesday afternoon North west of Dargo are not yet under control.
  • A 13 ha bushfire 3.3km South West of the Mt Buller Village at Little Mt Buller, which is still not yet under control.

If you’re heading to any of these areas, please check the Emergency Victoria website first to ensure it’s safe to visit.

[IMAGE: this is an old image of a previous fire near Dargo, from the Gippsland Times].

Taungurung sign Native Title deal with VIC government

Victoria has signed the largest native title claim in the state’s history, recognising the Taungurung as traditional owners in across large sections of northern and north eastern Victoria and awarding a settlement of more than $33m. The agreement covers sections of the high country and Alpine National Park, including Mt Buller, Mt Cobbler and the Buffalo Plateau.

Continue reading “Taungurung sign Native Title deal with VIC government”

West Ridge Mountain Fest 2019

Australia’s first mountaineering and ice climbing festival. In planning for 1-4 August 2019 at Mt. Buller.

There are already workshops and social events being planned. Check the facebook page to stay in the loop as this festival develops.
Continue reading “West Ridge Mountain Fest 2019”

Protect Our Winters at Mt Buller with Chris Davenport

Chris Davenport is a Protect Our Winters POW board member and is widely regarded as one of the premier bigmountain skiers in the world today. Among his many mountaineering achievement Chris was the first person to ski all fifty-four of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks in less than a year. He has also guided and skied on Mt Everest. This month he visits Mt Buller for the first time.

Chris is visiting Australia to spread the word on “why we need winter’ and will speak at the Mt Buller cinema on Tuesday 24th July 2018 at 7pm. The talk will be followed by a screening of the new Teton Gravity Research film ‘Rogue Elements’ in which Mt Buller’s own Mitch Reeves features.

Continue reading “Protect Our Winters at Mt Buller with Chris Davenport”

Australia rallies to Protect Our Winters

An Australian chapter of Protect Our Winters (POW) will be officially launched this week, with a visit from pro skier Chris Davenport.  Chris is a POW board member and will be visiting Thredbo and Mt Buller as part of his trip.

Chris will speak at Mt Buller on July 24 and at Thredbo on Friday July 27. There will also be a ‘Hike for POW’ to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko during the day on the 27th.

The following media release comes from POW Australia:

Continue reading “Australia rallies to Protect Our Winters”

The Living Bin program – reducing waste in the VIC Alps

The Living Bin program is an organic waste recovery program which has been running in Falls Creek and other major alpine resorts in north-east Victoria since 2011. It aims to divert food waste from being dumped in landfill.

Lauren McKechnie explains how the system works and how it benefits the environment.

Continue reading “The Living Bin program – reducing waste in the VIC Alps”

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