ISSUE #96 2014 ANNUAL
ISSUE #96 2014 ANNUAL $12.95 incl. gst
NEW ZEALAND'S #1 SKI MAGAZINE
Images by Tyrone Low & Ruari Macfarlane
first descent SUCCESS AND TRAGEDY ON MT COOK. By Nick Begg
“If it is OK, can we have a closer look at the Caroline Face?” The pilot deviated from our course to give Andreas a better view of Mt Cook’s most mystical of faces. But it was another face on the same mountain, the East Face, that occupied my thoughts. As the pilot cut back over Cinerama Col, we were given our first tantalising glimpse. Scanning the 1500 vertical metres from the Grand Plateau to the summit, I could see no sign of the glistening ice that had helped thwart previous attempts to ski the face from top to bottom. I felt a tingle of excitement; perhaps our Mt Cook dream would become a reality? In less than fifteen minutes we were transported from Mt Cook Village to Plateau Hut, our base for the next week. Sitting on the edge of a vast glacial névé, surrounded by eight of New Zealand's ten highest peaks, it is a beautiful yet intimidating place. The steep mountain faces are heavily glaciated, with many of the climbing routes severely threatened by ice avalanches. One such dangerous section under Mt Tasman even has the nickname “The Mad Mile”, in reference to the mental state of those who venture along its path. I couldn't help but agree with the name when only minutes after our arrival, the silence of the hills was interrupted by the roar of an avalanche, over a hundred metres wide, sweeping across the Mile. I had teamed up with good friend Tyrone Low, my partner on many skiing trips in the Southern Alps and abroad. We planned to attempt a first full ski descent of Mt Cook's East Face. To the best of our knowledge, no one had completed a full descent of the East Face from above the Summit Rocks. It had been skied by a handful of people from below the rocks, by descending Green's Gully before cutting onto the face at the top of Zurbriggen Ridge, but only once had it been attempted from above. Unfortunately details of historic descents are hard to come by. There were whispers that Bruce Grant may have skied this line many years ago, and a glance at the climbing guidebook suggested Ardi Riechlin did a route on the face back in 1993. Neither Bruce nor Ardi are still around to fill us in on the details: Bruce lost his life on K2 in 1995, and Ardi on Cook in 1994. Italian Freddy Varengo dropped in from above the rocks in 2011, but unfavourable conditions forced a transition to crampons for a small part of the descent. While waiting out a storm in the village, we met two Swedish skiers who shared our goal. Andreas Fransson and Magnus Kastengren were in New Zealand for some skiing, and had already bagged a couple of good descents in the previous week. A professional extreme skier, Andreas has created a name for himself as one of world's best, with bold first descents such as the South Face of Denali. Magnus was another man who lived for skiing, splitting his time between rope access work in Sweden, and steep ski descents in his adopted home, Chamonix.
The East Face of Aoraki / Mt Cook.
Taylor Seaton at Cardrona, NZ. Image by Tommy Pyatt.
Below The Line THE GREAT BC ROAD TRIP. By Tyler Beange & Tom Brownlee The weather was warm, the snow was corn, there was an abundance of goggle tans and hardly a sober man. The slopes were full of hot-doggers in jeans, kossacking their way through a spring day at Mt Olympus. These hot-doggers are more commonly known as ‘All Us In Winterland’, a group of friends consisting of lawyers, architects, engineers, psychologists and businessmen. But at heart they are just happy-go-lucky ski bums and they had one question on their minds; where do we go once spring is over? Travelling to the northern hemisphere can be complicated. You want to ensure that you get the most bang for your buck, which brings in the three main questions: How long do you go for? When do you go? And ultimately: Where are you going to find the best, deepest, lightest and whitest champagne powder? These questions were on our minds as we opened our beers, put our feet up and settled into another tropical spring evening in the beer garden – when, low and behold! Before the sun went down and the rum came out, an idea was born, a genius idea. It incorporated the classic Kiwi road trip, with a northern hemisphere winter feel and more flexibility than a world-class contortionist. The idea was simple: travel through interior British Columbia for two months in campervans, chasing snow up and down the powder highway. Our mobile accommodation would give us the ability to be wherever the best of the fluffy white goodness was and not limit us to one area. It took a lot of organisation and negotiating but eventually the idea looked like it was coming to fruition. We had assembled a crack team of riders, filmers and photographers and managed to secure two campervans from Canadream, the only Canadian campervan company with a winterised fleet. Our flights were booked and the ultimate, flexible ski holiday was all go. Upon arrival in Vancouver we headed straight to the Canadream depot and picked up our two luxurious 6.8L state-of-the-art campervans. These slow, asphalt-crawling, behemoths would be our home for the next eight weeks and would hopefully deliver us to the famous Canadian powder that we had come searching for. Now what? Where do we go first? There was an excited fizzing commotion as we tried to decide on the first destination and fine-tune our itinerary. Before leaving home, we had mapped out all the resorts we wanted to hit along the way and done some research into another interesting Canadian pastime - ski touring. Apparently the Kootenay Mountains and Rogers Pass were littered with spots where you could pull off the road and ski tour into the untracked wilderness. But, like over-excited kids, we just couldn’t decide. As we reached the outskirts of Vancouver we remembered that the ethos of the trip was to have a basic plan and wing everything else, keeping things spontaneous and outrageous, flying by the seat of our pants while taking the best of what Canada had to throw at us. So we planted the foot on the gas pedal and headed east. Our summer research into the ski touring opportunities in Canada had seen us all kit ourselves out for a backcountry adventure and adopt a new attitude to nature, all the while undertaking an extensive training regime. “Ah touring, what a wonderful way to explore the mountains,” we collectively thought, whilst enjoying the fleeting rays of New Zealand sunshine. “No longer will we be slaves to the linear oppression of chairlifts, or the three-day-old chowder snow of the ski fields.” We sipped our beers, put off training till the next week, and threw our steaks on the barbie as we dreamed of scaling mountains under our own steam.
Images by Mark Bridgwater 84
Image: freerideworldtour.com / David Carlier
FREERIDE WORLD TOUR VICE CHAMP.
Images: freerideworldtour.com / Dom Daher
At the end of the 2014 Freeride World Tour (FWT) season Sam Smoothy stood on the podium beside the newly crowned World Champion, LoicCollomb Patton. Sam had put together his most successful season on the tour to finish 2nd overall, but it hadn’t all been plain sailing. It had been a tumultuous rollercoaster of a year for both Sam and the FWT itself.
Snowbird, in the usually powder prolific Utah, things were thin. However, the North Baldy face assigned for the comp was looking good. That was until the morning of the event, when a ski patrol bomb ripped out a 300m slide with a 3m crown wall. This left the face stripped to the ground and ended any chance of holding a comp there.
Revelstoke, Canada was the tour’s first scheduled stop, back in December. However two weeks before it was due to start, it was postponed until March, the organisers citing avalanche conditions on the comp face as the reason.
So, for the third time, the FWT had to move to a smaller sub-par venue as their only option. The inbounds Silver Fox venue was chosen and the athletes ripped it up, giving the judges a few headaches trying to separate the field on such a small face. Luckily for Sam, his run impressed the judges enough to notch up another podium, with a 3rd place finish.
Back in Europe the tour eventually kicked off in Courmayeur, Italy in late January. However the thin European snow pack had again left organisers struggling for legitimate face options. Conditions on their usual comp face had been deemed too dangerous, and with the time window closing fast, they had no option but to opt for a smaller face with limited line options.
Onwards to Canada and the postponed Revelstoke leg. This ended up being a complete non-event. With backcountry avalanche conditions ruling out the Mac Daddy face, the decision was made to cancel the event as no other suitable venue could be found. So the top twelve male skiers headed to Verbier after only four tour stops, three of which had been held on small, back up venues. Sam was sitting comfortably in 2nd with the top spot within his reach.
Ten days before the event, Sam was taken to hospital with abdominal pains and had to have his appendix removed. Initially, this ruled him out of competing but as the comp day was pushed further back, Sam decided to risk it and ski. He pulled a good start number, skied smartly and within himself, scoring an 11th place finish, fifteen days after surgery.
The infamous Bec de Rosses was not immune to the snow drought either and was looking rather bare in the lead up to the finals. However a much needed snowfall a few days before the comp improved things enough to make it happen, albeit with limited options. Unfortunately the new snow caused problems for Sam, who crashed while out enjoying the freshies, badly injuring his back. At first his chances of skiing were very slim, but somehow he managed to recover and drag himself to the top of the Bec. Sam needed to beat the current leader Loic by three or four places in Verbier to take the title. It wasn’t to be, as Loic put down one of the runs of his life to take 3rd place. While Sam, obviously struggling with the pain, bravely limped down the face even hitting a sizeable air near the bottom.
Three days later in Chamonix, Sam was feeling stronger and although he skied a relatively conservative line, his trademark aggression looked like it had returned. The end result was a solid 6th place. The lean winter caused more problems in Austria, as the Fieberbruun leg of the tour had to be moved to the nearby resort of Kappl which, unlike Fieberbruun, had a suitable face that hadn’t been stripped of snow. It was a brand new venue for the FWT and, with only a visual inspection, it was anyones to win. At the end of the day it was our man from Cromwell who stood atop the podium, claiming his 2nd career FWT win. Sam was back skiing at his best and had flashed the Kappl face with a series of fast, fluid airs to take the win.
Sam had done enough for 11th place, which secured his 2nd overall position and the best ever FWT finish by a Kiwi. He had put his 2013 season behind him and returned to his winning ways. His body had been sore from surgery for the first two events, he podiumed at the next two and could barely walk for the tour finals and yet still stood there at the end as vicechampion. What a season!
The FWT circus headed across the Atlantic for the last two stops before Verbier. The Kirkwood stop had already been moved to Snowbird, as California was in the depths of its second driest winter on record. Even at 92
The crowd in the tram watch on as Sam prepares to send it off the Frenchie Air at Snowbird
Image by Mark Watson
The best equipment, for the worst situation. For over 25 years the focus has been to keep you safe when it counts by delivering the best snow safety products in the industry. www.smenz.co.nz
ACCESSORIES And BASE LAYeRS These little guys are often those we forget, left on car roofs and kitchen benches. Unlike forgetting your boots, you can get away with it, but it is these modest things that can make your day.
FRERIDER 12 PACK // $169
RESCUER 38 PACK // $199
EVO3+ TRANSCEIVER // $449
A slim design and close fit make this an excellent pack for FreeRide skiers than want to carry only the bare essentials and nothing more.
Designed for big days in the day country and loaded with features. Also available in a 32L option.
An excellent entry level unit – fully digital, 3 antennas and mark function make this the best value for money transceiver available.
NEO TRANSCEIVER // $599
PRO 2.40 PROBE // $99
MINI OVO SHOVEL // $89
For the serious backcountry enthusiast and snow profession. Easy to use and intuitive, when you are buried under a meter of snow, this is the transceiver you will want your mates to have.
Made with Aluminium 7075, this 11mm diameter probe, with a steel cable and auto lock is made with the most demanding users in mind.
Small enough to not be noticed in your pack, but big enough for some series digging. Ergonomic handle and telescopic shaft.
Since 1957, Black Diamond’s innovative gear designs have set the standards in numerous areas. Black Diamond is a company of users, and these experiences push them to make the best gear possible. www.southernapproach.co.nz
DEPLOY 3 SHOVEL // $99
AVALUNG II // $199
AGENT BACKPACK // $149
Designed for streamlined storage in your pack and quick deployment in emergencies. Ideal for small pits and tight digging situations.
This nine-ounce shoulder sling may be the most important piece of lifesaving equipment you can wear when traveling in avalanche terrain.
Streamlined enough to ride the lift up for sidecountry laps, yet has enough room for avy-tool essentials on longer day missions in the backcountry.
Goggles are vital to good vision, in a world of white ground and white air this is quite significant. Having a lens that works in all conditions or a spare low-light lens for those stormy days can keep you navigating on the slopes and in the powder for longer. Bring your goggles with you when trying on helmets to ensure they fit together compatibly. Punter gap is often considered a mountain faux-pas and it is recommended to be best avoided. Unless of course you desire ice-cream headaches and a burnt, red stripe on the forehead to off-set the goggle tan. Speaking of faux-pas, under no circumstance is it ever acceptable to wear sunglasses with a helmet. I know you may be tempted, but don’t. Gloves, beanies and socks are often neglected or skimped on. Written off as less important, when really, they are as fundamental to your days comfort and enjoyment as the new pair of skis. Besides, cold hands can’t perform delicate chairlift operations. For baselayer, while cotton is found in abundance in the wardrobe (t-shirts and hoddys etc) it is a fiber that has no place on the mountain. It soaks up moisture and, once wet, it will chill you to the bone. There are now far more options other than just your stripy polyprop, most of which have a cross overstreet appeal.
COMPACTOR POLE // $119
ASCENSION STS SKINS // $299–$399
PURE CARBON POLE // $159
Aluminum pole that collapses into an ultra compact package. Flicklock allows for up to 20cm of adjustability.
Ascension skins let you climb in the steep in search of the deep stuff with total confidence.
Light, strong and stiff thanks to its 100% carbon fiber shaft. This is the ultimate 2-piece touring pole with our FlickLock® Pro adjustability.