Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Ski Touring 2017

 

After a wait for the conditions to come right, we were put on hold for a flight to bring us into the Plateau hut at the base of Aoraki/Mount Cook. The North West has been getting loads of snow throughout the season so we were pretty psyched to get in there and see how things were! I was particularly keen to see how things were looking on the East Face of Mount Cook & the East Ridge of Mt Dixon.

I’ll let the photos do most the talking from this trip, with a few captions here and there. Enjoy the read…

 

Me and Holly joined friends from Chamonix, Tom, Ben & Enrico for the flight into the Plateau Hut. These guys were looking at the potential for some lines around the region that Tom had viewed on his trip a few years before, most notably the huge 2000m unskied line of the Caroline Face on the SE side of Aoraki/Mount Cook. Heliworks were slightly more expensive than some of the other companies offering flights into the Cook range, but they allowed for more weight to be taken into the hut and with 4 nights planned there, we decided to extra weight will be worth it for a few more luxury items!

 

After dumping our packs & claiming a bed at the hut, we headed out to see how the conditions were doing in the range… A trip to the nearby ANZAC Peaks looked like a nice wee trip to get a feel for the area.

 

 

A wee rest back at the hut gave us a chance to tap into Tom’s knowledge of the East Face – it looked in ‘mint’ conditions which made us more psyched to get onto the face and see how things were…

 

 

An evening tour on the same day we arrived gave us a chance to watch the sunset over the West side of Mount Cook, just as the clouds started to roll in over the high alpine, signifying the start of a storm that would bring up to 50cm of snow, some pretty hefty gusts and keep us hut bound over the next 24 hours…

 

 

It was pretty essential to get your favorite book from the hut bookcase before the storm came and locked us down in the hut for the day, even getting to the toilet was a mission in itself – me and Holly braved the toilet mission together…

 

 

The day after the storm gave way to some great snow conditions, but the winds were still gusting pretty high which was limiting our objectives for the day – Mt Dixon looked brutally wind affected so that was scrapped. Me and Holly headed along the ridge between Mt Dixon and Glacier Dome and skied some of the Cols and Couloirs along the way in amazing snow conditions. The Chamonix boys took another look down Cinerama Col to find equally good conditions on the Caroline Face, but with equally high winds playing havoc to the snow up high…

 

 

We got back to a pretty busy hut with Manu, our friend from Europe jumping in a flight up to meet us to make the most of a weather window for the East Face of Mount Cook and 3 others looking a skiing the East Face on the next day. We all decided to join together in setting a bootpack up the 1500m climb up the face in what will inevitably be fresh snow. 00:00 alarms were set for a 01:00 departure…

 

 

After joining the Chamonix boys on the initial skin up the ramp to the East Face, we said goodbye to them and set up over the ‘shrund. We decided to pitch the ‘shrund & as a group of 6 this wasted a lot of much needed time…

 

 

After getting up through the entrance couloir and onto the face, we were finding that we were just punching through a thick breakable crust with loads of sugary pow below, making the going slow and a pretty worrying ski down… Once onto the face, we checked our clocks and looked up at what looked to be more brutal breakable crust and decided to turn around and downclimb what we’d just climbed up before the morning sun started to cook (excuse the pun) the seracs above us…

 

Thanks to Manu Nadler for the next few photos of me and Holly.

 

 

 

Even though we were gutted to be turning around on a line that we’d be looking at even before we flew out to New Zealand, the sunrise made it all more than worthwhile…

 

 

 

Getting back to the hut, we made plans to get away from the Plateau Hut and get further into the National Park, hopefully giving us some more choices for some ski lines if conditions allowed. We packed up and planned a descent down the Freshfield Glacier which would allow us to ‘skip’ across the Moraine and join the ice of the Tasman Glacier to then start our ascent up to the Tasman Saddle Hut – big day!

 

Manu planned to stay and make another go at skiing the East face on the next day. He found some great conditions on the face and managed to ski the whole thing – good on him!

 

 

After an awesome descent down the Freshfield, we always knew that the Moraine would need to be crossed to reach the ice of the Tasman Glacier – the longest glacier in New Zealand. Bring on the 3-hour war with the Moraine!

 

 

Reaching the wet section of the Tasman Glacier was a welcome relief, allowing us to get our skis & boots off our pack and begin skinning…

 

 

I think this below photo leads back to the days when the Ski Planes lacked enough power to get height up the Tasman Glacier. They would require a tow up the glacier to then turn around & fly downhill to gain enough speed for a take-off – don’t quote me on that though! Scrambled Ranfurly Glacier behind…

 

 

Holly’s enthusiasm towards the tour to the Tasman Saddle Hut kept dropping the closer we got to the hut, after the Moraine downclimb, falling through a little slot in the ice, long flat touring, losing the sun & running out of Haribo! We finally reached the Tasman Saddle Hut at 21:00…

 

 

Reaching the Tasman Saddle at 21:00, we were a little worried about waking up the current residents, but luckily we bumped into a few friends of friends from back in Scotland and France and had a good chat well into the night – small world eh?! With an incoming weather front looking to spoil all the fine days we’d been treated to, we planned to ski all the way down the Tasman Glacier to then begin war with the Moraine again to reach the Ball Hut path, but the guys had already arranged a backflight out from Darwin Corner the next morning – there was no way that Holly was going to walk out down the glacier after hearing that there were 2 reduced price seats left on the flight out – Scots are always after a bargain!

 

 

A wee ski down to Darwin Corner saw us hop on a flight back to Mount Cook Village (after a slight delay) & a much-needed beer, shower & shave – I had no real preference what order they came in!

 

 

Finally going back to civilization, hurrah!

 

New Zealand Ski Touring, 20th – 22nd October Macaulay Hut & Mt Ross (Two Thumb Range)

Both me and Holly manage to get a good look at the south face of Mt Ross from the Roundhill access road and both instantly knew that we wanted to ski it. After taking a quick walk up the Macaulay Valley, we saw that conditions were pretty good, with a snowline of 1200m on southerly aspects.

 

We packed our van and left it just before the first Macaulay Ford – this 4×4 is 18km & said to take 5 hours. We had heavy packs with skis, ski boots & food for 2 nights & we completed it in 5 hours so I’m sure if you have less kit, you could do it in a much quicker time.

 

After stashing our skis and ski boots at the base of the access valley to Mt Ross, we headed to the Macaulay Hut, just a 4.5km walk away on flat ground.

 

The Macaulay Hut is an amazing hut with solar-powered lights, gas stoves, a wood fire oven and a fire itself – 5* accommodation in terms of New Zealand backcountry huts and at $10 per night, an absolute steal!

 

Mt Ross can be both accessed easily by the Stoney Stream Hut & the Macaulay Hut but with the luxuries at the Macaulay, the choice was obvious 😉 With a 1 hour 15 min walk we reached the base of the valley that leads to Mt Ross and got our ski boots on and skis on our packs for the quick romp up to the snowline. Once at the snowline, we started to gain height pretty fast and found that the sun was absolutely baking the snow in what felt like full-on summer conditions – time to get shifting.

 

After climbing to the summit, we decided to downclimb the steep initial 100m of the south face to avoid and wet slides as the sun was cooking all the snow & we were beginning to see the old roller-balls falling on the east facing aspects. The snow was pretty wet and heavy on the initial 300m of descent and then actually began to get a lot better as we began to find the more sheltered aspects & we enjoyed 1000m of descent – not bad for this time of year!

 

 

Macaulay Hut Day Trip 16th October

We took a quick day trip to the Macaulay Hut to check how conditions were doing on a peak that we wanted to ski (Mt Ross) over the next few days & check that the rivers were still crossable with all this snowmelt. Here are a few pictures showing the conditions.

 

New Zealand Ski Touring Conditions 12/10/17 (Two Thumb Range)

We’ve just spent a couple of days camping up at the high road of Mount Dobson Ski Area for some touring outside of the closed resort. This gave us a great headstart for some objectives further away from the resort, they’ve still got an amazing base up there – giving you ~600m of descent if you wish to push it to the end of the snowline.

Cheers to the guys at Dobson for giving us access to their road and letting us stay up high at the base.

 

I plan on updating this post ASAP, I’m just away from a strong connection right now, so just getting a few pictures and a description up quickly!

 

 

New Zealand Ski Touring Conditions 09/10/17 (Brewster Hut)

 

Just back from a nice trip up to the Brewster Hut. We headed up Mt Armstrong on the 1st day, giving us some nice snow back down to the hut. We had planned to ski Mt Brewster on the 2nd day but the clouds rolled through and rain came down.

There is a great path all the way up to the hut, which can be done in around 3 hours (a little tricker with skis and ski boots on your pack!). The path ascends 1000m in 2.5km so it’s pretty steep in places, requiring some root scrambling techniques to be used!

The ascent to Mt Armstrong is straight forward, giving you an amazing 360-degree view of the region and across to the west coast. The skin across from the hut to the Brewster Glacier can be sketchy in high avalanche conditions, so condition ascending Armstrong first to gain your height, allowing you to ski from Armstrong down to the Brewster Glacier without spending too much time on the North facing traverse slope which gets cooked by the sun early on and throughout the day.

 

I plan on updating this post ASAP, I’m just away from a strong connection right now, so just getting a few pictures and a description up quickly!

New Zealand Ski Touring Conditions 06/10/17 (Homestead Peak)

After a wee warm up using the high road & touring at Treble Cone, we headed to the end of the road to try a 1 day mission up Homestead Peak.

 

With a nice romp up to the upper lookout on the Rob Roy Glacier track, we left the path and started the bushwack, reaching the snowline at 1200m allowing us to don our skins and head up to the glacier. We only made it to the col of Homestead Peak at 1900m before we decided to turnaround at 13:00 due to the poor weather approaching – still a big one day mission getting back to the car at 18:00, was good to be moving all day long!

 

I plan on updating this post ASAP, I’m just away from a strong connection right now, so just getting a few pictures and a description up quickly!

 

Remarkables Backcountry Ski Conditions 05/08/17 (Doolans, Alta Chutes & Grand Couloir)

Productive day up the hill today, getting straight into things with a hike up to the weather station & the top of the Alta Chutes from  Shadow. We went for a quick blast down Diangulator which gave some pretty good skiing – I’d never skied this before so it was good to get to see a new part of the Remarkables.

 

We then shot straight over towards the base of Grand Couloir on Double Cone, where we took our skis off and booted straight up the couloir – we were keen to move fast as it was so warm on this North(ish?) face. The snow was clearly transforming from the strong sun, but we weren’t worried about it too much as there wasn’t much boot penetration & a nice frozen base underneath the initial 5cm of corn.

 

I’d love to be able to ski Grand Couloir from the summit of Double Cone, but I’m afraid that the Remarks will need some more snow before that is possible. We stopped at the col at the top of Grand Couloir to get our skis on & took a nice wee slot lookers left of the top cliff band to get through – the direct line would be possible if you’re into hucking things. The top section of the couloir gave some really nice skiing, it was good to feel that exposure under my feet again when putting in some turns above the cliff band. After you have crossed the cliff band, the couloir opens out nicely, allowing you to let the skis run a little more.

 

Jeremy had to be back to work after Grand Couloir, so I went for a quick lap down Wye Creek and into the Doolans and back up out to Helicopter Ridge (final 3 photos in below gallery). After spending a little more time skiing around Alta Lake, I’ve got a few more lines on my list to get skied – heaps of nice lines in that area 🙂

 

 

 

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