Monday, September 29, 2008

Bealey Face- Mt Rolleston

The above photo is of the Bealey Face of Mt Rolleston's Low Peak (2212m), which I skied in October 2006. I climbed and skied the Chockstone Route, which according to the Arthur's Pass Guide Book is a grade 2+ (1+ in summer). It was a good day out, taking about 6hrs for C-S-C and I even seen Stew who I now work with at Cheeseman on top of Low Peak. I had spent the winter up at Temple Basin (were this photo was taken from) and would pull my curtains every morning to the above view. I have hear of one other fellow skiing the Bealey Face, but by the far more impressive couloir to the lookers left of the Chockstone. I believe some others have skied the top part of the Bealey Face, but then climbed back up and onto Low Peak, but I could be wrong?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Skiing The Storm

Was storming today up here in the Craigieburns, with gale winds first thing this morning. I drove down the Cheeseman access road to pick up a sign that had been snapped off by the gale force winds earlier in the week and noticed "The Monster" looking in pretty good condition still. The Monster is a monster of an avalanche path that cuts across the access road. During the bigger storm cycles this winter The Monster ran big a few times, covering the road in 3+ meters of snow. I had only skied this line during avalanche control routes and was keen to ski it for fun at least once this winter. By 1pm the wind had dropped off and the forecast southerly started to deposit some new snow. It had felt like ages since we had skied during a storm, so Jane and I figured we may as well check it out.
Jane booting up Scree, I mean Sunny Face Me ripping skins at the top

We started off skinning then quickly started booting up Sunny Face. We were able to ski easily into The Monster and apart from a few tight, thin spots the skiing was really good. There was only about 5-8cm of new snow, but soft spring snow underneath made for fun skiing.

Me making turns on THE MONSTER!!

No ski tour in NZ is complete without at least a little tussock/rock hoping

We then walked up the road back to the lodges and Jane headed in to start on dinner for the guests and I skinned up for another lap. I headed up to Elephant Holes, at the base of Cockayne to see how Gideon and his alpine skills group were getting on snow caving.

Gideon working on his new home

I then headed over to the A Basin chutes for some great turns.

"The friendly, fun, family alpine experience" Cheeseman doesn't want you to know about- Looking down A Basin Chutes.

I then finished up by skiing Gun Barrel, which to my surprise was really good! All up about 1hr45, 500-600m vert day, skiing the storm.

We have about 10-15cm up here now and tomorrow looks like it gonna be a good one, hope to see you here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mt Wall-Tick

Got back out to Cheeseman yesterday just in time to catch a ride up the Main T-Bar right at 4pm. I then skinned to the top of Cockayne. The sun was still high in the sky and and knew that I would have lots of time still to make it to one of my main objectives of the winter- Mt Wall.
Mt Wall's S-SW face jumps out at you when you look north while standing on the deck of the Cheeseman day lodge and has an assortment of steep, rock lined lines coming off its west and southeast ridges, with a few lines leading directly off its summit. During the winter there were many options off the summit, but now with spring setting in and the snow getting thin there's really only one option to ski south from the summit, the big, main couloir.
From the top of Cockayne it was a mixture of skiing, scree running and skating to the base of this main south face couloir.
Above: Mt Wall's main S facing line

I had a pretty good view of Mt Rolleston's Crow face and some other lines I hope to ski one day. I put skis on my back, crampons on my feet and had the MCX 820 axe in hand for the boot up the line. I was worried that the sun may have been on the line for too long, but it was still in great condition. The skiers right side was shaded and still pretty firm and the other side nice and soft. It took about 20 mins to boot to the summit and I was there at about 5:10pm. I took in the view, snapped a few photos and started heading down. I couldn't actually ski right off the summit due to a lack of snow and started my descent about 1m below the summit. As I dropped into the main south couloir I knew it was gonna be good, the snow was soft and the line not as steep as it looks from Cheeseman, making it a really fun run. The biggest hazard was from fallen rocks that were melted into the snow like little land mines I had to keep avoiding.

Yippee-Me on top of Mt Wall

The view as I dropped in

I skied as far down as I could and then started walking. This was almost more interesting than being up high as I got to see all the destruction of the huge avalanches that rumbled off Mt Wall and the surrounding basins during the winter. It was pretty impressive to see trees snapped and there was even avalanche debris still around at 1000m elevation.

Avalanche debris and broken trees- a sign of the big avalanche cycles we had during the winter

It was a bit of a trek out and I got to the Cheeseman base area just on dark. Pretty happy to have skied that line as it's one I (and many others I think) have had my eye on for a while now.

MCX 820 Axe- Worked great! Probably could have gotten away with a less burly axe (maybe even just whipit poles), but it was good to get out and use it. The extra length to what I'm used to made it much easier and I played around a little cutting steps and self arresting. Nothing mind blowing, no "wow!", just what you'd expect from an axe of this quality.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Simond 820 MXC Axe

A bit like Xmas today with a Simond ice axe arriving in the post from Glenn at iclimb. I'm pretty lucky to say the least with Glenn sending me a Metallic 820 MXC axe to play with this spring. I'm pretty excited, we have a big snow pack, the snow should be around for a while and I hope to get some fun skiing in this spring. As with any job, you have to have the right tools for the job and the 820 MXC will definitely be the tool for some of the steeper, more technical lines I hope to ski this spring. Simond has been around since 1860 and being from Chamonix my guess is they know a thing or 2 on how to make a good axe. Taken from iclimb- "Simond's premier mountaineering axe with a one piece hot forged stainless steel head and pick","entire axe is bomber, T-rated", "it is sooo beautifully crafted". My experience with "real mountaineering" is limited, almost all the climbing I have done has been with ski's on my back and with a shorter, lighter axe in hand than the 820MXC, so the weight (still light for this type of axe at 550gr) and 60cm length will take some getting use to. Best be getting of my PC and in to the hill so I can give you a real review!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mt Temple Ski Descent

Been playing around with a video editing/ movie making programme I downloaded and put this short video of Jane skiing the main SW couloir off Mt Temple (1913m, in APNP) in July 2007. Last winter was a bit of a shocker and as a result we had plenty of free time up at Temple Basin to ski on what little snow there was. Jane, Damien and I climbed and skied Temple Peak in less than ideal conditions, what little snow there was, was of good quality but it lacked any real base and was variable. We would break through on all most every turn and once we got under Temple Buttress we even walked down in spots cause there was so little snow. Still, can't complain, its the first and only time I've skied Temple Peak and it was a fun little outing. This editing program is a free demo and as a result has the "water mark" in the center. I'm gonna play around a little more and might spend some money on it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ah, spring time............

Its been a terrible few days in the Craigieburns with 100km/h + winds and the freezing level jumping up and down between 1400m to 0ver 3000m. There's also been a little precipitation thrown in the mix. After a few closed days (running T-bar lifts don't work so well in gale force winds) up at Cheeseman the cabin fever started to set in and Jane and I got out for a skin to the top of the Ridge T, about 300m vertical. The ski down was pretty average, but fun all the same. The snow had set up very icy and hard (which we really needed) and about 3-5cm of new snow had blown in to the hollows. I call the following short vid "A windy icy ski". You might want to turn your volume down a little.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mt Cook Trip Spring 2006

The first and only time I have been into Mt Cook National Park was in the spring of 2006, with 3 friends from the US, Andrew, Steve and Chris. Chris has been on a heap of trips with Teton Gravity Research as a still photographer, with Andrew and Steve being very accomplished ski mountaineers, both in racing and steep ski mountaineering. All 3 have skied the Grand Teton in Wyoming and Chris and Andrew have skied Denali in Alaska. Then there was me, a guy from Southland who had been skiing since 2003.................
I think I managed to squirm my way onto this trip because I had a car, and it was a pretty sweet ride, a 1987 Subaru Leone, 4wd and red, so they knew it was fast. Also I think they needed a translator to help them with words and phrases such as "sweet as", "chilly bin" and "fine with gales about the tops".

"I think I see Mt Cook in the distance", "nice doggy" Andrew and Steve trying to fit in at Lake Tekapo

The trip started off well, we stopped in Temuka at my Granny's for a cup of tea and some scones and then checked out the sights in Tekapo. We then got to spend a magical week in Mt Cook village, that included getting a reality check and waiting out the weather. Our little reality check came in the form of a nasty little wet slide while attempting a line on Mt Wakefield which took both Steve and Chris for a wee ride.

"have you seen my pole?!" Steve and Andrew assist Chris looking for his pole

Walking up the Tasman towards Ball shelter.

There was talk of the Caroline Face, and the Bowie Couloir on Mt Cook but in the end we headed to the Tasman Saddle hut where we felt we would have more options with the fickle spring weather and snow conditions. I guess in the end the weather and funky snow conditions got the better of us. If the snow wasn't wind blown, ice hard corrugated iron, it was 50cm of new wet snow sliding on the corrugated iron.........
Andrew and Steve ski a line close to Kelman Hut, while Chris snaps a few shots (while I do the "over the shoulder shot").
We got to see some big, big avalanches, enjoyed some sun downers on the Tasman Saddle hut deck looking out on Mt Cook, read a few books and even made a few turns.

Steve not only made some turns in NZ, he also did this sweet jump on the avalanche shaped half pipe on the Tasman glacier

Andrew getting ready to drop a little coulior just off the Tasman Glacier

Looking unlikely this spring, but I can't wait to get back down to Mt Cook National Park.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shot of the Day- Bealey Spur Hut

This is a shot of the Bealey Spur Hut taken in late June 2006. As you'll probably remember 2006 was a pretty good winter (much like 2008!) and started with a bang in June with a huge snow fall on the east coast. Some of the southerly snow made it west and Jane and I got to make the most of it by skinning into the Bealey Hut (1230m)for a night and then skiing the next day on the piont 1545m behind the hut.

Monday, September 15, 2008


The above photo is of all the gear I took with me on the Craigieburn traverse that Kath, Duncan, Jane and I did last Saturday. I try to travel light, especially for a trip like this. I think that I have a pretty good handle on my gear and what works for me, what I need and more importantly what I don't. The one thing that I did take, that I didn't use and could have left at home were my crampons. They are pretty light aluminium ones so it wasn't too big of a deal. Other things I took but didn't use were my transceiver, shovel, probe, 1st aid/emergency kit, head lamp, foam pad, shell pants and jacket. These items are all safety/emergency things that I always carry. What I carried: Dynafit 167cm Gasherbrum skis w/TLT speed bindings, TLT Lite 4 boots, mohair skin's, 135cm race poles, Dynafit RC20 pack, helmet, Julbo Race sunnies (no case), a borrowed Sunnto Alitamax watch, Buff x2, transceiver, shovel, probe, 1st aid/emergency kit, head lamp, foam pad, shell pants and jacket (super light from Texner), aluminium C.A.M.P crampons, light weight GorTex/soft shell/mesh jacket, spare soft shell gloves. Food: 1.7L of sports type drink (drink bottle and bladder), Nature's Valley bars x5, Gu x2, OSM x1, bagel with cream cheese split with Jane. Clothes worn: A base layer, lycra/soft shell/mesh pants and soft shell hooded jacket, fleece wind stopper gloves. So what do you think? Was I carrying too much? Or maybe not enough? What would you carry on a similar trip? Leave a comment and let me know.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Craigiegurn Traverse Videos

I took 2 short videos yesterday as well as some photos. I haven't really any fancy editing programs (or know how) but decide to post these all the same.

First one is of use climbing towards Mt Izard (2019m) and the 2nd of Jane skiing Izard.

Craigieburn Traverse

Had a great day yesterday traversing from Craigieburn Valley to Porters. It was icy and firm down low, with a dusting of new snow up high until the day heated up and things softened. Travel was easy going and the cool NW breeze kept it from getting too hot.
Above is a map showing our route over the Craigieburn Range. Sorry it's a bit small. Duncan, Jane and Kath during the first climb towards Hamilton Peak
Duncan skiing off Hamiltion Peak with Enys in the distance
Me climbing towards the top of Yukon's Bowl
Jane and Kath climbing out of the Ryton Valley
Duncan, Jane and Kath on the ridge between Mt Cheeseman and Mt Izard, Mt Cheeseman in the background.
Kath skiing off Mt Izard
The crew on the top of Mt Enys

Jane watching on as Duncan and Kath ski off Enys

All up it we climbed 2495 vertical meters, skied 2420m, made up of 12 laps and took 7hr27mins. The break down- Base of CV-1265m- 7:28am Hamilton Peak-1922m-8:40am Nervous Knob- 1820m- 8:54am Top Yukon's Bowl-1884m- 9:23am Mt Cockayne- 1874m- 10:05am Mt Cheeseman- 2031m- 10:27am Mt Izard- 2019m- 11:45am Mt Cloudsey- 2107m- 12:37am Mt Enys- 2194m- 1:29pm Uli's Roll- 1997m- 2:39pm Bottom Porters- 1300m- 2:54pm

I'd love to take my race gear out on this trip, maybe start from Grasmere and do some more skiing along the way some time. Maybe during the week if the weather is good?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Not to much in..................

Not to much in the blogging front for the last week. I was pretty busy late last week with the CraigieBURNER. I was organising and it was pretty stressful with all the new snow (about 40cm at Craigieburn), but we did manage to get a race, so that was good. I did a race report on the CraigieBURNER blog.
We did a bit of a tour the next day. It ended up a bit of a cluster and I learnt some good lessons. We had a big group and things got interesting when we got on a slope that was a little iffy. I think with the big group we all got a little complacent.
Been working a heap, as well as trying to spend my income for the next 20-30yrs.
Days off this weekend and the weathers looking OK. If things fall into place I think there will be some skiing do. Maybe speed climb or 2............

Alexis making turn's last Sunday

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shot Of The Day- Winters Back!

Winters back with over 25cm of new snow falling in the Craigieburn range in the last 24hrs.
This is a photo taken around 11am this morning at Cheeseman.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sunday Ski Tour at Ohau

After the Back Country Blast prize giving on Saturday night we made a plan with anyone that was remotely interested to meet up at the Ohau base area around 10am the next morning for a tour south of Mt Sutton.
Jane leading the 12+ strong group on the climb back up to Ohau
One of my best experiences from racing in the US and Europe is by far how many people I have met and gone touring with after the races I've done and this was one of the motivating factors behind me starting the race series- trying to create a "Fun gathering of the backcountry community"!
I feel like this past Sunday after the race that finally happened with a big crew turning out for the tour.
Jane and Jamie, with Mt Sutton in the background
A few were feeling the effects of the day (night?) before and made the most of Ohau single lift past, while others skinned from the base area, we then all met on the ridge, similar to the top of the 2nd climb from the day before. We headed over towards the top of Dumb-Bell Lake, but decided that the sunny aspect towards the west would be better skiing than dropping into Dumb-Bell itself.

Jamie with a free mind in the spring corn snow

We timed it great and the skiing was smooth, creamy corn! I was out on my 167cm Dynafit Gasherbrum II ski's and TLT Lite boots for I think only the 2nd time. I got them as my spring touring set up so it was nice to be on a set up that skis better than my race gear, but still not super heavy. We skied down about 500vert meters and it was a easy skin back out, with the spring snow not too soft and the skin track going in nicely.

Me admiring the view towards Mt Cook Jane and I then headed back to Ohau for the drive back to Cheeseman.

Jane skiing back into Ohau

CraigieBurner this weekend, I'll be organising and am looking forward to seeing people suffer!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Back Country Blast Ski Mountaineering Race

I travelled down to Ohau this weekend for the Black Diamond Back Country Blast Ski Mountaineering Race. Last year I organised this event and we had a hard time of it, with a thin snow pack and white out conditions that rolled in just after the start of the race. Thankfully this year I was there as a competitor, which made for a much more relaxing time. This was only my 2nd race in NZ, with Rainbow being the 1st!The Start There was a good turn out and the weather was great, clear skies and a light breeze to keep it from being too hot. The race started on the main groomed run and then turned sharp towards Powder Bank and then a short ski back to the up-track. We then skinned and boot packed to the ridge, before skiing about 300m down. Then it was a final climb up to Mt Sutton and a mixture of spring snow and "coral reef" on the ski to the finish.Jane skinning along the ridge top of the 2nd climb
I was pretty happy with my 1st place result and it felt great to really hammer out the 800-900m course in around 50mins. The clever little Suunto on my wrist told me that I was climbing over 22m a min during the first climb. Most of all it was just nice to finally be racing here in NZ!

My dad, Gus, looking the part with his big sunnies and Sorels on

I also got to catch up with my parents, as well as Théo and Maël from France that are part of the All 3000m team.
Me with Maël and Théo
Thanks to Ash, Jane and my Mum for the above photos
"The skier who forsakes the lifts to climb under his own power to a mountain summit is a very different person from the downhill only piste basher and is often regarded by the latter as something of a curiosity.
But he was the creator of the sport; and possibly with him lies the future"
-Robin Fedden, The book of Europen Skiing, 1966
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