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Fourth Victorian backcountry festival – September 3, 4 & 5

Backcountry festival back at Hotham in 2021

 The fourth Victorian backcountry festival will happen at Mt Hotham over September 3, 4 and 5. This is a media release from the group organising this year’s festival. Continue reading “Fourth Victorian backcountry festival – September 3, 4 & 5”

Introducing Narelle Watters

The Mountain Safety Collective (MSC) is a voice for the backcountry community. It organises training and other events, produces wonderful maps, merchandise, and the backcountry conditions report through winter.

It is run by a group of diehard backcountry enthusiasts. Lately it has been introducing its committee. This is taken from a recent MSC newsletter and is an introduction to the wonderful Narelle Watters, who lives in north eastern Victoria, at the base of Mt Feathertop.

Continue reading “Introducing Narelle Watters”

Getting into the backcountry

IMPORTANT UPDATE: due to new Covid restrictions, which start at 6pm tonight, we have had to postpone this event. We will set a new date as soon as is possible.

Victorian snow lovers had a tough winter in 2020. We’re all frothing to get out once the snow starts to fall, and we know it will be busy in the mountains this year, with new and experienced skiers and riders keen to get out and away from the resorts.

If you’re starting out on backcountry skiing, riding or snow shoeing, please feel free to join us at this free event at Bogong outdoor store in Little Bourke st, Melbourne on May 25.

Kelly Van Den Berg will introduce you to the skills, gear, and knowledge you need to get out into the backcountry and enjoy it safely. There will be a quick talk on Mountain Safety Collective (MSC) and the backcountry advisory bulletins that MSC produces through the winter. Followed by a Q & A.

Continue reading “Getting into the backcountry”

Sydney Backcountry Evening

Come together with other backcountry enthusiasts and get pumped for the upcoming season

Thursday 27th May 2021 at 6.00 pm Rose of Australia Hotel, Erskineville, Sydney

Speakers include:

  • Craig Sheppard, Avalanche Forecaster
  • Craig Brokensha, Meteorologist
  • Dave Herring, Avalanche Educator/ Backcountry tour guide

Food and drinks available for purchase at the bar.

Continue reading “Sydney Backcountry Evening”

Get the skills you need for a Winter of Awesome

Last winter was pretty ‘ordinary’ in terms of the snow pack, and many people were unable to get into the mountains because of lock down. However, in the places where outdoor adventure was allowed, it was clear that there was a boom in visitation to side country (areas in or near ski resorts) and backcountry (more remote areas).

It has been the same this winter in North America, with some significant results. The New York Times reports:

‘In the throes of a pandemic that has made the indoors inherently dangerous, tens of thousands more Americans than usual have flocked outdoors, fleeing crowded cities for national parks and the public lands around them. But as these hordes of inexperienced adventurers explore the treacherous terrain of the backcountry, many inevitably call for help. It has strained the patchwork, volunteer-based search-and-rescue system in America’s West’.

This winter we have to expect lots of new and inexperienced people getting out of resort and into the higher peaks.

This will bring lots of impacts to our precious high country – especially around human waste (check here for our Let’s talk about poo guide to managing human waste in the backcountry). It also brings risks to inexperienced skiers and riders, and others in the mountains who may need to assist people and groups in difficulty, and put strain on police and volunteer search and rescue groups like Alpine Search and Rescue and the SES.

Here are some ideas on getting skills if you’re planning to head out into higher mountain environments this winter.

Continue reading “Get the skills you need for a Winter of Awesome”

The Victorian backcountry festival is back in 2021!

After moving online in 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the Victorian Backcountry Festival will be back at Mt Hotham in 2021.

The Festival celebrates the growing movement of ‘all things backcountry’, focused on  human powered winter activities such as cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, telemarking, alpine touring, split boarding, photography and snow camping.  This will be the fourth year that the Festival has run, and the second time at Mt Hotham.

The Festival aims to not only provide an introduction to the ever-growing suite of backcountry activities, but to also make it more accessible to the general public, whilst educating them about mountain safety.

Continue reading “The Victorian backcountry festival is back in 2021!”

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”.

Avalanche refresher course at Hotham

If you’ve done an AST1 avalanche course in the past and want to brush up on your avalanche skills before the Spring touring season or getting into the backcountry overseas – Alpine Access Australia is offering an AST1 Refresher. It will happen the day before the Victorian backcountry festival starts.

It consists of a day in the backcountry, with a hands-on approach covering

  • multiple burial companion rescue,
  • terrain and route selection,
  • snowpack analysis, weather and safe backcountry choices.

At Mt Hotham, Friday 6th September.

Details, gear list and bookings available here.

Beacon search station at Mt Hotham

Rolf Schönfeld is a local from north east Victoria with a passion for backcountry safety. This winter he has set up an avalanche beacon search station close to the summit of Mt Hotham. It is located on the Great Alpine Road near the parking spot for The Cross, between Diamantina hut and the Loch carpark. If you’re traveling past and spot Rolf’s red land cruiser, drop by and brush up on your beacon search skills.

20190821_153957He is also offering avalanche beacon training as part of the Victorian backcountry festival, which will happen at Mt Hotham over the weekend of September 7 and 8 (check here for full details).

There is a crowd fund campaign to establish a permanent Avalanche Training Centre (ATC) at Hotham, which would be a permanent version of the system for training transceiver and probe search that Rolf sets up at The Cross. To find out more about this project to GoFundATC, check here.

Rolf runs a business called Rescue Technologies – you can find out more here.

20190821_152349
Rolf

 

The ultimate backcountry festival guide

The second Victorian backcountry festival will happen at Mt Hotham over the weekend of September 7 and 8.

Here is a summary of what’s happening:

Highlights of the program

  • Meet at 8.30am on Saturday morning, upstairs at The General Store (just next to the Big D lift) for the festival opening.
  • Most tours start Saturday am.
  • Speaker’s program will run Upstairs at The General Store from 12 noon – 4pm. Great line up of speakers.
  • The outdoor bar will happen from 4 – 6pm on the Saturday, straight after the conclusion of the speakers program.
  • Kick on Saturday night at Blizzard Brewery at Dinner Plain.
  • Tours continue on Sunday.
  • Finish the weekend with a Protect Our Winters info night and films at The Bird in Hotham Central on sunday night.

[Full details are in the program, see below]

For details on tours that have just been offered, please check here.

Continue reading “The ultimate backcountry festival guide”

Avalanche Training Australia

Avalanche Training Australia (ATA) is the Australian arm for avalanche training courses of Whiteroom in Australia. ATA as a brand is new over the past few years but Whiteroom has been running courses in Australia for many years.

Avalanche Training Australia is licensed by Avalanche NZ to offer accredited 2-day Avalanche Awareness and 4-day Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance courses during the Australian winter.

Continue reading “Avalanche Training Australia”

The 2018 Victorian backcountry festival

Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come along to the inaugural Victorian backcountry festival (BCF). More than 200 people attended over the two days, with more than 20 sessions being held, including clinics, tours, skillshares, presentations, and a film festival.

BCF grew from the world telemark day celebrations that have been happening at Mt Hotham the last 5 years. After deciding to bring it to Falls Creek, the idea morphed into an ‘all things backcountry’ event which would aim to bring together some of the backcountry (BC) community and offer an opportunity for ‘first timers’ to get involved. We focused on many forms of human powered winter adventure – including cross country, snow shoeing, alpine touring, telemark and splitboarding.

Continue reading “The 2018 Victorian backcountry festival”

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