WildSnowNZ — Plateau Hut, Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 3, 2015      
Billy Haas halfway down the enormous east face of Mt. Cook.

Billy Haas halfway down the enormous east face of Mt. Cook.

It’s been a good bit of time since Beau made his initial post. I was going to apologize for our delayed check in, but I won’t because we came to New Zealand to ski and that’s what we’ve been doing! For the past ten days we have been basing ski operations out of the Plateau and Kelman Huts in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

Upon arrival the weather cleared and we hit the ground skinning.

After countless emails between our crew we had all agreed beforehand that as a team we wanted to go big and ski steep. The plan was to shoot for the moon and then dial back objectives if needed and as conditions dictated.

The moon, or primary area of interest, was Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier area. Mount Cook is the tallest peak on the island (3724m) and offers up some of the longest and spiciest technical routes in the Southern Alps.

In less than 24 hours after landing we met up with Beau and came up with a plan. We could walk in, but that would take time and energy and the weather window looked small, so we chartered a chopper into the Plateau Hut at the base of Mount Cook. Pretty reasonable at about $75 per person.

We came in hot and heavy with 5-7 days of food and lots of ideas. Well stocked and highly stoked! The weather was perfect and as we flew in we were immediately face to face with the east face. And the longer we stared at Mount Cook, it just stared right back unflinchingly.

The east face of Mt. Cook.

The east face of Mt. Cook.

We unpacked at the spacious and empty hut then quickly set out for a recon tour. Poking around on many aspects we found stable settled snow. The east face was the obvious route of choice (looker’s right side). It connected to the summit, was free of ice, and the snow looked really good.

Chamonix based skiers Tom Grant and Ross Hewitt flew in with us and were keen on skiing Cook as well. They were looking at the same objective, so we decided to team up and give the face a go the next morning.

Map session in the Plateau Hut.

Map session in the Plateau Hut.

The alpine start put us on the lower face at dawn.

Early ups.

Early ups.

Enthusiasm quickly carried us up high. A little too high in fact. We missed our left turn and were forced to make a long and sketchy traverse over white ice. At least it was exposed. Ross was giving it all he had, but a cold forced him to turn back at this point.

Sharp tools and edges required.

Sharp tools and edges required.

The slope pinched and forced us out onto a steep rib then we hiked the summit ridge to the tippy top. After only a day and a half in the country we went from flip flops to front points. Now we were on top of Mount Cook about to drop in on one of the largest and consistently steep faces any of us has ever touched, having made zero ski maneuvers in many months.

The summit ridge was icy and could have been skied but it would have been really slow, dangerous, and ugly. Sense easily won out over ego and we opted to down climb. Beau had never skied with Billy or Adam before this trip and none of us had skied with Tom. This could be reason for concern, but we all worked together seamlessly which was great to see and a bit of a relief on my part since I had assembled the team.

Adam and Billy on Mt. Cook summit.

Adam and Billy on Mt. Cook summit.

Six folks are a lot to manage on a slope, so we took our time and spaced out our turns. The snow was consistent and good.

Beau working the steeps up high on the face.

Beau working the steeps up high on the face.

And as we got further down we opened it up. This steep skiing thing is a dream when everything lines up. It’s just really rare that everything goes this well.

Back down safe and sound we cooked up a fine meal and shook our heads at how fortunate our start to the trip was. The next day was windy in the morning so we loafed around and got a late start. The next best looking line was the east ridge of Mount Dixon. Not as tall a peak, but the route looked sporty. The line is the right hand ridge that then drops back left via a couloir in the rocks.

Mount Dixon.

Mount Dixon.

We brought all our sharp things on this trip and so far they were coming in more than useful.

Beau getting onto the entry couloir of Dixon.

Beau getting onto the entry couloir of Dixon.

The couloir held good snow as did the lower part of the ridge.

Steep couloir entry onto Dixon.

Steep couloir entry onto Dixon.

This changed as we got higher and we encountered some patches of the same ice we had found up high on Mount Cook. Luckily it was only in one section.

Glazed climbing up Dixon.

Glazed climbing up Dixon.

Sun’s out, guns out!

Guns ablazing.

Guns ablazing.

Turns off the top were chalky and fun on the mellow ridge. We worked our way through the ice with aggressive edging and side-stepping. Ice axes in hand just in case.

Off the top of Mount Dixon.

Off the top of Mount Dixon.

Things softened back up and we played down the featured ridge as the sun set. Each night at 7pm we received a call in with weather so we rallied to make the call, even though the thick kiwi accents are often tough to understand.

Beau lower down on Mount Dixon.

Beau lower down on Mount Dixon.

The ridge traverse into the exit couloir.

Adam Fabrikant entering the final pitch off of Mount Dixon.

Adam Fabrikant entering the final pitch off of Mount Dixon.

I admit I came into this trip having done very little research. I figured Beau had it dialed since he has spent so much time here. And he does! I didn’t understand the vast network of nicely maintained and well equipped huts that dot these glaciated peaks, not to mention the ease of accessing them via fixed-wing or heli. The walk in or out isn’t out of the question either though it’s through some very rough moraine.

Three nights at the Plateau Hut and it started to feel like home. The remaining lines that interested us would need above optimal conditions. From what we had seen there was too much ice up high to lay it out there and so we decided to move on before we got ourselves into trouble.

Voile Team representing.

Voile Team representing.

We loaded up our full kits and headed out for a new hut and fresh terrain. We skied around 2,000ft out the Freshfield Glacier in creamy corn. Our luck just continued to roll on!

Our massive corn run down the Freshfield Glacier.

Our massive corn run down the Freshfield Glacier.

From here we crossed jumbled moraine and hit the dry glacier. This made for easy travel and we continued up the Tasman Glacier Valley for ten miles or so.

Many miles in the flats.

Many miles in the flats.

This is where I’m going to sign off and let Beau tell the next chapter of the story based out of the Kelman Hut. New Zealand has been an absolute dream so far!

Comments

21 Responses to “WildSnowNZ — Plateau Hut, Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park”

  1. Jack November 3rd, 2015 9:19 am

    so amazing. hard to comment, as I think my speech centers have shut down.

  2. Layne November 3rd, 2015 10:13 am

    Skiing Cook as a warmup!? Can’t wait to see more.

  3. Sky November 3rd, 2015 11:18 am

    Awesome.

  4. Lechero November 3rd, 2015 12:20 pm

    Heavy hittin!

  5. Ty Falk November 3rd, 2015 2:16 pm

    Ya guys your crushing it so hard!! Keep up the good work!! I cant wait to catch up with you guys when you get back!! Team Voile = Progressive Ski Mountaineering!!

  6. Eric November 3rd, 2015 4:12 pm

    Nice work boyz!

  7. Luke L. November 3rd, 2015 4:36 pm

    Makin me jealous! Beau, it’s snowing in Cooke!

  8. Lou Dawson 2 November 3rd, 2015 5:33 pm

    Wow, this is wild snow! Thanks boys! Lou

  9. Shannan November 3rd, 2015 11:25 pm

    So many fun details here. In a comment to Beau’s previous post someone warned about bringing ice tools. Glad you had them on hand, it looks terrifying! I can’t even believe how incredible this trip looks. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story. Good luck understanding that kiwi accent πŸ˜‰

  10. Ian Dee November 4th, 2015 1:15 am

    Solid start. Heard you guys skied pretty much everything up there. I look forward to the next post.

  11. Frame November 4th, 2015 8:44 am

    No tv’s in the huts, if you were there during the final of the rugby world cupit could be why you got the hut to yourself! Choice.

    As for accents, y’all gotta be kiddin’, eh bro.

    Great photos and a great yarn.

  12. Jason November 4th, 2015 4:51 pm

    Nice job y’all! Can’t beat a weather window when everything lines up!

  13. John howell November 4th, 2015 8:15 pm

    Dear #1 son, I never knew taking you to ski at park city it could lead to this. Follow the passion as you do.love from the warmlanders.

  14. Todd Stuart November 6th, 2015 11:36 am

    I feel so happy for Noah and his friends who are ‘pegging the fun meter’ in a world where freedom is ours for the taking. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our inalienable rights, so go git it! If it was me, I may never come home. But wait, there’s Wasatch powder…grandkids…

    New Zealand would be tops on my list if I ever get the urge to travel abroad again…ya’all got hot springs, right? Peace, Love, Hope, Joy, Todd

  15. Noah Howell November 6th, 2015 8:48 pm

    The good weather and great skiing continues! Back in town after another hut outing further south. This place is truly incredible!

  16. Tabke November 6th, 2015 9:15 pm

    So stoked for you guys wow that’s some amazing stuff.

  17. Aaron November 7th, 2015 2:53 am

    Yeah boys!

  18. Angus November 8th, 2015 4:58 am

    Lovely. Had a week skiing out of Pioneer and Centennial Huts on the western side of the divide last October. Nothing as technical as this but still an awesome trip.

  19. George bellamy November 10th, 2015 11:22 pm

    Awesome! Did you guys climb Mt. Aspiring on Nov. 5 too? If so, I was one of the group of climbers up top and have a couple of pretty cool photos of you up there and skiing! If your interested, get back to me! George

  20. noah howell November 18th, 2015 7:55 am

    Hey George! Yeah that was us. Would love to check out the pics if you want to send them over. Maybe use them in the next post! noahhowell2.0@gmail.com

    Sorry for all the noise we were making and rime we were sending down on you.

    Cheers,

  21. Peter January 11th, 2016 2:00 pm

    I found a pretty crazy video from Mt.Dixon.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E28_3uj9K0g

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