Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chilling in the South

Walking along the ridge, you can see the slopes of Treble Cone Ski Area on the far ridge
Finally I got some school holidays! So after a brief 12 hour run around the hills for the annual Heights of Winter Rogaine  Chris and I decided to head South for a week. We had heard that there was lots of white fluffy SNOW and that there were many big storms coming! We were very excited.

We headed down south on Monday in Chris's parents little Rav. The day was crystal clear and we eyed up the foothills as we drove through the paddocks leading to Ashburton and then on through to Lake Pukaki. The night was frosty cold and clear. Inches of frost coated the ground and I wandered down to the moonlit lake shore to see the gleaming peak of Aoraki looming in the darkness, with stars twinkling above.

Our cooker decided to stop working (trusty MSR of 15 solid years!) so we lit a big fire and roasted our salmon on that! As it was freezing we huddled into our 2 second pop up tent which was filled with vast quantities of down bags for a cuddly night.

In the morning there was a low mist hanging around and it was freezing. We drove through to Twizel and then on up to Lake Ohau skifield. At this point we still believed ourselves to be camera-less after Chris decided to take our great camera for a swim during TWALK earlier in the year.

As we climbed the ski road the view down to Lake Ohau was stunning, clear blue with the low mist still visible hanging around in the basin. We were in sunshine and a light dusting of Ohau snow. The Southern Alps sparkled off to our right (you'll just have to picture this scene!)

We skinned up the field on our touring skis using skins. The sun was just setting when we reached the ridgeline and a great gully descent. The snow was average - a crusty layer which one occasionally entered. But it was a fun to be on the skis anyway!

As dark fell we headed on down to Wanaka to a cool overnight camp near Wanaka (about -10). In the morning we had a little latte by the lake, then we drove on the many bends up to Waiou Snow Farm for some cross country ski action. By now we had discovered Chris's phone could actually take photos, so we got that into action.

Wonderful trails at Waiou Snow Farm

We had a great two days hooning around the trails. There wasn't much snow on the Pisa range, but the groomers had done their job well and the trails themselves were in great nick. We had fresh groomer tracks all to ourselves most of the time. We skied out to stay at Bob Lee hut overnight, and cranked up the fire even thought it was -11 so we were really cosy.
Chris is quite enthusiastic to get to the hut
Mmmmm, pancakes for breakfast!

Sun setting on perfect grooms
Pancakes were for breakfast with a view of Southern Alp for dessert.... Then we skied all day and returned pooped to the car at 5pm. We zoomed back down to Wanaka and splashed out on a $20 cabin in Glendhu bay for the night. Someone had lit the outdoor BBQ fire, so we had another 'fire warmed' outside meal. The following day - and still wondering why all this perfect weather and no big storms as predicted - we drove up to the famous Treble Cone for a ski.

Approaching the top of Cone 1 - I was still smiling because I hadn't seen the way we had to go down
Unfortunately at the moment it is really Treble Ice & Tussock. We skinned up some tricky gullies and onto the steep ridge line of the Cones. Then we had to make a rather nasty descent onto the piste, where a ski patrol guy questioned our peculiar lines. Fortunately after we explained we were just out for a 'look about' he happily let us through the barrier and into the back country.

I like climbing mountains

Chris sports the green boots on top of a rock
Some slopes were lethal and others were just brown and tussocky. I managed to slide down a slope which was like water ice on tussock. Luckily the views were stunning and our route was actually skiable from top to bottom, even if that did require significant amounts of tussock jumping.

The shadey gully we skinned back up out of. The ridge on the near peak in the sun is the one we skied down all the way into the valley. Our line looks fairly interesting when viewed from the bottom!

We skinned quickly back up the shadey valley so as not to get told off by ski patrol again (it was after 4.30) and then enjoyed freshly groomed piste back to the car.

Sweet views down to Lake Wanaka

Sadly our trip was coming to an end, but we decided to make a quick side trip to Round Hill Skifield on the way home. The round hill lived up to its name, but we did get some more great views of Sefton and Aoraki. We also discovered that Round Hill has installed a crazy rope tow which runs 780 vertical metres up a 40 degree scree slope! Not enough snow at the moment, but we will be keeping this one in mind next time there is a big dump!

Sussing out the route into the Two Thumbs from Round Hill ski field for next time....

We spent that evening in the Tekapo Hotsprings and got all warm and toasty before we climbed back into the wee green tent on the shores of Lake Tekapo. In the morning the weather was stunning, again, so I ran up Mt John while Chris ran round the Tekapa orienteering map where he is installing a permanent course. We drove home to a hot dinner and evening of Le Tour at Chris's parents place. It was a really fun start to the ski season, but I hope these storms blow in soon....we have both wet our appetites for  more!
Chris cooking porridge for breakfast in the frost with Mt John in the background