North Face shoot on Franz Joseph Glacier

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to shoot for North Face on a trip to Franz Joseph Glacier, on the West Coast of New Zealand. Franz Joseph is one of NZ’s largest Glaciers and at 12km long it almost comes down to the Tasman Sea. It was a trip guided by Adventure Consultants, with North Face team skiers Janina Kuzma, Fraser McDougall and Tom Dunbar. Being filming as part of The North Face Quest shows was Neil Kerr of NZ Skier magazine and mountain guide filmer Hugh Bernard. Armed with quite the team of professionals it was set to be quite the trip. We had a very short weather window and as soon as a storm cleared we were in the chopper on our way to Centennial Hut high on Franz Joseph.

Flying into the mighty Franz Joseph Glacier

Her ferocious jaws ready to swallow you whole!

Looking out over the top of Franz Joseph Glacier from Centennial Hut

Playing amongst the ice
After a successful first day shooting we headed back to the hut with the idea of going out to shoot sunset. As we were putting our skins on to tour hut-wards the most ferocious wind ripped up and knocked us all from our feet, blowing gear and us everywhere! It was quite a struggle getting back to the hut with the gale force winds, but we all made it, and hunkered down in the hut while she blew, and blew, and… blew. There was no chance of heading back out for more shooting. Instead we had a stellar feed of spag bowl and preyed the hut wouldn’t be blown off the side of the mountain. We were blessed that night with an awesome sky as the storm blew in.

What a pearler of an evening (this photo is deceptive, what you cant see is the gale force winds!) Too bad we had to enjoy it sheltering ourselves away from the elements inside the hut.

The sun poked its cheeky face over the top to say goodbye to us for the next 32 hours

Not much sleep was had that evening as it felt like you were sleeping next to a 10 ton truck going past your head at 100km hr every 10-15 seconds. The wind rattled us around all night and all the next day, which was a total write off. We spent the entire day cooped up in the shelter of the hut, only leaving to check that, yes it was still raining and yes, it was still blowing its t**s off (or to visit the little girls long drop) So we made use of this time by playing endless card games of Arsehole which began quite civilized, but soon many silly rules were added, such as announcing very loudly to the hut that ‘Thomas is King’ every-time you played a 5. We also took the opportunity to learn a thing or two, and utilised our wonderful guides buy stringing ourselves to the ceiling, and practicing prussocking up the rope. A technique used to save oneself from an icy grave down a crevasse. Next we abseiled off the bunk beds; a perfect replica for a 100m cliff.

Going slightly mad inside the hut…

Night soon came and it was to early to bed in preparation for a 5am start. It was forecast to be clearing, so we were going to be up and ready to go adventuring (if it was starry that was) And it was.

Starry starry morning! 5am and the skies were clear….

The freshly rained, wind sculpted and then frozen solid snow was ready for us to climb a mountain. And that we did. The call was made to scale a close by peak, taking a route up an ice waterfall. This would really test our ski mountaineering skills. And as I wanted to shoot some snaps of the guys climbing up, I was first to go. Cripes, it was hard work but so fun! I climbed with my F-Stop camera bag securely on my back, ice axe in hand and crampons on feet. What a thrill. OnceĀ  I was up I was able to tie off and hang out over the edge to shoot the others coming up.

This is what we climbed…

Yes its me! And I’m smiling. It was way steeper than it looks, I promise! Thanks to Hugh Bernard for the photo

Tom and Janina near the top of the ice climb
After the guys reached the top of the ice fall, it was my time to abseil back down to get shots of their ski. After a good ski on spring corn it was a rush back to the hut to make our heli pick up time before the afternoon cloud rolled in of the Tasman Sea preventing us flying out. Luckily the cloud wasn’t too thick and the chopper pilots could find a way through to pick up our tired bodies.

Back out to the lush green planes of the West Coast

It was an awesome spring trip and many thanks to Neil Kerr, Adventure Consultants and of course The North Face for making it happen. More stories and photos in next years ski mags… Time to hang up the ski boots in time for summer, and the bike season. (until a sneaky trip to Japan to shred some pow in January of course!)