Orb Freebird Review

The Orb Freebird has been in the line up at Black Crows since the conception of the Freebird touring range and is instantly recognisable by its iconic fluro yellow topsheet and matching sidewalls.

My initial ski test of the Orb Freebird back in spring 2014 was on a loaned pair. Back then the ski was traditional camber construction which provided plenty of pop and power but wasn’t the easiest thing to pilot on soft snow. I used them to ski Whymper Couloir during a traverse of La Verte from Couturier Couloir.  That day a cruel southerly wind stopped things softening but the Orb’s edge grip did the necessary.

This year the ski has undergone some changes and it’s designer Julien Regnier added a front rocker to the ski to bring it in line with the now well established Navis and Corvus Freebird skis. The Orb FB 178 has put 1 mm on its waist line bringing it to 91 mm and the pair weigh in at 2.99kg. I mounted mine with the 2017 PLUM race 170 bindings with the additional bolt on ski crampon mounts to give me a light but very strong ski for steep skiing above 4000 m, long days and expedition skiing.  The addition of the rocker has been a necessary revolutionary work over for the Orb and made it easy to ski while maintaining its founding characteristics.

Orb freebird evaluation

 

 

 

Into the Mountains

Fantastic conditions continued in Cham and for day 7 on the trot we swapped freeride kit for touring skis and headed up to the Tacul to ski the shoulder. On the Midi, Minna and myself bumped into Morgan Salen and Isaac DVT and we teamed up to share the trail breaking and enjoy a ski run together for the first time. The snow was perfect both on the ascent and descent – we were able to ski all the way up the 40 degree entry couloir and it was a good short day to rest the legs from all the freeride. Thanks for the photos Morgan!

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Skinning in the entry couloir

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Sunshine and shadow

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Isaac and Minna with Pt Yield in the background

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Morgan at the top of the shoulder

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Me psyched to ski some cold, sloughy, powder.

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Me heading off down the ridge.

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Morgan Salen on the first shot

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Isaac enjoying the powder

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Morgan finding the snow acceptable and to his liking

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Minna heading into the 3rd shotDSC04544

Morgan railing a turn in the sun with Minna below

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Happy days, Morgan with Minna abseiling

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Minna on the abseil

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Me and the Corvus Freebird

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Minna on the lowers

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Morgan starting off down the lowers

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Me enjoying the exceptional snow

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This lower section provides some very fast skiing

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The Corvus Freebird showing its pedigree at speed

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And on

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And on

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And on

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And on

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Been skiing more than 10 seconds now!

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Nearly there

After the active rest day I managed to talk Mikko and Jesper into coming for a long day to the Breche Nonne Eveque in the Charpoura basin. You can’t beat skiing below all the spires next to the Dru and its one of my favourite spots. I was last there in 2013 with Michelle behind Rosenberger and Minogue when it was super easy to get through the morraine. Times have changed, the Mer de Glace has dropped in height and the morraine become looser, steeper and more dangerous but with all the new snow I spied a route on skier left that would go with one rap over a step and one jump.

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Mikko and Jesper trenching to the breche while I shelter on a ledge below.

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Mikko starting off

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Jesper in the powder

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Deep powder in the line

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Me catching up after shooting down the line

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Mikko getting his skis on after abseiling the lower cascade. I downclimbed this for speed.

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Mikko under the Dru

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Now in the Charpoura basin

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Les Drus, Sans Non and Y couloir

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The Nonne Eveque is the central couloir, we skied through the slabs on looker’s right

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Charpoura cirque

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Jesper’s signature

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Les Drus

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I used my long Petzl Laser Speed Light ice screw to make a double Abalakov anchor for the rap through the slabs and backed it up with the screw while Jesper abseiled.

This was a long day with lots of tiring trail breaking and with a deteriorating forecast for the next afternoon, we decided on a quick lap of Breche Tacul for day 9 on the go. On the Midi we were surprised for find 6 inches of new snow overnight which despite making for an enjoyable few turns down the Gros Rognan, meant we (or it turned out to be Jesper) had to break trail to the bergshrund. It took me longer than usual to settle into a rhythm, clear my legs out, and get going, plus it was bitterly cold in shade and my hands, feet and nose were suffering. After the shrund we swapped leads trail breaking on the climb up to the breche before savouring a 30 second view of the Jorasses and skiing down.

 

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On the bootpack.

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The Grandes Jorasses looking somewhat dry

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Jesper dropping into the pow.

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And finding the line well filled in.

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Me dropping onto the spine.

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And popping back off it!

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These last two are of Jesper.

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With the weather breaking it was time for a well earned rest day and a beer or two before ending the week with a fun powder day on Plan de l’Aiguille where I met Espen Fadnes and his mate Tom, and an early morning run down the Marbree just before it got scorchio!

No Siesta

The week started with a full throttle powder day with Mikko, Jesper and Nikolina at Pavillion. After 8 laps there we moved across the road to Val Veni and did a few laps of the cable face. It was riding pretty sweet and I was psyched to get to ride this face again this season. For once the Scandos wanted to stop before it got dark and go eat pizza which was good too. From the comfort of my sofa that night with throbbing legs I felt pretty sorry for Nikolina who was working until 2 am!

The next day was sunny and a chance to get high. I hit Helbronner with Mikko and Jesper and we found the most amazing stable powder on the mountain. By lunch we had skied the classic cables line, Tassoti, straight line 3 times and Chesso twice, in total 7 x 1000m laps. Although it was still cool we decided to go back to darker Cham side and have a run on the Rond but once we got through the tunnel the light was flat and we called it at that not wanting to spoil what had been the best cables day for me for a few years.  These days were fast, furious, and focused on skiing so no photos! The only downside was hitting a rock at full speed on the Toula glacier that had me tomahawking to a standstill. It felt like my knee would explode as the tail bit on each rotation but I luckily got away with only strained medial ligament. I did exactly the same thing before going to Baffin so knew I could manage it.

After resting my knee all the next morning I got the code red from De Masi that it was apocalyptic in Italy. We arrived over there to find it snowing at 20 cm an hour with 50 cm of fresh on the ground. With 115 underfoot it was still chest deep. There was a ridiculous amount of snow coming out of the sky and continuous face shots of cold champagne powder. Well, we skied until the liftie asked if we had homes to go to! I haven’t seen it snow that intensity since ’99 when we got a few metres in 3 days and the avalanches were blasting through the towns in the Alps, something no one wants to see a repeat of. Only a half day but 5 laps in the bag.

Pavillion freeride was the order of the day for Saturday and Michelle met up with her friend Ian from UEFA who was psyched for sport with the Cham lifts shut with the Foehn storm. During the morning it continued to snow and cover the tracks then the sun made an appearance giving us the visibility to jump on the spines and have a laugh. The main problem was avoiding white rooming yourself while launching over the pillows and fish mouths on the aprons. It was supposed to be an active rest day but in the end 7 laps dont really qualify as active rest! By now the Border control cops at the Mont Blanc tunnel were only stopping the car to ask where the good skiing was.

Eat, sleep, repeat. Too good to stop. U guessed it we were at Pavillion on Sunday, joined by Black Crows team mate Minna. We had fun there there until the sun came out at which point we decided to put some distance between ourselves and those big faces above  that were loaded with powder after days of storm. Switching to Val Veni, the trees were still providing awesome skiing, so much so that we had to have one last run and went to the Church spine face. The approach through the trees was incredible with 3 deep foot sluff runnels between the spines in the steep terrain of the forest – WTF? Then we popped out on the spine face and wait a minute, whats this heavy wet mank? Not cool. I’m guessing there was enough reflected infra red radiation off the Helbronner side onto our north facing slope to warm the snow. Time to go home. 6 laps.

Monday dawned fine. Can’t stop, won’t stop. Oli Herren said ‘yeah skiing, its a lifelong addiction.’ I wanted more, and the more I got, the more I wanted. Helbronner uppers. Michelle, Minna and myself ride the bin with Capozzi, Rolli, Civra Dano,Wallace, Hachemi, Husted. The cable face looked loaded and wind effected so we started the day on the more sheltered lines. The lower approaches into Pavillion were skiing amazingly but my legs were  tired. 4 laps and coffee. 40 laps over 6 days.

The weather for Tuesday was perfect…time to go touring use different leg muscles!

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Argentiere Training Loop

This is one of my favourite touring loops in the Argentiere basin which is continually interesting as it provides the variety of skinning, bootpacking, scrambling, rope work and some couloir skiing. I’m not going to give away any details excpet to ay I regularly see Killian on it before he goes on to tag a few other peaks. Usually its pretty quick but before they opened the top GM tram it felt considerably longer with the bonus skin from Bochard over the Col des Rachasses and it ended up being a 6 hour day – its nice to get some mileage for those big 12-15 hr days that lie ahead and just for general base fitness to be able to ski every day. Besides, being alone in the Argentiere basin and hanging out below those beautiful big walls is well worth that effort.

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Preseason Powder Hunting

With the first snowfall of the season kicking things off in mid November its been a crazy busy period searching for powder stashes. The stable snow conditions have allowed me to go and explore some new areas and revisit some that were long forgotten years ago. The biggest challenge has been finding motivated partners and I’ve already racked up 50K vertical touring metres this autumn and 162 ski days for the year. Luckily I have a few trusted partners available on different days so I’m not always on my own. The highlight was finding 3 couloirs that don’t feature in any of my guidebooks which were filled with primo pow. I’ve also spotted a couple of cool lines which should be good to go once we get some more snow.
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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
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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
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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
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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

 

 

First Turns of the Seaon

As the autumnal days shorten and the shadows grow across the valley, I realise how important it is for me to visit these high sun-drenched places. Its had been over 2 months since I visited the Midi and on return its beauty stunned me. Couple that with the fun of sliding downhill on a pair of skis and its obvious why its he best ski lift in the world aka ‘The Mothership’. Our first turns of the 15/16 season as Tom Grant and myself get training and acclimatising for our New Zealand ski trip next week.Ross Hewitt Midi SkiingRoss Hewitt Midi Skiing-2 Ross Hewitt Midi Skiing-3-2 Ross Hewitt Midi Skiing-4 Ross Hewitt Midi Skiing-6 Ross Hewitt Midi Skiing-2-2
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