Gear Review : Burton Splitboard 30L Pack

I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance to try out this seasons Burton Splitboard 30L Pack by the local Burton rep and have been using it as my go to day pack so far this season.

Burton Splitboard pack in its native habitat

Burton Splitboard pack in its native habitat

Its a burly pack with quality construction which I hope can match my previous Big B packs lifespan (about 7 years!)
For a day pack it fits quite a bit of gear with dedicated pockets for your avalanche gear as well as specific pocket for hydration and goggles it ticks all the boxes for me. It even has enough room for me to fit extra gloves and beanie and an extra layer as well as my food and a small amount of emergency supplies as well as my DLSR and another lens.

The stand out feature for me is the separate lined waterproof pocket for throwing your wet skins in which even has a small drain at the bottom for excess moisture which will no doubt come in handy in the spring time!

It has vertical board carry as well as the option to carry your splitboard in touring mode however this too is vertical and not the more common A-Frame option which can be a bit of a pain but its not a huge issue for me.

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Winter rolls around again..

Its my favourite time of the year once again!

The golden brown tussock covered hillsides are once again blanketed in white contrasted with huge schist outcrops. Months of being far far too hot are replaced with shivering cold nights in my little crib (thats a small holiday house for those who don’t speak the southland dialect!) and my days are spent staring off at distant peaks mindsurfing when I should probably be working!

But its been shaping up well for winter down here with two snow events bringing the white stuff down into Queenstown and the ski areas are looking to open with plenty of lifts and trails. That doesn’t really interest me and I’ve once again decided to forgo the lift pass and focus on riding mountains that are less often visited, usually ones with horrible long approaches!

Ive managed to get out a few times, just to the usual haunts but enough talk enjoy some photographs!!

 

Adam Fleming skinning for another quick lap in Outward Bound

Adam Fleming skinning for another quick lap in Outward Bound

Brad Markey on the "saddle" between Bowen peak and Ben Lomond.

Brad Markey on the “saddle” between Bowen peak and Ben Lomond.

Brad Markey on the summit of Bowen Peak

Brad Markey on the summit of Bowen Peak

Skin tracks and sunshine

Skin tracks and sunshine

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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Better late than never…

Decent snow finally arrived towards the end of July. We had a 10-20cm dump which finally made things a bit more user-friendly in the backcountry.

Myself and Todd have been riding together for about 2 years now and we haven’t ever come across another splitboarder in the Remarks BC, not even skiers are that common. Through social media for the blog I made contact with Brad who was keen to also go riding with his own kind and not skiers.

Todd and Brad skin underneath Wye Dome (2050m)

Todd and Brad skin underneath Wye Dome (2050m)

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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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Its that time of year..

I’m a little amped. Ok, I’m completely stoked. I’m not going to lie. I love winter, I’m that weird guy that hates summer, loves snow and would live in the arctic if it meant never being too hot. I mean it’s easier to warm up than to cool down, and wearing lots of coats, are you kidding me?! I LOVE COATS. Hoodies, beanies… Enough of that… It’s that time of year when the mountains turn from dark brown schist and golden tussock into majestic snow-capped peaks. Winter even makes getting up early great. Alpenglow coating the peaks as the sun rises between them, it’s so still, so cold. We have had a bit of snow, But as the local words go “Snow in may never stays”. Incoming! Hopefully that will all change this weekend, We have our first winter storm, It looks like a good un. Snow down to near sea level, high winds, all the good stuff. But we wont know how much or how good untill it all clears a few days later. Untill then I’m going to sit at home looking at weather forecasts, studying maps. Planning My Attack.

Things Fall Apart

It’s been nearly a month since I last touched snow. And that last final hurrah of winter seems so out of place now with the 25c days, sunset at 9pm, BBQ for dinner and my garden getting taller and greener by the day.

I guess I stalled writing this post because I didn’t want to admit the season was over, when it felt like it was just getting going.

The last weekend of october is labour weekend here in New Zealand, a long weekend is always cause to celebrate. My 2 months of not working were coming to an end with a predicted return to full time work approaching fast. A southerly outbreak was forecast for the weekend and it seemed winter wanted to go out the way it came in by snowing to low levels in epic fashion. Not as big as that first big snow fall of the season but for late october I’m not going to turn my nose up at it.The trouble was temperatures had already been rising and the snow was already melting in a big way. Fresh snow on top of that usually results in core shots, and lots of them.

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A brief clearing, The Remarkables from Frankton.

The weekend was fantastic, cold, snowing briefly in Queenstown. The cloud would part to reveal the mountains wearing winter white for probably the last time this year. I was getting pretty excited.

Apparently so was everyone else in town. Monday morning dawned as clear, crisp and cold as the middle of winter and we rushed towards to the Remarkables. the drive up was extra sketchy due to the ski area being closed and the roads not being cleared but we made it up passed the halfway marker before needing to fit chains. The first misfortune of the day came when jumping out to fit chains and seeing a rock punctured through my rear wheel. After chucking on the spare tire and fitting chains we were on our way again. Now I’ll say at this point that I don’t have a 4WD or a 4×4 so I never really lost traction but ground clearance can sometimes be an issue with small Japanese station wagons. A few guys that got stuck behind me gave me a push through the worst of it and I parked up just below the bottom of Homeward bound. At least we can skin up I thought. Which was true, and most people only seemed to get  the homeward pick up.

Access roads are the new skin tracks.

Access roads are the new skin tracks.

The People with the sleds were the smart ones. But we got up fairly quickly. Although it was hard to watch sleds blast past, tracking that fresh before we had even got to the car park. I felt slightly better and slighty sympathetic when one persons sled had broken down at the base.

The backcountry procession

The backcountry procession

We pushed up towards Wye Col, hoping to enjoy some nice long runs where ever cover dictated but we foolishly didn’t bring ski crampons, I stupidly had one of those “Hey I don’t need my ice axe it’s a pow day!” moments and the crust below the 2 inches of wind scoured fresh snow towards the top of the col just felt like too much effort. I gave up and rode down as the snow seemed deeper lower down anyway.

Todd enjoying his Turns

Todd enjoying his Turns

I ended up hiking over towards a small plateau in Curvee basin, Site of the new chairlift currently being installed at the Remarkables. I hiked up a bit higher and dropped back down, getting in some nice turns. Second misfortune of the day came when I ollied, albeit very small off a blind rollover. The landing looked like fresh snow but when I tried to put my tail down it slipped out from under me and I fell in a sitting position at speed. I felt a sudden pain in my lower back before I rag dolled over a few times smashing my thighs against something below the fresh white blanket. I don’t know if it was a rock or a chunk of ice, old avalanche debris or what, All I knew is it hurt like hell. I pulled myself back up and rode down a way further to watch my girl ride down.

My girl gets some turns in

My girl gets some turns in

It hurt like hell but I kept on riding, not being that guy that lets one stack ruin his day. There is a large wind lip feature that forms most winters up there and it looked particularly rideable today so I hiked over to it without my pack to try to slash the top of the lip before dropping into the gully below. The first attempt was a bit miserable on the speed stakes so I decided it was worth a second go before we headed back to the car.

Slash to Drop Photo: Jaime Splatt

Slash to Drop Photo: Jaime Splatt

The road was still covered enough so that we could ride it all the way back to the informal trail head, filled with cars, sleds and people celebrating an awesome day up the hill.

I sat down in the boot of my car to take my boots off and realised it hurt like all hell. The drive back down wasn’t very pleasant either. The next day I decided I was in too much pain and went to the hospital to get it checked out and had an X-ray to which I was told I had fractured my Coccyx. A week later that was changed to a sprain but either way I’ve been unable to start working for the last month and have been sitting around, painfully watching the snow melt away.