Adventure

Trans-Tasman kayaker Scott Donaldson sorry ~ via stuff.co.nz

I find this man and his story very inspiring – I take my hat off to him…

A significant 21st and a trip to a church in the back of beyond

Twenty one years of being a dad, and what a privilege!

There are many versions of the story – here is one:

Redford [aka Dougal – he legally changed his name a couple of years ago] had a sense of style and fun from day one…
Hats on Dougal Lousley

And a significant sense of curiosity in all things natural. Here it’s obvious, with a more cautious mother in tow on some ice on Lake Benmore, while Sarah our lovely lab at the time checks the wind for rabbits…
Ice on Lake Benmore

Sarah had eight pups and until we found homes for them all, we had a very willing small helper…
Dougal Lousley and Sarah the lab with pups

There came a day when his interest and love of animals manifested with an award at the local Wanaka Show Pet Parade, with a subsequent picture in the local newspaper of the day…
Dougal Lousley and pet parade

From an early age I was blessed to have him as my “expedition” companion, and we joined up on one trip with an old friend Sarah Glasson and her family for a 4wd trip into Macetown one autumn…
Macetown in autumn

An agenda for fun, but at this point I was not sure just how gathering leaves was going to play a part…
Macetown in autumn, playing in leaves

And why not make the pile deep enough to dive into!
Macetown in autumn, playing in leaves

Trips on foot slowly got more ambitious as he grew. Tramping in West Matukituki valley, Mt. Aspiring National Park…
Tramping in West Matukituki valley, Mt. Aspiring National Park

Hooker River swing bridge Mt Cook National Park…
Tramping in West Matukituki valley, Mt. Aspiring National Park

Winter activities included cross country skiing competitively at the Snow Farm, up the Cardrona Valley…
Snow Farm Youth Academy member Dougal Lousley

Good friend Riley Wilson and D. decide to barbecue a chicken. Yes, its a snow chicken and if I recall it melted faster than it cooked…
Riley Wilson and Dougal Lousley cooking a snow chicken

When he was about 10 yrs. old I decided to take a punt. Since I’d been the inseparable house dad until this time of divorce from his mum. I bought us an expedition type vehicle so as to not only keep up the bond, but build on his growing curiosity in nature. It worked a treat…
Seeries 90 Land Cruiser camper in NZ snow

And so the expeditions began in earnest and for a few years incorporated the adventure yacht Elwing as we headed south each holidays. Me indulging my romance with the wilderness, him exploring under every rock, fishing, plant identification. And most of all being exposed to great male mentors such as my friend the skipper Arthur White.

Heading out of Doubtful Sound enroute south to Dusky Sound in July 2005…
Entrance Doubtful Sound, Fiordland coast NZ

At the helm off the most exposed wildest and remotest coast in New Zealand…
Fiordland coast NZ

But this evening the world in terms of westerlies, swells and waves was at peace…
Fiordland coast NZ

The fishing is pretty good down there in places – Dusky Sound…
Dusky Sound fishing

Keeping shipshape – Duck Cove in Dusky Sound…
Duck Cove Dusky Sound

On this adventure we were literally following in the footsteps of Capt Cook. While taking a break from nearly circumnavigating Antarctica in the 1773 he and the crew rested in Dusky for a month, and charted Dusky naming such places as Wet Jacket Arm, Luncheon Cove, Pickersgill Harbour etc. Each name telling a story, and one we followed with enthusiasim

The best photo on that trip was taken by Redford, a selfie really, as that is his reflection – Acheron Passage Dusky Sounddolphin pod Acheron Passage Dusky Sound

Bedraggled in the rain he and I wait for a pickup by the Elizabeth river in Doubtful Sound after we made an attempt to find a lake upstream – we ran out of time in the dense wet bush. Still it was good to get some exercise…
Elizabeth river in Doubtful Sound

It was a magical trip due to the cold, and consequently some to the sounds were iced over. Here we are on a recce to check the ice thickness, as even the thin ice was wearing into the paint on the kauri hull..
Crooked Arm Fiordland - in winter

It felt very lonely [not helped by the noise] in a rubber boat in sharp looking ice this far away from Elwing…
Crooked Arm Fiordland - in winter

What allowed us to explore further was a Real Journeys steel hull tourist boat, that passed us and broke the ice. But neither of us got much further, as it rapidly became easily 300mm thick…
Crooked Arm Fiordland - in winter

Before enlightenment do the laundry, after enlightenment do the laundry…
100 2104

The next trips we headed further south – Redford surveys Port Pegasus on Stewart Island from Magog…
Port Pegasus on Stewart Island from Magog

The summit of Bald Mt., Port Pegasus Stewart Island…
Bald Top, Port Pegasus on Stewart Island

So that was the “real” world, back here other activities were pursued. Dance and drama every Friday night has worked wonders for a whole generation of Wanaka young folk…
Dance and drama Wanaka

Which instilled a familiarity with social skills – school formal here with his good friend of old, Anna. Now they flat together with another Wanaka local – they’ve always been so supportive of each other since primary school and earlier. I think this is a blessing during the teenage years…
Mt Aspiring College school formal

And before I knew it he was in Dunedin living at a hall of residence and doing a three year degree in chemistry [achieved this year]…
St Margarets Dunedin

And occasionally I’d be on bus duty, as he’d come and go occasionally…
Wanaka bus service

Frequent fishing trips to nearby Poolburn in Central Otago, but a pleasant memory, often escaping the summer heat. This was his first really significant “catch”…
Brown trout catch Poolburn

A blast from the past…

So on Redford’s 21st birthday last week I suggested a trip in the camper truck, and lo… mid week we headed off and due to the forecast Poolburn seemed a good bet, but I also suggested that if the track was dry we could visit the elusively remote Serpentine church he’d never seen. A restored relic from our rich gold mining history.

I say “elusive” as there are no sign posts – just rumour and farm tracks at a moderately high altitude and so some local knowledge is required. I’m not sure where I got mine from, but probably “a little bit here, a little bit there”. The road is an off shoot from the old Dunstan Road which I use quite often time permitting – it was the first access route for wagons into Central Otago and the Lakes, as apart from going up and down it heads pretty much in a straight line from Outram near Dunedin through to Tarras and it essentially avoids having to cross the Clutha River. The down side is of course snow closes it in winter.

The funny thing was that just a few days before R’s birthday an old mate Bruce called in while doing a road test of his 3 tonne house on wheels he’s been building in Ranfurly. Apart from getting caught up in a tree on the footpath all went well…
House on wheels Rata St Wanaka

Then a few days later as R and I topped the ascent to Poolburn in the dusk, he said “is that Bruce?”. And lo… it was. So we stopped off for a few laughs and cuppa with some Xmas fruit cake we had with us, and some banana cake B had. All quite special really…
Poolburn

After the cuppa we carried on to camp a bit closer to our destination. I could have got to the church in the dark, but no point as it’s quite a scenic drive, and besides we had plans to bike parts of it.

A perfect Poolburn dawn with no wind – a rarity…
Poolburn

There is an old rabbiter’s hut enroute to the church
Poolburn to serpentine church 17

Poolburn serpentine church rabbiter's hut

Biking change over…
Poolburn serpentine church  road

Lots of sky…
Poolburn serpentine church country side

Poolburn serpentine church track

Poolburn serpentine church road

Poolburn serpentine church road fence

The wind returns…
Poolburn serpentine church 9

The Serpentine Church…
serpentine church central otago

Note the rocks holding the roof down…
serpentine church

serpentine church interior

serpentine church sign

serpentine church sign

serpentine church altar

All too soon we had to leave – the decision was a little bit weather driven as the track would be a slithery nightmare when it’s wet…
Serpentine church track

We stopped for a “look-see” by this intriguing gully where the tors are closer together than normal…
Poolburn serpentine church tors

While placing my last photo above what strikes me is those are the shoulders of manhood… and how elegantly he got there!

I’ve learnt much wisdom from him during my part in the process – much to be grateful for. Given the chance I think I’d do it again!

Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise in the north branch of the Matatapu Valley

Every year at this time just before we enter the busy season in the outdoors we have what is called a SAREX [Search and Rescue Exercise], so all various skills needed get a refresh. This year there were three scenarios: alpine cliff rescue, white water searching/rescue, and the one I went on loosely known as bush, where we search then bundle the patient[s] up for evacuation to the appropriate resource.

This year I decided to have a go at documenting the many aspects from start to finish…

On the Friday night the Incident Management Team made a plan ready for us to implement. We started kitting ourselves out with clothing, GPS, radios, torches, stretchers, ropes/anchors and tracking kits at the new Police Station in Wanaka at 7.30am…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

Then we assembled for a briefing…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

I always like to photograph the white board as you never know out in the field what you might need to recall, and if comms. are problematic, as they often are, then it’s good to have all info on hand…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

All names are real, but as it’s only an exercise I feel comfortable displaying them here as there won’t be any worried families re media considerations to consider…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

The good thing about the white board is that any off us can just walk in and gather info. without needing someone’s time to brief us. And of course it’s not accessible by the public in the real thing…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

Next we drove up the road towards Aspiring National Park to the Aspiring Helicopter’s new hanger, and here the first load is in the air. Their first “tasking” is to land on a central high point/mountain and set up a radio link box, with solar panels, batteries and aerials, then test same. This then becomes a “repeater” so out in the field deep in the complex valleys we can talk to search HQ in Wanaka, and advanced field HQ, helicopters and other teams. Getting the placement right is critical and sometimes this takes trial and error, and valuable time. Then working with same, even then can be complex as there are different frequencies for different jobs. In a worst case scenario the helicopter pilot can become the “relayer”, but this is not ideal…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise Aspiring Helicopters

And then it’s our turn. My team leader Heather in the front ready to make decisions on where to land near a hut so as not to contaminate the scene. Our first tasking is to gather “intel” such as did they stay in the hut, is their gear still there, did they leave an “intentions” note, what gear might they have with them etc…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

Pilot James…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise Aspiring Helicopters

The next load in…
sarex-out-of-LR.jpg

While we searched in great detail around the hut, they headed off immediately downstream. The other link box team having successfully set up the radio repeater had gone up-steam. All three parties contain people with tracking skills…
sarex-out-of-LR-2.jpg

As a sub tasking Eric, an old mate from way back that I ski with a bit, and I have to “cut” a 50 meter circle around the hut, looking for entry and exit signs. We have to try to also find the direction of travel [DOT] of anything we find. While doing this we mark our own tracks by scuffing and tying coloured paper to whatever, and also endeavour to NOT walk in the obvious easy places – which often sees us jumping from tussock to tussock so as to not disturb clues. This is painstaking but worthwhile intel gathering, and as it turned out we found every track they’d left, even to get water from the river, or toileting, but we were always looking for DOT…
Aspiring Helicopters

While Eric radios in a good footprint “find” including it’s size, I GPS it and we note the latitude and longitude. We of course wonder if it’s there from a water filling trip to the creek, or did they cross and head off hunting!? We decide on the former, as there were no signs of scuffed grass on any possible exit points on the opposite bank. So we have dry feet and the crossing looked a bit sketchy anyways at this narrow point. It’s very “electronic” these days too, and we even use very small radios for comms person to person over up to 1 Km apart – very handy as we’re then not cluttering up the “bigger picture” network, but of course none of this gear likes being submerged so there goes another time consuming dry-bag task/detail to be attended to when crossing!
wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise north matatapu

We also found an old Emerates sachet, GPS’d it too, despite it looking quite old. In some scenarios that could be a clue to be followed up to learn more about our client’s arrival in NZ etc. and luggage/intentions they had etc….
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

I really love these high country rivers, but they’re never warm enough to swim in for long, even on the hottest summer day…
sarex-out-of-LR-6.jpg

It’s BIG country I realise…
sarex-out-of-LR-5.jpg

At this point we learn via the radio that 1] the most experienced hunter has been found some distance away and is currently being airlifted out via the ACR team’s assisting with a strop, and 2] our downstream team has found prints. So we are then picked up and dropped down stream further so that our three teams now leap frog each other until we either find the other missing two, or find tracks where they left the river or went up a side creek. And this is what the underside of a two ton helicopter looks like flying away from us…
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Then it’s all quiet again…
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But while Eric and I link up to cross the river Sparky and Heather find the best print yet. We have DOT! We also carry acetates and felt marker pens to trace the outline – this can be invaluable in a some search scenarios to help identify who maybe where…
Search and Rescue Exercise Tracking

Again I note it’s BIG country as I look back upstream! Who would have guessed so close to town and Treble Cone ski area…
North Matatapu

In the last drop-off we were alarmed we’d acquired an extra pack – as it turns out it was full of ropes, and I’d unloaded it by mistake. We could have split up it’s contents as the pilot decided not to return, but Sparky offered to carry it on his front for awhile. Here he jokingly points “onwards” team. And you know what; he was pointing exactly in the direction of the two missing boys…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

But having found a print, we then got picked up again and deposited at the confluence of two branches of the river, with another team. As we were starting to get on top of each other, and the barbecue was to be at 4 pm, we knew we were getting hot. And we found more prints in the area, and none down stream, so we looked up, and Heather spotted, believe it or not, a brief glimpse of an elbow up in the nasty bluffs to right. She grew up in the hills, the daughter of a high country farmer up at Makarora… so she knows her stuff [and is one of my special friends]…
North Matatapu

Just as I was beginning and near the last person, the rather awkward ascent up all-too-slippery snow grass, the helicopter returned to unload the stretcher so I went down to it to help with carrying parts of…
Aspiring Helicopters Squirrel

Paul took on one of the more awkward loads…
Wanaka Search and Rescue ExerciseEX Ferno Washington Stretcher carry

On arrival and after a rest, I got asked to help a bit with a belay, and suggested we have two of, as the direction of travel was to change just under where I was standing. The others did a great job First Aid wise and were preparing to walk one of the young men down [sprained ankle], and had “stretchered” the other who had had a diabetic event…
Wanaka Search and Rescue ExerciseEX Ferno Washington Stretcher lower

Steep yes, but mostly slippery due to old snow-grass stalks. Bad enough in good weather but lethal if it’d been wet…
Wanaka Search and Rescue ExerciseEX Ferno Washington Stretcher lower

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At this point I headed down in time to be close to the first load flying out to the sausage sizzle. Having proved the “lower” was do-able, the patient was evicted from the stretcher above and we all made our way down and home…
Aspiring Helicopters pickup

Another good friend Mike K looking like a bull thar. He used to muster wethers on this block 30 years ago, so he was right at home…
sarex-out-of-LR-18.jpg

For the flight back I had a front seat so it was just the best bonus as we flew up to towards Treble Cone and across alpine tarns and river flats I’ve actually ski toured on years ago…
Treble Cone above the north Matatapu

Coming over the ridge to End Peak I realised we’d been quite high all day as I looked across at Lake Wanaka and Diamond Lake in the foreground…
sarex-out-of-LR-20.jpg

Debrief and sausage sizzle back at the hanger…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise de-brief

What impressed me on this wonderful day out was how effective tracking can be, and interestingly it’s very effective at night when you can shine a good torch beam across a detail so the shadows give more relief. Of course in this type of country it may have been possible to locate the missing people faster by helicopter on such a good day, but good days are not always the domain of emergencies!

If I’m ever unlucky enough to get into trouble in the hills, then I want it to be near Wanaka – my friends in SAR have very strong and diverse skills, and I’d be in the best of hands! So-much-so they set a standard that always inspires me to try harder to add to my own tool-kit.

My friend Bill R.I.P, The Darrans, Mt Cook and Tasman

A few weeks ago via a link from a friend I discovered a blog posting about an old friend and mountaineer Bill Denz and reading it bought back many feelings and I found myself becoming quite emotional. So maybe this is a closure style post, or a story I feel needs telling, or an airing of long forgotten images. Whatever…

Bill took New Zealand mountaineering to levels unimaginable back when I was becoming quite wrapped up in it myself. I’d taken a summer off to just climb mountains – a narrow pursuit, and as such the learning curve was steep and constant.

By January I’d worked myself south to the Darran Mountains in Fiordland – you drive through them literally via the Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound, [my dad helped build the tunnel too].

The late Arthur Humphries above the tunnel portal at the Hollyford end. I love the contrast of fragile sensitive hands against the granite landscape…
Arthur Humphries - Darran Mts Fiordland NZ

I arrived at the NZ Alpine Clubs Homer Hut alone, a few days before I was to be one of a few instructors for an alpine skills course for a week.

As is quite normal for Fiordland I was hut bound for a day or two of rain so got to know a few people including Bill and his young friend Phil Herron – already they were known as a very potent climbing pair and were doing things out of reach of my frame of reference. However I enjoyed their company immensely, little knowing I’d meet Bill coincidentally a few more times over a few more years – always in huts, and later on Phil’s mother when I came to living in Wanaka. Bill and Phil were very different personalities with a great energy, and I still recall Phil’s smile and a spirituality beyond his young age of 18.

When the weather cleared I found myself in Arthur’s company on one of the classic routes, and this led to a chance meeting of two others and by combining we dealt to the last pitch to the summit of Mt Talbot. via a rather rotten gully [I found better alternatives over the next three days].

Arthur Humphries, Gerald Shanks, Bob Cresswell [Gisborne] and myself on Mt Talbot
Darran Mts Fiordland NZ

While I was happy to do the classics such as the easy ridge on the left on Barrier, Bill and Co. were to be found doing new routes on the likes of this face across from myself and Arthur…
Barrier Face, Darrans Mts. NZ

This sort of terrain was more my level…
Donald Lously on Mt Talbot, The Darrans, Fiordland NZ

Mt Talbot, The Darrans

And this was Bill and Phil’s terrain…
Moirs Mate, The Darrans, Fiordland national Park NZ

And we all enjoyed descents like this in the sun, and sometimes on certain routes there’d be a little tarn to have a swim in…
Darran Mts Fiordland NZ

As Bill said “it’s not as serious down here compared to Cook – here if you get caught out for a night, you don’t risk getting frostbite and the crevasses are smaller”

Brocken Spectre, The Darrans, NZ

Instruction course over and a few new friends later I headed north for a spell with my parents before going to Cook with some ambitious plans.

But life takes strange turns – word came that Gerald Shanks had just fallen on Mt Sabre not far from the route I’d completed with him and Arthur and Bob. I was a bit stunned and frankly frightened at how suddenly sunny adventures and raw finger tips [from the granite] could turn to death. The rope safeguarding Gerald dislodged a rock above which hit him and caused him to fall.

It turned out he and Bill were old mates, and prior to Bill writing this poem below, he and I corresponded with each other and Gerald’s parents.

Your coffin lies heavy in our hands
We turn and with manly paces move
Past parental friends
And climbers in their shabby suits,
To the concrete block wall
With it’s aluminium cross
Where you are to stay,
While a sermon is read
About God and stuff

You died on Sabre,
Falling oh so fast
Like one of those turfs,
Gardened from a pegging crack,
Which tumbles, thumping and disintegrating
In a few seconds,
Down a day’s hard climbing.

Recall, when we first met,
How you came off that pass,
Eyes red from the snow,
Or again, the bivy in the rain,
Trapped by dark on the cliffs of Belle,
Huddled, with chattering teeth,
Above the Homer Road.

But now you are dead,
And it’s so final I feel,
For only your body is here.

I headed to Mt Tasman in Mt Cook National Park, but did little – my heart was not in it… fearful even, since I’d had time to think… needed time…
Mt Tasman from Mt Johnson

A couple of years later and I’d migrated away from summer mountain pursuits to follow the dream of ski mountaineering…
Grand Plateau and Hochstetter Icefall, Mt Cook

But life takes those funny turns, and suddenly one weekend I found myself skiing up under Mt Tasman.

Skiing the “Mad Mile” is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done – another steep learning curve under threatening ice cliffs, by the hundreds…
Skiing mad mile, Grand Plateau

I just missed Bill by a few days – he and Phil climbed up to and crossed the Grand Plateau, and climbed up to the Main Divide then descended a little to do the first? winter ascent of the Balfour Face of Mt Tasman. And returned, all on foot!

Knowing the conditions I was and still am just in awe of their labours, achievement and abilities!

It made our fly in, stay in the hut and descent and joyful ski down seem like a tourist’s picnic…
Tasman Glacier, NZ

My constant companion for many years of wonderful mountain adventures, Chris Jackson down-climbs, prior to putting on skis, to the Freshfield Glacier…
Downclimb to Freshfield Glacier, Mt Cook

Chris in good form… We all were… three tracks of us, myself, Chris and Roger Thompson, and Bill and Phil in the same context offset slightly by time, of this amazing place. Were we warriors I wonder, and never knew it? For me the whole experience was simply humbling, and I was so glad it went smoothly, because there’s lots of potential to know the edge that lurks…
Skiing Freshfield Glacier, Mt Cook

Within a short time Phil had fallen in a crevasse in Patagonia, and died. Bill nearby – it changed him I reckon. His climbs took on a new quest – they’re legends typified over the following years by his decision to try the climb again. Bill ended up alone in a vertical ice filled crack tied on for several days with virtually no food, riding out a storm. Few can survive these events, so in my mind Bill had learnt to transcend life itself many times!

We never talked of this though on a chance night I spent with Bill in the old Malte Brun Hut. I don’t think either of us wanted to be guiding at Mt Cook in the totally opposite experiences life had dealt us, but we yarned the night away over many brews quietly removed from our care, our clients. In Bills’ words we were bonded, we were “winter men”! Writing this brings tears…

A few months later he perished descending one of the worlds most vast mountain massifs Makalu, in an avalanche. He’d told me the odds – he knew the possible outcomes.

My mate Chris died soon after too of melanoma, and ditto Arthur who lived in Wellington and had become a friend, succumbed to a tragic situation – but these are other stories.

Some years later I realised Phil’s mum lived around the corner from me! She had a memorial seat built by the lake, and her ashes are there now too as of last year. She too was a legend…

Phil Herron Memorial

 

Mesca-Dawn: A Remembrance of Bill Denzhave a read of the article that triggered my story above >>

Gold Rush Multisport – Across Central Otago, south to north

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to once again have an amazing trip as tail-end-charlie for the annual 3 day Gold Rush Multisport race across a lot of very isolated country in Central Otago. The race is regarded as the next great challenge for those wanting something longer than the Coast-to-Coast which goes from the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island to Christchurch.

It starts at Alexandra just upstream from this famous bridge…
Alexandra Bridge

The competitors kayak down the Clutha River to Lake Roxburgh…
Lake Roxburgh

Exiting the kayak usually requires assistance as muscles have seized up…
Lake Roxburgh Gold Rush Multisport race

Next a short run and then onto a very long mountain biking leg over the Knobbly Range to Manorburn…
Lake Roxburgh transtition - Gold Rush Multisport race

Knobbly Range

My two assistants Mike and Rianne…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

Photo time – one of many, along with gates to be opened…
Knobbly Range - photographer

The tail-end mt biker…
mt biker Knobbly Range

Giving assistance…
Knobbly Range and Landcruiser camper

Dealing with a locked gate dilemma – unlike the athletes we can’t lift our transport over same…
Little Valley gate, Alexandra

The same gate…
Little Valley gate, Alexandra

Sat. night camp at Manorburn was a welcome sight…
Manorburn Dam Central Otago

After a welcome meal, we had to drive on to Poolburn Dam and then to the top of the Serpentine track to be in position for the next morning…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

Me on gates…
Gold Rush Multisport Race gate

Bright and early they came…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

Co-driver, and I’m glad of the break…
Landcruiser driver Gold Rush Multisport Race

Lauder, and I find out that distant relation and friend Cathy Lewsley has a pop-top version. Must be a genetic thing..
Landcruiser campers at Lauder

Brew time and tired…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

A big landscape…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

Meet the locals…
Farmer on Quad Bike with dogs Gold Rush Multisport Race

Keeping track…
Clipboard Gold Rush Multisport Race

Dawn on the last morning – Pisa Range from Tarras…
Dawn sunrise Pisa Range from Tarras

Traffic management…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

Fitting the dreaded sign, for the last leg to Alexandra on a busy highway…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

In true turtle mode…
Gold Rush Multisport Race

Prize giving and beers at Molyneux Park, Centennial Ave, Alexandra…
Molyneux Park, Centennial Ave, Alexandra

Many thanks to Merryn, Tim and MJ for the opportunity, and to Mike and Rianne for the great company and many laughs. And to Rianne for the use of a few photos to augment my own – she has a blog too >>

The route: Alexandra > Roxburgh > Knobbly Range > Manorburn > Serpentine > Poolburn > Moa Creek > Lauder > Thomsons Gorge > Tarras > Hawea Flat > Albertown > Lake Dunstan > Alexandra, by kayak, mt. bike, running and road bike

Third attempt to ski tour Mt Pisa, Central Otago, NZ

Why Mt Pisa? Well I’ve been up to it’s gentle summit a few times either walking or by 4wd, but I’ve never skied it before, and now I want to, and do it alone! The landscape is immense, and I want to feel how small I am in it and to be overwhelmed [well not too much!] and humbled by the experience. Being alone means maximum uptake of what is going on in the moment, and actually a trip like this demands being in the present, and being at one with it all, including one’s self!

As I close writing this post, the weather forecast for the next two days includes snow down to 300 meters! It looks like I’ll have another several weeks yet of ski touring opportunities on the Pisa range.

A duck on a ledge, “oh Kirsty how you made me Burn” and half a toilet stop

This winter has been, and currently still is, an amazing one for me. So many exciting changes: “full on” yoga of a style known as Anusara [opening of the heart], fitter than I’ve been for years, and my love of cross country skiing blossoming, especially thanks to some new gear that allows me to enjoy marginal snow conditions rather than survive them, notably Salomon skis I was introduced to by the welcome annual visit of my friend Alexei to our local Snow Farm, where he runs coaching clinics.

So as spring time takes hold, with all it‚Äôs usual vagaries of weather the longer daylight hours lend themselves to longer ski tours of several hours duration into the ‚Äúreal‚Äù mountains, where I like being forced to take responsibility for my own [usually solo] follies. Click on the first thumbnail below for a slide show of last Sunday’s “big burn” attempt to ski Mt Pisa‚Ķ

For those of you interested the skis are 185 cm Salomon Hadu models. They have metal edges and fish scales for grip, and along with Salomon’s heavier cross country ski boots with the wider binding fitting and a climbing/tramping tread, make for an amazingly effective and light combo for New Zealand snow conditions.

Best fun I’ve had for years on them!

Back to winter, back to inner seeing

Apart from a recent posting of favourite images my last post was about the onset of spring.

Well New Zealand’s climate is ever changing and we’ve had a dramatic change back to winter…
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Conditions were obviously 1st class on arrival at the Snow Farm car-park last Sunday…
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More snow than I’ve seen for sometime…
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I love the way the clouds merge with the horizon so we don’t know easily where one ends and the other begins – being as one is always profound!…
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It was a day all about locals, and fortunately having gone early there was time to talk and ski with lots of old friends.

I got invited to a music jam session back at a cafe in Wanaka and lo… more familiar faces which was heaps of fun…
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As well as learning to play the spoons [which I found I really liked doing], I indulged in some portrait photography…
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So that was Sunday – then another front or two arrived and on cue [been very into targeting adventures this winter], so yesterday was “the day” for a night ski.

But, bother! Local farmers have started the spring burn-off of bracken fern. It’s an emotive thing in areas that take pride in tourism activities…
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At least it was clear to the Remarkables in the south…
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I lingered long in a remote area, and on skiing back in the gathering gloom, I was amazed to see the snow “glow”, yet the sun had long set…
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You pay a price for lingering, but I like skiing in the dark. It was approaching minus 14 ‘tho, and that gave some opportunities using flash to make a photo while huffing heavily over the top of the camera…
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And speaking of a “glow” as above:

As soon as I was on the long haul back uphill from the headwaters of the Meg, well before the lights of the Lodge I turned off my headlight so as to enjoy the stars and used various awareness techniques at times to stay on the route, not to mention staying upright as it’s hard to balance in total darkness.

As the night deepened I became aware of a barely discernable and useful glow about me of approx three meter radius. I was frigging mystified as it seemed to come from within me, and then I thought it was light from the Milky Way! How amazing was that I thought – light from billions of light years away!

I’ve done a lot in the dark in the mountains and never seen anything of the likes before. But I do know in other instances when darkness excludes visual guidance that other senses such as feeling the track through the feet come into play. This is always accompanied by what I call entering “the zone”. But this time there was no need for this – I knew exactly where I was, often by using my ski poles like a cat uses it’s whiskers

But after pondering why I could only see definition underfoot and not on surrounding banks, snow etc. [it was profoundly dark and the route is in a gully] I came to an explanation more of a spiritual flavour based on the fact that I’ve been advancing this year into deep yoga, breathing and poses which change our perceptions of life. Actually right at the very core of the central nervous system and beyond

I think my “seeing” was akin to how an inner sight develops in some blind people.

It was rather eerie, of gold tonings and although subtle, extremely beautiful!

How little we know of ourselves until we commit, or are pushed into holes or barriers – sometimes we opt to go back, maybe even to misery, or at best “ordinary life”!

Going on ‘tho, into what only we can know – our own unique journey into a type of darkness, with work and surrender we can give ourselves permission to make our own light to steer by, or do we simply allow it to shine through us from a greater source!

A few thoughts on light weight ski touring and a fashion shoot

Following on from the popularity of last week’s post here are a few words on the underlying thoughts and emotions on such a trip:

Heading off on these solo jaunts I always remind myself that “familiarity breeds contempt”. Although trails on the Snow Farm are fairly well frequented going out on dusk as I do is a time I’m usually very alone.

There is not a great feeling of isolation when I reach the northern most boundary of my self appointed tour, that is until the sun sets and the wind bites…Ski tour snow farm

I usually take a small snow saw and overmits, the theory being that if I hurt myself I could build a small snow shelter/cave and burrow in out of the wind, but it’s a useless strategy this winter as this snow cover is really thin

I sort of seemed to ski across time on ice…
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Through the setting sun on racing clouds, and a cold that watered my eyes…
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Oh I was so aware of the isolation of this most rugged gorge, and the chill, and how it held my all of my body except my heart. A heart held warm by a love of life…
Ski tour Snow Farm Meg Gorge

Perhaps by doing ski tours like this I sometimes ski briefly into where God lives – in our hearts. I think he guides me on these trips for good reason.

To stand by all on ice or earth with an open heart…
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Back near civilisation I often find I have a heightened sense of awareness of my surroundings and inner self, hence this shot…
Ski tour Snow Farm

On finishing on dark, and feeling so chilled as I did last last Sat., I elected to camp up there in my camper to further enjoy the wild rawness, and sometimes there are surprises in this strategy too.

Like last Sunday morning on waking I found myself in the midst of a photo shoot for a snow boarding clothing range in preparation for 2014 catalogue. It was fun, very interesting and I made some new friends…
film shoot at the snow farm


film shoot at the snow farm

 


film shoot at the snow farm and Mt Aspiring

 


film shoot at the snow farm

 


And to wrap up a typical spring weather pattern has now arrived, and westerlies as per this approaching front today are now on the scene. The Cardrona Valley…
The Cardrona Valley