Monday, December 7, 2009

you are a (mountain) goat!

The Goat 2009 - The Pinnicles @ Whakapapa through the mist

The Goat 2009 - race briefing

The Goat 2009 - start at Top of the Bruce, Whakapapa

The Goat 2009 - finish at Turoa carpark

"Have you goat what it takes?" is the question on everyone's lips at this time each year as they tackle The Goat alpine adventure run from Whakapapa ski field to Turoa ski field. The course is on a portion of the Round the Mountain track, around Ruapehu's lower western flanks. It starts on tarseal down the Bruce Road and quickly takes you through barren landscapes, low scrub, exposed ridges, freezing cold stream crossings, and up the cascades that tumble into the Mangaturuturu valley. "20km of hope and 1km of truth" (Mark Watson) culminates in the last tarseal push uphill on "Mama's Mile" to the finish at the Turoa carpark.

This was the 6th Goat, and my 5th working on the event and it just gets better and better. Although it is early summer, at (average) 1500m altitude in a volcano sticking up in the middle of nowhere, the weather can really throw anything at you. We have had nice sunny race days and snowy freezing ones too. On Saturday, it was rain.

Working on the event crew you see some familiar faces year on year and I like talking to people to find out if they have done it before, would they do it again, that kind of thing... Last year I did it too! Having been out on the course myself (once walking for fun, and once running/walking on goat day) I can really appreciate what people are facing out on the course. Looking forward to working on next years event already. And would I do it again? Maybe! Below are some pics from a casual walk I did at the beginning of last year. "It doesn't goat any better than this."

Jan 2008 - the track

Jan 2008 - the track and a view to the west

Jan 2008 - Mangaturuturu Valley

Jan 2008 - the cascades, from the bottom

Jan 2008 - the start of "Mama's Mile" to Turoa

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

That's it, That's all NZ!

Last day, Turoa, SNOvember the 8th 2009

Just finished the "season" 2 days ago with a nice corny spring day with a touch of slush thrown in here and there. Bit bummed out that there wasn't a late spring dump for the last day, but still awesome to have chair lift access for SNOvember days.

We took a day trip on the Sunday - nice to be able to sleep in till 6am since the chairlifts didn't open till 10am. It was a hot hot sunny drive, lots to see in the daylight and it's gonna be the last mish down there for a while. Boo....

RAL were still trucking snow to the base, so the carpet was still running on the Alpine Meadow, but no more riding to base as Clarry's track ran out just after the Mangawhero Valley, and the Giant Chair was a no go zone. They had the High Flyer Chair running for the first time in ages tho, so this was great for the park peeps, and learners not up for the High Noon Express. Up high conditions were soft, but still a great spread of snow all over. Not many people here and plenty of room to spread around.

There were people hiking to the summit and normally my boyfriend would be up for it, but today was about a bit of fun, and relaxing cruisy runs for the last day. Did Branchline, Bread Run, Vertigo, Whynots (although the cat track the veers off to the express was cooked, and I didn't like to trust my aim between the rocks, besides there may have been more just under the surface, so I walked a few steps), Big Bowl was pretty nice, seemed to have been groomed in the morning so did a few runs down here. I also did my first run for the season out Layback. Done Slider plenty of times, but knowing that the exits out of out west have been a bit grim this year (AND the nicer snow has been east) I haven't really been out here. We exited at the top of the Organ Pipes with a little bit of a hike up to the bottom of Branchline. Hot work in soft steep snow!

Bit of a lack of entertainment and hoopla from RAL on the Giant deck, so we created our own. Word had been put out over the snowco forum that we would meet for a beer and some runs at 12pm. Some I have already met over the season, great to put some more faces to names. Nice to meet you!

Stoked to get turns in on the last day of Winter '09. Planning for Winter '10 is already well under way with a planned return of the Southern Club Field Tour, and I'd like to spend a bit more time at Tukino and Whakapapa on Ruapehu too. There will be a couple of summer trips to the Ruapehu region which I will blog about, and of course there is beach time to be had.

Have a great summer everyone,


Monday, November 2, 2009

not over just yet

It's been a funny old spring... today on the 2nd of November they are reporting it to be the coldest October in 25 years! The upper slopes of Turoa are loaded. October brought us wintery snowstorms that kept topping things up so in between times, when the weather cleared, there has been lots of happy faces shredding the pow. Spring 09 saw winter (and SNOvember) reappear. Turoa, at Mt Ruapehu, will be open til November the 8th, so make the most of it and eek out some last turns.

Saturday saw a stunning drive up the Ohakune mountain road with freshies down to Massey Flat. I did quite a few runs down Branchline and Slider to warm up, but as I was making my way back to the Giant Chair I made my way down deserted untracked drainage gully's belwo the Jumbo T Bar to the ski area boundary. The home run did not have enough snow coverage to get back to base, so I lapped my own tracks hiking this line 4 times.

Massey Flat

Hiking out on Home Run

Bottom of the drainage gully

start near the Jumbo T

SNOvember the 1st was Sunday. Another clear day to play all over and I opted for the Branchline runs back to the Giant Chair. Took a friend who is learning this season for his first black run - he was stoked! Bought the T shirt and wore my jandals in the car park too. It was a beautiful departure heading north in daylight with the full moon rising above Girdlestone. I love Spring!

Monday, October 19, 2009

a big drive and then no action

BIG hail

Looking at the weather report we knew it would be closed Saturday, so arrived in Ohakune Saturday arvo hoping for Sunday. It would be great if it was another good Sunday like last Sunday! Instead Saturday evening brought us intense hail and thunder. Alas Sunday was closed...

Closed at 13km mark on Sunday

Monday, October 12, 2009

after the storm

After the big snow, my lovely other half snuck away on the Wednesday for a day of fresh snow, wicked lines, and an all round awesome day... while I was stuck at work. There was still a lot of snow around, plenty down to the one lane bridge on the Ohakune Mountain road. And the trees, oh the weight of the snow (and lack of wind) brought many branches down and leaning over the road.

here is a movie (I think made by mountain staff) coming down the Ohakune Mountain road and into the tree line before the snow and trees were cleared and it reopened on Wednesday.

Well, it was another sketchy weather forecast for the weekend but we headed down. So Saturday the 10th rolled round and the mountain was CLOSED. It was windy and snowing up at Turoa again tho. Many people like us had taken the drive for a look and see what was going on up there. Those even more committed were hiking up the Sisters (above the Alpine Meadow) and taking various means of sliding down.

Alpine Meadow @ Turoa

Sunday 11th: It was snowing as we headed up the Ohakune Mountain Road to Turoa... and then cleared to blue sky as we arrived at 8am! No gales force winds as predicted, and it felt like no one was there, pretty deserted. There were nice snow stashes down Slider, Branchline, and the Why Nots. The Jumbo T bar wasn't running, but to end the day we did 3 runs in a row of cutting over from the Why Not's to the far side of Raceline where it was untracked and creamy. We rode first to last lifts - great day and well worth the drive!

wind drifts above Slider

High Traverse above Big Bowl

High Noon Express - not many people 

Why Not?'s are now the 'where are they?'

Monday, October 5, 2009

wrong call

The forecast looked bad so flagged going boarding... but Saturday turned out to be a nice spring day! On Sunday it dumped down in the afternoon: snow down to Taihape and as far east as Hawkes Bay, plus the Napier/Taupo road (trapping 100 or more cars in the snow). Snow also closed road desert road and SH49 from Ohakune to Waiouru.

Never mind. At least it's topped up the snow for spring riding.

Here's my Ohakune flatmate Tracey and friends doing a spot of EXTREME sledding on the Sunday. (video by Tim Simpkin from the Snow Centre)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

go you Spring Thing

Spent the Saturday at Turoa, was very slushy all over. Found a semi powdery bit down Slider, while the bf went over to scope out Layback. Already some spring meltage cracks starting to form on the edge of  Layback as you drop into the lower Slider/Upper Organ Pipes. It was pretty bare from the Wintergarden down. A download day for sure! Saturday was also the day for the Bikini Jam! Girls (and Boys) donned their bikini tops and sent themselves down a GS course on the Yahoo trail raising funds for Breast Cancer. Thankfully the sun was out this year.

Sunday was back at Turoa. It was cold overnight and a bit breezier than the day before, so all of yesterday's slushiness froze and took a while to release.

Monday, September 14, 2009

EXTREME Spring Days

After a week of very changeable weather, a high parked itself over the country and the sun fiercely came out and the wind finally dropped. Last Monday and Tuesday I headed out west at Whakapapa and rode my butt off, eeking out every possible minute of the day. There were minimal or no queues - this is what week day riding is all about! The snow was firm in the morning, but at about 10.30 or 11am it was as if someone flicked a switch and it softened... everywhere - spring riding goes off!

bluebirds - for 4 days straight!

Black Magic bowls - no one here

On the Wednesday and Thursday Ruapehu hosted the Export Extreme in the Pinnicles at Whakapapa. The top guys and girls were in town and heaps of locals had entered. I played support crew for Jordan Decker, our friendly ski patroller from Tukino. Back to defend his top placing in men's snowboard from last year, and he won again! Competitors had a precarious ascent up cut steps and ropes through the Elevator shaft above Broken Leg Gully, and then a high traverse across to the start line.  

Both days were held on Policeman's, making the Schuss House at Hut Flat the place to be to take in all the action. As spectators, there was really no escaping the sun down here. And there was the constant reminder to slip slop slap from the MC's on the mic. It was down to T shirts as the pasty guns came out, mismatched from the grubby goggle tans we now all had. It really was the perfect spot to hang out and catch all the action in the afternoon between runs.

Jordan taking a drop at Policeman's

Dazza from K2 and I - in the spectator area
(Photo Credit - Dodge)

Highlight videos of the event can be found as SnowTV - day one and day two. Check it out. (You can see Jordan and I skate past behind Lorraine at 5mins 54 of the second clip, all 2 seconds of it)

I reckon the best sunsets are the ones you see while driving in your car when it is impossible to take a picture! On Mon/Tues/Wed, while driving back to Ohakune, Taranaki was hugely magnified on the horizon under burning red skies. On Thursday night Taranaki left us and there was a hint in the sky of the cloud, drizzle and wind that was promised to arrive the next day. Sunday afternoon it cleared and early this week looks like ditto conditions on the hill. I only wish I was there and not back at work, gazing across the harbour at boats and the Sky Tower.... I think a "working lunch" at the beach might be in order today!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Did I mention the wind?

Attempted to go up today, but ended up watching the wind and waiting for the final descision that all was closed for the day.

The Wild Side

It's been a bit of a wild week at Ruapheu this week. Wind, Rain, Sun, Snow, more wind and just a little bit of riding in between.

Yesterday (Thursday) we went to Tukino, the wild side of Ruapehu. Getting there can be a bit of an adventure. I hitched a ride with Conrad (from the Pizzeria, at the Junction @ Ohakune) in his 4wd and, with another girl Rachel, we departed Ohakune for the Desert Road. Tukino access road is well sign posted at it's sandy entrance, the road was fairly pot holey at the bottom and a bit rutted at the top with a bit of snow across the very top section. We were greeted by the familiar face of ski patroller Mike standing in the wind in his thermals and boardshorts and invited inside the Aorangi hut for a hot cuppa.

The ticket office was not running, being a weekday, so Cindy and Mike sorted our day passes over coffee at the table. Love the laid back atmosphere up here. While we were sipping our cuppa's and sussing our nutcrackers, patroller Jordan got the bottom Whangaehu tow running.

There was a cool breeze but the bottom tow was reasonably sheltered and warm and sunny. They'd had some fresh snow overnight, there was some soft snow about, but some of the open spaces were a bit wind stripped and/or icy and softened over the day. Above the bottom tow in The Gut there was a nice stash of fresh pow and a bit of a wind lip which created the perfect spot for a wee jump. We also hiked up The Gut for some fresh turns, niiiice.

The Aorangi top tow opened in the morning. As I have yet to attempt backside on a nutcracker I sent Conrad up for a look. It seemed to be similar conditions up there, sounded ICY, so I just stayed on the bottom tow opting for lots of easy runs rather than trying something new, trying it all back to front for average-ness up top. No one was really heading up there. Anyway, the bottom tow here seems so easy now after my last day on nutcrackers at Craigeburn and its 3 big tows. So thankful I have my own nutcracker and harness now too.

For lunch we sat in the sun outside Aorangi Lodge and chatted to a Chaplin in from NZ Army over sandwiches. There was a big crew of them up here doing some pre-deployment training, and gearing up for a night over in the snow. Nice guys (and gals). Back into it after lunch for a couple more hours, but Conrad and Rachel had work in Ohakune calling so we departed at 2pm. Can't wait to be back.

More info can be found at the Tukino website. It can be a bit of a mission getting up the road, so make sure you check the road conditions first and call ahead if unsure. I stayed up here a couple winters ago, so check out the ski+stay packages too.

PS: I managed my own nutcracker injury today, while hooking the rope up on odd pulleys where it had fallen off, I somehow managed to whack my knee into the lower pulley on that ride. Makes for impressive bruises!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 7-10: Avo Days

More from the road... Avalanches, warm temps, and not a frost on the car, what is up with winter?!

We hit Mt Cheeseman on Friday the 14th August, which is now the memorable "avo" day... Cheesy was great. Self loading T-Bars was something new. Good viz, the snow was soft all over, and the place is a lot of fun. We loved our first "cheesy" experience. At the end of our day we were removing our chains at middle hut (on the road) when the roadie yelled out "LOOK" and we spun around in time to see an off piste skier triggered avalanche break away and pass over the two zig-zagged sections of the road we had just driven on!!! To see the brunt of the fall hit the road and soar into the air before carrying on down the face was quite something, and we were rather relieved to have passed by just moments before. Talking to the cafe staff the next day they said it took about and hour and a half to clear the road before they could come down. (No camera handy as it happened, so I just have a sketchy 'after' pic)

self loading T-bar @ Mt Cheeseman

Avalanche across the rd at Cheeseman

Back at the lodge in Springfield we were telling our new Australian friends about it, and they some exciting stories too. One of the guys spent the day at Porters where Big Mama had shed her snow dress, and at Craigeburn two other guys had their day cut short when the face below the Remarkables gave way to gravel. Then, flicking on the news that night, we hear someone lost their life in an avalanche near Methven. Sad news indeed.

Conditions the next two days were warm and moist underfoot, and most nearby fields were closed. We spent the Saturday and the Sunday riding back at Cheeseman and Porters. Our 2nd day at Cheeseman was cut short due to the warm moist conditions and patrol not wanting to risk another slide for a second day in a row. Riding was already restricted on Cockayne Face and Ridge Tow, where we had ridden on Friday. And our "fill in" day at Porters on Sunday ended up being our best day at Porters yet. Sunny skies, spring snow (in winter), and weekend party atmosphere with music blasting from the bottom of T1.

Cockayne closed on our second day at Cheesy

3 slides on Big Mama (Porters)

We'd booked 2x nights at CV, so were hoping riding was on for the Monday before we headed south. Sunday night is kind of an orientation night at Craigeburn, where we got introduced to the staff and they talked about their roles and a bit about the field. The question on everyone's lips was would it open tomorrow? Another large avalanche had self released in Middle Basin while they were closed on the weekend, but patrollers Irene, Larry, and Iwao were keen to get up early and check it all out and hopefully open at least for us lodge guests. We learned that even if they didn't open, they would issue us with tickets so all were accounted for should anything happen.

Craigeburn - access tow and slide below the Remarkables

avo's in Middle basin

Whew, Monday was on... kinda. We tracked in at the ticket office, and informed staff if we were wearing transievers or not. (we weren't, gulp) Riding was restricted to close by the top two tows only. Closer inspection of the avo in middle basin by patrol revealed it was actually a grade 3, rather sizable. Nutcracker riding went without incident - CV is frontside for me on all 3 tows, so that was great! The sun was beating down most of the day, and we realised too late that we had forgotten to apply sunscreen with all the nutcracker and avalanche nervousness.The goggle tan was now set. To descend we had to carefully make our way down on the acess tow line only. It was extremely soft down here on this day, and we were happy to track back in to the ticket office and have our named checked off the mountain. At dinner that night we were told of more avalanches nearby, of particular note was one at Broken River that day in the Allen's basin which thankfully the skier rode out/away from. More guests had arrived to stay and again the question was would riding be on.

back country avo risk was deemed considerable!

....For us it was a no to that question. We'll be back to CV one day but Tuesday was the start of our tiki tour south, more new fields to explore, and the physical comforting thought of being back in the land of the chairlift, ye haa. Oh and a PS on the nutcrackers... we discovered that different people all have different ideas and tips and ways of teaching. But the best advice I have is for us snowboarders and that's to try and keep your gloves as dry as possible... That darn rope got more and more slippery as the day went by.

me on the middle tow @ Craigeburn

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 3 - Porters

Day 3! and 3rd day riding

It was an exciting start to the day. 1st day on the Chill Pass. The group of Australian lads we met last night at our lodge were leaving... we scurried round packing the car... got used to getting ready round each other in our small room... visited Chill HQ at Ned's Cafe for our first great morning coffee... and we were off! Porters today, to get our T Bar legs on.

View from Ned's Cafe, Chill HQ

Not really knowing how far away everything is, it was a drive filled to the brim with anticipation. We're not used to expansive vistas of hills and mountains covered in snow. Beautiful! Heading over Porters Pass, there were still small snow patches on the hills in the shade from the last low snowfall. Porters Pass road hugs the side of the hill winding it's way to the summit 940m and then opens out, running briefly alongside Lake Lyndon. "It's very Lord-of-the-Rings" we said.

Finally, the sign for Porters Ski area came into view and we were there! The road was snow and ice free, till we got to the top and parked on an ever so slight angle... on ice. Feeling nervous we reversed back a little bit, at the same time some guys next to us lept into their ute as it was starting to skid forward, and they too reparked back a bit, while all our hearts fluttered a little.

Booting up, I discovered that my snowboarding jacket was still at Springfield Holiday Lodge!! Well I could have worn my fleece I was wearing or hired a jacket... but my chill pass was in that jacket. Grrrr. It was not quite 930am, but realising that Springfield was not too far away, the roads were ok, and it was a weekday so not too many people would be here, we decided to head BACK and get my jacket and pass. At first I couldn't see it in our small room cos it was draped over the end of the bunk and kinda behind the curtain. There would be a super thorough gear check before leaving from now on!! Back at the capark at Porters, the same roady parked us. Hope he didn't recognise us from before...

We "tracked in" at 11-ish. First tracking in on the Chill Pass! Woop Woop. And the first day of T-Bar's for the whole of winter... We rode all 3 T's right to the top. It was very windy up there. Following the cat track along the top was tricky in the wind as we were getting blown backwards. There were great views over the back to Lake Coleridge despite the low hugging cloud. So we were heading to McNulty's Basin on this cat track, the wind was blowing stones into our path and it was very firm. Heading down the cat track was an interesting game of dodging stones and staying on the cat track in somewhat flat light. Suddenly were were out of catrack, hmmm. T2 loading zone was right there, so we just traversed over and down a bit. Sounds easy, but it was firm and lumpy and iced over, so the old legs were getting bumped about and a getting a total hammering.


Up T3 again to the top, and this time we stayed on the blue run right next to the T. There was nice patches of wind blown from the wind blowing over the top, but it was a quick run and then back on the T again. Each time I got slower and slower. The T legs were getting a quick intro for the season! There was no other way up but to persevere, we'd be riding nutcrackers before too long, so we stuck at it and let the legs regain their T bar memory. Before lunch we tried something different, and rode down Julian's Bowl to get to the bottom. This was firm and lumpy too! Nothing to it but to reward ourselves with a mulled wine with lunch. Lots of Kea's here. Cheeky Kea's, entertaining birds.

And.... back into it. All 3 T's to the top. Little rest, and then the quick T3 runs through the windblown patches. Flat light much of the day, but we knew the bits we liked and stuck to it. Had our eye on Big Mama, but it was closed. There was still time, maybe another day... Tried that Julian's Bowl again, but sill hurt and hard to see in flat light -we finally called the day at 3pm. We like Porters, the lifties and the vibe on the slopes was nice, met quite a few Australians today too!

top of T3

We really needed food. Things were going to get expensive buying meals all the time, and we headed straight to Darfield to stock up for the next week. For our "apres" we tried out the Springfield Pub. There was an old woman in there with sunglasses on and interesting teeth who looked like she'd been there forever, and there were some younger people who looked like they worked at Porters. It wasn't exactly humming... Maybe cos it was a Monday, or people headed straight back to Christchurch or Methven instead. Who knows.

Back at the lodge we met our new (Australian) lodge-mates. Gabe/Phil/Rick... they didn't know each other, and they were on a "tour". The whole outfit sounded dodgy, and they had interesting time of it so far. (Stories for another day.) Rick was the youngest and had a hire car to himself and we offered that he could carpool with us tomorrow if he wanted.

Looking at the weather report, things are looking worse. After 2x sunny days, and 1x ok day it's closing in tomorrow. It would be nice to get as much riding in as we can. Porters is the closest, and could be the go for a "one run wonder" if the weather closes in. We're anxious to get into the nutcrackers and get them mastered, but the weather may foil things for the next few days. Don't mind a day off as long as we get fresh snow???