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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Author

Cam Walker

I work with Friends of the Earth, and live in Castlemaine in Central Victoria, Australia. Activist, dad to Tali & Mia, mountain enthusiast, climber, telemark skier, volunteer firefighter.

How much snow is on it’s way?

There were some snowfalls across the Alps last week, and now snow lovers are getting excited about an incoming air mass that could start to deliver significant snowfalls over the weekend or in to next week. As always, the hype probably outweighs the reality. But to be a skier or rider in Australia is to be an eternal optimist.

Continue reading “How much snow is on it’s way?”

‘Alpine Odyssey’ to cross Alps in winter

In a journey expected to take some 50 days, Huw Kingston will ski the 600 km length of the Australian Alps this winter and, along the way, ski at each of the 12 snow resorts in Victoria and NSW. His Alpine Odyssey aims to raise $50,000 for Save the Children’s Our Yarning project.

Starting in late July, Huw will traverse some of the most rugged country in Australia, diverting to ski at Lake Mountain, Mt Baw Baw, Mt Stirling, Mt Buller, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Falls Creek, Mt Buffalo, Thredbo, Charlotte Pass, Perisher and finally Selwyn Snow Resort, reopening this season after having been devastated in the Black Summer fires.

Continue reading “‘Alpine Odyssey’ to cross Alps in winter”

Is Tasmanian snowpack the future of skiing in Australia?

Anyone who is paying attention can see the changes that are already happening in the Australian mountains. Apart from the environmental costs of global heating, there are massive economic impacts as tourism dependent towns and resorts are disrupted. But there is also a huge cost for recreation. For many of us, the mountains are our ‘heart place’ where we go to ski, ride, paddle, climb and walk. The mountains are a place for camping, for sitting by a river, to recharge. What happens when climate change disrupts our ability to get into the Alps?

Continue reading “Is Tasmanian snowpack the future of skiing in Australia?”

A chance to influence Victoria’s climate policy

We all know that climate change poses an existential threat to mountain environments. For instance, the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear there are serious threats to animals and vegetation across Australian mountain environments.

Climate change is a global problem and requires a global response. All countries must do their part to reduce emissions. It is the same at the state level (especially given the failure of the federal Coalition to act on climate change). There is an important opportunity to influence the Victorian government on its emission reduction targets. But we have less than a week to do so.

Continue reading “A chance to influence Victoria’s climate policy”

New Australian Ski Patrol Association backcountry safety film released

It’s getting cold and the snow is starting to fall. Winter lovers are getting excited for a big winter. So it’s perfect timing for the release of a new backcountry safety film. The Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA) has launched its revamped SnowSafe website, which includes a new backcountry safety film and other videos.

Continue reading “New Australian Ski Patrol Association backcountry safety film released”

This election, vote for the mountains

Global temperatures have risen about 1C since 1900, overwhelmingly due to greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the average increase has been 1.4C. It has been linked to unprecedented bushfires, rainfall events that have caused catastrophic flooding and four mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef since 2016. Skiers and riders know that this has already had a negative impact on our snowpack, which has been in decline since the 1950s.

We know that national leadership on climate change has faltered under the Coalition. The federal election is an important opportunity to demand that all parties commit to decisive action to reduce emissions, and hence play our part in protecting winter.

Continue reading “This election, vote for the mountains”

High Country logging unites graziers, green groups in effort to save Little Dargo River

The unburnt areas of the Victorian high country are increasingly rare and incredibly precious.

One of these areas lies in the headwaters of the Little Dargo River, just south of Mt Hotham. It is a pristine area, without roads, and containing mature forest, much of it dominated by Alpine Ash.

The state government logging agency, VicForests, intends to log a total of 11 “coupes,” or sections, of mature forest in the upper Little Dargo River, probably this spring.

This morning, ABC Radio National described the alliance that has formed to protect the Little Dargo River and surrounding areas.

Continue reading “High Country logging unites graziers, green groups in effort to save Little Dargo River”

Longer fire seasons in the USA spell trouble for Australia

After a terrible fire season in the last northern summer, the USA experienced fires right through winter and now, in spring, fires are raging across significant sections of the country.

In New Mexico, a fire has already burnt more than 80,000 ha. It has destroyed nearly 200 homes and led to the evacuation of thousands of families. US Forest Service firefighters say they have lost some ground in their efforts to contain the blaze.

Like in Australia, the USA relies on having enough large air tankers and helicopters to contain fires. However, we currently lease most of these aircraft from North America. As fire seasons in the northern hemisphere grow longer, it will get harder and more expensive to lease aircraft for our summers.

It’s time for Australia to establish a publicly owned air fleet, as was recommended by the Bushfire Royal Commission.

You can support the call for a publicly owned air fleet here > https://www.foe.org.au/firefighting

The rise of the ‘terafire’.

We are hearing ever more frequent mention of ‘Megafires’. The word is an emerging concept commonly used to describe fires that are extreme in terms of size, behaviour, and/or impacts.

In describing ‘Megafires’, it is clear that fire size thresholds vary round the world from > 100 to more 100,000 ha. In Australia, a mega fire year is defined as the cumulative burned area of forest over one year of more than 1 million hectares. Fires greater than 100,000 hectares have also been increasing – check this list for details.

Continue reading “The rise of the ‘terafire’.”

More mountain forests at risk from logging

In February 2022, VicForests released its proposed 2022 Timber Release Plan (TRP). The TRP outlines the forest areas it intends to log. Community groups are able to submit submissions to the process, but TRPs are generally then ‘rubber stamped’ despite calls for specific high conservation areas to be protected. The comment period for the TRP has now closed.

While there were very significant forests in the Central Highlands and South Gippsland scheduled for logging (such as at Tanglefoot picnic ground in Toolangi, the Wallaby catchment in the Kinglake National Park, Snobs Creek Valley, a large coupe near Noojee, and 14 coupes between Cambarville and Matlock), there are also a number of areas proposed for logging in the high country.

Continue reading “More mountain forests at risk from logging”

Mountain Journal turns 12

While 2022 feels like our first ‘normal’ year since the pandemic started, the ‘new normal’ of climate change has become incredibly obvious over the past few years. After a horror summer over 2019/20, fires burnt in the northern hemisphere through their summer and into winter, with fire authorities in places like California warning that they no longer experience fire seasons, and that large fires can occur year round. In the past southern summer, much of the east coast was hammered by terrible floods, and WA faced an awful fire season. Here in the south the mountains were green, although in lutruwita/ Tasmania a series of fires burnt in World Heritage Areas, sparked by lightning and flourishing in the dry conditions.

A reflection on another year of Mountain Journal can be found here.

A solo journey through the Alps

The Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) is the premier long distance trail through the Australian mountains. Stretching about 680 km from Walhalla in Victoria, it passes through the Alpine National Park in Victoria, Kosciusko National Park in NSW and finally into Namadgi National Park in the ACT. Alicia Crossley recently walked it solo. This is her reflection.

Continue reading “A solo journey through the Alps”

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