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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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wilderness

Paradise at 12,000 feet

It was the end of day four on our 160 kilometre ski tour from the resort town of Aspen to Vail, in central Colorado. We’d had a brutal day, with an early start at 11,300 feet, a long descent off the edge of the Continental Divide, endless touring through deep fresh snow, and a final punishing two hour climb to Jackal hut. But tomorrow was the big day.

Perched on the edge of a meadow with jaw dropping views to Mt Elbert, the highest of Colorado’s 14K peaks, Jackal is a solid log cabin with a big front deck that is owned by the 10th Mountain Division Huts Association. On day five we left the hut just after dawn, shuffling through a dark spruce forest onto a long ridge that climbed towards the 12,000 foot mark. The plan was to take a high route over the mountains to our next destination – Shrine Mountain – rather than a lower and more complex trail below the treeline. I’d been struggling with the downhill sections, and was dreading the descent off the other side.

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Fast tracking development in Tasmania’s wilderness

The ongoing attempts by the Tasmanian government to encourage commercial developments in the state’s national parks and wilderness areas continues. While the high profile ‘helicopter tourism’ proposal planned for Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau has dominated the conversation in the last few months, a broader threat to the integrity of the reserve system is becoming apparent.

This relates to the draft Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Bill 2020, which could facilitate these type of developments by ‘fast tracking’ such proposals.

The Wilderness Society condemned the Tasmanian Liberal Party’s ‘plan to strip away Tasmania’s already questionable planning safeguards, to further reduce the public’s role in planning and fast-track development proposals in national parks’.

They say there are ‘30 or so national park privatisation proposals’ (commercial tourism) in the pipeline for the World Heritage Area’. If this legislation gets through parliament, there is a fear that many of these proposals could be fast-tracked and with very little opportunity for the public to have input to the decision making process.

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Does Victoria need a new remote area volunteer firefighting force?

On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2019, a front brought a smattering of rain across the Victorian mountains, barely enough to damp down the dust. But the associated lightning storm started dozens of new fires in a long belt from Mt Buller to the NSW border.

Forest Fire Management crews swung into action and many of these were quickly put out. Aerial bombing dealt with others. But there were simply too many, and some grew into massive blazes, including the fires that went on to devastate the forests and landscapes of East Gippsland in coming weeks.

This raises the question: Do we need a new remote area volunteer firefighting force in Victoria who could help suppress lightning strike fires before they take off?

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Reclaim Malbena

As the long campaign to protect World Heritage Areas from commercial development continues (and in the aftermath of the Federal Court case against the planned ‘helicopter tourism’ development proposed for Lake Malbena on Tasmania’s Central Plateau), a trip has now been planned to visit the site threatened by this proposal.

The Fishers and Walkers Against Helicopter Access Tasmania and the Wilderness Society have organised the camp, which will happen over the weekend of December 7 and 8.

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‘Ode To Muir’ – a film by Teton Gravity Research – screening in Melbourne

`Teton Gravity’s newest film Ode To Muir “pairs professional snowboarder, adventurer and founder of Protect Our Winters Jeremy Jones with two-time Olympian Elena Hight as they embark on a 60 km human-powered expedition deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness.

Their journey balances the challenges of winter camping, gruelling climbs up the Sierra’s biggest mountains, and aesthetic first descents with personal reflections on the importance of the natural world, and sharing perspectives gleaned from what it truly means to explore a great wilderness”.

Continue reading “‘Ode To Muir’ – a film by Teton Gravity Research – screening in Melbourne”

New film from Teton Gravity: Ode To Muir

‘Respect the exposure’ suggests Jeremy Jones as he and his buddies climb some seriously steep terrain in the Sierra Nevada.

Teton Gravity’s newest film Ode To Muir “pairs professional snowboarder, adventurer and founder of Protect Our Winters Jeremy Jones with two-time Olympian Elena Hight as they embark on a 40-mile foot-powered expedition deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness. Their journey balances the challenges of winter camping, grueling climbs up the Sierra’s biggest mountains, and aesthetic first descents with personal reflections on the importance of the natural world and those who first traveled it generations ago, and sharing perspectives gleaned from what it truly means to explore a great American Wilderness”.

Continue reading “New film from Teton Gravity: Ode To Muir”

In Search of Space, Journeys in Wild Places

In the introduction to In Search of Space, Journeys in Wild Places, Ross Brownscombe points out that ‘nature writing’ which ‘explores the poetry and magic of wild places’ has not developed into a strong tradition in Australia. Compared to North America and the UK this is certainly correct, and true writers in this genre are few and far between.

This book is a great addition to the library of nature writing that Australia has produced. There is a review here.

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”.

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The Geeves Effect – another attack on wilderness

A group of investors are proposing a track to a remote wilderness lake at the base of Federation Peak in Tasmania’s South-West (Check here for our previous report).

They have developed a consortium called the Geeves Effect, and are pushing for a 2.5 km track extension to ‘provide walkers with views of Lake Geeves’. They say that ‘the bushwalk could rival Cradle Mountain and Three Capes Tracks as a tourism magnet’.

Since our last report on this proposal, more information has come to light. This comes from the Tasmanian National Parks Association.

Continue reading “The Geeves Effect – another attack on wilderness”

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