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