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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Deep powder. The long arc of climate change. And the beauty that lies between.

After a day of grey clouds and drizzly rain, I woke up to the silence of deep, dry cold powder snow across the mountain. I jumped on the skis and meandered up through the old trees to one of my favourite hills, to be greeted by views of the higher mountains. It was pure, blissful magic. The world felt perfect. If you have ever seen the psychedelic ski film Valhalla, the words will come back to you: you can always find ‘brilliance, awe and magic running through life‘ if you wish to see it.

Two days later, more rain and a warm burst, and the snow was gone from the lower elevations and I was walking through green forest. It is mid August – when snow pack should be at its deepest. After that brief moment of bliss at feeling that things were ‘right’, I felt back in the ‘real’ world, where climate change is coming for all the places and people we love.

If you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the mountains – longer fire seasons, more erratic weather, variable snow pack and shorter winters – then its natural to feel anxious and depressed. It’s a human reaction to what is happening to the world – and the specific places – that we love. It’s the same story everywhere, from the deserts to the rainforests to the mangroves, to the forests of the Central Highlands and south west WA.

Continue reading “Deep powder. The long arc of climate change. And the beauty that lies between.”

A quick look at the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management

In 2021, the New South Wales government released its 40-year plan to turn the Snowy Mountains into a ‘year-round tourist destination’. There were two aspects to these plans – a draft Special Activation Precinct plan, which outlined options for future growth in and around Jindabyne, and proposed amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management (background available here).

The Park Plan proposed substantial new developments within the Kosciuszko National Park. Environmental groups expressed strong opposition to many of the plans outlined in the document. The NSW National Parks Association described the plan as ‘reckless proposals (which would) overturn more than 40 years of careful planning and management of the park.” 

Now, the final Kosciuszko National Park Amendment to the Plan of Management Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct has been released (available here).

Continue reading “A quick look at the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management”

The multiple threats to the survival of snow gums

For years now, Mountain Journal has posted about the multiple threats posed to our mountain environments which link back to climate change, including increased frequency of fire, higher temperatures, more frequent drought, and more impact from dieback (which is a natural phenomenon which is being super charged by global heating). These have also been documented in the Friends of the Earth report An Icon at Risk.

Its always good to see mainstream news coverage of these threats.

Genelle Weule, writing for ABC Science, has written an indepth piece which covers these threats.

Continue reading “The multiple threats to the survival of snow gums”

Backcountry festival registrations are now OPEN!

After a long wait, registrations to the 2022 Victorian backcountry festival are now open!

Happening over three action packed days – with tours, workshops, massive speakers program, demo village, ski in outdoor bar and lots more, the festival is back in real life after two years of having to operate online. Mt Hotham resort and surrounding side country and Alpine national park.

Once you register you will be able to book in to tours.

You can register via the VBCF website.

As the northern hemisphere burns, what are the lessons for Australia?

The northern hemisphere summer has been terrible. Heat waves have killed many thousands, from Iran and India to Portugal and France. Flash flooding has closed the Grand Canyon, while ‘Lake’ Mead, a massive dam on the Colorado River, is almost empty. Across the northern hemisphere, from Siberia and Alaska to normally temperate countries like England and even Ireland there have been devastating wild fires.

Droughts, which are exacerbated by a warming climate, are making wildfires more frequent, destructive, and harder to fight in many places. Firefighters in temperate countries are often not equipped or trained in dealing with landscape scale fires. There are not prepared for potentially months long seasons. In one month, wildfires tore through Portugal, Spain, France, England and Germany, which had all seen record-high temperatures. Greece and Turkey also burnt. This challenged the fire fighting capacity in each country. For instance, in mid August, a wildfire broke out in France’s Gironde region. The fire grew to more than 15,000 acres in a short time and 8,000 people were evacuated. Local firefighting capacity was overwhelmed. Firefighters from a number of countries, including Sweden and Italy, were mobilised to support local efforts.

[Header image: Geoffrey Browne]

Continue reading “As the northern hemisphere burns, what are the lessons for Australia?”

Some mid winter inspiration

What a winter. Those incredible early snow falls, and resulting powder frenzy resort madness – overcrowding, car parks full, record numbers of people, the continual growth of the ‘snow play’ visitors. Businesses (finally) making some money, and plenty of work for those who want it. The same old accommodation pressures. Quite a bit of avalanche activity in the backcountry (check here for a MSC assessment of the July snowpack). And then that depressing, massive rain event followed by wet snow (hello, climate change). Hopefully we have another month at least of snow pack, although its getting pretty skinny at lower elevations already.

Continue reading “Some mid winter inspiration”

Victorian backcountry festival 2022 – Lineup announcement

Not great news today with the massive amount of rain that has come through the mountains. However, we have some good news for you. We are excited to announce the program for the Victorian Backcountry Festival 2022

Continue reading “Victorian backcountry festival 2022 – Lineup announcement”

An update on the Tyndall Range ‘Iconic walk’

The Tasmanian government has long pursued plans to open up protected areas to new commercial development. These are largely focused on new commercially operated walks that have accommodation attached to them. These have been strongly opposed by conservation groups and the walking community.

The Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA) provide an update on the planned “Iconic Walk” proposed for the Tyndall Range in the west of the state.

Continue reading “An update on the Tyndall Range ‘Iconic walk’”

Is it time for the Mt Stirling Alpine Park?

There has been a long campaign for the Mt Stirling area to be managed as a national park by linking it to the Alpine National Park and handing its management to Parks Victoria. Things have been quiet on that front for a while, but now Friends of Mt Stirling (FoMS) have renewed the call to establish the Mt Stirling Alpine Park.

‘With the transition from Alpine Resort Management Boards (ARMBs) to Alpine Resorts Victoria (ARV) in October, and the development of a Masterplan for Mirimbah, we think it is a good time to re-visit the concept of the “Mount Stirling National Park”.

Continue reading “Is it time for the Mt Stirling Alpine Park?”

Climate change, fire and mountain environments

We know that climate change is already impacting on the Australian Alps. Declining snow pack, hotter summers, and longer fire seasons are just some of the impacts we are seeing. This brings many challenges to land managers, and is changing the mountain landscapes we know and love.

Additionally, local economies rely on the beautiful natural surroundings of the Alps, which attract skiers, riders and others from around the state and the country. Declining environments will impact on the numbers of visitors and hence local economies.

This short seminar will delve into the issue of fire, and how we need to respond to longer and more intense seasons in the Victorian mountains.

If you can’t attend the event, it will be livestreamed via the event facebook page.

Continue reading “Climate change, fire and mountain environments”

Here we go again: Cable car proposed for Mt Owen

In lutruwita/ Tasmania, there have been various proposals for cable cars up mountains. These include kunanyi/ Mt Wellington, above Hobart, Mt Roland in the north, and a proposed gondola to get tourists in to Dove Lake, below Cradle Mountain.

Now a new plan, put forward by a local businessman, is proposing a cable car up Mt Owen, a rugged mountain near Queenstown on the west coast.

Continue reading “Here we go again: Cable car proposed for Mt Owen”

The Australian Alps Walking Track

There are many incredible long distance walking tracks crossing the mountains of the world. Some, like the Pacific Crest Trail or PCT, which goes from Mexico to the Canadian border, have a high profile and see thousands undertake (or at least start) the journey each year. After the Overland Track, our most famous long distance mountain walking track would be the Australian Alps Walking Track, or AAWT, which stands out because of the smaller numbers of people who undertake it, its relative remoteness, and the fact that long distances of poorly marked tracks can make for difficult route finding. There are not many towns along the way (only a couple of ski resorts) and food drops can be a lot of work to organise and very time consuming (in contrast, along the PCT people mail supplies to themselves in the towns the trail passes through).

Continue reading “The Australian Alps Walking Track”

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