Search

Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Tag

Mt Howitt

The Big 3: best winter backcountry trips in Australia

Finally! Winter is here. A number of resorts have opened early – Baw Baw, Buller, and Perisher …

By now you’ve probably locked in lots of trips (here’s some ideas of great BC related events if you haven’t already got a full schedule, and some ideas on getting backcountry skills if you need them). A bit of resort is fun. Weekend trips are great. But winter is not winter without at least one big outing. Here’s my shortlist of the best winter backcountry touring trips in the country.

Continue reading “The Big 3: best winter backcountry trips in Australia”

The Bluff – Mt Howitt ski guide

This is the premier backcountry touring destination in Victoria.

The high ridges that stretch from The Bluff to Mt Howitt sit to the south and east of Mt Buller ski resort in north east Victoria. The Bluff ridge stretches towards the Great Divide, where Mount Howitt provides incredible backcountry skiing. From here the impressive Crosscut Saw leads north to Mount Speculation and more forested plateau country to Mt Cobbler. The area has a feeling of winter induced remoteness (no trail bikes or 4WDs in winter!), wonderful skiing and camping, and relatively easy access.

An average trip would involve a minimum of four days, as the approach is slow (from the Snowy Plains to the south, via the Howqua River on the Mansfield side or in through the Cobbler plateau to the north).

Track notes available here.

A half century of change in the Central Alps

Anyone who has hiked and skied the mountains between Buller and Stirling, and from The Bluff to Howitt and Cobbler and is over 30 probably knows the wonderful maps of Stuart Brookes.

Stuart has produced maps of the Alps and other popular walking areas since the late 1940s. As a teenager on my first walking, snow shoeing and skiing adventures in the area around the Howqua River, I fell in love with Stuart’s black and white map ‘Watersheds of the King, Howqua & Jamieson Rivers’. It had basic landform details shown through shading and all the features that a walker needed: good campsites, places where you could get water on the high ridges, routes and cairned trails rather than just the marked roads. I would get a new version every couple of years, and later versions were in multi colour and had contours. But they still had a sense of richness that are rare in modern maps. This was country that Stuart knew intimately and the maps evoked a rich sense of place.

Continue reading “A half century of change in the Central Alps”

Fire in the Crosscut Saw area

crosscut sawThe CFA is reporting ‘fire activity in the northern Wonnangatta Valley.  This fire has started as a result of last nights lightning activity.  The fire is close to the Australian Alps Walking Track and the Macalister Springs Hut.  The fire is currently active in the Cross Cut Saw Section of the track and visitors are advised to avoid the area’.

The fire is in the Terrible Hollow and apparently burning up towards Mt Buggery. As of midday Dec 20, it was listed as being 10 ha in size.

Scroll down for updates

UPDATE. 21 DEC

The fire is close to the Australian Alps Walking Track and the Macalister Springs Hut.  The fire is currently active in the Crosscut Saw Section of the track and visitors are advised to avoid the area.
The Australian Alpine Walking Track is closed from King Billy Saddle through to Barry Saddle (where Barry Saddle adjoins the Wonnangatta Road).
Closures to the Alpine Walking Track include: Howitt Spur Walking Track, Queen Spur Walking Track, King Spur Walking Track and Macalister Springs Walking Track. (This general area of closures to the Australian Alpine Walking Track is also known as the Howitt Crosscut Speculation Area).
Smoke will be visible in the area.  Aircraft will be operating in the vicinity of Mt Buller and Snowy Range today and tomorrow.

You can  find updates here.

UPDATE. DEC 22

The fire is still going and described as being in the ‘Cross Cut Saw’ area (now 42 ha in size), with the Alpine track and surrounding areas closed. Fire breaks are being cut on the south east and eastern flanks, and fire retardants on the western sides.

UPDATE. DEC 23

The fire is now described by the CFA as being ‘contained’ at 45ha in size. The area outlined above remain closed.

UPDATE. DEC 24

The CFA has announced that the fire is now contained, although it appears that previously announced track closures are still in place. Check with Parks Vic before going near the area.

The gnarliest runs in Oz

Mt Carruthers. From Huck & Dyno.
Mt Carruthers. From Huck & Dyno.

This is a great resource: the ‘gnarliest runs in Oz’, from the Huck & Dyno website (in two parts – Victoria and the Main Range in NSW).

The NSW feature has all the obvious things, and Victoria includes excellent coverage of places like Mt Buller, Feathertop and Bogong, and also some gems which are off the beaten track, like Mt Howitt.

A few years ago I put a lot of effort into expanding the ski wiki posts on backcountry skiing in Australia (mostly the VIC and TAS sections) but a big failure with this is the lack of images. In contrast to my effort, James and Sam, who are behind Huck & Dyno, have some gorgeous pictures of the mountains and general terrain, plus many of the actual runs. Visually beautiful.

I like their intro:

When you get down to it, Australia is the flattest driest continent on Earth. By definition, the skiing here is the worst in the world. … So it’s easy to write the place off as a land of sunburnt sweeping plains. Or, if you’re a skier, patchy cover, ice and crud, short shallow runs and snowmaking.

Even the highest mountain, good old Kosciuszko, is a hill with a road to the top… The very first time I ever went XC skiing, we made it to the top! Snowboarders were drinking beer up there! Fun for the whole family!

The enthusiastic might even bother to look over at the ‘Main Range’, hoping to see a craggier peak. But nope, Mount Townsend and Northcote and Lee all look pretty tame over there.

But then one day you’ll bother to climb the second highest peak, Mount Townsend, and have a look from the top of there and, HOLY CRAP, there it is…

So begins our investigation into the gnarliest lines in Oz.

With winter finally bearing down on us, I hope this inspires you. Get out there and enjoy!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑