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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Mt Field

SnowAction heads to Tassie

The southern winter edition of SnowAction (‘Australia’s #1 magazine for snow sports and mountain culture’) has some great stories from Tasmania.

There are excellent stories from a big roadtrip to NZ/Aotearoa, great powder images from Hotham, a piece on the more serious side country terrain at Mt Buller, and skiing in Chile, plus profiles on Chumpy Pallin and film maker Warren Miller. There is also substantial coverage of Tassie’s two resorts.

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Australia’s southern most ski field

The Mt Mawson ski field in the Mt Field National Park is the southern most ski area in Australia. It’s a remarkable place, and while it’s of a low elevation, with very limited vertical terrain, and is subject to the notoriously fickle snow conditions to be found in Tasmania, it is a magical spot. It has several rope tows, and is a Club ski field composed of seven lodges, with no public accommodation. Its also a fairly solid 30 to 45 minute walk up the mountain to get to the ski field.

But like the surrounding ranges within the Mt Field national park, when its in condition its truly fantastic.

Continue reading “Australia’s southern most ski field”

Skiing The Slot at Mt Field

Recent heavy snowfalls briefly created perfect conditions in the Tasmanian mountains for touring and some serious descents. One classic line with potential is a steep gully in Mt Field National Park called The Slot.

It was briefly in condition, and Ben Armstrong was out there to ski it.

These photos come from Ben via the Australian Backcountry facebook group.

Continue reading “Skiing The Slot at Mt Field”

Time for that Tassie trip?

As some forecasters suggested early in the year, 2017 seems to be turning into a less than average and slightly erratic season. The ephemeral joy of winter snow seems even more fleeting than usual this year, with the lesson that you should get out and enjoy it wherever and however you can when it arrives.

The most recent fronts appear to have brought the most snow to the southern mountains of Tasmania, which also got me thinking about the ephemeral wonder of Tassie’s peaks after heavy snow.

Continue reading “Time for that Tassie trip?”

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.

Continue reading “In praise of huts 2”

Giving back

IMGP7211While on a recent walk in Mt Field national park in Tasmania, I was struck by the amount of track work that had been done in the four years since I was last there. Much of this is in the fragile areas from Negate Pass through to K Col.

I was reminded of the fact that track work can be incredibly aesthetic. In Tasmania there have been various stages in creating and stabilising tracks, with less use nowdays of locally cut timber, in favour of treated pine and lots of boardwalks. This is never very nice looking in it’s own right, and often needs helicopter lifts to get to remote areas, and hence has a higher environmental impact than locally cut wood. But the stone work in many places, including Mt Field, is fantastic. Thanks to the Parks Service workers, contractors and volunteers who have put in so much effort for so long to stabilise the track network in the mountains.

Although I have walked in remote areas since I was a teenager, I sometimes found track works an intrusion on my enjoyment of wild landscapes. Of course, I eventually realised that in popular – and especially alpine areas – they are a necessary part of reducing impact, by channeling what otherwise may be a myriad of smaller braided trails into a single pathway.

Then the poet Gary Snyder introduced me to the idea of track construction, of laying stones and other trail stabilisation as meaningful work, a way for us to interact with the wild. His poem Riprap and other works constantly remind me of that. Track building is a subtle, low impact way to engage mindfully with landscape.

 

Lay down these words

Before your mind like rocks.

placed solid, by hands

In choice of place, set

Before the body of the mind

in space and time:

Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall

riprap of things:

Cobble of milky way,

straying planets,

These poems, people,

lost ponies with

Dragging saddles—

and rocky sure-foot trails.

The worlds like an endless

four-dimensional

Game of Go.

ants and pebbles

In the thin loam, each rock a word

a creek-washed stone

Granite: ingrained

with torment of fire and weight

Crystal and sediment linked hot

all change, in thoughts,

As well as things.

IMGP7470As we walked out from a fantastic trip, I was reminded that helping out on working bees to stabilise tracks is a great way of giving back to the places we love. If you live in Tasmania, you may want to get involved with Friends of Mt Field, a volunteer group that does much of the track work there. But where ever you are there will be a group doing this type of vital work. You will find some contacts here.

Check the Friends of Mt Field site here.

 

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