The fitter and more confident I get the more I start to look further afield from the ski area backbowls, off into areas I can’t see from the ridges around my usual haunts.
Daylight savings rolls around in the last week of september in New Zealand and with the changing of seasons means more daylight hours, more time to explore. As winter days are short and I’m usually fairly slow, travelling 3-5km away from the ski hill isn’t the smartest of ideas and I try to be pretty cautious.
This particular range isn’t too far away, about a 3km slide down a gentle wide open slope to its base. It looks fairly aggressive from a distance but isn’t so bad once you are under it.
Myself and Todd went to go check both it, and the basin behind it out towards the end of september but hopes for clearing weather were just that, hopes. Thick cloud combined with a warm snowpack made for slow moving both down and up. There is nothing quite as strange as the feeling of snowboarding in white out with no horizon markers. Our terrain in NZ is almost 100% treeless alpine and the only thing that might stick out is the occasional rock or tussock.
After wallowing up a small face to about 1850m we had some lunch and waited for it to clear, a brief clearing for about 10 minutes gave us hope of riding some nice slush but after waiting for almost an hour it never happened.
The cloud socked back in again on the way home and attempting to follow the ridge line and my GPS back to the resort I took us a little bit too high up when looking for the Col back to the resort. Oops! The skin out took a little bit longer than anticipated, slowed by the poor visibility and it reminded me why I am cautious about going to more remote locations in the deep of winter.
Not easily beat we decided to try again next week. This time to beautiful blue skies and a slight freeze overnight making the travel a little easier and quicker.
The mountains going through their spring transformation, creek beds appearing, the snow pack covered with sun cups and runnels we rode down to the base of the newly named (well, our name for it) Rifle range (its got lots of chutes!) a lot faster than the previous attempt. After snapping for a few photos we started skinning up the face towards the unnamed peak 2046, We struggled our way up a rapidly warming snow pack. We got about 3/4th the way up when Todd decided he wasn’t going to push for the top. I managed to skin all the way up to enjoy the view from the top and back deeper into the Remarkables range.
After changing over I rode back down a similar line to what we had climbed. For wet, heavy un supportive snow it was quite a fun, fast ride down to the flats below. With less than great conditions we decided to head back to the ski hill. On the skin back the wind picked up at altitude bringing in some thick, dark looking lenticular clouds which made for some fantastic landscape shots of an area I’m pretty glad to call my backyard.