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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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sense of place

Hakuba MountainLife Magazine

One of the influences for Mountain Journal was a great magazine from Colorado called Mountain Gazette, which existed in a number of forms from the early 1970s. It was an insiders view of life, landscape, and culture in the mountain states of the USA (it now exists as an online journal).

As a lover of regionally focused art and media, I’ve long enjoyed a range of magazines from around the world, mostly North America, which cherish and appreciate the mountain environment. There are lots of great sport-focused journals that have a strong emphasis on the natural environment where our adventures take place (some of my faves include Backcountry, Wild and Rock and Ice). The rarer ones focus on culture, landscape and the interaction between people and their surroundings (Orion is a brilliant ‘all round’ journal in this regard, but I especially loved Highline, which stopped production last year).

I was recently introduced to Hakuba Mountain Life magazine, a thoroughly beautiful homage to the backcountry in this part of the Japanese Alps (thanks Peter).

It is put together by Mio Tonouchi and Damian Banwell. Damian is an Australian backcountry guide. The magazine does have a focus on their business but extends way beyond, celebrating particular mountains, providing advice on backcountry adventures and avalanche safety, and touching on the human culture that inhabits the valleys around the Japanese Alps. It has great images. The magazine describes itself as ‘reflecting our love for backcountry life in our local mountains’. Damian and Mio are doing their best to Live the Dream, riding in winter and farming at other times.

Loving and appreciating place through any form of media is a great thing to do. But I do agree with the ‘contributers’ section of the magazine, which notes the contribution of The Mountains & Nature Itself: ‘do not confuse the moon with the finger that points at it’.

[IMAGE: Hakuba Mountain Life]

Highline Magazine signs off

One of the inspirations for Mountain Journal was a magazine that came out of Colorado called the Mountain Gazette. The Gazette lived through various incarnations from the early 1970s onwards and was, in the words of one of its founders, “generally about the mountains”. Quirky, alternative, sometimes very political, and with fantastic writing about life in the mountains and the landscapes that sustain and draw people to that part of the world. It had fantastic covers, with wonderfully evocative art work.

Continue reading “Highline Magazine signs off”

International Mountain Day 2015

December 11 is designated by the UN as International Mountain Day.

Here’s a few facts from the UN:

“Covering around 22 percent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth. They not only provide sustenance and wellbeing to 915 million mountain people around the world, representing 13 percent of global population, but indirectly benefit billions more living downstream”.

Where ever you are, I hope you’re out in the hills and having a great day. Please feel free to post some pics of your favourite mountains on our facebook page.

Appreciating the Home Range

As a keen skier and walker I love to visit some of the higher ranges around the world. But having done lots of overseas trips I figure I’ve consumed well beyond a fair share of carbon, and tend to stick close to home for my adventures nowadays.

Continue reading “Appreciating the Home Range”

Vale Ern Mainka

Many people will know the work of Ern Mainka. His photography was hugely popular amongst nature enthusiasts, and I must have seen his images in hundreds of places over the years.

Apart from capturing our wild places so well, Ern played a significant role in raising awareness about the many threats posed to these places. Many of these landscapes are now protected, and Ern played a big part in many of these victories.

Continue reading “Vale Ern Mainka”

SnowSurf premieres in Australia

A new snowboarding and surfing film will have three premiere showings in Australia next week.

BIGFISH_01_lFilmed in the powder capital of Hokkaido, and focusing on the legendary Gentem Family, who have pioneered the ‘Snow Surf’ revolution epitomised by Gentemstick, this film features some of the very best Japanese and western Snow Surf riders.

Many of the key players in the movement are featured in SnowSurf, which was filmed over two years by Australian surf photographer, Shane Peel.

It features: Taro Tamai, Gerry Lopez, Ken Miyashita, Alex Yoder, Osamu “Om” Okada, Beau Young, Hideki Takeda, Hidehiko Wajima, Forrest Shearer, Makato Yamada, Par Dahlin, Timo Paarvala, Kazushi Yamauchi, Alex Lopez, Takuya Harayama, Tomomi Kuwahara, Toru Kuwahara, Toshiya Kasuga, Jarrkko Kauranen, Haruna Kito and the Gentemstick Family.

Patagonia, the major sponsor of the film, will be screening Snowsurf at their Sydney, Torquay and Byron Stores next week.

23rd September. Sydney store – 6pm (93 Bathurst St, Sydney)

25th September. Torquay store – 6pm (116 SurfCoast Hwy, Torquay)

26th September. Café Byron – 6pm (Shop1/ 58 Jonson st Byron Bay)

You can see the trailer here.

You can rsvp for the events on Facebook.

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”

Mountain music

Many years ago, I spent a slightly surreal weekend on the Howqua River in north east Victoria, where, as luck would have it, there was both a mountain cattleman’s gathering and a big enclave of environmental activists holding campaign workshops. Our camps squeezed closer together as the crowds packed in along Sheepyard Flat, and the initial distrust dissolved on the second or third night as we found some common cause in shared music around the fire.

It was one of those nights to remember. I recall that we got on famously, that many songs were traded, and various social lubricants were consumed. What I most remember was the music.

Music is one of those things that defines culture. Any authentic culture has its own music, songs that grow from who its people are and how they live, and also the place they live in. There’s nothing wrong with playing other people’s songs, but almost everything I heard that night was from somewhere else.

Read the story here.

Mountain Journal turns five

It’s autumn, and so it must be time for the annual reflection on the Journal. Hard to believe its half a decade old!

Much of my motivation in starting MJ was simply to create a forum where I could appreciate our mountains and the people who are drawn to live and play amongst them. Early on, I did a few interviews with people I admire, and always love to run stories on people getting out amongst our wonderful mountain environment.

Over the past few years, the visitation has swung towards politics and backcountry adventure. This was the case in 2014 in terms of visitation. Sadly this is probably because there have been so many negative decisions taken by the Victorian Coalition government as it relates to the High Country. With the election of the ALP in November, the key threat to the Alpine national park – alpine grazing – has again been stopped.

While MJ was never really planned to be a ‘track notes’ type site, it has been interesting to see very strong visitation to the few trip reports that have been posted.

Check here for the full report.

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