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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.