The best laid plans – still end up needing to be changed!

Day 2 of the perfect weather window and the ski touring and speedflying mission saw the crew heading towards Eli De Beaumont.  The wind was not perfect for a summit flight attempt, with 60k SW winds forecast the mountain basically faced the wrong direction for a safe launch and flight path.  There were however a few other objectives to be had – one of which was to ski from the aummit as well.  All this was put into disarray by bullet proof ice and sastrugi from the Walter/Eli Col to the summit …

 

The actual approach to the col was pretty straightforward with only the shrund to cross and one large avalanche slope to be super wary off.  Objectively the approach is also hazarded by some large seracs but a brief concentrated push can see you through this region pretty quickly.  Both Cory and Mal had issues with their crampons and ski boots (not really expecting to climb hardice on a ski touring trip now are we?) and had to descend from just above the col whilst Duglad, Zac and Cam kept on heading to the top.  This was Dugald's first 3000m peak in Nz, Cams 2nd summit of Eli and Zac's 1st.  On the way back down the winds had eased to allow Dugald to make a slightly tail wind launch down the bottom half of the mountain.

The team crossing the shrund

Crossing interesting slopes to the col

Dugald – high on Eli  – Hard ice conditions

 

Meanwhile Mal and Cory headed over towards the Darwin bowls for some late afternoon corn skiing – what they found was a white oven bowl – bakingint he sun!  The pair climbed up high on the left flanks of the bowls and Mal climbed on further to reach a high point to make a flight down the side flanks of Mt Annan whilst Cory skied a great line back down the to Tasman Glacier.

 

Episode II – Eli De Beaumont and Mt Annan


Just a very quick update on the last mission we did.

A very short and intense 3 day trip up to the head of the Tasman Glacier has paid off with some very kewl summits and flights from various mountains and cols.  Probably the highlight of the trip was Dugald's successful ascent of Eli De Beaumont – which he climbed solo (without a rope, not without climbing partners) and on bullet proof sastrugi (storm ice).  Flying wise the team flew from the summit of Hochstetter Dome, the shoulder of Eli De Beamount, the side of Mt Annan, numerous flights down the beside the Tasman Saddle Hut and very epic day skinning, climbing and flying from high above the Darwin Glacier just below the summit of Mt Hamilton.

Conditions meant that we had to abandon our planned attempt on the Minarets as the lower ridge was basically just ice – that's New Zealand though – you need to be flexible.

Enjoy the images and short teaser trailer – more to come soon.

 

     

 

Mountaineering and Speedflying

Spring 2010, October – November

Nun's Veil



Nun's Veil (2756m) sits just inside the Aoraki, Mt Cook National Park.                                                           

As a Mountaineering objective to climb the Nun via Turners Coliour and fly from the summit – it needs a few logistical issues to be sorted out. 

  1. Getting across the Tasman Lake
  2. Crossing the Murchison river
  3. Re-Crossing the Murchison River
  4. Making back in time for a pick up to cross the Tasman again.

The actual climbing isn't that technical  – except for right near the summit – A short section of 50 degree snow ice and rock adds a bit of spice to the 1000m plus climb up Turners Couloir.

By far the biggest hazard on this mission will be the avalanche conditions and the wind on the summit.  A direct westerly breeze or NW brreze will allow a flight back down towards the Tasman Terminal lake – easterly or southerly breezes will mean a flight down in to Gorrilla Stream

The Minarets 
Tasman Glacier



The Minarets are reached by climbing Del a Beche Ridge from the Tasman Glacier and we'll be staying in Del a Beche hut at the toe  of the ridge.  The journey up the ridge is an absolute classic and once we've reached the Minarets Plateau there are a number of options.

  1. Fly down the east side o the Main Divide and land on the Tasman Glacier
    • This aspect has some amazing scenery + incredible glacial formations to fly over and on.
    • A high landing on the Tasman Glacier will allows us to ski back down to Del a Beche hut for the next days mission
  2. Flying down the East side of the mountain will drop us onto the west Coast
    • The flight down the West Face is a broad bowl – if the wind is strong enough we'll be able to soar the bowl and carve our way around the face
    • After making the flight we'll need to tour up and over Graham Saddle to make another flight down the Rudolf Glacier.  If the conditions don't permit a flight then we'll simply have to do a 1200m ski run ..

  

UPDATES TO FOLLOW

    The New Zealand Weather can be a very fickle thing.  Sitting smack in the path of the Roaring Forties, NZ gets hit by everything that slides under Australia with increasing NW winds preceeding most storms – during winter the wind and snow can make for some pretty dangerous avalanche conditions.  Single Cone rises above the lake Wakatipu and Queenstown and sits directly above the Remarkables Ski Field.  A fantastic rock scramble in summer conditions, the winter brings deep heavy snow.  The remarkables in general is a alpinists playground with exposed ridges, technical climbing, ice and mixed climbing all on offer ….

     

    It's also a fantastic objective to Speedfly from …

     

    For Dugald and I this has been one of our major objectives on the road towards a successful flight from above 8000m.  The weather window was right – the snow conditions were not so right but most importantly of all, both of us were able to make the day.  Work commitments had either been changed, ignored or side stepped and it was with a hell of a lots of anticipation and barely contained excitement that we met up  at the base building, got our gear sorted and headed off on our ski's towards the top.

     

    The snow conditions could only be described as frozen to start off with and it was great to be able to use old skinning tracks.  The snow changed as the day got warmer and we gained altitude.  At around 2100m the snow was once again powdery and deep.  Getting out of your ski's made you go to at least knee deep!  The South East Ridge of single cone would be the easiest way of the mountain but it still puts you in some seriously exposed terrain with ice covered rock – covered by plenty of fresh snow.

     

    I've been up on Single Cone plenty of times for both personal trips and for work – but I have to say I can't remember approaching the summit with the same nervous feeling I had yesterday.

     

    Lit winds at the bottom mean nothing in the mountains and we had a moderately strong cross wind at the launch.  After a practice launch we stepped into our ski bindings – kited the wings into sky and launched. 

     

    Enjoy the Video, join the ride – we loved being out there to do it!

     

    The terrain in the Back Country behind Treble Cone is truly beautiful.  There are some magic gullies, slopes and cliffs to play with on our speed wings.  The ski touring can be exquisite and just recently the weather put on a great show for us. 

    Ted Davenport and I had recently finished playing on the World Heli Challenge and since the snow and weather was so perfect I was amped to drag Ted out to show him some of the ski launched speedflying we have nearby in Wanaka. 

    No easy task is speedflying down in the South Island!  You need to be prepared to ski and skin your way around to launch site – there is a real avalanche hazard and good terrain skills are needed to stay safe out in the backcountry + having all the correct safety equipment.  It definately adds to the pack weight!

    With the new snow that had fallen it was hard going along some of the flatter terrain before we gained the Ridge leading to the top of Gottliebs.  The ridge itself was a very kewl place to be with steep drops to either side of us.  Both Ted and myself got out and managed to launch just below the summit with the hinderence of a 5 km tail wind.

     

    Totally wicked time out playing with Ted – I've got a few more videos to edit of the flying we've done over the past 2 weeks – STAY TUNED!

     

    There are simply heaps of non-alpine mountains and hills around Wanaka that are ideal for a bit of a training hike and fly mission.  A few days ago we went for a wander up to the Saddle of Treble Cone and walked out towards End Peak.  As the day wore on and the winter sun set in the western sky we quickly realized that we needed to make a flight happen, we were running out of daylight and we still wanted to go rock climbing as well!

    The actual flight was pretty kewl with Dugald running an amazing canyon / valley down to the waterfalls overlooking the TC paragliding landing area. 

     

    Enjoy the flight – we enjoyed the walk!

     

     

    How did the training go in respect to my expectations?  For me the first trip away on to the snow was a significant start to the whole adventure, the weather delays had been frustrating and the time off work was becoming harder to acquire!

     

     

    I enjoy a steep learning curve and from the moment we stepped out onto the mountain it was game on.  Crampons went on immediately just to get to the hut, then it was a necessity to clear are way into the building just to dump a little gear.  With a swift glance at our accommodation for the next few days it was back out on to the hill and wings out!  The flying side of adventures is generally the main reason I am on them, however I have loved skiing since a young age and to be able to combine the two is perfect…if not a little daunting at first.

    With the added weight of our rucksacks complete with ice stakes, ski poles, crampons and more waiting to snag our lines, the relatively slim knowledge of where I was about to fly off to and the shear compilation of new aspects for me – it was an immediate chance for me to take the bull by the horns and ski launch for the first time from right outside our hut…successfully.

     

     

    A short flight and a slightly bouncy landing got me started on to the next phase of my learning…ski touring.  Having never really been drawn to this side of snow sports I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it makes moving around the terrain and how enjoyable it is.  I can see with all the challenges presented in this first proper mini mission, technique and practice are going to be crucial.

    The crampon and ice axe use, and ski touring skills that were needed to get us to a number of our glacier locations and launch sites were both fun and great practice.  To be able to move around an environment and choose almost any route is fantastic.  Mal’s principles of prevention rather than cure when making route selection and plans certainly reassured me on the snow.  The necessity to read the weather and the snow is as important as reading the wind before a flight.  My relatively constant stream of questions about how to do things and “when can we try” things were answered patiently and with solutions that I can work with.  The location of our trip was stunning, the hut was well equipped although if it wasn't bad weather I certainly wanted to be out and about exploring and practicing my new skills.  And perhaps the most important aspect, the Speedfly8000 team seemed to work extremely well. 

    Looking forward to more missions soon!

     

     


     

    The weather and time off work is aligning itself so that Dugald and I can get into the west coast neve's this weekend for some alpine training / ski touring and speedflying!

    The Recent weather has potentially put down over a meter of new snow and conditions up high will be nice for a few days.  Feels great to finally have a mission that will work with the weather and have time available to make use of it!

    Some NW or SW winds will also be fine as we can use our wings like kites to drag ourselves around on the glacier.

     

     

     

    We'll be based at either Pioneer hut or Centenial Hut and make use of the surrounding peaks for some flight attempts. These include ;

    • Triad
    • Aurora
    • Minarets
    • Glacier Peak
    • Grey Peak
    • Mt Drummond

    Out of all these the pick for me would be to getup the west Face of the Minarets and fly off!  Check back soon for more updates

    After a beautiful climb up Single Cone to inspect one of the future winter missions, we moved on to double cone and discussed the possibility of a launch from the summit by tossing the gliders above us and checking them in the air before stepping off.  This time the decision was made to move to a lower more suitable take off and practice some rope skills on the short descent to it.  After several attempts during the short moments of clearance we received from Queenstown Air Traffic Control we again decided to move down the West face to an area less effected by wind rotor.  From here we both launched for a great gully flight!

    Today Dugald and I managed to get to the summit of Single Cone and double Cone but unfortunately we were not able to launch from the main summit due to inconsistent winds and a poor launch area – the summit Single Cone and Double Cone will be good when there is snow covering the peaks.

    We had to make a conscious choice to find a better launch site – which meant we needed to climb down another 150m to the main ridge.  Unfortunately we were again thwarted by winds and rotor conditions as well as Air Traffic Control and Air Space Regs – it's hard to just go when you need to make a call to the tower to get clearance.

    After enduring some of the most difficult launch conditions we have both experienced we once again had to descend to a lower point on the West Face of the Remarkables to find a suitable launch site.  This was at 2087m and flew one of the western gully systems.  The conditions meant that we were unable to launch together, however we both had a screamer of a flight – landing in one of the farm paddocks at the base of the western face.

    Dugald will be playing with his new Apple Mac to make an video edit of the days adventure.