Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps



Alpine time in Tasmania

What’s not to love about lutruwita/ Tasmania? Mild climate, wild landscapes, endless mountains, remarkable forests, wonderful rivers. If you love the higher alpine country, and rocky peaks, there is so much to do, and so many places to visit.

But compared with the high country of NSW and Victoria, you generally need to do some work to get into the alpine zones. There are few easy 2WD roads to get up high, like the tourist road up kunanyi/ Mt Wellington, the road over the Central Plateau past yingina/ the Great Lake, the Ben Lomond plateau, the road to Lake Mackenzie and so on.

But in most places you do need to walk and climb to get to treeline and above. That’s one of the things that makes these places so special. I recently had the chance to get back to Mt Rufus, a peak in the south of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair national park, which has an elegant long alpine ridge that leads to incredible views of the west, south west and central mountains.

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A long, slow wander along the Australian Alps Walking Track

Many mountain people will know Josh Kynaston for the music he plays with his partner Evie as the duo Life Dreamers. They are regulars at many venues across the valley towns and mountains of north eastern Victoria. Joshua loves music. And walking in the hills. He has a plan to combine the two passions – doing a slow traverse of the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWR) in late 2022, starting at the southern end. And writing new songs and maybe an album as he goes.

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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 (although in early 2023, the section of the AAWT from Mt Sunday to Low Saddle, which has been problematic for walkers for some time has now been cleared by volunteers from Bushwalking Victoria). 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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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.

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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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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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‘Sea to Summit Forest Trail’ market research released

Activists have been campaigning for the creation of the ‘Emerald Link’ park in East Gippsland, which aims to protect the more-or-less intact ecosystems that run from the coast to the mountains. A long distance walking trail is an integral part of the proposal. The proposed Sea to Summit Forest Trail would create a network of walking tracks linking the coastal town of Bemm River and the existing Wilderness Coast walk to the summit of Mount Ellery, the highest mountain in far East Gippsland.

The Victorian government has recently released market research findings, which is part of the $1.5 million Andrews government’s investment in planning for the walk.

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Finding the beauty at home

So, chances are that not many of you are heading off for a skiing, walking or climbing adventure in the northern hemisphere this summer. Luckily we have lots of amazing country on our doorstep.

It’s a great chance to get out somewhere you’ve never been or go back to that place you’ve been dreaming about for years.

If you need a bit of inspiration, check here for some links to films on backyard adventures.

Where are you heading this summer and what are your plans for 2021?

Some of my plans:

  • a long walk on the central plateau of Tasmania
  • a winter camp out on The Twins
  • a long ski in over The Bluff to Mt Howitt
  • lots of hitting the groomers at Hotham
  • maybe a winter road trip to TAS to check out Ben Lomond, Rufus and Mt Field
  • an end of season trip and camp on Mt Loch

Please feel free to share yours.

No commercial development on ‘the People’s mountain’!

The Falls to Hotham Crossing is a lovely three day walk from the resort town of Falls Creek, across the Bogong High Plains, to Mt Hotham. Managed by Parks Victoria, you need to book to use the designated campsites near Cope Hut and Dibbins hut. It is a hugely popular walk.

There are also plans to extend and reroute the Crossing, turning it a five day ‘serviced hiking opportunity’ in the Alpine National Park. In the state budget for 2018/19, there was an allocation of funds to help make the project a reality. Now additional funds have been allocated to continue the planning for the project, including Stage 1 of the construction.

The proposal has been widely criticised because it will help open up previously undeveloped areas near Mt Feathertop and allow private development within the Alpine National Park. It will see a major upgrade of the route that currently follows Diamantina Spur up to the Razorback from the West Kiewa valley.

The Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing is part of a ‘branded portfolio’ of four long-distance walks known as ‘Walk Victoria’s Icons’ and is being strongly backed by the Victorian government. Outdoor, nature based tourism is a great thing. It’s good for individual and public health, and great for regional economies. However, private commercial development within a national park is strongly opposed by many people. 

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Support mountain businesses this summer

As 2020 races towards Christmas and New Year, lots of us are thinking about presents and holidays. Here’s a few ideas about some of the great businesses in north east VIC that you could support. As we all know, these regions were hard hit by last summer’s fires, two rounds of pandemic lockdown and a shortened ski season.

This is like #emptyesky for gear and adventure operators.

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Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing ‘resurfaces’

The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) reports that ‘Originally proposed in a 2008 (and long obsolete) Nature Based Tourism Strategy, a Falls to Hotham ‘icon’ tourist walk has been re-invigorated yet again’.

For some background to this project, check this page for various articles from Mountain Journal.

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News from home

I feel lucky to be living in a small country town, with a Parks Vic reserve in the gully below us, and endless opportunities for walking and MTB riding. It’s been a mild and gorgeous autumn so far, with a good bit of rain. I’m keeping in touch with friends, family and workmates (although feel that I now spend most of my life in Zoom meetings) and I feel grateful to have a safe place to be during the pandemic.

But cabin fever is setting in. Its Easter, but we need to stay home and not travel for adventures (and the alpine parks are closed). We really don’t know what will happen with ski season – will it happen at all, or will it start late? (There are growing conversations about a ‘delayed’ ski season rather than an outright cancellation). Will the national parks be open if the resorts are closed? What about backcountry huts? So many unknowns. All we can do is wait. Be patient. Watch some films and read some stuff, and be kind to each other.

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