Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


Mt Kosciuszko

Winter may be over, but the beauty and wonder of the mountains rolls on…

Some photos from Andrew Stanger, taken in late October “out the back on the Main Range of Kosciuszko National Park as the first flowers were unfurling to clear, sunny skies.”


Continue reading “Winter may be over, but the beauty and wonder of the mountains rolls on…”

Alan E J Andrews 1926 – 2014

mapAlan E J Andrews is known to many backcountry skiers and boarders as a pioneer of skiing the steep western faces of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains. He was the author of Skiing the Western Faces Kosciusko.

He passed away last month after a long and well lived life. The eulogy that follows was written by his friend Klaus Hueneke, another luminary of the High Country.

Nureyev on Skis
The Emperor of Illawong

Eulogy for Alan E J Andrews, Mona Vale, 26/6/14

“I have known Alan in person since about 1984 and I’ve known about his writings and journeys across the high country since the 1960s. He had a big impact on my life and my book publishing business Tabletop Press.

Alan was a lover of:-

Australian History especially the early explorers,

the Australian Alps and skiing in all its forms,

the mountain huts especially Illawong and Albina,

old style poetry with rhyming verse,

the ballet and bacon sandwiches and

an old Holden Station Wagon.
He loved reading, drawing and using maps,
and the careful composing of numerous articles and books.

He enjoyed helping others with their own research and replied at length to any questions or correspondence sent. He did this in careful, often quite tiny, longhand or neatly printed with lots of curly bits. You can view it in some of his books. When his distinct handwriting was not on the last parcel of books I thought, ‘something must be seriously wrong’. It was.

His books and long sojourns at Albina or Illawong hut above the Snowy River were very important features of his life. When he was at Illawong it was like the Emperor was in residence. Not a domineering Emperor who demanded our attention but a quietly spoken, quietly smiling, self effacing Emperor, one who didn’t have to shout it from the roof tops.

I loved listening to him reciting Australian classics as well as his own poetry. This is an extract from The Fan-shaped Snowgum.

There it is, the fan-shaped snowgum,
Glinting in the morning frost;
Reminding us of courtly pleasures
From time forgotten – long since lost.
Lovely eyes ‘neath lowered lashes,
Flirting sweetly, ringlets tossed,
Fan on crinoline laid demurely,
Clamouring suitors imperiously bossed.

But look again, the trunk is twisted,
Leaning perilously askew.
Another instant it had fallen,
Yet still survives, to grow anew,
The branchlets fanning to the northward,
Others stretching southward too;
Now proudly standing tall, defiant,
A sentinel to welcome you.

In 1982 I wrote Huts of the High Country. Alan took note that there was a new kid on the block and on a later visit to Illawong we spoke about my new book Kiandra to Kosciusko. He offered to draw a number of maps and gave me permission to use his articles about early ski tours in different parts of the Snowy Mts.

When the book came out he said ‘but you only spent a couple of pages on the history of Mt Kosciusko itself’. Sorry Alan. It got him going and in 1990 he asked me to design and publish Kosciusko – the Mountain in History. It covered all the first European explorers who reached the high tops and filled a missing gap. As usual, the research was meticulous.

In 1993 he wanted me to do the same with Skiing the Western Faces but this time he said, ‘I want the book to breathe more’. ‘Breathe?’, I thought Can a book breathe? It showed how books to him were living entities with eyes, lungs, heart and soul. No wonder his and Muriels house is full of them.

He showed me a book which had lots of space around the text and between chapters. I got the message and Skiing the Western Faces became his most popular book. It inspired many others including his sons Neil and Ian as well as my step-son Chris, who brought me here today, to explore the dramatic western faces. I always know it has been a good snow year if orders come in during September and October.

By 1996 he was ready to go with Rainforest and Ravished Snow. Half of this book dealt with his bushwalks on the Comboyn and in the Upper Manning River area, one in which some of his relatives once lived and where Ian, his son, still owns a plot of bush. After skiing became too hard for him, Alan often went there to communicate with nature.

It became obvious that Alan had been sitting on a large body of drawings, maps, photos, writing ideas and unpublished work. I was very glad he chose me to bring them into the world. These were books with small print runs not commercially viable for big publishing houses but important nevertheless.

In 1998 I received the manuscript for Earliest Monaro and Burragorang, his last major work. It is jam-packed with historical detail, black and white photos, dozens of hand-drawn maps and many references. It has been well received by old Monaro families and local historians.

His books have been selling steadily for the last 20 years and will continue to do so for a long time. I often say ‘History doesn’t age, it just gets older’.

Before I came along Alan published a number of books with Blubber Head Press and smaller hand-made ones like Where the Wombat Goes and Surveyor Thomas Townsend, his work in Australia 1831-1854. Another was a compendium of all the articles and books he had published between 1950 and 1983. Yes, starting in 1950, 64 years ago, when he was a young 24. A note in one said, ‘This really is a table top book – written, made and printed at home’.

On one of our day trips he took me on to Twynam West Spur and showed me the gap in the cornices through which I could thread my long, thin skis and descend into Siren Song Creek. ‘Ski down there?’ I thought, and went off to sit at the end of the Crags to bask in the sun and contemplate the vista to the crouching lion Jagungal.

He, meanwhile, wasted no time and in a series of adroit, light as a feather, linked turns, leapt, carved and flew into the sirens arms. It was Rudolf Nureyev (a famous ballet dancer from the 1980s) delicately balanced on a couple of plastic planks in the steepest snow country we have.

About the same time I discovered he adored the Australian Ballet and the stunning, lithe, pink-clad ballerinas. He wrote poems about them too. The ballet must have rubbed off for it was ballet on skis that he displayed that memorable day.

Writing this about Alan, the word ‘fey’ kept bouncing around inside my head. The dictionary explained. It means, ‘as if enchanted, under a spell and aware of supernatural influences’. Yes, that was Alan all over and that’s what explains his love of skiing, his poetry, his wry sense of humour, some of his drawings and his ability to morph from a cheeky Shakespearean imp to a serious historian over the same cup of tea.

I will end on a poem he wrote after ascending Twynam North Spur. It could be his epitaph:

We leave our stately sentinel
And pass on through the Arc of Trees,
Then upwards still and cross the snowbridge,
There possibly to take our ease,
But not for long; it’s on to Twynam
To the throne to pay our dues
And find our fealty rewarded –
The granting of the kingdom’s keys.

You may be sure we will not waste them.
Full many a secret we’ll explore.
Full many a slope will feel our ski-tips:
Past craggy slate and granite tor,
Down gullies steep and awesome,
We’ll ski them all, you may be sure.

So when at last we hand the keys in,
As needs we must – so stands the Law –
There’ll be no need for compensation.
There’ll be no need to ask for more.

I will miss him, his annual hand-illustrated and written Christmas cards, his tightly composed letters often with poetry, his years of support and all that he stood for with all my heart for the rest of my days.

Alan, you were an inspiring scholar and an old fashioned gentleman”.

Klaus Hueneke (OA-AM)

NB: a number of Alan’s books are still available, check here for details.

In praise of huts

Tawonga Huts, Bogong High Plains, VIC
Tawonga Huts, Bogong High Plains, VIC

Huts in the mountains can be a vexed issue. Huts will tend to attract people and so tend to concentrate visitation within a larger area. As one example, most people who climb Mt Bogong tend to then turn towards Cleve Cole hut rather than head across to the Hooker Plateau. This tendency to influence visitation can be both good and bad.

They are part of the cultural history of the high country, and reflect major stages in the post colonisation era: cattle grazing, forestry, hydro, even fire watch towers and, more recently, huts built for recreational purposes. We also have a number of strange and random anomalies, ones that don’t really make sense: Craig’s hut near Mt Stirling as an example, which was built as a set for a film. There are, of course, those whose primary function is safety, such as Seaman’s hut near Mt Kosciusko, and huts that belong to clubs or even schools (Geelong Grammar on Mt Stirling).

I have always tended towards the position that we don’t need more huts in the high country. With incremental pressure as ski resorts increase their footprint and the risk of private developments within Victorian national parks and the precedent of private enterprise in a number of Tasmanian parks, I don’t think we need more infrastructure. There have been some hut removals that make ecological sense (such as Albina Lodge, above the western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains). I certainly understand the need for huts in strategic spots for safety. And I do appreciate the history of these places, the incredible work of getting materials into hut sites in the early days and the bush skills of the builders. I love the work of Klaus Hueneke, who has chronicled the heritage of the huts.

the hut at Lake Nameless
the hut at Lake Nameless, Central TAS

With the rise in wildfire over the past decade, we have lost many of the iconic huts. There have been some excellent rebuild efforts, such as Michel’s at Mt Bogong. The Victorian High Country Huts Association was founded after the major bushfires of February 2003, to try and preserve remaining huts. Some huts are looked after by organisations and this can give people a strong connection to ‘their’ hut, and various groups exist to look out for huts in general (partial list below).

For me, it’s a rare thing to find a hut that is more appealing than a tent, but amongst my favourites are Seamen’s and the ‘Schlink Hilton’ in the Snowies, Vallejo Gantner at Macalister Springs, Cleve Cole on Bogong (of course), and the hut at Lake Nameless in Central Tasmania. I love the location of the ridiculously ugly house on Mt Wills.

For hut fans, we have recently been posting photos on Mountain Journal’s facebook page. Please feel free to join in and post your favourite pics.

the hut at Newgate Tarn, TAS
the hut at Newgate Tarn, TAS

I recently spotted the article below, highlighting the value of the ‘secret’ hut stash around many resorts, the little known hang out spot. I remember a rough hut that lasted several years on the northern slopes of The Bluff in Victoria which was popular with some backcountry skiers and boarders. I went to look for it one spring and it was gone (it had been tarp and pole heavy, more a glorified camp than a hut).

What I loved about this article is that it highlights that for all of us who use huts, there are personal and social memories that build up: of friendship, adventure, good dinners, long and late night conversations with strangers. I held my 30th birthday at Vallejo Gantner hut and have spent the last 4 new years at Bluff Spur hut on Mt Stirling with a big gang of friends. Part of the cultural – as opposed to technical – history is preserved in log books and, increasingly, on line. For instance, check the newsletters from the Mt Bogong Club, who have been looking after the Cleve Cole hut since 1965. In many countries there is the tradition of the hut warden, which can add to the sense of hut culture. I like the short film Winters of my Life, an appreciation of the decades-long service of Howard Weamer, who for the past 35 years has spent his winters as a hutkeeper in Yosemite’s backcountry.

Twilight Tarn, TAS
Twilight Tarn, TAS


From Powder magazine.

Secret stashes, shacks included, are a part of skiing in the same way that early mornings and long drives are. If you are dedicated you will have yours, you’ll know the good ones, and the people to share them with inbounds and out. People who love the mountains cultivated them, probably long before you got there.

 Some contacts

Kosciusko huts association.

Victorian High Country Huts Association.

Adventure on the western faces

Mt Sentinel with Watson Crags in the background
Mt Sentinel with Watson Crags in the background

“The mountain environment in Australia is unique and unlike anywhere else in the world. The people you meet and the friendships you forge are meaningful and rewarding. The mountain environment can teach us a lot about ourselves as individuals and as a collective. In today’s world of  cellular phones, games and other distractions the mountains provide me with a sanctuary were silence is promoted and the human senses come alive”.

John Blankenstein and his family reside on the Far south Coast of NSW. John has been exploring the mountains since the age of 15 were he fell in love with the sport of snowboarding. Being based on the coast so close to the snowy mountains provides ample opportunity for adventure. Over the last five years john has begun exploring the back country and the mountain environment that is on offer in the Snowy Mountains, NSW. Each year the Snowy Mountains provide a range of winter and summer based objectives that require a full suite of mountain skills.

In his first installment for mountain journal, John describes a big day out on the western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains.

Hikers asked to help find man missing in Kosciuszko National Park

IMG_2886The following comes from The Canberra Times

New South Wales Police will appeal to hikers in the Kosciuszko National Park to help in the search for missing Canadian Prabhdeep Srawn.

Two days after recommencing a ground search for the 25-year-old who has been missing since May 13, Monaro Local Area Command Superintendent Rod Smith said police and National Parks and Wildlife Officers were contending with some snow in the search area.

“We are recommencing the search in a limited capacity, using some specialist services available to us.

“We’re going to give that a go this week and then will make a weekly assessment as to when the appropriate time to go back into another thorough ground search but obviously that will be when the snow goes.”

He said SES volunteers were on standby for a broader ground search and that visitors to the area were being asked to remain vigilant.

“We believe that he walked along the Main Range Trail from Charlotte Pass, in an anti-clockwise direction towards Mt Townsend and Mt Kosciusko.

“For people who are out there, we are appealing for hikers in that area to keep an eye out.”

Family members are coordinating a group of 18 volunteers who will arrive from Canada next week to assist with the search.

“All of the information that we’ve got, firmly point us in the direction that we have concentrated our search but of course, we are open to the fact that he may not be in that particular area which is problematic because it is such a massive, vast area.”

Mr Srawn was last seen on May 13 when he parked a rental car in the Charlotte Pass Village before setting out in fine conditions to hike near Australia’s two highest peaks, Mt Kosciuszko and Mt Townsend. His disappearance was reported a week later, prompting a large air and land search over two weeks. The 30-person search was abandoned on June 1 ahead of heavy winter snowfall.

Skiing the Western Faces Kosciusko

mapAnyone with an interest in skiing or boarding steeper lines on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains will love this book. I can’t believe that it took 20 years from its publication before I heard of this wonderful book.

I was skiing with my friend Peter this winter and as we talked of the backcountry trips we had done and wanted to do, the western slopes of the Snowies came up. He mentioned Alan Andrews ‘classic’ Skiing the Western Faces Kosciusko, describing it as the Bible of skiing in the area, and providing the ‘tick list’ for anyone interested in  the many lines that come off the western side of the highest peaks of the Main Range.

Two weeks later I was the proud owner of a copy, a publication of Canberra based Tabletop Press, which has an impressive collection of mountain themed books in its stable.

As Alan describes in the introduction, the book is not so much a guide to skiing the western slopes as ‘a companion volume that might instil in you or remind you of its joys’.

Check here for a review and details on buying the book.

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!

Australia’s first Splitboard festival

The inaugural OZ Splitfest DownUnder will be held in late August and September in the NSW Main Range.

There will be all the usual trimmings, T-Shirts, give a ways, raffles and loads of fun. Possibly some riding too.

You have the option to stay in Jindabyne, camp in the National Park or out on the peaks.

There will be demo boards and rental gear available to those who need it.

Jump on board and meet some new touring partners, the more the merrier!

We will be screening “Freerider” on the Friday night prior to the weekend. Venue to be confirmed.

This is a free event. There are no guides so you must be able to make your own terrain decisions.

T-shirts will be avalabile Pre-order only, designs will be released soon. $22.00 (All proceeds go to POW, and Kosciuszko National Park)

Hosted by First Light Boards.

Electricity agency admits using herbicide in Kosciuszko national park

The following comes from the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers, journalist is Ben Cubby. March 30, 2012

THE state electricity agency TransGrid has admitted its contractors sprayed herbicide across a swathe of wilderness in the Kosciuszko National Park, scarring the landscape and killing thousands of alpine plants.

Patches along a 17-kilometre stretch of power line, amounting to about 20 hectares, were affected by the herbicide, and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is investigating the electricity agency.

Contractors were undertaking ”routine vegetation management” on behalf of TransGrid along the route of the transmission line in rugged country between Khancoban and the Guthega ski fields last year, when an ad hoc decision was made to spray the area without approval.

In December, National Parks and Wildlife Service staff spotted what one described as a ”moonscape” of dead vegetation in some areas. TransGrid had not reported the herbicide use to government agencies.

It is not the first time TransGrid has been caught destroying vegetation in the area’s protected wilderness. In 2001, it was found to have mown down trees along cable routes in the Brindabella, Namadgi and Kosciuszko national parks, and was eventually fined $130,000.

This week the electricity agency said it had approval to clear some vegetation from around the power line but conceded herbicide should not have been used.

”TransGrid acknowledges … its contractor undertook vegetation management using a method which was not approved under the specifications of the [environmental impact assessment],” a spokeswoman said.

”TransGrid has investigated the incident and is working closely with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to implement a specific and targeted rehabilitation plan.”

The agency said about 2 per cent of the area, which forms a corridor about 17 kilometres long and 60 metres wide, was affected. No threatened species of plant or animal was affected, it said.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service said it was contemplating further action.

”NPWS considers vegetation damage of this type to be a serious potential breach of the National Parks and Wildlife Act and regulations,” said the regional manager, Dave Darlington.

”NPWS asked TransGrid for a comprehensive report into the incident and for their remediation proposals … the report forms part of the investigation by NPWS into the Transgrid incident and that investigation is ongoing.”

‘Tourism hope for ancient Aboriginal pathway’

crossing the headwaters of the Snowy River

This news report comes from the ABC.

Tourism hope for ancient Aboriginal pathway

Traditional owners from the New South Wales south east have completed a major on-ground survey of an ancient Aboriginal pathway.

The Bundian Way stretches 300km from Mt Kosciuszko to Fisheries Beach, near Eden.

A team of 20 people have walked the track this week to explore the potential for a new tourism venture.

The Project Officer with the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council, John Blay, says it has a lot to offer.

“It’s like thousands of backyards one after another,” he said.

“There are so many different places along the route.

“It was amazing to find massive yam gardens in wild country as well as along the Monaro.

“The beauty of some of those landscapes across the Monaro is awesome, just as when you come down into the coastal forests.

“It’s quite wonderful what you get to see.”

Endangered mountain frog thriving again

The following article comes from the ABC, and seemed worth a re-run given its a nice bit of good news about an endangered species.

Photo: David Hunter

There has been a major breakthrough in efforts to save an endangered frog in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.

In 1998, the Spotted Tree Frog population in Kosciuszko National Park was down to one male.

Nicknamed “Dirk”, he was taken from a stream and became part of a captive breeding program in Victoria.

Frog expert, Dr David Hunter, says it took about seven years for tadpoles to appear, but the offspring are now thriving back in a High Country stream.

“Through the monitoring program, we were able to show that post-release survivalship has been quite good,” he said.

“Not only that, they’ve now reached sexual maturity, and they’ve actually bred in the wild which was fantastic.

“What we’re doing with the Spotted Tree Frog is something we’d also like to be able to achieve with many other threatened frogs.”

Main Range outing

So, with spring cover holding across a fair bit of the main range and recent top ups, it seems the seasons not totally finished yet. Some very recent images from Bruce Easton, of Wilderness Sports in Jindabyne.

“Went out Wednesday for the day to Blue Lake to do some ‘gear testing’ and photos and the snow was really good. On the way out walked about a kilometre before putting skis on. On return skied to around 200 metres of the Snowy River ford with a shorter walk….The glacial lakes are all still completely covered with snow/ice”.

snowshoe tour to Kosciuszko, Saturday (16/10)

To contact Bruce:

crossing the Snowy River











Blue Lake

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