WildSnowNZ — French Ridge Hut


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 23, 2015      

Readers, Sorry for the delay with our trip report! I left my laptop (which contained the edited photos and screen grabs) on the airplane on the flight home and it remains “unfound”. Guess it’s circling the globe gathering sky miles. Moral of the story is to back up your images onto an external drive (and don’t leave your laptop on the plane)!
Back to our story, Noah

With our borrowed and begged for food supplies gone, we were forced out of the Tasman Glacier area and back into town. We dried out gear and looked at weather as soon as we got back to Mt. Cook Village. Things looked unstable for a day or two and then clearing up a bit. It was a hard decision to leave the Mt Cook area and its high concentration of huge skiable peaks, but it sounded fun to check out more of the country. We headed south to Wanaka. In keeping with the perfection that this trip was, it rained for a day giving us just enough time to stop stinking and get antsy enough to need to get back into the mountains.

A two day weather window was forecast so we packed up and headed in for a go at Mount Aspiring and some surrounding peaks if time allowed.

No helicopter for this flight in.

No helicopter for this flight in.

We trekked up a beautiful lush valley for plenty of miles. There are a lot of jokes about all the sheep in NZ, but it’s no joke there are a lot of sheep in NZ! No photos though. What happens in NZ stays in NZ, except for the spraying about the skiing we did.

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Shortcutting a river to save us from walking a few more kms to the bridge upstream

Shortcutting a river to save us from walking a few more kms to the bridge upstream.

Beau is a pretty quiet guy and he had come this way before. Somehow he forgot to mention anything about climbing 3,000ft of the steepest jungle “trail” known to man.

It is a trail though because it was marked with reflective orange triangles like you see in this photo.

It is a trail though because it was marked with reflective orange triangles like you see in this photo.

It was so steep that Whippets came in handy for stabbing at roots and branches. The spikes are useful tools for the jungle if not Chamonix.

Here I am heel hooking a branch. (photo: Beau (the sandbagger) Fredlund)

Here I am heel hooking a branch. (photo: Beau (the sandbagger) Fredlund)

We just put our heads down and pugged along enjoying the strangeness of lugging the greatest ski gear on the planet through a world so void of snow. Finally patches of white allowed us to apply boots, skins, and skis and use our gear the way God intended. Not long after, we arrived at the hut where we dried gear and staked out our bunk beds.

I’ve done very little hut skiing in my time. Most of the expeditions I’ve done involve camping in the snow. It doesn’t take more than one night in a cushy hut to appreciate all the ways it makes life much easier.

The French Ridge Hut! A site for sore feet.

The French Ridge Hut! A site for sore feet.

The next morning was another early one. We busted out 3,000ft before the sun rose and gained the plateau beneath Mount Aspiring.

Adam Fabrikant making his way towards our objective. We wanted to climb the face directly ahead and to the right, but after climbing it we found conditions too firm so we opted to ski the NW "Ramp" route which is on the ridgeline.

Adam Fabrikant making his way towards our objective. We wanted to climb the face directly ahead and to the right, but after climbing it we found conditions too firm so we opted to ski the NW “Ramp” route which is on the ridgeline.

Billy and Beau high up on the face.

Billy and Beau high up on the face.

Our hope was that we would find better snow on the ridge, but this was not the case at all. I’ll give you a clue: the snow we found rhymes with rhyme. Oh well, we climbed to the top anyway since we were so close. It was looking like we’d probably down climb from the top.

Nice views!

Nice views!

The thing with skiing is that you want to ski down. Conditions have to be really bad or scary for skiers to choose climbing down over clicking in. The slopes off the top weren’t that steep and we were stubborn and decided to try and make turns down the frozen golf balls.

Adam off the top of the world! (photo:Beau Fredlund)

Adam off the top of the world! (photo:Beau Fredlund)

The sound of our skis chattering down was horrendous and we apologized profusely to the climbing party that was up there just trying to enjoy a lovely day in the mountains. It was really bad for a long, long way. We kept thinking it would get better, but it didn’t. It was probably 1,500ft of total sh*t, but still fun as hell somehow.

Beau scratching down glaze for days.

Beau scratching down glaze for days.

The lower “ramp” was steep and firm. Billy and Adam skied it, but Beau and I were having trouble with our edges holding and so we booted down. The final 3k to the hut was good corn and nice decompression from the soul shaking experience up higher.

We dried out gear and made plans for the next day. Gale force winds were forecast for the next evening so we decided to go big and get out before the approaching storm.

Roughing it.

Roughing it.

Looking back at it now, I’m not sure you could convince me that our plan for the day was a good one, but it made sense at the time.

Mount Barff is the pointy peak to the left all the way across the valley from the French Ridge Hut. We decided to go ski it and hike all the way out in a day.

Mount Barff is the pointy peak to the left all the way across the valley from the French Ridge Hut. We decided to go ski it and hike all the way out in a day.

We woke up and hiked back down the jungle to the river.

After crossing we stripped down our packs to just the necessities for a quick run up Mount Barff.

After crossing we stripped down our packs to just the necessities for a quick run up Mount Barff.

We climbed 2000ft of more steep jungle, had a quick picnic before we hit snow and climbed another 4000 ft to the summit.

The weather was holding and the snow was in excellent condition as we skinned up.

The weather was holding and the snow was in excellent condition as we skinned up.

Beau near the summit with yesterdays Mount Aspiring in the background. The French Ridge Hut is in there somewhere on the right hand ridge.

Beau near the summit with yesterdays Mount Aspiring in the background. The French Ridge Hut is in there somewhere on the right hand ridge.

Wrapping around the backside of the peak we were able to climb and then ski from the true summit. The snow was firm and steep up top, but quickly mellowed out to fast cruiser corn!

Beau carefully working off the summit ridge.

Beau carefully working off the summit ridge.

It was nice to have some very relaxing turns after so many steep and exposed lines on this trip.

Billy opens is up mid run. (photo: Beau Fredlund)

Billy opens is up mid run. (photo: Beau Fredlund)

The snow eventually gave way to greenery and we hiked back down to the river. From here we packed up all our gear and hoofed it out the LONG valley. We made it back to the car in the dark and drove back to town.

Suffering in silence.

Suffering in silence.

We slept in the next day while it rained in Wanaka. Beau had another week on his trip, but ours was just about wrapped up. Beau wanted to base out of Mount Cook area for his final days so we drove back up north to warm temps and broken weather. We skied a large line right out of town and then headed to Christchurch to catch our flight.

Thanks for an all-time outing, gentleman!

Thanks for an all-time outing, gentleman!

I really can’t imagine how this trip could have gone any better. Pretty cool to be able to have a group of strangers come together and operate so well in varying conditions. Beau and I will be doing a joint post with afterthoughts, tips, etc. Huge thanks to Lou and Lisa and WildSnow nation for letting us share our times and tales here. #newskiland #wildsnowNZ

Comments

10 Responses to “WildSnowNZ — French Ridge Hut”

  1. Greg Louie November 23rd, 2015 9:56 am

    Damn. All-time is right!

  2. sean November 23rd, 2015 10:06 am

    Nice job guys!!

  3. KyleMiller November 23rd, 2015 8:54 pm

    Strong work guys!! Love the Matukituki

  4. Kt November 23rd, 2015 9:06 pm

    Gotta love a good #beauknows jungle shwack… been on a few of those myself. ❗ :wink

  5. Eric Steig November 23rd, 2015 9:35 pm

    Love that part of the world. It’s been too many years since I was there (haven’t climbed Aspring, either..).

    Oh, and those photos are a great advert for Voile Vectors!

  6. Michael November 23rd, 2015 10:45 pm

    Amazing!

  7. Sky November 24th, 2015 10:50 am

    Spectacular scenery and worthy objectives.

  8. ZB November 24th, 2015 4:48 pm

    Those photos are simply incredible. And making me miss my home country.

  9. Beau Fredlund November 25th, 2015 7:23 am

    Cheers Greg, Sean, Kyle, Kt, Eric, Michael, Sky, and ZB. We feel very thankful to have had the opportunity to ski in New Zealand. Such an incredible part of the world.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 November 25th, 2015 8:36 am

    We sure enjoyed publishing these high quality trip reports! Thanks Beau and guys for the opportunity. Very nice job on both the objectives and the creatives. Lou

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