Search

Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Tag

snow safety

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”

Avalanche Warning upgraded to ‘High Danger’

UPDATE. WED August 8, 2018

MSC have issued a ‘High Danger’ warning.

They say:

“The current conditions on the range are about as bad as we have seen in the four year span of running the program. Equal to the various ‘Blizzards of OZ’ in 17 and the various other events of triggered slides swept riders and buried them, and as of the time of writing there have been no incidents. We aren’t out of the woods yet, and that’s the real cut and thrust of this message. This event will linger for the next 48hrs+ so hold the charge, and urge the rest of your immediate pow chasing mates to heed the warning until the snow has settled.”

Additionally, Mt Stirling ski patrol has closed Stanley Bowl:

‘Traditionally Stanley Bowl is considered safe from avalanches. But the conditions we have observed which include a cornice with a large fracture through it are severe enough for us to feel the need to close it’.

Bill Barker from Mt Hotham patrol says:

There is ‘considerable avalanche danger in the back-country again today. There was several reports of skier triggered avalanches yesterday, and the weak layer that produced these still exists today but it is now buried deeper in the snowpack which will result in larger avalanches if it releases today.

Continue reading “Avalanche Warning upgraded to ‘High Danger’”

One month til the inaugural Australian backcountry festival!

Media release. August 1, 2018

Ski / Ride Hard. Do Good.

The Backcountry festival will happen at Falls Creek, over the weekend of September 1 and 2, 2018.

It aims to celebrate all things backcountry – telemark, split boarding, cross country, snow shoeing and alpine touring.

Festival organiser Cam Walker said “our vision is to host a grass-roots gathering at Falls Creek for backcountry skiers and riders of all abilities.  If you’re interested in any form of human powered adventure in the winter backcountry, you should be there. Beginners to advanced, all are welcome.

Continue reading “One month til the inaugural Australian backcountry festival!”

Avalanche Safety Training 2 Day & 4 Day Courses

Avalanche Training Australia in conjunction with Avalanche NZ is proud to offer accredited 2-day Avalanche Awareness and 4-day Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance courses during the 2018 Australian winter.

These will be held out of Falls Creek in north eastern Victoria.

Continue reading “Avalanche Safety Training 2 Day & 4 Day Courses”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑