By: randosteve|Posted on: November 15, 2006|Posted in: International, New Zealand | Comments Off on Skiing in New Zealand Part II

Sunset from Unwin Lodge

After a few days we started to get antsy waiting for the weather to break, so we picked out a nice gully to ski. A 1000′ of hiking up scree brought us to the snow line which proved to be unconsolidated from the rain and warmer temps. I remember thinking to myself ‘this sucks’ as we climbed hire. A low angle 20′ rockband broke up the gully, but Andrew quickly scurried up to the slopes above. I told myself that if the snow wasn’t any better above the rockband, I was going to bail back to the car…I should have bailed sooner. About ten feet up the rock I looked up and saw Andrew waiting as well as the desk sized boulder careening down the slope above. I quickly yelled ‘rock’ to warn the others below, and then I corrected myself with ‘big rock’! It smashed into the walls of the gully about 15′ from my skull and directly bounced over Chris and Grant. Then the wet slough triggered by the rock began.

Andrew thinking of skiing Steve and Andrew study routes

It quickly grew in size and I heard a yell from Chris who was just starting up the rock below me. I turned around and saw him rolling down the slope…in the slope. He rolled to his back and was able to right himself and negotiate out of the moving debris to the side of the gully. The slough intensified and I was still at the top of the rockband trying to find a way out of the situation, but it knocked me off and I slammed into the rock wall of the gully. The slough pushed me down when I hit the snow below, but just like Chris, I was able to fight my way out. We were a bit shaken up after the event and we were able to recover all our gear, but the memorial to all the climbers that have been killed in the park hit a little close to home. Though no one was seriously hurt, I got a few scrapes and bruises and my knee hurt for a few days.

Grant takes it all in Andrew hikes towards Ball Ridge

We hiked up the ball road from where it got too rough for the Subaru to get a look at the massive Caroline Face, which has yet to have a ski descent…and now you no know. Initial thoughts of carving turns down it’s steep slope quickly left our minds as we saw blue ice in the upper slopes and huge ice cliffs interrupting the descent. A crew sponsored by Red Bull with guides and a production crew is supposedly giving it a shot later this season…any descent would be surprising, let alone a clean one. We shall see.

The Caroline Face

When the weather finally broke we had to make a decision of where to go, since we’d be committing the next two weeks to that area. After 6′ feet of snow over the past week our ideas of a Mt. Cook descent took a back seat and we decide to visit the Upper Tasman Glacier area. The Tasman Hut sits on a rock precipice and has a great porch with incredible views, as well as late day sun which is always nice after a day in the mountains.

Psyched to be airborne Tasman Hut on rock outcropping