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Backcountry gathering in Melbourne

As you will probably know, we have turned the 2020 Victorian backcountry festival into a three day event, from Friday – Sunday Sept 4, 5 and 6. Things will kick off on Friday morning so hopefully you can make a long weekend out of it. After receiving strong positive feedback, we will be running another guided trip straight after the festival, probably to Mt Bogong.

Quite a lot of people have expressed interest in getting involved in planning the 2020 festival.

So if you’re in Melbourne, please come along to this BC Fest get together.

Thursday NOV 28.

Upstairs at Friends of the Earth, 312 Smith St, Collingwood. Enter via the side, on Perry Street, and head up the stairs.

We’ll start at 6.30pm, have a quick chat about how you can get involved (there will be a series of working groups taking on different parts of the festival like the touring program, the speakers program, the outdoor bar, etc). Please bring your ideas and enthusiasm about what you want to contribute next year to make it bigger and better.

Then from 7 til 8pm (ish) we will drag a few classic backcountry films out of the vault and enjoy on the big screen (ingredients likely to contain Jeremy Jones shredding big lines in Alaska). Please feel free to BYO drinks. Free event.

Facebook event page here.

Come along and catch up with the BC crew.

If you can’t make it along, remember that you’re welcome  to complete a brief survey about the festival and what you would like to see next year.

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‘Have You Considered Relocating Because of Climate Change?’

A decade ago, I moved from Melbourne to Castlemaine in Central Victoria. Box and Ironbark, Peppermint and Yellow Gum country. Hilly sandstone country. The land of the Jaara people. It took me a while, but I fell in love with the place, and now its home.

But even at the start, I remember thinking ‘this is a crazy place to live in a time of climate change’. Already hot and dry in summer, its going to get hotter and drier in coming years and experience worse water stress. It’s the same story all over. Climate change is already happening, and bringing impacts everywhere. Along the inland rivers, towns are running out of water. Along the coast, at places like Inverloch, storm surge is stripping away coastlines. In Mildura, the town had 65 days last summer that were above the heatwave threshold. Parts of Australia are expected to become uninsurable because of more regular flooding. And in the mountains, our winters are already becoming more erratic. It goes on and on. Nowhere is immune.

We are all familiar with the plight of climate refugees – people whose environment or economy is so impacted by the effects of climate change that they have no choice but to move. Mostly these are seen as people in the global South – the ‘developing’ world (although Hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of the USA’s South and displaced millions, shows that this is also a reality even in the rich world).

Something that I have noticed in recent years is a growing number of people who have opted to move from choice, not necessity, who are seeking a friendlier climate. I have lost count of the people I know or have met who have bought land in Tasmania, especially in the south west or north east. Some of them don’t live there: they have bought land as a safety net in case it goes to shit on the mainland. I know people from north east Victoria, in towns like Wangaratta, who have moved to the cooler and wetter hills of South Gippsland. There are people who have swapped the dry inland slopes of Central VIC for the lusher coasts of the Otways. And I know people who have left the hill country of Gippsland and Central Highlands, tired from the relentless stress of ever worsening fire seasons.

Continue reading “‘Have You Considered Relocating Because of Climate Change?’”

Reducing waste at Mt Hotham

The following update on efforts to reduce the amount of rubbish going into landfill at Mt Hotham comes from the Resort Management Board:

‘Hotham’s pristine environment is a key reason people visit year after year, and it’s the responsibility of the Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board (MHARMB) to protect this precious place. Over the past two decades MHARMB has worked to reduce the amount of rubbish exiting the resort into landfill. From 2002 to 2010 an active recycling program saw the amount of collected compacted recyclables double, and from 2010 to 2017 the amount of annual waste sent to landfill reduced by 112.5 tonnes.

The Chaser’s War on Waste has helped bring the issue of waste and its impact on the environment to the notice of everyone, but Australia continues to be to among the most wasteful nations in the developed world. However, Hotham is doing its bit in this battle and even as visitation grows year on year, the resort continues to reduce the amount of rubbish it puts into landfill.

Here on the mountain, MHARMB provides transparent red bags for municipal waste, clear bags for recycling and ‘Livin Bin’ green containers with opaque compostable liners for organics and food waste. In winter garbage is collected every day, with all waste from around the mountain taken to the recycling shed where it is sorted. The transparent red bags recently replaced opaque black bags to allow collection staff to identify and remove any items that can be recycled rather than be placed in landfill.

The empty plastic bags and all cardboard is baled and recycled by the garbage team, while co-mingled recycle items are sent to Tambo Waste near Bairnsdale. General trash is sent to the resort’s landfill site at Cobungra, while food waste is put in skips until full and are then delivered to the Cobungra facility to be composted. The compost is then used for revegetation programs.

Batteries are taken by MHARMB too (via collection bin in the MHARMB office), and cigarette butts are collected from butt bins; both are sent for recycling while the resort’s hard waste collection has recently expanded to include e-waste. Additionally, foam boxes are collected, stored and at the end of the ski season taken to Albury Transfer Station where they are chipped and melted into blocks for reuse – last year half a tonne of foam left the resort.

Bev Lawrence David FThese are the main collection streams on the mountain but there are also many other items gathered and recycled by individuals, lodges and even Hotham Kids Club. Many of these initiatives have been kickstarted by MHARMB’s Environmental Officer Bev Lawrence (pictured here at the recent Backcountry Festival), a local icon who is passionate about reducing waste to preserve our fragile environment.

“Landfill is filling up and if we don’t slow it we’re just going to go under with rubbish. If something can be recycled or reused rather than being put into the ground – great,” Bev said. “People who get involved in recycling tend to see the long-term picture and the garbage team here at Hotham is really passionate and very committed to what they do.”

Bev says people often don’t believe the effort the resort goes to reduce solid waste and to dispel any myths, she runs tours of the recycling shed for anyone wanting to learn more. If you are interested in a tour of the Hotham recycling centre you can email Bev at environmental@mthotham.com.au.

 

Continue reading “Reducing waste at Mt Hotham”

VIC backcountry festival 2020

After receiving resounding feedback about the 2nd Victorian Backcountry festival, we have decided to lock in dates and locations for 2020.

It will be a three day festival, held from Friday to Sunday, September 4 – 6.

Due to the huge level of support from the Hotham community and businesses and attendees, we will keep the festival at Hotham.

We will keep the basic format – lots of tours and workshops, speaker’s program, outdoor bar, AST 1 avalanche training, and an extended trip after the festival. Spreading the festival over three days will allow us to fit more in.

There is still time to provide feedback. Check the online form here. We’re getting some really great feedback on how to make it a better event, so please take a few minutes to let us know your thoughts.

If you know of any major clashes with these dates, please let us know asap. Cam.walker@foe.org.au

See you out there.

The Mountain Pygmy Possum recovery program gets ready for a tough summer

Each spring for thousands of years, tens of millions of bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) have migrated more than 1,000 kilometres from their breeding grounds in southern Queensland, north and the western slopes of New South Wales, and Victoria, to caves in the Australian Alps.

Continue reading “The Mountain Pygmy Possum recovery program gets ready for a tough summer”

Support the #climatestrike – wherever you are

On September 20 people around the world will be standing up to confront the climate crisis because our politicians won’t.

Australia is already on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Prolonged drought. Flash flooding. Erratic winters. Catastrophic bushfires, severe cyclones and heatwaves. But just at the time when we need to ramp up climate solutions, our government wants to open the floodgates to new coal, oil and gas projects that put all of us at risk.

So, on September 20, three days before the UN Emergency Climate Summit, school students are inviting everyone to join them for the biggest ever global #ClimateStrike. There are more than 100 events planned around Australia (check here to find your closest event).

Members of the Mt Hotham community will be supporting the strike (check here for details).

If you can’t join the strike, why not post your support from wherever you are.

Outdoor adventure relies on healthy natural environments. Whether you walk, climb, ride, paddle, ski, trail run, snowboard – or anything else – the environment you love is at risk from climate change.

And if you work in the outdoor industry, your livelihood is at risk from out of control climate change. For instance, the Australian ski industry alone generates more than $1.8 billion a year and employs more than 18,000 people. Yet under current greenhouse scenarios, climate change could cut Australia’s ski season by more than two months.

It’s easy to support the strike without showing up >

  • Take or post a photo of you in a favourite place.
  • Post on whatever platform you prefer, using #climatestrike and #PlacesWorthProtecting and say that you support the strike and want governments to act on climate change. Tag in the PM: @ScottMorrisonMP

And why not sign our petition to the PM while you’re at it?

Protect Our Winters is mobilising the outdoor community to take action on climate change. You can find out more and sign up for their newsletter here.

Other ideas on taking action are available here.

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Below: The Hotham community is supporting #ClimateStrike. Images: Karl Gray

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Hotham strike poster

Image below: Kelly van den Berg

Kelly

Image below: Climate strike in Jindabyne. Photo: Shawn Marlene Joynt-Davies

Jindabyne

Image below: Bright, NE VIC. Photo from Sustainable Upper Ovens.

Bright

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Image below: Josh Fletcher, Protect Our Winters Australia. Mt Buller.

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Image below: Bright Brewery.

‘CLIMATE ACTION // We’re made for the mountains – we live, play, and brew here. Climate change is already impacting our mountain home and the future threats to the places we love are terrifying. Massive kudos to the students of Bright P-12 College for organising today’s local #climatestrike Our mountains are definitely #placesworthprotecting

Bright brewery

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marncat

Look at this beauty. It’s seriously #worthprotecting Change needs to happen. #placesworthprotecting #climatestrike

Marncat

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hannahmajigy

#placesworthprotecting . Supporting the #climatestrike because #weallneedwinter . @scottmorrisonmp we need climate action to protect these places

Hannah
Image below: Brett Webb.
Brett Webb

wildernesssports

The @globalclimatestrike is happening TOMORROW (Friday 20th) There are over 100 events across Australia happening but if you can’t be there, why not post a photo of your favourite place. Even better, one of yourself in your favourite place. Tag yourself in to #ClimateStrike. Add your voice.

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snowsafetyaustralia

Mining was a big part of my earlier life. Paid for my way of life for a long time. Whether its coal, iron ore or limestone, these industries are still needed but there are now options to reduce our carbon footprint. I now work in renewables for a large wind farm generating zero emissions and with no need to fuel the turbines with anything other than free wind it’s a win – win scenario for the generation market.
Dont let the government tell you it’s fake news.
#protectourwintersaus

Adam W

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brodyleven

Let’s go absolutely huge tomorrow. globalclimatestrike.net for a march near you
pics by @jamesqmartin

Brody

Image below: Mountain Kitchen, Dinner Plain.

Students from the Alpine School heading to the climate event.

Mtn Kitchen

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Let’s protect all of are favourite places#climatestrike #placesworthprotecting

handmade

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patagoniaaus

Todays #climatestrike in Sydney was incredible. We’re inspired by the next generation that lead the march.
Our leaders can’t ignore their push for action.
There’s no room in government for climate deniers.
#answerwithaction 📷 @jarrahlynch

Patagoniastrike

Image below: From Respect The Mountain (Hobart).

Protecting our winters. The people’s mountain – dogs are welcome too!
Thankyou to all the climate action strikers who were out there in force yesterday.

Image Credit: Gary Tew, kunanyi/Mt Wellington 2018.

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A number of our stores will be closing today to support Global Climate Marches across Australia and New Zealand.

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“I support action on climate change not just because I want to protect the beautiful places in which I play, but because it is basic common sense to care for the one planet we have. Climbing and Paragliding, my two favorite sports owe many of their evolutions to advancements in efficiency and technology – the same innovations that are helping with the climate crisis. I’m proud to be on The North Face Team that shares these values and is making meaningful action to reduce their impact and inspire others to do the same.” Words by @cedarwright

Image below: Paddy Pallin

Paddy Pallin is proud to support the Global Climate Strike.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Join us, we are striking for the future of our planet!⠀⠀⠀

Paddy Pallin

Mt Hotham community supports the #climatestrike

To everyone who cares about a safe climate future, this is your invitation to join the Global #ClimateStrike on September 20 – people around the world standing up to confront the climate crisis when our politicians won’t.

Australia is already on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Prolonged drought. Flash flooding. Catastrophic bushfires, severe cyclones and heatwaves. But just at the time when we need to ramp up climate solutions, our Government wants to open the floodgates to new coal, oil and gas projects that put all of us at risk.

So, on September 20, three days before the UN Emergency Climate Summit, school students are inviting everyone to join us for our biggest ever global #ClimateStrike.

And members of the Mt Hotham community will be supporting the strike.

Continue reading “Mt Hotham community supports the #climatestrike”

Report on the 2019 VIC backcountry festival

The 2019 Victorian backcountry festival is done and dusted. This year the BC Fest moved to Mt Hotham, and it was wonderful to see the Hotham – and broader BC community – embrace the new location. Hotham is the perfect spot because of the amazing terrain, ease of access and strong backcountry community, both on the mountain and down valley in Bright and Harrietville. Close to 400 people registered. We had 31 tours, skillshares and workshops, an extended speaker’s program, a Protect Our Winters info and film night and a ski-in outdoor bar at Village Lookout in the Christmas Hills.

Thanks

The first thing I need to do is thank everyone who backed or got involved in the festival. Of course, there are too many names, but here’s a start:

Bev Lawrence David F
Bev Lawrence, Environmental Officer Mt Hotham Resort Management [Image: David Flanders]

Resort management and lift company were fantastic in their support. Special thanks to Adam Galvin and Jason Nightingale from resort management and snow groomer Greg O’Donohue. The venues were so supportive – big thanks especially to Sooty, Darren and everyone at The General, Marty at The SnowBird, and Mark at Blizzard Brewery. And the people who pitched in to help, especially Buff Farnell, Kelly van den Berg, who brought in so many skilled tour leaders, and Merrin Jokic, who MC’d an epic afternoon of speakers. Rupert from Bright Brewery, Mel and Luka from Crepe Collective and Steve Belli did the food and drinks at our outdoor bar. The bar itself was a work of art, a product of much digging by my partner Natalie, Dave, Peter, and my brother Mitch, Kyle, Simon and his crew. The speaker’s program was huge and people made a real effort to be there. Thanks to Josh from POW and Stephen Curtain for his film making workshop. Dave, Pieta and Luka from Alpine Access ran avalanche courses as the training partner for the festival. Big thanks to Peter Campbell and all the Bush Search and Rescue crew, Jason Ball from Vic Police SAR, and Rolf Schonfeld for his endless commitment to snow and avalanche safety. A deep bow to head of ski patrol Bill Barker who provided impeccable advice on conditions and inspiring presentations at The Genny. Simon Murray dug snow pits and did most of our graphic design. Chris Hocking and Drew Jolowicz provided amazing sidecountry images. David Flanders was our rego desk guy and podcast interviewer extraordinaire.

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Bush Search & Rescue workshop

Of course, the tour leaders, who brought incredible skills and knowledge and donated their time and insights and were all amazing. And you – the backcountry community, who showed up and pitched in. It really was a fantastic and inspiring weekend.

In my post festival delirium I know there are many more people to thank.

Next year

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The outdoor bar at Village Lookout

From resounding feedback, it’s clear that the festival has come home to Hotham. We need to check dates and lock in venues but we’re hoping it will happen over the weekend of September 5 and 6, 2020.

Highlights

As was the case last year, we worked hard to ensure a diversity of voices in the speaker’s program. Melissa Clarke provided a phenomenal level of knowledge about touring the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains and the joys and pitfalls of touring with pulks (sleds). Ash Peplow Ball spoke compellingly of the need for the snow sports community to get organised to protect winter. Bill Barker shared his knowledge of Hotham avalanche hotspots. Tim Macartney-Snape shared more than 40 years worth of incredible images of climbing and skiing big peaks around the world. Bev Lawrence and Georgina Boardman updated us on the plight of the Mountain Pygmy Possum and efforts to protect remnant communities. Hotham legend Buff Farnell shared some of his favourite images of skiing Hotham over many decades, many of them from acclaimed photographers Andrew Barnes and Karl Gray. Climate striker and skier Naimh Smith-O’Connor finished off the POW night with a powerful message. Ted Suurkivi, Mark Frost, Mia Walker, Kelly van den Berg, Lisse Dunser, Simon Murray and Josh Fletcher also spoke.

Georgina Boardman DF
Georgina Boradman, MHRMB. [Image: David Flanders]

We tried to offer a range of beginner and intermediate courses, covering everything from snow shoeing to ski mountaineering. There was self rescue and first aid, navigation and snow camping. After a warm and sunny week, Saturday morning saw the return of winter and considerable avalanche risk, so many tours ended up going ‘south side’ into places like Women’s Downhill rather than onto the higher peaks. Amine from LetsSplit led another successful splitboard outing and with better conditions on the Sunday, there were trips out to the Workshop Chutes, Dargo Bowl, Eagle Ridge and Mt Loch. Daniel Sherwin and Kyle Boys are leading the three day trip out to Feathertop which starts this morning.We also had a strong presence from a number of outdoor brands. The North Face put up their expedition dome, Wilderness Sports made the journey from Jindabyne, and Everest Sports and Snow Sports and Travel and Mammut were also on board, offering a wide range of demo gear and products. Patagonia provided prizes for the POW event, and Blue Dinosaur offered heaps of energy bars. Thanks also to the businesses who offered inkind support through providing venues.

Merrin DF
Merrin Jokic

There were glitches and things that could have been done better. Thankyou to everyone for their good humour and generosity of spirit throughout the festival.

We all love snow

After a huge weekend, I’m starting the final packup and enjoying this fresh snow. There will be an online feedback poll circulated to people who registered this week and I would also welcome your direct feedback via email. It’s clear that we are onto something with these festivals and it now needs to grow beyond being a one man show. The remarkable growth in the festival in just two years and keen interest shows that there is a deep interest in the backcountry. I hope that we can set up an organising team for the 2020 festival soon.

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Josh Fletcher from POW. [Image: David Flanders]

By definition, skiing and riding in the backcountry is something we tend to do in small groups. It was wonderful to see and meet some many great people, share a beer around a fire on a gorgeous mountain top, and see the energy and enthusiasm as people came back in from their tours. We’re a diverse bunch and have the shared love of mountains, deep snow and winter and it was great to have had the chance to help bring a good chunk of the BC community together to enjoy some turns, have good conversations, and some wonderful time out in our wild and beautiful mountains.See you next year. Cam

IMAGES.

A couple of images from the festival. Please send me yours for use on the website and promos: cam.walker@foe.org.au or post on the event facebook page.

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crowd at POW DF
Watching ‘Treeline’. Image: David Flanders]

demo CW

sat tour Peter Robinson
Saturday snowshoe tour [Image: Peter Robinson]
Naimh DF
Climate striker and skier Niamh. [Image: David Flanders]
Mt Loch Vincent Cover
Mt Loch trip. [Image: Vincent J Cover]

 

Continue reading “Report on the 2019 VIC backcountry festival”

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”.

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