sKiwiland – Going Big Down Under in New Zealand

Kiwiland. Snowy ridges and elegant ice aretes. Big wild mountains with hard core, ever changing access thats probably more difficult and way scarier than most routes. Out of date guide books and maps that don’t reflect what climate change has done. Limited beta and history held in the minds of a few in the know. Rapidly changing weather and wind, wind that has picked up huts and killed all those sheltering within. The latest Plateau hut is rated to 400 kph. One night there I got up to pee and was greeted by a scene from Hell freezing over with a raging ice storm. Hostile. It took everything I had to get the hut door shut. It always takes me a while to adapt back to weather thats akin to Scotland’s wildest winter storms. My local mountain range Cairngorm clocked 315kph in 2009. November in the Alps is slightly chilly in the morning followed by a 18C afternoon of sunshine with no wind. All very civilised and benign. A couple of days a month it might precip or have a breeze necessitating something other than a thin softshell.

That said, once you get to grips with taking advantage of the weather windows, New Zealand has such a unique, spectacular, rugged and colourful landscape that will have you check yourself several times a day and wonder how that was formed. It also snows nearly 3 times what the Alps get these days and you will have the mountains to yourself to explore and do as you please. The mountains are also bad ass with a plethora of faces bigger than 800 m and all the features you could imagine, spines, faces, couloirs, and glaciers.

Tom Grant and myself spent 3 weeks exploring and ski mountaineering there. We skied about 15 days in total despite waiting for lost bags for 2 days at the start of the trip and dealing with a blown van engine another day. The skiing we did varied from low angled glacier bumps on perfect corn to getting committed climbing and skiing a couple of 1st descents on sight with the common theme being adventure skiing. You never knew what you’d get or what the weather would actually be.  It definitely ranks up there in my all time trips and wouldn’t have been possible without the help of some of my friends down there who we owe alot; Evan Cameron, Niki Begg, Mel Money, and Cam Mulvey.

 

An hour off the plane and Evan has us at Jane Fonda’s Work Out Wall
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-2-3

Hiding from the gales. Evan in The Cave, Port HillsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-3-3

A fisherman on Lake Tekapo. Gales prevent us driving over 80 kphNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-2

 

Trip 1 – Sefton Biv

Sou Westers still hammer over the divide, pinning the cloud. Low chances
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-4-2Mueller lake en route to Sefton Biv hoping to dodge the rain
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-5-2The wind buffeting Tom causing him to stagger as if he’d had a few too manyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-6-2On the bluffs below Sefton Biv. The moraines testamont to what once wasNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-7-2Tom near Sefton Biv as the wind continues to hammer us with gusts
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-3Sefton Biv – you really don’t want t to slip hereNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-4Enjoying a hot drink in Sefton BivNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-5En route to Footstool with Sefton Biv in the backgroundNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-6Skinning on the Te Waewae GlacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-7A chance to take in the unique landscape laid out below us
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-8About to drop into the what Cam has dubbed the ‘Fransson line’New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-9Setting up to shootNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-10Tom in the ‘Fransson line’New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-11Aoraki Mt Cook, Nazomi, Pibrac, Ball pass, Hooker lakeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-13Lenticulars over Aoraki Mt Cook denoting strong winds at altitudeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-15Tom taking it all inNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-14Sunset on the south face of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-16Aorkai Mt Cook and Godley Valleys across Lake PukakiNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-17Hanging out at Peters Lookout for a sundown beerNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-18Sefton and FootstoolNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-19

 

Trip 2 – Plateau Hut

Adam Fabrikant and Bill Hass psyched to get goingNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-20Jumping into the Porter ski plane. High wind at Grand Plateau soon has us transfer to a chopperNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-21Approaching plateau hut and the classic east face of Aoraki Mt Cook New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-22Noah Howell and Beau Fredlund of team Voile USANew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-24Billy, Adam and Tom under the East Ridge of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-25Cinerama ColNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-27Tasman, Lendenfield, Haast, Dixon and HaidingerNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-28A late afternoon weather lull allows us to get some turns off the knoll near Anzac Peak
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-29Returning to the hut. We decided to ski the mini-golf 700 m line just left of the sun-shade line off the East ridge at some point. Everything is dwarfed under the massive east face of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-30Skinning with Silberhorn in the backgroundNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-31Adam Fabrikant, Bill Haas and Noah Howell crossing the shrund at Zurbriggen’sNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-32Beau Fredlund at the start of Zurbriggen’s which was our entry to the east faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-33Dawn hues over the Grand PlateauNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-34The start of the treadmill on Aoraki Mt Cook’s east face. Beau Fredlund, Billy Haas and Adam FabrikantNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-35Sunrise over the Aiguille RougeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-36The summit ridge of Aoraki Mt Cook on fire in the morning lightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-37Sunrise. Anzac Peak mid shotNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-38Beau Fredlund traversing over ice high on the east faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-39Good Cold Chalk on the east face. I skied from a point a bit below the others as with a heavy cold and fever I didn’t need to summit again!

New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-1-2High wind at altitudeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-40Heading for the east ridge and some shelter from the windNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-41Climbing a subsidiary ridge to the east ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-42We followed this little spine to the junction with the east ridge of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-43Approaching the east ridge. Fine ski mountaineeringNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-44Climbing up towards the east ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-45700 m of sweetness belowNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-46The moon over Malte BruneNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-47Aoraki Mt Cook’s east face in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-48

Tasman in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-49Plateau hut in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-50Chudleigh in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-51Resourcefulness. A chess set made from plastic tubing with a quizzboard on Kiwi AlpinismNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-52Passing the time at Plateau hut while the wind blows New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-53Tom avoiding the rollerballs as the snow gets greenhoused in the cloudNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-54A sneaky shortcut to the Boys moraine?New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-56A brief break in the weather allows us out for some turnsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-57Helmet on for the walk out. The looseness of makes my stomach tightenNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-58Tom scree running below the Boys Glacier. Ankles suitably batteredNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-59Safely? on the flat Tasman and dealing with the next Jenga pile of choss. Flying in and out is a worth every pennyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-60After 7 hours of moraine warfare we are an hour away from the road head. My Ipod was essential for the mindless soldier style route march with a 50lb backpack. We could remember if the streams held giardia and without purification tablets went dry for the last 3 hours. New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-61Greg Child once said of his ice axe ‘the fuckin fuckers fuckin fucked’. Same could be said for either of us. Our next walk out was worse and a couple of hours longer. New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-62

A throwback to an era when they could get the bus up to the 100 person Ball Lodge to ski up there. The moraine collapse has made access a whole different game.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-63

 

Trip 3

Our preferred method of accessing the mountains New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-64Tasmin lake and the Caroline FaceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-65Moraines amid moraine. Maybe a hang over from the 1991 mega rockfall when 12 million cubic metres fell off down the east face to the Tasman glacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-66Tom and myself back in the zone at Tasman saddle hutNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-67Negotiating crevasses on route to Elie de BeaumontNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-68Tom on the 1st descent of Right Flank, West Face of Elie de BeaumontNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-69Descending into the cloud on Elie’s West FaceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-70Elie de Beaumont’s Right Flank is the snow covered slab mid shotNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-71Elie de Beaumont’s west face with our lineEllie copyThe spine gave us safe passage out of the cloud near the divide and down onto the Tasman GlacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-73We made it back from the unknown on the wild west sideNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-76An afternoon corn run on the Hochstetter DomeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-77Islands in a sea of cloudsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-78Chilling in the afternoon sun at Tasman Saddle hut
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-79Sundown over Aoraki and HorokoauNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-80Dinner timeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-81Aoraki Mt Cook, Tasman and Minarets
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-82Sunrise on the MinaretsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-83Beau Fredlund harvesting some sweetcorn on Mt Hamilton
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-85I skied this lush couloir on Hamilton solo. Anyone know if its been skied before?New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-120

We convened at Darwin corner with the Voile team and 10 mins after making a satphone call the air taxi came to collect us

New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-86Flyover the Hochstetter Ice fallNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-87

Drying kit outside the Wyn Irwin, pretty much the only day it was warm
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-88Mt Sefton and Footstool
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-89A rare windfree coffee morning New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-90Our van’s engine blew a couple of cylinder heads en route to Wanaka so after a tow to the nearest town and and afternoon waiting for a new van we ended up in a lay by in the back end of…New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-91

Tom enjoying beer and curry. He eats slower than a tortoise so I’d usually finished, done the washing up and gone to bed before he had chewed his first mouth-full.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-92Van life. Tom catching up on his sleep. This gives the impression it was quite tidy. In reality we were endlessly rummaging round looking for stuff. We head back to Mount Cook Village for a final tripNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-93New Zealand spring and snow down to 900 mNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-94

 

Trip 4 – Tasman Saddle Hut

Heli-waiting at the airport. 1000 hrs – standby boys. Drink more coffee. 1200 hrs – super standby. Eat a sandwich and drink more coffee. 1500 hrs – looking good boys – standyby. Final coffee. Caffeine poisened. 1800 hrs – come back tomorrow for another exciting day in the airport carpark
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-95

 

Mt Sefton and FootstoolNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-96Sharing a flight with NZ backcountry splitboarder Shane Orchard and skier Ryan TaylorNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-97The ski plane departs under Mt Green and WalterNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-98We skied this line on Mt Abel after climbing Pencil Dick Gully and traversing the ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-99Tom climbing Pencil Dick GullyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-100Me traversing over the summit of Mt Abel New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-101Finding our lineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-102

Tom dropping inNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-103SweetcornNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-104HalfwayNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-105Rippin some corn in the bowls behind the hutNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-106The ski line for the 1st descent of Mount Darwin’s south faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-84Lush morning light as we start to climb
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-107Approaching the summit ridge
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-108Hanging out for a few hours waiting for the sun to come onto the upper pitchNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-109Looking down the ski lineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-110First turn
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-111Start of the second pitch down past the upper seracNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-112Before the traverse
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-113Freeride over to the spurNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-114Heavy wet snow on the spur needing careful negotiationNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-116Sticking to the apex of the spineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-117Approaching the lower rocky cruxNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-118The foreshortened face from belowNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-119Skiing out. High winds preventing flying and bad weather threatening
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-121An abandoned tracked tractor on the white ice of the Tasman glacier. In the 1970s the ski planes didn’t have as much power and sometimes needed a tow New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-122Every kilometre skied on the white ice was a kilometre less to walk with the additional weight of skis and boots on my pack which was already heavy by euro standards. In the end I must have skied 4 of the 5 km of white iceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-123Off the easy going white ice and into the rubble. Thankfully its overcast and the rock is not reflecting heatNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-124Getting hotter as the sun comes out and we get baked in the moraineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-125About 5 hours of staggering around on rubble after leaving the white ice. We left the hut with a couple of litres each and drank another couple shortly after this section. Only 7 km to go but hands (from poling for stability) and feet are raw and roasting.  Thanks to the Irishman who gave us a lift from Blue Lakes to the airport to collect our car.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-126Moody weather as we head towards ChristchurchNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-127New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-128Tom discovering the almost unique style at Castle HillNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-129

 

 

One thought on “sKiwiland – Going Big Down Under in New Zealand

  1. Many, many Thanks and congrats to all you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2015-11-12 18:08 GMT+01:00 Ross Hewitt :

    > Ross Hewitt – Skiing, Climbing, Photography posted: “Kiwiland. Snowy > ridges and elegant ice aretes. Big wild mountains with hard core, ever > changing access thats probably more difficult and way scarier than most > routes. Out of date guide books and maps that don’t reflect what climate > change has done. Limite”

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