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Catching the Bug - Snowcraft

From the moment we all woke up in the coziest ski lodge around on that Saturday morning with orange and pink streaked across the cloudless sky, I think we all knew it was going to be a good, good day. After a trusty bowl of porridge the team set off, dressed for the Antarctic’s. It took us all about 100m to realize that the temperature was higher than anything we’d had in Dunedin for the previous couple of weeks. So layers came off, and crampons, helmets, ice axes and avalanche transceivers came out. Slowly we began to make our way up a snowy slope, giving different crampon techniques a go. After getting the knack of walking with crampons, out came avalanche probes and shovels. There was certainly no chance of getting cold as we searched for buried transceivers and dug out imaginary avalanche victims. After a look at snowpack layers and a quick lunch it was time to voluntarily throw ourselves down a snowy hill. The next few hours were spent practicing self arresting with and without ice axes. With the sun starting to set we headed back to the lodge. On our way back, Tomazina and I got a chance to attempt our self arresting skills as we attempted to shovel slide down an icy couloir. I use the word “attempt” because our self arresting wasn’t successful in the slightest. Instead we slid out of control for 150m down the couloir into tussock in Tom’s case and into a nice rock in my case. While my forearms, shins and knees were completely purple for more than a week following snowcraft and I had some pretty gnarly grazes, a cut down to the bone on one finger and some pretty epic bloodstains on my thermals, the ride was pretty epic and I don’t think I have any regrets about jumping on that shovel at all. We arrived at the lodge with a lot more adrenaline that we anticipated and finished the day with a mean multi-course meal, storytime and then an outdoor spa beneath the stars. Talk about luxury!

Day two bought another good sunrise and blue skies. It was time to put what we had learnt to the test. We climbed our way up Foster’s Chutes to Foster’s Peak where at around 2000m we had an awesome view of Mt Cook, Aspiring, Mt Sefton and a variety of amazing climbs! I think it was that moment when I realized how addicting mountaineering could get. Something started growing in me as I stared out at this panorama of peaks - a want, no a need - to climb these peaks, to aim higher, to push myself more and more. Others in the group murmured similar sentiments and I looked around at our group and wondered - maybe we will be the next wave of OUTC’s mountaineers?

Reluctantly we headed down and away from the view, being treated to some incredible examples of recent avalanches on nearby slopes. On the way down the hill Rowan and Lottie showed us how to use snow stakes, snow pigs and a few other examples of snow anchors. As we set off down towards the lodge again I started to feel a little sad - I wasn’t ready to leave the snow. I guess there’s only one solution, to get back out in it as soon as possible! Thanks to Snowcraft, my winter adventures don’t have to stop or stay below the snowline. There’s a whole new world out there, a world I can’t wait to explore…. •

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