Back country ski course

I was very privileged to be invited by my friends at Adventure Consultants to shoot and participate in their back country ski course, which specializes in ski mountaineering and glacier travel. I took Australian free-skier Nat Segal with me to join in the learning as well as shooting photos of her experience on the course. I am always a fan of improving my knowledge and skills on the mountain, especially when it comes to snow safety and glacier travel. You can never know enough! With Nat’s chosen ski career of climbing and skiing high peaks it was a great way for her to learn too, as well as us both hang out in one of the most beautiful and remarkable places in New Zealand.

Its a bit of a magical mystery tour with Adventure Consultants as they let you know where you are headed the morning the course starts, there are so many amazing options in NZ for incredible big mountain and glacier skiing. Much to my delight they decided to take us to the West Coast and Franz Joseph Glacier. This is such a remarkable place as you fly from the ocean to the glaciers in moments, soaring above native rain forest and glacial rivers. Its a mind blowing flight.

 

Looking up into Franz Joseph Glacier from the rain forest
Looking up into Franz Joseph Glacier from the rain forest
Flying into the Franz Joseph Glacier - From rain forest into the snow
Good omen for the trip as we flew through a rainbow!

Our 5 day course was based out of Centennial Hut, perched high on the Franz Joseph neve. Lucky for us a group had arrived earlier that morning and had spent 3 hours digging the hut out as the last visitors were over three weeks previous. The hut was almost completely covered in snow and rime. It was a pretty darn cold place to hang out (around 2degrees inside) with condensation becoming a bit of an issue with 9 of us cooking and breathing for a week. The windows and vents were all iced up along with the water tank so melting snow and ice was the only way to get water.

 

Centennial Hut - Franz Joseph Glacier
Centennial Hut – Franz Joseph Glacier
Franz Joseph Glacier
The flight in
Climbing through the door as the bottom half was deep in snow and ice
Nat climbing through the door as the bottom half was deep in snow and ice

 

Walking down to the hut requires ice axe and crampons as there are large crevasses on either side
Walking down to the hut requires ice axe and crampons as there are large crevasses on either side

With a star team of guides consisting of Rich Raynes from Wanaka and legendary climber Lydia Bradey (who was the first woman to climb Everest without oxygen) we were in for a full week of learning. The weather was perfect and the snow questionable. But you gotta take the rough with the smooth eh? I think I would have found it harder to concentrate on learning had there been fresh pow out there!

 

Leaning the ropes - night class inside the hut
Leaning the ropes – night class inside the hut
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Glacier travel – learning all about how to rope up incase someone disappears down a crevasse
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Learning crevasse rescue
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Nat Segal

 

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Putting the skins on overlooking the ocean. Amazing
Nat putting on her skins
Nat
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Its amazing watching the waves roll in from a glacier. It looked so warm and green down by the sea

 

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Serious terrain up here, you don’t want to get lost…
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Back to the hut on sundown

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Inside Centennial Hut - The sun finally melted the ice to be able to see the glorious view outside and allow us to open a window!
Inside Centennial Hut – The sun finally melted the ice to be able to see the glorious view outside and allow us to open a window!
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Practising prussic-ing out of a ‘crevasse’ in the safety of the hut!

We had two action packed intense days learning and taking some well deserved turns which were so much fun. It was such a great way to learn while out on the terrain you needed the skills for.  We had grand plans to ski over to the Fox Glacier and Pioneer Hut for our last night, but the weather kept us at bay for the morning. So we used the time to practice our prussic and crevasse rescue techniques. When the cloud lifted in the afternoon the decision was made to ski down to Almer hut at near the end of the Franz Joseph Glacier. This was a super fun journey to make, carrying all our gear and traversing above rather large exposure of crevasses the size of houses got the heart pumping a bit!

 

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The journey to Almer Hut
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Nat heading out for a sunset ski
The Almer Hut
Almer Hut
The crevasses we skied past that afternoon looking like they wanted to eat me alive!!
The crevasses we skied past that afternoon looking like they wanted to eat me alive!!

 

Stars over the Almer Hut
Stars over the Almer Hut

Our last night was spent in the historic and ridiculously awesome Almer Hut. We polished off the remainder of our food in the morning (which was an interesting mix of muffins, cheese, spaghetti and apricot slice with porridge) and flew out at mid morning back to the ocean and a shower.

Flying into the Franz Joseph Glacier - From rain forest to glacier...
Flying back from Franz Joseph Glacier – Great to see the green after so much snow and ice!

HUGE massive thanks to Rich and Lydia for making our trip so enjoyable and productive. Thanks also to Adventure Consultants for taking us on this trip, to Nat Segal for all her hiking to get the shot, as well as Tim Rutherford for carrying some of my gear! To F-Stop for the Tilopa adventure camera pack and Smith Optics, Peak Design and Faction Skis.

Winter