Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


Mount Buller

‘Unite for POW in Paris’

Mountain Journal has often covered the various sustainability initiatives by ski resorts and the snow/ outdoor industries.

It has also noted the fact there here in Australia, the resorts and industry have either given up all pretense of even caring about climate change or simply have never done anything on the issue. In theory most resorts at least support the ideas behind the ‘Keep Winter Cool‘ initiative, but when was the last time you saw any of them promote climate change or sustainability measures in their materials?

It will be interesting to see if the sale of Perisher Resort in NSW to Vail Resorts will have any impact on the local industry. Vail has at least signed on to some initiatives like “Target 10” aiming for a 10% reduction in energy use.

As we get closer to the climate negotiations which will happen in Paris in late November, the stakes keep getting higher. With the current global agreement (the Kyoto Protocol) due to expire shortly, it is essential that world leaders agree on the framework for the agreement which will replace it.

Continue reading “‘Unite for POW in Paris’”

Skiing the High Plains

This is one of the finest books written about the Australian Alps. Self published by Harry Stephenson in 1982 and long out of print, this compilation of essays about the development ok skiing in Victoria is exhaustive. Coming in at almost 500 pages, it must have been a massive effort. It is an incredible cultural history of skiing, based on a series of stories and recollections from key players in the development of skiing in the state. While we are generally offered a cattle grazing heavy history of the Alps, this book fills in details on some of the other actors in the early days of European settlement.

It’s various chapters cover the developments at key mountains across the state, from Buller and Hotham to Donna Buang, where skiing was popular in the 1920s. It doesn’t neglect wilder and more distant areas like Bogong or Mt Howitt. And it is inter-spaced with fantastic photo galleries by a range of photographers.

There is a review available here.

Bike Buller MTB Festival

The following comes from Mt Buller resort management:

Mountain bikers are getting set for the biggest event on Mt Buller’s busy calendar, the Bike Buller MTB Festival Presented by Orbea on March 7-9. Taking place over the Victorian Labour Day long weekend on Mt Buller’s world-class trails, the Bike Buller MTB Festival will see riders enjoy a jam-packed three days of mountain biking and festival fun at the popular Picnic in the Park food, wine and music festival at Mirimbah Park.

The festival is an ‘all mountain’ event, held across Mt Buller’s world-class cross-country, endurance and downhill trails, and suitable for riders of all abilities and disciplines. Run by event management company Rapid Ascent, the team behind the Giant Odyssey, Salomon Trail Running Series, Surf Coast Century and a number of other iconic adventure events, the 2015 Bike Buller MTB Festival presented by Orbea has a massive 14-event schedule with a diverse range of mountain bike races, kids’ events and even a trail running component.

Full details here.

And if you’re up on Mt Stirling, make sure you drop in to the Epicenter for a coffee or some food and support this great mountain business.

The Epicenter

The Epicenter is a great new cafe, opened in December 2014, that’s operating out of the ski school building at Telephone Box Junction on Mt Stirling.

Epicenter 2The Epicenter has a strong focus on mountain biking, and will be open throughout summer and autumn, then for the snow season as well. Along with Mountain Kitchen at Dinner Plain, this new operation is a stand out amongst alpine cafes: it’s small scale and friendly, with an authentic feel and commitment to adventure and mountain living.

Co-owner Hjalmar Arnold (Yully/Dingo) describes it as “the Riders Lifestyle in a shop, year round” and “the Gateway to the Alpine Backcountry”. There is no doubt that the MTB trails developed in recent years on Mt Buller and Stirling are some of the finest in the country. Yully helped build them, and is a great source of knowledge for first time riders.

They have great food, much of it made on the premises, and excellent coffee. Please drop by and support this great initiative.

There are additional renovations going on to extend the facilities at TBJ, which will be ready for winter 2015.

You can find their facebook page here.

A half century of change in the Central Alps

Anyone who has hiked and skied the mountains between Buller and Stirling, and from The Bluff to Howitt and Cobbler and is over 30 probably knows the wonderful maps of Stuart Brookes.

Stuart has produced maps of the Alps and other popular walking areas since the late 1940s. As a teenager on my first walking, snow shoeing and skiing adventures in the area around the Howqua River, I fell in love with Stuart’s black and white map ‘Watersheds of the King, Howqua & Jamieson Rivers’. It had basic landform details shown through shading and all the features that a walker needed: good campsites, places where you could get water on the high ridges, routes and cairned trails rather than just the marked roads. I would get a new version every couple of years, and later versions were in multi colour and had contours. But they still had a sense of richness that are rare in modern maps. This was country that Stuart knew intimately and the maps evoked a rich sense of place.

Continue reading “A half century of change in the Central Alps”

$5m road ‘beginning of end’ for Mount Stirling

For background on the road proposal, check here.

If you don’t support secretive decision making by governments, or a new and unnecessary road in an alpine environment, you may want to send a message to the Minister who will take the decision:

Twitter:           @MatthewGuyMP


The following update comes from Clay Lucas at The Age.

A move by the Napthine government to decide behind closed doors the fate of a controversial new road linking Mount Buller to Mount Stirling could be the first step in the development of the mountain as a new ski resort, a conservation group says.

Environment groups fought a long-running battle with property heavyweight Rino Grollo from the 1980s over his ultimately withdrawn plans to develop Mount Stirling as a downhill skiing resort.

Continue reading “$5m road ‘beginning of end’ for Mount Stirling”

new road proposed for Mt Stirling

Mt Buller is already over developed. Is the road part of a plan to see similar development on Mt Stirling?
Mt Buller is already over developed. Is the road part of a plan to see similar development on Mt Stirling?

In 2008, the Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board applied for permission to build a road through old growth alpine ash across the north side of Corn Hill from Mt Buller to Mt Stirling.

This was ostensively to provide a route for people to escape the mountain in the case of a fire blocking the main road. However, it would pass through a considerable area of dense forest and then across to Mt Stirling, which then requires a long drive down to the Delatite River, where the existing Buller road emerges from the forest. If there is a major fire burning out of the Delatite Valley across the northern side of Buller it is hard to see how a major evacuation would work above the same area of forest. It would be a huge financial investment for a road that would probably never need to be used. A much cheaper option would be to ensure the community gathering site on the mountain contains a fire refugee able to withstand an intense fire.

So, is there something else going on? The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) believes the real intent is to make it easier to build accommodation on Mt Stirling because it would greatly improve vehicle access to the higher sections of the mountain.

The VNPA says it would just require a ‘simple amendment’ to the current planning scheme to allow development.

The road was knocked back several years ago, but now the resort is trying to gain approval again.

There have been various attempts to develop ski resort facilities on Mt Stirling over the years, and this has long been resisted by many in the community. Mt Buller is already heavily developed, and Mt Stirling provides opportunities for cheaper, lower impact winter and summer recreation. It has recently seen the development of major mountain biking trails, and provides access to walkers, skiers, 4 wheel drivers, and horse riders.

The VNPA is tracking this issue. Check their website for updates.

Bike Buller

Bike-Buller213Flow magazine is a great local mag that covers the mountain biking life.

The following is from the introduction to their recent story on mountain biking at Mt Buller in Victoria’s high country.

I’m on the chairlift for the second time that morning during day 2 of Bike Buller when my phone chimes in from the top pocket of my CamelBak. It’s Will, who’s here in Buller for the first time – his text reads simply:

“Holy shit my milkshake!”

Decoding Will’s particular blend of babbled enthusiasm, I know that the Delatite River Trail has lived up expectations and has left him, as we promised, as frothy and shaken up as any good vanilla ‘shake should be. Thinking back to my first ever run down the Delatite, I can recall how he must be feeling – the manic speed of it all, the stomach clenching fear as you get off the ride line and big rocks start flicking your wheels about, the disbelief at just how long it keeps it on descending. And finally a mixture of relief at having survived unscathed, and desire to just do it all again RIGHT NOW.

Check the story here.

Running Wild

Running Wild organises trail runs in some of Victoria’s most spectacular mountain country, including Feathertop, Mount Buller, Lake Mountain, as well as the 160km long Alpine Challenge, which is a major fund raiser.

Image: Running Wild
Image: Running Wild

The organisers say

Our motto is great runs – great places – great people. We do not run “races” as such, we are about the running experience, enjoying the country, experiencing what nature has to offer – weather, terrain and your ability to push yourself and get to know your body and your limits, and the social experience. That is what running and wild running is all about, however if you want to run fast and race, that’s fine too.

They are organising some new runs in 2014: the ‘Vertical K’ Series, the Victorian Mountain Running Championships and the Mount Buller Mountain Running Festival.

If running in mountain terrain appeals, then check out the various races. One of the things I appreciate about the organisers approach is that they see the run as a ‘mutual support event; it is not a race in the traditional sense. For safety reasons all participants must offer assistance to others in distress.’

The Alpine Challenge is especially impressive: it covers ‘some of the best, hardest and most exposed high country in Australia including Mt Feathertop, Mt Hotham, The Fainters, Spione Kopje, Mt Nelse and Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt Bogong’.

Their 2014 season of runs starts in early February.

Elevation Gravity bike ride at Mt Buller

The following information comes from the organisers (Alpine Gravity):

Image: Alpine Gravity
Image: Alpine Gravity

This series is the fastest growing series in Australia and one of the most popular formats of racing due to its fun nature and accessability to all types of riders and bikes. It isn’t hard core downhill, and not hard core uphill either, its a great mix of 70% FLOWING DESCENDING TRAILS, and 30% UNDULATING. Without the technical downhill sections, and no massive long climbs like a cross country race, its the prefect event for all riders. The perfect bike would be a 4-6 inch travel bike, but all courses are ride-able on a basic mountain bike.

The Elevation Gravity Enduro series is a two day event, with practice all day Saturday, then short practice session Sunday morning, then racing all day Sunday. When you arrive at the event, you make your way to the registration tent, grab your number plate from your pre online entry and then make your way to the transport pick up. We put your bike on a special bike carrying trailer and you then jump in a vehicle and we take you and your bike to the top of the mountain, and then you ride down….EASY!!!

Registration is open at every event from 8am Saturday, and transport to the top is 9am-4pm. Rego is then open from 8am Sunday, with transport ALSO starting at 8am until 11.30am when official practice ends. All individual rider and class start times are posted up at registration and is also announced over the P.A. system so you know when and where to be.

You then catch transport up the hill for TWO timed runs, and your FASTEST run counts as your result. If you are happy with your first run, your second run is optional and not mandatory.

Event location: Mt Buller, one hour from Mansfield, three hours north east from Melbourne

course description: town center to gang gangs to delatite trail

trail length: approx 13 kms long

course elevation drop: 1000 vertical meters/3000 vertical feet

rough course time: 25 minutes

descending: 800 metres

climbing: 200 metres

7 peaks Alpine Ascent Challenge


Victoria’s 7 peaks Alpine Ascent Challenge is an at-your-own pace cycling challenge which takes in all of Victoria’s Alpine Resorts.

The ‘riding season’ is now open. You can tackle the 7 Peaks (Mt Baw Baw, Mt Buffalo, Mt Buller, Dinner Plain, Falls Creek, Hotham, Lake Mountain) anytime from October 18 2013 to March 31 2014.

The challenge is for people – over the next five months – to ride each mountain at a time that suits them.

The organisers say:
‘The 7 Peaks passport will be the proof of your cycling toughness, stamping it along the way for every summit you successfully ride. Once you have completed your peaks and submitted your stamped passport, you will go into the draw to win some amazing prizes. Ride four peaks or more and you get the chance to win this year’s major prize. There’s also 7 amazing alpine winter experiences to be won’.

Further information available here.

The gnarliest runs in Oz

Mt Carruthers. From Huck & Dyno.
Mt Carruthers. From Huck & Dyno.

This is a great resource: the ‘gnarliest runs in Oz’, from the Huck & Dyno website (in two parts – Victoria and the Main Range in NSW).

The NSW feature has all the obvious things, and Victoria includes excellent coverage of places like Mt Buller, Feathertop and Bogong, and also some gems which are off the beaten track, like Mt Howitt.

A few years ago I put a lot of effort into expanding the ski wiki posts on backcountry skiing in Australia (mostly the VIC and TAS sections) but a big failure with this is the lack of images. In contrast to my effort, James and Sam, who are behind Huck & Dyno, have some gorgeous pictures of the mountains and general terrain, plus many of the actual runs. Visually beautiful.

I like their intro:

When you get down to it, Australia is the flattest driest continent on Earth. By definition, the skiing here is the worst in the world. … So it’s easy to write the place off as a land of sunburnt sweeping plains. Or, if you’re a skier, patchy cover, ice and crud, short shallow runs and snowmaking.

Even the highest mountain, good old Kosciuszko, is a hill with a road to the top… The very first time I ever went XC skiing, we made it to the top! Snowboarders were drinking beer up there! Fun for the whole family!

The enthusiastic might even bother to look over at the ‘Main Range’, hoping to see a craggier peak. But nope, Mount Townsend and Northcote and Lee all look pretty tame over there.

But then one day you’ll bother to climb the second highest peak, Mount Townsend, and have a look from the top of there and, HOLY CRAP, there it is…

So begins our investigation into the gnarliest lines in Oz.

With winter finally bearing down on us, I hope this inspires you. Get out there and enjoy!

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