Here comes the Pow

After a couple of dismal snow events we finally got something decent. To be fair, it was better than decent. Even though it turned out to be the only solid powder day of the season for me the conditions were unbelievable. Its not very often that we get a decent snow fall, good stability, and little wind down here but this day sure delivered.

Visiting Canadian Mike “Pow” Wigley got in touch through the magic of the Interwebz and i went and picked him up with the promise of some excellent conditions. We met Todd and Brad in the lower car park and headed up to the Remarkables ski area.

After a quick blast over the top of Curvey basin and on to Jackel col we were sliding down the upper wye creek slopes towards a zone we call The Rifle Range. I had never seen decent snow on the zone i wanted to check out but the Wind direction of the storm suggested possible good snow, the topography wasn’t mellow, but not to steep to worry about slides too much. I had heard it was heli skied when the conditions were good which was always a bonus.

Heading towards the Rifle Range and over into the Doolans

Heading towards the Rifle Range and over into the Doolans

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Slow start

Well it’s winter time but up until a few weeks ago it didn’t really seem like it. Low snow pack everywhere and resorts struggling to stay open. They are lucky they have snow making!

I’ve still managed to get out for a few days on the split in the marginal conditions. We had a really early season dump of snow down to 300m above sea level in May but it was dry and warm after that. Winter has arrived in full force since but more on that later…

Where else could you be but New Zealand?

Where else could you be but New Zealand?

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If first you don’t succeed…

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.

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Odds & Sodds

I’ve done a few day missions recently which I’ll throw up here.

First is a trip out to the Pisa Range in between Wanaka and Queenstown which over looks the town of Cromwell too. It’s mostly flat, rolling terrain at a decent altitude which is mostly famous for Snowfarm, New Zealand’s only real cross-country skiing area and of course the Mighty SnowParkNZ (RIP). The range was named by J.T Thomson after the schist outcrops on the summits resemblance to the italian leaning tower.

Of course it’s not all flat and rolling and the end overlooking Cromwell is any thing but!
We spent the night at Kirtle Burn Hut and set off for the highest point of the range, Mt Pisa. The eastern edge of the range is a series of cirques with small vertical but varied terrain. The normal west to east flow of winds means the area gets huge amounts of blown snow.

Rolling terrain at sunset

Rolling terrain at sunset

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Spring

It would appear to be spring. I love spring. Its warm enough to BBQ and cold enough I can still snowboard. Freak southerly outbreaks are almost assured as soon as lambs start to be born, stable weather that lasts for weeks not days. I love winter too, but spring is my favourite season. Continue reading

Wye Not?

I was pretty tired getting home on sunday after the low altitude fun, so tired that i walked in to the house and left all my gear in the car. Not cool. An overnight low of -4°C left my wet gloves with surface hoar. So monday was a day off. Ive been trying to make the most of my current unemployment which unfortunately ends tomorrow. So something had to be done!

I decided late morning that i needed to go slide somewhere nice and mellow as I was to be on my own. Luckily behind the Remarkables ski area is a nice area called Wye Valley, its a glaciers equivalent to writing “I WOZ HERE ’93” in your desk at school. Undulating slopes, dotted with tarns with steep arêtes rising up on 3 sides, glacial horns fashioned from classic otago schist. A bit easier on the eyes than a scratched name on an old wooden desk!

After a quick skin to the col above the Alta chairlift it became apparent that it was very windy, and a lot of snow was transporting leaving patches of soft wind blown snow, etched snow, exposed melt freeze crusts. I ummed and ahhed for a minute or two whilst getting scoured by the blasting southerly winds before I decided to give it a whirl. A big +1 for the magnetraction on my new board! The snow was at least fast on the descent into the valley, I crossed over a large plateau and into the nice long natural halfpipe which leads down to the tarns, the head of Wye Creek. I snapped a few pictures of a couloir I spotted a few seasons back, it was bare when I first laid eyes on it but this time it was just asking to be ridden. Maybe when the Avalanche risk drops!

Looming above this couloir was the mighty Single cone, hidden behind its sibling Double cone when viewing the eastern face of the Remarkables from Queenstown but forming one side of the impressive Grande Couloir above Lake Alta in the Rastus Burn. It has a rather impressive southface, 300 odd metres of near vertical rock.

The couloir and Single cone

The couloir and Single cone

I fixed my crampons for the skin out in the blowing winds, skirting around tarns and climbing back up towards the col i decided to have a look over another small col with views into the Doolans. The Doolans is the 3rd major catchment at the northern end of the remarkables and home to some long and very fun runs. I was greeted by some of the best coverage ive seen since i started backcountry snowboarding a few seasons ago.

Looking across the Doolans to unnamed peak 2008.

Looking across the Doolans to unnamed peak 2008.

After reaching the col and being battered by the winds, I changed over into ride mode and descended back into the ski area via Curvee Basin for the best snow and best turns of the day, I could have stayed in the sidecountry and ridden a few laps down Curvee Basin but was glad i made the effort to tour around wye creek. It was nice to spend a few hours in complete isolation away from anyone, or anything.