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Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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Climate change and the mountain environment. The denial continues

A few years ago I traveled with a Sherpa climber who had summited on Mt Everest many times, set some speed records, and even helped carry a statue of the Buddha to the summit. I remember him talking about how the mountain was becoming more dangerous because of global warming, with more exposed rocky sections and risk of ice fall.

Every year, as I wait for the season forecast, like other skiers and riders I hope for the best. A good year – like the one we just had – seems like a blessing when you consider what we know about climate change and the likely impacts on mountain environments world-wide in coming years. Climate change is coming and ignoring the science will not make it go away.

I find it remarkable that ski resorts in Australia, who by definition rely on good winter snow falls, have generally ignored the issue of global warming. I find it strange, and sad, that we have so few famous Australian skiers and riders willing to speak out on the issue. I look to the example of people like boarder Jeremy Jones, the inspiration of Protect Our Winters, and initiatives like The Little Things, a snowboard movie project based on environmentally conscious riders who are inspirational through their riding, as well as their sustainable ways of living and thinking.

So, lacking local leadership from the snow sports community and industry, we still need to look overseas for some inspiration. I thought these recent comments from alpinist Kitty Calhoun (lifted from the Patagonia Australia) blog were worth sharing.

“I’m here to tell a story about a Last Ascent. A route that I climbed, that may not get a repeat because of climate change. It’s hard to admit that the mountains are changing but they are. We may or may not be able to affect climate change, but I think we should at least try and I have a new approach.

We many not agree on what is causing climate change, but all can agree on the fact that it is occurring. Alpinists are like canaries in a coal mine in that we see changes that have occurred on the glaciers in our lifetime. These changes are evident not only far away in the Himalayas, but in our own back yards. Routes that my son may have dreamed of climbing are falling apart and no longer safe. I will highlight a few climbing objectives that I have done, that may not get a repeat ascent due to unsafe conditions brought by climate change. Climbers generally celebrate a first ascent of a route. The concept of doing a last ascent never occurred to the generation before me. Some argue that it is self-aggrandizing to think we could affect climate change, but I think it is worth a try.

My lifestyle of minimalism has been the key to my success in the mountains and I think it can provide a framework for interaction with our environment. Minimalism is not simply “doing without”, but a constant reassessment and focus on what is important. Alpinism and the more general concept of minimalism is a fundamental choice about the way we live – it is an attempt at a more “mindful” way of life. This attitude is critical to our relationship with the mountains and the earth”.

Australian backcountry film festival – Spring 2014

For the past four years, the backcountry film festival has been attracting good numbers of people, and has been showing in more locations across south eastern Australia.

It seems like it might be time to have our own festival – with films made in Australia.

At previous Melbourne shows, we have added a film about skiing and boarding on The Bluff (No Lift Lines Here), and this year saw OFF GRID, a new effort on Mt Bogong from SoO Airtime.

The plan is to hold an Australian backcountry film festival in late spring 2014 with only local content. There are some fantastic film makers out there, and we hope to be able to showcase some of these.

We are seeking expressions of interest from film makers who would like to submit films.

Any human and gravity powered backcountry adventure would be welcome: walking, skiing, boarding, MTBing, paddling, climbing, …

As this is an entirely volunteer effort, with no budget, we are not able to offer payment for showing the films.

Films can be in two length categories. We hope to show an hours worth of short films (3 to 7 minutes) then up to 2 longer films (30 – 40 minutes each).

At this point we are looking at doing a Melbourne showing, with the ability to offer the festival to other places once its packaged up. The aim is to do a low fuss mini film festival, so we’d appreciate getting the films in a format that allows us to put them onto a single dvd.

If you’re keen, please get in touch: cam.walker@foe.org.au

I would also love to hear from anyone keen to volunteer their skills to turn the individual films into a package and for help with logistics.

Global rock climbers alarmed at cable car proposal

This is impressive. A remarkable group of climbers have joined together to express their opposition to the proposed cable car development on Mt Wellington/ kunanyi in Hobart. There are some real luminaries of the climbing world signed on, and this will help bring international attention to this ridiculous project.

Continue reading “Global rock climbers alarmed at cable car proposal”

Australian backcountry film festival – Spring 2014

For the past four years, the backcountry film festival has been attracting good numbers of people and is showing in more locations.

It seems like it might be time to have our own festival – with films made in Australia.

At previous Melbourne shows, we have added a film about skiing and boarding on The Bluff, and this year saw OFF GRID, a new effort on Mt Bogong from SoO Airtime.

The plan is to hold an Australian backcountry film festival in late spring 2014 with only local content. There are some fantastic film makers out there, and we hope to be able to showcase some of these.

We are seeking expressions of interest from film makers who would like to submit films.

Any human and gravity powered backcountry adventure would be welcome: walking, skiing, boarding, MTBing, paddling, climbing, …

As this is an entirely volunteer effort, with no budget, we are not able to offer payment for showing the films.

Films can be in two length categories. We hope to show an hours worth of short films (3 to 7 minutes) then up to 2 longer films (30 – 40 minutes).

At this point we are looking at doing a Melbourne showing, with the ability to offer the festival to other places once its packaged up.

If you’re keen, please get in touch: cam.walker@foe.org.au

And get out there and getting filming!

‘For Our Sherpa Friends’

On April 18, an avalanche on Mount Everest swept through a line of Sherpas preparing the climbing route for their commercial clients. Sixteen men were killed, making it the deadliest day in the mountain’s history.

Many people in the climbing and outdoors community are responding. I like this project from the US, raising funds for the families of those killed and injured, by selling (amazing) photos.

The project is called For Our Sherpa Friends. They say:

We are a group of ten photographers who have worked extensively with the Sherpa people and are devastated by this tragedy. For us, this is a moment to ask how we can help our Sherpa friends—both in this time of crisis and in the years to come. As a first step, we are donating the prints you see here, a selection of our photographs of the Everest region and its people, curated by our editors, National Geographic’s Sadie Quarrier and Outside’s Amy Silverman. One-hundred percent of proceeds from this sale (after the cost of printing) will go to the Sherpa community via the nonprofit Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, which has been working with Sherpa climbers in the Khumbu since 2003.

By purchasing a print today, you are helping provide relief to Sherpa families in crisis, as well as long-term support that transcends this single incident. Together, we will build a more comprehensive safety net for the high-altitude workers who help so many Westerners realize their dreams of the summit.

You can check the images, and buy them online, here.

Human-Powered Mountaineers

Image: Human-Powered Mountaineers
Image: Human-Powered Mountaineers

I love these people: Human-Powered Mountaineers use bikes to access the peaks for their adventures (as well as promoting sustainable food production and lifestyles).

Human-Powered Mountaineers is a grassroots organisation that was started by Justene Sweet and Christopher Bangs.  Their mission involves climbing mountains completely under their own power all the way from their own doorstep.  To accomplish this they incorporate the use of their bicycles to get them from their homes to the trailheads, and then they start climbing from there. They are based in Bozeman, Montana.

They say:
 Our mission is to inspire people to be passionate about environmental stewardship through bicycle advocacy, and local organic farming. We aim to educate people about creating a positive change in the world  through simple daily actions, while continuing to live life to the absolute fullest of  potentials.

A current project they have this (northern) winter is to climb and ski the highest peak in each of the 7 mountain ranges that surround Bozeman. All 100% human-powered on a 100% plant based diet.

This project is raising money for our grassroots networks; BIKE TO FARM, and School Slide Show Series.

They attempted all 7 peaks and summited on two.

As they say in the wrap-up,
winter human-powered ski mountaineering IS REALLY FREAKING HARD!!!!!!!

Check the site for some excellent videos of their attempts on the peaks.

Five Iconic Mountains Threatened By Climate Change

The following article comes from Stephen Lacey, writing for Climate Progress.

Denali, Alaska. Image: ThinkProgress

While many Australians are keenly aware of the increasingly erratic winters we have been getting and forecasts of shorter seasons (for instance see here) it is worth remembering this is a global phenomena – and hence requires a global solution.

Glacial melt. Invasive species. Mudslides. Erosion. Mountains around the world are seeing major changes accelerated by a warming planet.

Mountains represent 25% of the earth’s surface and host 13% of the world’s population. Warming-fueled changes are threatening sensitive ecosystems, water resources, climbing routes, and, in turn, the way of life in local communities.

Below is a list of five iconic mountains — known for their cultural, resource, and recreational significance — that are being directly impacted by climate change.

These include:

Everest, The Matterhorn, Denali (Mount McKinley), Kilimanjaro and Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

Check here for the article.

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