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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Australian Alps

Is this the summer you do the AAWT?

Its walking season. And people are getting out, despite some crazy weather. A friend has just left on the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT). Another is about to leave. A work mate is planning to walk it in autumn.  And I am seeing many posts from people who were out on the track during recent epic snowfalls. It seems like our premier long distance trail is getting a lot of love at present.

Many of the usual issues will remain, like sections that are hard to find in the hill and valley country in the south. In the northern end, the heavy rains are making it hard to do river crossings in places like the Murrumbidgee and Eucumbene rivers and Morass Creek. Fire regrowth in some areas is also making for some hard navigation. And the road from Mt Beauty to Falls Creek will be closed through summer, making support and food drops on the Bogong High Plains slightly more problematic (you can reach the High Plains via Omeo). Because of heavy rains, there are many local road closures in the mountains.

But, as always it is a great adventure.

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“Climate change is occurring 10 times faster than at any time in past 65 million years”

We recently posted an item outlining the fact that the combined climate pledges of 193 Parties under the Paris Agreement could put the world on track for around 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century. That would mean the end of winters as we know them.

There is a range of research shows that warming is happening even faster than previously understood.

“The planet is undergoing one of the largest changes in climate since the dinosaurs went extinct. But what might be even more troubling for humans, plants and animals is the speed of the change. In new research, Stanford climate scientists warn that the likely rate of change over the next century will be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years”.

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Acknowledging the pioneers who protected the Alps

Over the past two years, we have produced two printed versions of the Mountain Journal. The first one focused on Where are we? (Visions from First Nations people about their aspirations for the Alps). The second focused on Giving back to the mountains (profiles on some of the many people doing good things in the mountains, like campaigning, guiding, ski patrolling and restoration work and so on).

The third issue (due out around New Year) will look at the people who came before us and who built our knowledge of the value of the high country, influenced our views of the mountains, and worked to have them protected.

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CHASING the MOUNTAIN LIGHT: A Life Photographing Wild Places

All landscapes have appeal. Some are easier to love than others. Many Australians love the beach and coastlines. Some love the desert, or wetlands, rainforests or the tall Ash forests. Some people have more obscure tastes – mangroves or mulga or gibber plains. But many of us love the mountains. And some of us express this love through writing, film, poetry, photography or other forms of communication. A new book called Chasing the Mountain Light delves deep into love of the mountains through the medium of images and writing.

The subititle of the book explains it perfectly: ‘A life photographing wild places’. The work of David Neilson, it is a glorious coffee table sized book featuring wonderful black and white images from south western lutruwita/ Tasmania, Patagonia, Karakoram and the Alps of Australia, New Zealand and Europe and other ranges such as the Andes.

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Huw Kingston finishes a winter traverse of the Australian Alps

On September18,  adventurer Huw Kingston finished his long journey skiing and walking the 700km length of the Australian Alps, in the process raising over $62,000 for Save the Children’s Our Yarning project.

Yesterday afternoon, 52 days since his journey began with a Smoking Ceremony and ski at Victoria’s Lake Mountain resort, Huw Kingston could finally take off his pack and put down his poles. Fittingly the end of his journey was at the historic old ski area of Mt Franklin Chalet, high above Canberra in the Brindabella Mountains and, fittingly again, he enjoyed fresh snow to serenade him to the finish line.

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‘Alpine Odyssey’ crossing of the AAWT finishes soon

In a journey expected to take some 50 days, Huw Kingston, 59, is skiing and walking the 700km length of the Australian Alps this winter and, along the way, skiing at each of the 12 snow resorts. His Alpine Odyssey aims to raise $50,000 for Save the Children’s Our Yarning project.

Huw hopes to take the final steps of Alpine Odyssey to finish at the Namadgi NP Visitor Centre in Tharwa, ACT on the afternoon of Sunday 18 September.

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Where are the old snow gums?

Snow Gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) are the classic alpine tree of the High Country, generally growing at heights between 1,300 and 1,800 metres asl. Anyone who has visited the Australian High Country will know – and probably love – these trees.

In recent decades, wildfire has been devastating huge areas of the Snow Gum forests, with significant fires in the Victorian High Country in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7, 2013 and 2019/20. More than 90% of Snow Gum habitat has been burnt at least once in the last 20 years.

The species can survive fire. However, climate change driven fire seasons are leading to more frequent fire, which is causing more death of trees and changes to forest structure. In some instances, localised collapse of Snow Gum woodlands is now being observed. As climate scientist Michael Mann describes it, we are now seeing climate change play out in real time.

We must ask whether we are now seeing the start of the collapse of Snow Gum woodlands, one of Victoria’s iconic vegetation communities.

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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).

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Alpine Odyssey – Toward the start line

Later this month, Huw Kingston will leave on his Alpine Odyssey, a winter crossing of the full length of the Australian Alps Walking Track. As he gets close to the start date, here is an update.

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‘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.

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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.

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Federal government rejects key recommendation from Royal Commission

Australia’s fires over the summer of 2019/20 were unprecedented in scale and level of destruction. Fuelled by climate change, the hottest and driest year ever recorded resulted in fires that burned through more than 17 million hectares, killed up to 3 billion animals, and affected nearly 80% of Australians. This included the tragic loss of over 450 lives from the fires and smoke.

Aerial firefighting capacity – planes and helicopters – are an essential component of Australia’s ability to respond to bushfires. This was demonstrated in the 2019-2020 bushfire season, when an unprecedented use of aircraft occurred. However last summer also showed that we simply don’t have enough aircraft to fight fires in a bad season. This puts landscapes, people, towns and houses, and fire fighters at risk.

The recent Bushfire Royal Commission report recommended the creation of a national publicly-owned aerial firefighting fleet, which can then be allocated to the states “according to greatest national need”.

Continue reading “Federal government rejects key recommendation from Royal Commission”

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