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!

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.

The forecast for the coming week looks nasty so the Alpine training trip that Dugald and I were going to do has to be postponed until after the 24th of April.  It's funny that as a mountain guide I have to choose time off to go into the mountains for a personal trip …. then only to have the weather pack out and be unable to do what I want to do!

Our alternate plan is to go up the Remarkables on Saturday and do some training for Dugald there as well as make a flight attempt off either Single Cone or Double Cone.

Bad Weather coming – Monday