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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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sense of place

The End of Winter

Lately I have been experiencing extreme Solastalgia – ‘psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change’. I see it in the burnt out snow gum trunks on The Razorback (burnt three times in a decade). I see it in longer fire seasons and more erratic winters. I see it in the summer baked woodlands around my home in Central Victoria. I see it in the receding glaciers and icesheets.

Some days I feel inconsolable. As a day to day activist, I work as hard and as strategically as I can to get real protections in place, but I know that all my efforts are just about slowing down the reality of what is coming … and no matter what you achieve, its never enough. This week I heard a Coalition politician, Matthew Canavan, talk about ‘beautiful’ coal and how we need to dig more coal and drill more gas, and I had one of those dark nights of the soul moments where I felt that we’ve already gone off the cliff – that we are well and truly fucked. There is such obstinate, wilful ignorance about climate change by people like Matthew and so many of those who are in charge of our governments, such powerful vested interests blocking action, and such ecological destruction locked into the momentum of our high consumption lifestyles. It seems quite beyond hope.

Sometimes it’s heartening just to be reminded that there are many other people who are also paying attention and taking action. This reflection on the changing face of Alaska really struck a deep note with me. I made my first journey to Alaska when I was 20 and fell into the deep, wild beauty of that place. It was like a lucid dream, and I felt drawn into the mountains and the silence. This piece by composer John Luther Adams is heartbreaking. He asks what will fill that space in our humanness when the cold and wild Alaska is gone? I don’t just want to reflect on what we are losing. I also want to fight for what we still have. He reminds us of our shared complicity in the world we are creating. I fully agree with John: “We must find new ways of living on this Earth. The changes we make must be profound. They must be worldwide. And they must happen now”.

Continue reading “The End of Winter”

Book Launch of Bold Horizon

High-country Place, People and Story
by Matthew Higgins

Canberra, April 11.

What is it like in Australia’s high country? Matthew Higgins takes readers into this challenging environment to tell a unique story through words and pictures. Starting with his own experience, Higgins then profiles a range of mountain people from stockmen to Indigenous park rangers to tourism operators and more — each touched by this picturesque, bold landscape in different ways.

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The Mountain Pygmy–possum

We have ‘adopted’ the Mountain Pygmy–possum as the symbol for the first Victorian backcountry festival.

Like our snowfields, this small, mouse-sized nocturnal marsupial is unique. And just as our alpine areas are threatened by climate change, the possum is now listed as being Critically Endangered because of a range of threats to the species survival.

As part of the festival, we will be raising funds for efforts to protect the possum.

For details on the festival program (being held at Falls Creek over the weekend of September 1 and 2) please check here.

And for information on the possum please check here.

Will we recognise the future?

Every time I drive up the hill from Harrietville to Mt Hotham, I feel a strange mix of joy and sadness. Its always good to get back into the mountains. But those burnt out alpine ash forests break my heart.

People will often say ‘fire has always been part of the landscape’. True. But that misses the point that fire intensity and frequency is already increasing as we lurch into the climate change influenced future. In my lifetime it has already transformed many of the landscapes I know and love best. What will the coming decades bring?

Continue reading “Will we recognise the future?”

Kerouac, Alaska and that book in my backpack

In my teen years I became obsessed with skiing, climbing, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains. My first multi day walk (the southern circuit at Wilsons Prom) propelled me into the outdoors. Me and my mates would ride our bikes out of town to go camping, we went on family trips to the snow, I did lots of hiking with a bushwalking group we set up at school, and then eventually discovered the Victorian Climbing Club, which opened up new horizons for adventures. I did my first summer of mountaineering in NZ/ Aotearoa when I was 18.

This was about getting outdoors and having adventures in the wild. But I quickly realised that I liked outdoor culture. I started to meet older people who had spent their lives pursuing climbing and skiing, and (as someone explained it to me), ‘the people of the little tents’, long distance hikers. I knew that a big part of having a healthy life was to be outdoors, to have the skills to travel through big landscapes safely and the ability to be with yourself and enjoy your own company. Solo trips became ever more important for me. Time on my own in wild nature made me spend a lot of time on the internal work that we all need to do.

Continue reading “Kerouac, Alaska and that book in my backpack”

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.

Continue reading “Happy international mountain day!”

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.

Continue reading “As we get older, the forests get younger”

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.

Continue reading “The romance of the fire lookout”

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