Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Noel Oien

Most have already heard now, but a good friend Noel Oien was found dead after a climbing accident on Thursday in APNP. Here's a story that was in The Press for those who haven't read it.
Below are a few photos that I found of Noel last night. These are all of skiing. I know that skiing was just a small part of Noel's life, but it was the part that I was most involved in and one of the ways I will remember him the most.
Pre race, Temple 2007
Booting up Upper Leap In, Temple race 07
Noel on Lyell Peak with Avalanche Peak (right) and Rolleston (left), spring '07
Noel testing out a new "Speed Stance", Temple '08
Turoa race, '07. Despite the white out, Noel finished 3rd at this race!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Simond Axe and Crampons

Sorting the new toys
Had a nice little package arrive from Glenn at iclimb.co.nz last week containing a nice shiny pair of aluminium crampons and ice axe. I was pretty stoked as they arrived just in time for the little speed mission up the Otira Slide. I could have packed a lighter pair of crampons, the CAMP ones I use when racing, but unlike a race where an established boot pack and fixed lines exist (sometimes even a nice guide to pull you up the really hard bits) I wanted a pair of spikes on my feet that I knew wouldn’t bend and break at the first glimpse of harder snow or rocks. The Simond Caiman alloy crampons are still very light at 720 grams (with their antiballing plates attached) but do offer a bit of beef that may be required. I used to think of my CAMP crampons as toys, but not so with the Caiman Alloys. They fit well with my XP carbon boots, and are extremely snug on my regular Dynafit 4 Lite ski mountaineering boots. The one thing I wasn’t sure about at first was the strap, which is a thread through 2 rings system. My mate had this system jam up on him which seemed to take forever to undo, but Simond has added a quick release by way of a small loop of cord, which works great. Now I could feed you a few paragraphs on the Simond Ocelot Hyperlight axe, but the truth is it stayed on my pack last weekend, so I don’t know a lot about it yet. Its a pretty turquoise colour. The one good thing I did notice about the axe on the trip up Low Peak was that I didn’t notice it at all. Its small and light, 50cm and 345gr which makes it the perfect axe for climbing in the 1+/2 range, when more often than not you’ll get away with your ski poles and the axe will stay on you pack, but you still want to carry an axe “just in case”. Hope to get up Low peak again today with Jane and will put it through its paces then.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rain and Manaslu

Arthur's Pass Web Cam

Sitting around in Arthur's Pass today, trying to stay dry as the forecast of "Fine and cloudy periods" has turned into steady rain. This has put a halt to Lukas and I heading up the Otira Valley again, this time with some steep skiing in mined (minus the Lycra). Instead we will study the line's on Google earth.

Below is a short promo video of Dynafit sponsored trip to Manaslu in 2007. Dynafit athlets Benedikt Böhm, Sebastian Haag and Nicolas Bonnet made a speed attempt on the 8163m Manaslu. Both Böhm and Hagg have climbed and skied 7456m Mustagh Ata (China) in 10hr41min and Gasherbrum II in 17hr.

In France this winter I had the pleasure of meeting Böhm and Bonnet and was invited on the 2008 attempt of Manaslu. I declined for a few reasons, but I gather the trip, unfortunately, didn't go ahead anyway.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Mt Rolleston Low Peak Speed Ascent

It has been a goal of mine for a while now to do a speed climb up the Otira Slide to Mt Rolleston's Low Peak and yesterday things finaly fell into place. During the week, after Martin returned to Switzerland, Lukas and I had been at Cheeseman, getting some good skiing in, with a nice 2000m vert day and some great spring snow, skiing down to 1300m elevation a few times. The weather was looking good for Sunday and Lukas got pretty pumped when I told him about the trip. The whole "speed climb" thing its pretty European and I got pretty inspired for this trip after talking with Pierre Gignoux, who with Stéphane Brosse climbed from Chamonix to Mt Blanc and skied back down in 5hrs15mins! Now, climbing Low Peak isn't quite on that same level (not even close really!), but I'm working with what I've got (and I aren't talking about the mountains- my fitness level). Preparation went well, as we carbo loaded while Lukas watched his first game of rugby in the Pub in Arthur's Pass. We arrived at the car park on Hwy73 just before 7am and we were away running just after. Good progress was made over the rough track and after 35 mins we took skis off our packs and slipped into our ski boots. The low angled apron leading towards the Slide was firm and made for fast skinning until the pitch steepened and we donned crampons. At this point I was thinking we would be lucky to summit within 2hrs (Graeme Kate's fastest time) as we had been going for around 1hr and still had over 500m vert of the steeper terrain left to go.
2 tiny dots racing up to Low Peak
Lukas, as always, set a fast pace booting up and I scurried to stay close and was surprised how fast we ate up the vert. As we reached the summit my watch read 8:46am- 1hr40min! Stoked!
We were in full race mode, skis, boots, even the silly race suits (like I said this is very Euro, so the suit is a must), so we spent just a minute or 2 on the summit, I don't even think I looked at the view, and we we off.
On skinny race skis, and with tired legs the pitch felt steeper than I remembered. It was firm and littered with golf ball sized chunks of hard snow. The power slide was in full effect in the upper sections, before finding smoother snow and opening it up a little.
The start of the run back down the Otira Valley
We were back at our running shoes in less than 10 mins where I had stashed some watered down coke. We changed back to running shoes, chugged the coke and were away running again. The down hill run felt good and we made good time, arriving back at the Cheapa Campa at 9:23am.
2hr17min round trip, so pretty happy.
Myself and Lukas back at the parking lot
By Popular Demand-
One of the home viewers has asked to get a run down on the gear used (sorry no photo this time Tim).
-Dynafit SR8.0 skis w/ TLT Low Tech, Coltex mohair skins, XP carbon boots, helmet (w/goggles), Buffx2, fleece gloves, Salomon XT Wings running shoes, 20l race pack carrying- light weight shell jacket and pants, Simond Caiman alloy crampons, Simond Ocelot Hyperlight axe, light weight soft shell jacket, first aid kit, steel shove, probe, 700ml water, 1 Peak Fuel, shell mitts. And yes, that ridicules race suit!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Swiss Army Knife

It has been an interesting few days since my last post........ On Thursday I headed out with Lukas and Martin from Cheeseman. The was about 20cm of new, wintry snow and we skied about 1200m vert in the am, had a rest and then another 800m vert in the pm. Was a great day, with every turn being fresh, but needless to say, I was pretty beat by the end of this as I have not been doing a lot lately.

Swiss quality training in NZ

Jane had just put a roast dinner in the oven and Martin was trimming some plastic off his boots, when his Swiss army knife slipped and cut across the top of his knuckle, almost cut his tendon in 2. Martin and I jumped in the car and sped off to Chch A&E. We got out of A&E about 11.15pm with instructions to return tomorrow morning for the hand to be operated on. Long story short, Martin had to wait about 40hrs until his tendon was back in one piece and he know has to decide weather he'll stay in NZ for the next 7 weeks of return home to Switzerland. The doctor (depending which one) says 4-12 weeks until he can do anything. Pretty big blow for a young guy with a big future in competitive ski mountaineering.

The "Machine" with the Machine

Lukas stayed up at Cheeseman and we did some more touring on Saturday, before and after work. Sunday was the last day for Cheeseman for the 2008 season so I am now looking for a new job for my first summer in 5 years. Lukas doing a sweet jump on his tiny race gear!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Swiss Training

Swiss national team members Martin Anthamatten and Lukas Huser turned up at Cheeseman last night and after the boys had a big sleep in (the first time in a good bed in 3 weeks) we headed out in the wind for a ski.

Martin and Lukas are extremely strong, with Martin finishing 14th and Lukas 36th (9th in espoir) in the World Champs in Champery, Switzerland. I was preparing for the worst and expecting to get my ass handed to me, but was pleasently surprized at the casual pace they trained at. The wind was howling at the ridge top and I think it was a good intro to spring skiing in NZ for the 2 young Swiss.

Pretty amusing when we got to the top and Lukas realized that his boots didn't match his bindings, meaning he had to ski with his heal free, the joys of being sponsored and having too many skis.....

The ski down was pretty nice and I was again amazed how fast the "fast guys" are able to ski on little race gear, especially Lukas with free heals!

Martin and Lukas are in NZ for 2 months preparing for the up coming races in Europe.

NI Ski Patrol intro day

If you have ever wanted to become a ski patroller, especially if you are based in the North Island, but were never sure how to get into it then your opportunity may have just arisen.
I just received a e-mail from the team at Peak Safety informing me about a clinic being run at Whakapapa for potential Ski Patrol candidates for the 2009 winter.
From Andy Hoyle, the safety services manager at Whakapapa Ski Area -"In the interests of developing a pool of potential candidates for Whakapapa Ski Patrol in 2009, we are running a clinic for people to see what patrolling is about and for us to get to know the people who are interested in patrolling. We don’t know how many new patrollers we need for next year but this clinic is one of the pre-requisites for an application"
"We are running 2 clinics in October, one on the 16th and one on the 17th. The day starts at 11am and will consist of (in no particular order)Ski and board test, Abseil off a cliff (no experience required)Skiing, Toboggans, Simulated accidents, Problem solving exercises, Debrief / Patrol meeting"
I did the MECNZ ski patrol course down in Wanaka in 2003 and are extremely happy I did so. 10 back to back winters later, most of them working as a ski patroller, I would recommend the profession highly!
For more info you can e-mail Andy- ahoyle@mtruapehu.com

Saturday, October 4, 2008

WTF Patrick Blanc-?!?.................

Patrick Blanc, the French ski mountaineering racing champion, who was arguably the greatest racer in the short history of competitive ski mountaineering has just returned a 2nd positive urine sample for EPO (3rd generation). The B sample was taken after Blanc's A sample tested positive after the Patrouille des Glaciers, long distance team world championship race in Switzerland, April 19. I think this is a real shame. While in France last winter I meet Patrick a few times and talked quite a bit to his 2 younger brothers, who were really nice, ethusatic guys. The question I am asking is why?? I could understand Patrick, after struggling with injuries and form, wanting to get back to past greatness (2x Pierra Menta, 2x PDG w/record, and 3x world champion!), but still why?? So he could win a wheel of Beaufort cheese, a cow bell from Switzerland, a new pair of ski's?!? Crazy! For me the great thing about ski mountaineering racing is how small time it really is, it's not like cycling which is littered with sponsors, drug cheats and way to much money and pressure. I had a e-mail from friend Pierre, a former Pierra Menta winner who raced against Patrick, he said it was very amazing how much Patrick improved in the last month of competition at the end of last winter after struggling just get on the French team for the world champs and struggling to find a team mate for the Pierra Menta. Sadly, it makes sense now how Patrick was able to improve so much, so quickly. I really hope this is not a sign of things to come................... More info on skimountaineering.org and Patrick Blanc's blog

Friday, October 3, 2008

Arêches-Beaufort comes to the Craigieburns

Had a great day ski touring south of Cheeseman yesterday with Jane and 3 Frenchmen, Joan, Pierre Luc and Jeremy. The french boys are from Arêches-Beaufort, the home of the Pierra Menta! The trio have been in NZ for about 3 weeks and have had some great ski touring, including Ruapehu, Remarkables, Mueller Hut area and now the Craigieburns. They even raced in the Ruapehu Ripper, with Joan just edging Gena out for the win! We started out skiing the glory lines, the chutes at the top of Tarn Basin. It's always fun skiing these as everyone (esp Stu and Ben) that gets off the Ridge T at Cheeseman is jealous when they see these getting skied.
Joan skiing one of the Tarn Basin chutes
After this we headed back to the top of Tarn and skied the mellow slope to the west of Tarn, into the Hut Stream's headwaters. Then we climbed to the summit of Mt Cheeseman (2031m).
The Frenchies deciding which line to ski
Jane headed back along the ridge to Cheeseman ski field and myself and the boys from Arêches-Beaufort skied the NW face of Mt Cheeseman into the Sth branch of Tim's Stream.
In Tim's Stream headwaters after skiing the NW face of Mt Cheeseman
We boot packed up firm snow in a N facing couloir and then along the ridge before dropping into Tarn Basin again. We joined onto our previous skin track and once on the ridge, skied back to Cheeseman ski area.
Booting along the ridge South of Tarn Basin
Thanks Jane, Joan, Pierre and Jeremy for yet another great day touring this year. Still a heap of great snow in the hills, make the most of it and get out skiing this spring!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Aoraki/Mt Cook Ski Descent Video

I stumbled upon this video of "Legend Bruce Grant one of New Zealand's pioneers of Backcountry skiing and adventure in general completes one of the first ski descents of Mt Cook" when I Googled "ski descent mt cook". I found this video on Bright Cove, its a bit like youtube. I saw the full length movie in the Aoraki DOC visitor center while waiting out the weather. From memory the movie was celebrating 100 years since the first ascent of Aoraki/Mt Cook on Christmas Day 1894 by Tom Fyfe, Jack Clarke and George Graham. Geoff Wayatt was the first person to ski Aoraki/Mt Cook in 1982 via the Lindas.
"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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