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
Brad Markey on the “saddle” between Bowen peak and Ben Lomond.
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
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.
Even though I started splitboarding a few years ago I’ve never really come across many others involved in it, its one of those things that isn’t talked about, most people don’t want to share their spots, with good reason I guess, nothing is worse than traveling out to a zone to find your objective tracked as I experienced earlier this season. That’s locally I guess and in the Queenstown area I’ve spoken to maybe 5 people tops that split. I know there are more out there, boards keep arriving in shops and keep getting sold. These people must be out there somewhere.
The local snow scene isn’t very big online here and the few people who participate can be found on various forums but it’s not very often you can meet or ride with them, which is what made a splitfest an interesting concept for me because it draws people together.
We headed up to Canterbury on a beautiful spring morning, scoping lines and mountains on the way. Enjoying the different landscapes as we passed, the tussock and schist of Otago, The wide open Mackenzie basin rising to New Zealand’s highest peaks and finally through to the Canterbury Plains famous patchwork of fields. After a quick fuel and food stop in Christchurch we headed back inland with light fading fast towards the Craigieburns and Arthur’s Pass National Park. Continue reading →
Last time i wrote was about how warm it was, that didn’t really change much for all of July. Apparently it was the 4th warmest July on record for New Zealand. Corn turns in July was common and i wasn’t quite ready for it. Luckily i was busy working for most the month.
However its gotten cold and started snowing again, not much but some is better than none. The ski hills all stated around 10cm, the perfect amount to cover up all those rocks, tussocks and exposed patches of ice. I went into a local ski shops workshop on monday night to pick up some parts and they were busy fixing a whole heap of core shots.
Myself and my lady made it up to the Remarkables and it all looked a bit grim. A crusty skin up to the ridge line revealed that the grass was greener (pow was whiter?) on the other side. Deep wind drifted snow, still dry and prime for the shredding!
We played it safe with our terrain choice today, mixed conditions sadly claimed a life the previous day so ever cautious we rode a small gentle rolling valley that was easy to lap but still fun!
Its been warm. Too Warm. 14 degrees in Queenstown and a steady stream of northerly winds have created wet heavy snow conditions in the back country. Crappy conditions combined with a stressful new job have seen splitboarding opportunities diminish.
I made it up to the Remarkables ski area for an attempt to ride wye creek but the wet heavy snow was a bit soul sucking. Snow sticking to skins and ride time so slow it wasn’t even worth the effort. Should have waxed!
Myself and my partner made it to the ridgeline only to be buffeted by strong winds and a shitty time changing over and a general retreat to the inside.
Hopefully we see some cold temps and fresh snow in the not so distant future.
In 2011 after I purchased my first splitboard (See here) I decided I should build on my basic skills for backcountry travel and I partook in a New Zealand Mountain Safety Council course about backcountry travel. Probably one of the better decisions I’ve ever made as it really boosted my confidence about getting out there after I was caught in a large avalanche while snowboarding in the backcountry near Lech am Arlberg in Austria.
The course was taught by the head of ski patrol from the Remarkables Ski area and took place in the Wye creek and Doolans areas behind the ski area. The first day out in wye creek i spotted it, Looming above us from our lunch spot. Motivation if I ever saw it.
The Couloir at the end of the south face of Single cone in 2011
I got home and a photo of it became the wallpaper on my computer. Motivation to get out there and ride it. For various reasons last year wasn’t to be the year.
After seeing it in prime condition earlier this week, I had to get out there and ride it. Everything lined up and saturday was to be the day.
My usual BC buddy Todd had seen a photo of it i put on Facebook and was keen to get involved. After a late start we were skinning up the South Wye col above Lake Alta towards single cone. Saturday was busy in the back country. A lonely snowboarder post holed away above us and when we reached the col, 3 skiers entered from the valley below. The thought crossed My mind, But I brushed it off. Upon reaching the plateau below Single cone we skinned over to where I thought we could ride down to gain entrance. Skier tracks in a similar direction, Again I brushed it off. We changed over and rode down some fantastic deep dry snow in fun, gully style terrain with banks to slash and rocks to pop off, the only negative was the chunks of water ice that had blown onto the surface of the snow in places from near by rocks.
My thoughts to stay high on the ridge were terrible and after a bit of billy goating we had found it. And the skiers tracks were straight into it! Oh well. Its still gonna be fun. I wanted to check the pack as I like to be cautious about these things. A 15cm surface layer broke from 5 taps from the elbow on the isolated column. I wasnt too worried. Todd got to be guinea pig and drop in first as i snapped a few photos from the top. The light had gone flat at this stage and we both rode it rather cautiously. Bits of breakable crust sloughed behind but it wasn’t enough to be an issue, Just an annoyance in the flat light.
The one line had taken a bit longer than we had anticipated but it was a fun day out and I got to tick something off the bucket list thats been on there for a long time!