Mountain Journal is one of my passions. Along with things like my involvement in the backcountry festival, Protect our Winters, and the Mt Hotham Dinner Plain CFA, there are many ways I try to share my love for the mountains. One of my other passions is my work as campaigns co-ordinator for environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE). In the last few years FoE has started to do substantial work in support of mountain environments.
We know that lockdowns and covid has been hard on all mountain businesses. Now, many are struggling to find enough staff as Australians head to the snow in droves. The rise in interest in backcountry skiing and riding was certainly good for some businesses through the hard winters of 2020 and 2021, and this year is providing a welcome boost. But, faced with the rise in online shopping and the buying power and reach of large chain stores, it’s remarkable that there are still so many locally owned outdoor gear shops in and around the Australian Mountains.
Here are a few of them. If we don’t support them, we will lose them. And as we know, all these places offer local knowledge in a way that online stores can’t.
Over the past couple of years, various people have been tracking the localised loss of snow gums in the Victorian high country due to more frequent and intense fires. We know that snow gums are, like many Australian trees, fire adapted. But we also know that they enjoy a decent gap between fires and that with climate change already increasing the frequency and intensity of fires, that we are starting to see localised loss (‘collapse’) of these woodland communities.
Given my connection to the Mt Hotham/ Dinner Plain/ Dargo High Plains area, initial investigations started there. Sadly, there is no shortage of localised collapse in that area, where repeat fires have killed off both parent trees and seedling regrowth. But through advertising via Mountain Journal and the Snow Gum citizen science facebook page, we started to get reports from across the Victorian Alps, from Mt Clear in the ranges south west of Howitt to Mt Pinnibar, in the far north east of the state. Thanks to everyone who contributed content.
Having greater numbers of people looking has given a wider sense of where loss is happening. But it has also given us an understanding that, in many areas, the trees are now starting to come back.
This is wonderful news.
After an incredible start to winter, the Alps now have a solid base of snow across higher elevations. There has been some great falls in lutruwita/ Tasmania as well. Resorts have just had big opening weekends (the ‘best start in 22 years’ according to many sources), with some resorts in NSW experiencing partial closure of roads at peak times due to the number of people trying to get to the slopes. Even Ben Lomond in Tasmania had the lifts turning. The snow pack in the backcountry is starting to consolidate nicely.
Everywhere, accommodation was full, venues were cranking, and the slopes were full of people getting their snow legs back and enjoying the novelty of skiing and riding in June.
So what happens now?
Some chats with mountain people
These stories are taken from Mountain Journal #2, a magazine which is distributed across the mountain and valley towns of south eastern Australia (available as a pdf here).
This year we thought we would focus our stories on people who are actively doing good in and for the mountains. This is just the tip of the iceberg: there are the park rangers, the weather forecasters, the fire tower watchers, the garbos and mechanics and road clearers who keep the resorts open, the snow makers, and all the folks who keep the mountain communities open and thriving. But this is a start.
For many more stories and profiles please check here https://themountainjournal.com/interviews-profiles/
Across the Alpine areas, volunteer and career firefighters protect the mountains from fire. There are volunteer brigades in resort towns like Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Buller. Crews employed through Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) manage fires on public lands. Firefighting in alpine environments can bring particular challenges, where summer landscape scale fires alternate with fighting fire in snow covered villages of often closely packed buildings.
This story is from Bec Roberts, who is the the 2nd lieutenant of the Mount Hotham – Dinner Plain Fire Brigade.
As has been reported on Mountain Journal many times, a precious remnant of unburnt forest on the eastern side of the Dargo High Plains is in imminent danger of being logged. What makes this place so special is that it sits within the headwaters of the upper Little Dargo River and is completely free of roads. It has survived recent fires in the area, but will be devastated by the plan to cut 11 coupes within the upper valley. This could happen as soon as spring 2022.
A spirited campaign by locals and environmental campaigners has seen the state’s logging agency (VicForests) announce that it will not proceed with controversial plans to push a logging road through a section of the Alpine national park. Now the call is focusing on getting the remaining coupes removed from the logging schedule.
This is an unusual campaign because it draws together a mountain grazing family with environmental campaigners. The Treasure family have grazed cattle on the Dargo High Plains and surrounding areas for five generations. Christa Treasure talks about the historical and cultural significance of the area to her and the Treasure family and how logging will devastate this history.
The Victorian Backcountry Festival is a 100% volunteer run event, by the community for the community. It will be back at Hotham this winter with an action packed schedule of talks, tours, workshops, a demo village and outdoors bar over three days in September.
Volunteering with us is a great opportunity to make new backcountry friends and join a group of like-minded outdoor individuals who want to help out and support the festival and the adventure community it represents. We are hosting 2 volunteer meetup events in early June, in Bright and Melbourne.
For the second year, we have produced a print version of a magazine, based on content from the Mountain Journal website. In 2022, the magazine is a collaboration with Mandy Lamont of Lamont magazine. Distribution of magazines across mountain towns and resorts starts on June 7.
This is one of the lead stories in this year’s Mountain Journal magazine. It is about an expedition to packraft the Dargo River in the Victorian Alps.
Content by Daniel Sherwin. Intro by Kelly van den Berg.
As we waited for the snow to arrive last week, it seemed like the right time for the annual pilgrimage to Mt Wills. I have often written about what a special mountain it is, tucked away behind the eastern fall of the Bogong High Plains and Mt Bogong (named Warkwoolowler in the Waywurru and Dhudhuroa languages). I love that strange hut on the little summit plateau, the grassy meadows with old snow gums scattered everywhere, the endless rock outcrops and rocky escarpment on the east side.
Mt Wills is a classic ‘island in the sky’ of isolated snow gum woodland. While it is connected by a long and high ridge back to Bogong, mostly the land falls away to deep river valleys and forests initially dominated by Alpine Ash. It feels like a small sub alpine sea poking out into the upland valleys of the eastern Alps. I love the silence and perspective back to other mountains. But what really draws me back year after year are the ancient snow gums.
We’re ready for winter.
And We’re ready for climate action.
Join our actions over opening weekend (Saturday June 11).
We all know that winter is in trouble. Cold powder and snow pack are in decline. We have a window of opportunity to protect winter. But we need to act now.