Care for the Alps - Leave no trace
Care for the Alps - leave no trace
Care for the Alps now - so they'll be just as wonderful in the future.
The exceptional natural and cultural values of the Australian Alps national parks offer a diverse range of experiences and recreation opportunities which attract more than two million visitors to the region annually.
In order to ensure that the Australian Alps' fragile environment with unique plants and animals is protected and preserved, we ask that every visitor learns about the alps environment and takes simple steps to minimise the impacts you have on the environment as well as other visitors.
Respect the traditional Aboriginal owners and their country as well as other visitors by aiming to leave the area as you found it.
No matter what kind of activities you enjoy in the Alps, you can minimise the impacts you have on the environment and other visitors by following the simple guidelines described here. Challenge yourself to leave as little trace of your visit as possible.
Weather conditions in the mountains can change rapidly without warning - snow can fall at any time of the year.
Planning can make all the difference. Make sure you'll be safe and comfortable throughout your trip by knowing where you are going, what you need to take and what you need to do:
- Let someone know before you go - Tell them about your party, your route, when you plan to return and the equipment the party is carrying. Remember to contact them and let them know when you return.
- Keep your party small - Large parties (of more than eight people) have more environmental impact and can adversely affect the experience of other visitors. Do not travel alone.
- Go off peak - Where possible avoid the peak times of the year (December to February). You will miss the crowds and spread the impact, giving the environment a chance to recover.
- Be able to read weather charts - Plan your trip with the forecast in mind. Also plan for delays so you are not forced to travel in white-out and blizzard conditions. Carry several extra days' food.
- Mountain weather changes very rapidly - Don't be fooled; it can snow in summer too. So be prepared.
- Sunlight in the mountains burns even on cold and cloudy days - Protect your skin and eyes. Always wear a peaked cap, good sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Plan your route - so that you can camp at recognised campsites. If possible do not create a new site. Use huts only for emergency shelter.
- Protect yourself and other group members against sunburn, cold, wind and rain - Take warm clothing (jumper, gloves, cap), a raincoat and wear strong shoes. Protect your skin and always wear a long sleeved top, a hat and sunscreen.
- Let someone know before you go away from your campsite - Remember to let them know when you return.
- Minimise your impact - by taking the following items:
- Fuel stove and fuel for cooking
- Good quality tent
- Hand trowel for burying toilet wastes.
- Take the following items - and know how to use them:
- Wind and waterproof jacket, beanie and gloves
- Map and compass
- First aid kit
- Good quality tent and sleeping bag
- A GPS and EPIRB may be useful
In some areas, walking tracks are being upgraded to minimise the impact of increasing foot traffic; boardwalks are necessary in some places with large numbers of visitors. You can help minimise the damage in the following ways:
- Stay on the track even if it's rough and muddy - Walking on the track edges and cutting corners on steep 'zigzag' tracks increase damage, erosion and visual scarring, as well as causing confusion about which is the right track.
- Spread out in open country where there are no tracks - Spreading out (rather than following in each other's footsteps) disperses impact. A plant stepped on only once has more chance of survival than if trampled by the whole party.
- Avoid sensitive vegetation - Sphagnum bogs, cushion plants and other sensitive vegetation are easily destroyed by trampling. Stay on rocks and hard ground whenever possible.
- Keep the wilderness wild - Cutting new tracks is illegal and marking tracks with cairns, tape or other materials is unsightly and can confuse other walkers.
- Walk softly - Choose appropriate footwear for the terrain. Solid but lightweight walking boots are best. Sandshoes can be used on most tracks on the mainland in summer and sandshoes should be worn around campsites.
- Choose a different route - each time you visit a trackless area, and camp at different sites whenever possible.
Camping is perhaps the most popular way of enjoying the great outdoors, and car-based camping is an excellent way for people of all ages to visit the Australian Alps. Whether you camp at a designated campsite with several other groups or have found your own private camping spot, follow these simple rules to limit the impact of your visit:
- Drive on the track - Drive your vehicle only on roads that are open to the public and avoid using muddy tracks where you are likely to leave wheel ruts that cause greater soil erosion. It is irresponsible and illegal to drive off formed roads and tracks. Remove fallen trees across tracks rather than driving around them.
- Management tracks are closed to private vehicles - to ensure sensitive areas are not damaged and to enable other visitors to enjoy their recreation without the intrusion of vehicles.
- Drive carefully on mountain roads - they can be hazardous when wet and if vehicles travel too fast. Slower speeds will also enable you to enjoy more of the alpine scenery, and help protect native animals which cross and use roads in alpine areas.
- Take care on gravel surfaces and edges - Remember that other vehicles such as large trucks may be sharing the road with you.
- Think before you park and leave your vehicle - Are you blocking a track that may be needed in an emergency or by another visitor to the Alps?
- Carry wheel chains in winter.
- Leave your pets and firearms at home - They are not allowed in national parks.
Mountain bike riding has increased at a very rapid rate in recent years. The pleasure and exhilaration of cycling in natural areas has resulted in people of all ages taking to their bikes for day and overnight trips.
If cyclists are to continue to experience the pleasure of riding in relatively undisturbed areas, they will need to follow this code and limit the impact of their visit:
- Ride on bike tracks, roads and management vehicle tracks only - Even roads and tracks are particularly susceptible to damage when wet. They cannot be used when they are seasonally closed. Bicycles may not be used (even on management tracks) in wilderness areas. Walking tracks are managed for walkers and are not available for use by bicycles.
- Respect the rights of others - Other visitors have the same rights as you, so let them go about their activities without interference. Keep speeds down to avoid frightening other visitors.
- If you meet walkers - announce your presence, slow down and give them right of way as you pass.
- If you pass horse riders, always give horses right of way - Some horses are easily frightened by bicycles and a spooked horse can be dangerous to you and its rider. Announce your presence by voice, dismount and talk as the horse and rider pass to reassure the animal. If necessary, move off the track to give the horse plenty of room. Be alert for signs of horses (hoof prints or droppings) and watch for them on bends or crests.
- Wear your helmet whenever you are cycling - It is required by law even on fire tracks.
- Avoid skidding - Skidding damages tracks by removing the harder surface layer. This can then lead to erosion. Cutting corners also causes erosion. Don't cut corners, stay on the track.
- Stay away from wet, muddy areas - Muddy areas are very prone to damage. The tracks you leave behind channel the water when it rains and this leads to erosion.
- Check before you leave - It is a good idea to check with local land managers to find out about any areas specific track closures, fire regulations, limits on camping or other general information.
Horses are more than welcome in the Alps - it is a wonderful and authentic way to explore these environments. Quite a bit of care is required to ensure the fragile ecosystems remain unharmed for future use. Visit the Horse riding page for more information on caring for the Alps.
Many kinds of rubbish can be created during a trip, like food scraps, empty cans and packets, used matches, plastic bread ties, sanitary pads, tampons, condoms, tissues, toilet paper and cigarette butts. So please be sure none of it ends up as litter.
Most rubbish does not decompose, even if it is buried or burnt.
Rubbish creates an ugly eyesore or washes into watercourses and pollutes them. Animals may also try to eat it and harm themselves.
Always carry rubbish bags and carry out everything - even be prepared to collect litter you see during your trip.
Choosing a camp site
Fortunately a blanket of snow is excellent for protecting both alpine vegetation and alpine soils from the impacts usually associated with camping. This protective layer of snow means you can camp almost anywhere and if you follow some simple rules - leave no long-lasting signs of your visit.
- Choose a camp site well away from regular ski trails and outside alpine resorts. This will ensure security for your camping equipment and have the least impact on other skiers.
- Ensure your site is well protected from prevailing winds and likely storms. Be especially careful of slopes which are prone to avalanches.
- Camp within easy skiing distance of a toilet if possible so that wastes can properly disposed of.
- When you have finished at your camp site, demolish any snow walls or shelters you have built, fill in areas when you have ‘quarried' snow blocks, remove rubbish and minimise other signs of your visit.
Cooking, heat and fire
- Always carry a fuel stove when snow camping - If you carry warm clothes and use a fuel stove, fires will not be needed for warmth or cooking. Compared with fires, fuel stoves are faster, cleaner and a lot easier to use in winter.
- Fires are only permitted in huts where pot-belly stoves or fireplaces are provided - A fire built on the snow or a log raft will burn down and damage sensitive alpine vegetation. Such fires are illegal in the Alps national parks.
- Minimise the use of fires in huts in winter - Stored supplies of firewood may be needed by other groups in an emergency. It is also difficult to replace firewood in winter.
- Cooking outside in winter can be a highly enjoyable and social activity - Use a snow-shovel to construct a kitchen area near the tent site. Dig a trench for your feet and build a wall of snow blocks to deflect any cold winds. Sit on insulating mats for comfort and warmth. Combining meals is a friendly activity and saves fuel.
- Remember to dismantle snow walls - fill in your kitchen area prior to moving camp.
- Stoves should not be used in tents - due to the danger of the tent catching fire, hot liquids and food spilling, carbon monoxide poisoning and the depletion of oxygen in confined spaces.
Travelling down a river, or fishing beside a quiet alpine lake are some of the most enjoyable activities visitors can do in the Australian Alps. This information can help ensure you have a enjoyable and safe time - while still protecting the natural environment and not encroaching on the experience of other visitors.
- Be aware of fishing regulations - Anglers must acquaint themselves with all fisheries regulations, size and bag limits. Adherence to the regulations will benefit fishing for the future.
- Respect other anglers and waterways users - Avoid crowding fellow anglers. Either on the shore or on the water and always be aware of your surroundings and the impact you may have when fishing.
- Protect the environment - The health of the fish you are trying to catch depends upon the health of our environment. Dispose of rubbish, unwanted fishing gear and bait scraps in appropriate refuse receptacles or take it home when you leave. Only leave footprints wherever you go. Be aware of other plants and animals you may encounter when fishing.
- Carefully return undersized, protected or unwanted catch back to the water - Catching undersized or unwanted species is inevitable. But should be returned to the water immediately. Learn and practice the best methods of releasing live fish.
- Fish species and other organisms must not be relocated into other water bodies - Many problems, such as the establishment of feral populations like European carp and the saltwater invasive weed Caulerpa taxifolia can result from such activities.
Unnatural interactions may result in depletion of fish populations.
- Attend your fishing gear, treat fish humanely and value your catch - Treat fish humanely and avoid waste by attending your gear to ensure that fish are retrieved as soon as possible and despatching fish humanely immediately after capture.
Safety on the river
- Craft must be carried to the water - Keep vehicles to formed roads and tracks.
- Stagger launchings - If other groups are there, to avoid congestion and social impacts.
- Ensure prior knowledge of the river - The leader of the trip should have experience of the river and have leadership skills. Through maps, river guides and talking to people who have traveled the river, be sure your party is aware of difficult sections, portages and campsites.
- Plan your escape routes - Carry maps and be familiar with potential escape routes should a mishap occur which necessitates walking out. Have appropriate walking gear (shoes, day pack, map, compass, torch) in case this should be needed.
- Let someone know before you go down the river - Tell them about your party, your planned day of return, and the equipment you are carrying. Remember to contact them when you return.
- Only take appropriately skilled party members - Be sure your party members are capable of:
- paddling to the level of the rapids expected to be encountered
- swimming confidently
- rescuing themselves and other party members from a capsize.
- When you camp - Try to avoid camping with other groups and choose a site with a robust bank or beach on which landing and launching of craft will have least impact.
- Ensure all craft are designed for the intended use - Make sure they are adequately equipped with fixed buoyancy, handholds, spray covers (if necessary) and are in good order.
- Carry appropriate group equipment - including repair kit, comprehensive first aid kit, spare food and waterproof matches.
- Carry appropriate individual equipment - including throw rope, buoyancy/life vest, helmet, personal first aid kit, adequate protection against cold, wet, hot and sunny weather.
- Attempt rapids or difficult sections one craft at a time - With the weakest paddlers in the middle of the group.
- Ensure river heights are suitable before departure.
- Keep the party in sight of one another at all times.
- Keep well away from trees, snags and other obstacles.
- Be familiar and comply with canoeing safety codes produced by state canoeing associations.
Use a toilet or take a walk - at least 100 paces from water and campsites. Dig 15cm deep and cover well
With so many people visiting the Alps - and the potential for spread of infectious diseases (such as giardia and hepatitis A) - the management of human waste is a serious issue. If faeces, urine or toilet paper gets into the water supply, or are uncovered by animals, the results are very unsightly and potentially very dangerous for both people and animals.
Carelessness upstream could affect you downstream!
Where there are no toilets, please carry and use a trowel. Walk at least 100 paces (or as far as practicable) from creeks, lakes, campsites and tracks, dig a hole as deep as your trowel/hand (about 15 cm), then bury your waste and the toilet paper very carefully. In high use areas without toilets, plan to carry out your toilet waste.
Collect water upstream of huts, campsites and toilets to avoid possible pollution. Boil water for at least five minutes to avoid gastroenteritis and giardia.
Wash at least 100 metres from watercourses
Please take care when washing yourself or your belongings. Detergents, toothpaste and soap (even biodegradable ones) harm fish and water-life. Instead of washing in creeks or lakes use a container well away from the water. When finished, spread the washing water and food scraps away from creeks or lakes so that it can filter through the soil before returning to the stream. Some people use hot water, gritty sand and a scourer instead of soap to clean billies and dishes.
Compared to campfires fuel stoves are much quicker and easier to use, especially in wet weather - and they don't leave unsightly, long lasting scars. Collecting firewood disturbs and destroys the habitat of many of the Alps' tiny plants and animals. In alpine areas where the growing season is very short, plants are very slow to recover.
Remember to place your stove or hot pots on hard surfaces, as plants can be easily damaged by the heat. Do not light fires above or near the tree line and check for:
- Local ‘fuel stove only' areas and other fire restrictions,
- Total fire ban days (includes fuel stoves)
If you must have a fire use an existing fire place and keep it small. Always ensure it is out before you leave. Use water not soil to put out your fire and always check the coals are completely cold.
Escaped campfires have led to disastrous bushfires.
Huts are for temporary shelter only
- Enjoy visiting the huts, but do not use them for overnight accommodation as their cultural values can easily be destroyed. In Victoria some huts are not available for public use.
- Leave the hut as you would like to find it. If you must use the fireplace, check the fire is out, and close the door and windows securely.
- Don't leave emergency food stores in the hut, they clutter up the hut and encourage rats.
Keep fires small and within existing fireplaces
- If you must have a fire, never leave it unattended and ensure it is out before leaving. If you need to light a fire to keep warm, make sure you keep it small and within an existing fireplace.
Leave the hut clean and secure
- Check the fire is out, restock dry firewood and close the door and windows securely.
- Don't leave emergency food stores in the hut, they clutter up the hut and encourage rats.
- Pack to minimise rubbish, don't take potential rubbish such as bottles, cans and excess packaging.
- Don't bury any rubbish. It is often dug out by native animals and may harm them.
Within the Australian Alps there are many sites, places and landscapes with Aboriginal and historic cultural heritage value.
These may be Aboriginal rock paintings, scar trees, artefact scatters, axe grinding grooves and pathways; or historic huts, yards, mining equipment, arboreta and border markers.
Huts in particular, were often located in areas used as camp sites by Aboriginal people. Please do not souvenir any articles or artefacts and leave the hut environs undisturbed.