We quickly had a gear explosion and repacked for quick afternoon outing to sample the goods. A short couloir on Mt Abel at the head of the Glacier (dubbed Hole #1) caught my eye and we made our way to the top for some bonafide NZ ‘kung-fu’ turns.
Once in the hut we made do with our own food supplies as well as those left by others. We even made a late day trek to our neighboring hut (Kelman Hut) to snarf down some extra treats! Food was important, cuz we only got to ski about half of the 10 days we were in the mountains due to weather. Storms tend to just rip across the island and it is often compared to Patagonia in similarity and severity. We typically had one good day fallowed by one bad day and we made do with the conditions and skied some fun terrain. On one trip, we skied up to a large serac that had carved a half-pipe like groove into the glacier. Not one to pass up a good backcountry jib, I quickly removed my skis and started hiking uphill. I was also a bit surprised at Andrew’s fine jibing prowess.
Upon leaving the hut to return to civilization, we had the choice of getting another heli ride for $300, or doing the long slog out. Being hardheaded, we figured we could handle the hike and saved a few bucks. The first few miles went smoothly…cuz we were skiing and still on the Tasman Glacier. Things changed quickly though once entering the glacial moraine. Our next objective was the Ball Road…only 5 miles away. It took us about 4 hours to travel that distance over some of the roughest terrain I’ve experienced. Loose rock over ice…sinkholes…and pressure ridges were the norm keeping the pace to a minimum. I wore my AT boots for this section…so I was jonseing to talk them off at the road…for the final 5 miles out.
Grant had somehow leap-frogged way ahead, so we were psyched to see his note a the Ball Shelter indicating he had gone ahead to expedite the retrieval of our vehicle. This saved us less than a mile in the end…which is better than nothing…but I was tempted to push it all the way to the trailhead to achieve hard-man status. Cold beer and shots of bourbon quickly set me straight though and we had an impromptu celebration where we stood. The spirits continued on to the Old Mountaineers Café were we had what Figs calls ‘dirty beers’ before cleaning ourselves up.
I would definitely return to New Zealand to ski and I would probably give Cook another try…but maybe more in winter conditions…before the icy really catches hold of the snow. The mountain hut systems are very extensive, which make waiting out storms much more comfortable. The helis and ski planes, when conditions permit, make accessing the beautiful mountains a cinch…but save some cash for the pick-up on the way out…it will be sooo worth it.