Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ski Touring

Monday morning we rocked up to Aspiring Guides in Wanaka to start our tour and met the other participants – Matt from California and Jonny from Melbourne and of course our guide Stefan. We had been keeping our eye on the weather forecasts, which weren’t looking great for the next few days and thus we weren’t too surprised when the planned trip up to the glaciers on the west coast of the South Island was abandoned.

Plan B for the ski tour was to head up into the Pisa Range (further inland and more sheltered from the weather), but no glaciers. So we went through all the gear we needed and packed up for the short helicopter flight in to the Rob Rosa Huts. These are 2 small private huts with a loo with a view... which were to be our home for the next few days.
In the helicopter - Aaron's first time so he was very excited

The helicopter taking off after dropping us and our gear off at Rob Rosa Huts

Our home for 4 days - Rob Rosa Huts

Our loo with a view!

The view from the top of the valley
Once we had arrived, had lunch and sorted out our gear, we skinned up to the high ridge of the Pisa Range to explore. We got some great views down on to Wanaka and the lake and across to Mt Aspiring. The ski back down to the hut was tricky with some ice and a lot of wind crust - where we were just breaking through – and the odd patch of soft snow. Unfortunately this knocked Aaron’s confidence as he struggled with the skiing.

Tuesday the weather was pretty cloudy with flat light. We had a slow morning in the hope that the a conditions would improve, but mid morning we set off to the top of the ridge and skinned up to the top of Mt Pisa, then down to the Kirtle Burn Hut for a late lunch before returning. It was icy. Both skinning up and skiing down were hard. The weather cleared enough for the helicopter to find the huts and we were joined by another guide – Whitney and a client Alex (a mad Belarussian from New York).

Kirtle Burn Hut

On Wednesday the weather finally came to the party and after a small dusting of snow on Tuesday night we had a glorious clear day and we skied down from the top into several different bowls along the ridge, making the first tracks in the fresh snow. This is what we came for!!

Aaron's turns in the snow

Skinning up

Skiing down
The nice weather window was short lived and Thursday the weather closed in again. We decided that rather than sit around in the hut all day we would head out, skiing down the valley and hiking up and over into the Kirtle Burn. We then headed down the track to the Snow Farm, until the snow ran out and we had to hike the last 4 km out. It started snowing heavily just as we got to the Snow Farm carpark, where we got picked up and taken back to Wanaka for the evening.

Early start gave us a stunning sunrise

Friday was the last day of the tour and we headed up to Cardrona Ski Field (officially closed for the season the weekend before). We skinned up behind the ski field to the top of Mt Cardrona.  The conditions were pretty good with soft fresh snow over spring corn snow, and we did several runs down the bowls either side. This is the snow we had hoped for when we booked a spring ski tour.
Helen standing on the top of Mt Cardrona

On Friday Aaron had had enough of skiing, so he went for a walk up Isthmus Peak between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.

So the ski tour wasn’t quite what we had hoped for as we didn’t get to go up on to the glaciers. We did get a few days of good skiing in and we brushed up and practised some of the essential mountain skills; using avalanche transceivers, self arresting with an ice axe, roping up to walk on a glacier and making snow anchors to rescue people out of crevasses. And we met some nice (slightly crazy) people....

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