Friday, February 20, 2015

The Mystique of the Australian Alps

The Mystique of the Australian Alps

By Satsuki Ranjou
Spirit News
November 22, 2073

The Australian Alps, an IBRA bioregion, is the highest mountain range in Australia. This range is located in southeastern Australia, and it straddles eastern Victoria, southeastern New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Alps contain Australia's only peaks exceeding 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) in elevation above sea level. The Alps are the only bioregion on the Australian mainland in which deep snow falls annually.

The Australian Alps are part of the Great Dividing Range, the series of mountains, hills, and highlands that runs about 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) from northern Queensland, through New South Wales, and into the northern part of Victoria. This chain of highlands divides the drainage of the rivers that flow to the east into the Tasman Sea from those that flow west into the drainage of the Murray–Darling basin (and thence to the Southern Ocean) or into inland waters, such as Lake Eyre, which lie below sea level, or else evaporate rapidly. The Great Dividing Range reaches its greatest heights in the Australian Alps.

The Australian Alps consists of two biogeographic subregions: the Snowy Mountains including the Brindabella Ranges, located in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory; and the Victorian Alps, located in Victoria. The latter region is also known as the "High Country", particularly within a cultural or historical context.

The Australian Alps are important for conservation, recreation, and as a water drainage basin, with much of their eastern slopes having its runoff diverted artificially into the Murray River and its tributary the Murrumbidgee River through the civil engineering project of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

They are protected by large national parks, in particular the Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales and the Alpine National Park in Victoria. These are managed cooperatively as Australian Alps National Parks by agencies of the Australian Government and the state governments of this region.

The Australian Alps also contain the only skiing areas of mainland Australia. Along with the town of Cabramurra, New South Wales, these are practically the only permanent settlements in the area. Several medium-sized towns can be found in the valleys below the foothills, such as Jindabyne, New South Wales, Corryong, Victoria, and Mount Beauty.

The Australian Alps are not as high or as steep as the Alps of Europe, the Southern Alps, or the Andes Mountains, and most of their peaks can be reached without using mountaineering equipment.

Within the Australian Alps there are about 120 active alpine huts that mostly date back to the early cattlemen's days, early skiing huts, and early research and surveying huts. Many of these have remained in use by fly fishers (seasonal), hikers and skiing groups throughout the year. Most of these huts are maintained by volunteers through the Kosciuszko Huts Association and the local National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Some of the more noteworthy huts include Moscow Villa Hut, Valentine Hut, Seaman's Hut and Mawsons Hut. In recent years many huts have been lost through lack of maintenance and bush fire - as occurred with the Pretty Plain Hut and Mount Franklin Chalet, which were destroyed by the Canberra bushfires of 2003.