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places to play

places to play

the west side of sefton Last summer Shane Orchard and friends went to snowboard the west face of Mount Sefton. Over four days of sunshine, they discovered one of New Zealands iconic snow and ice playgrounds.

Photo essay by Shane Orchard

The views from the summit ridge of Sefton are pretty good, especially down the east face, as seen here. Aoraki dominates the scene to the north and everything else appears quite small from up here. The west ridge is the most straightforward route to the summit. The most difficult aspect of which will most likely be route-finding on the névé or negotiating the lower ridge. It’s is on the descent that the fun really starts though, especially if you are on skis, or in this case, a snowboard. Although it’s not particularly steep, the west face line involves venturing out for quite a time above the large cliff line of the lower face, with a left to right traverse necessary. Any sort of fall or involvement in an avalanche is definitely not recommended! 18

THE CLIMBER ISSUE 67, autumn 2009

The Douglas névé is an amazing place to catch the sunset. The slopes are gentle but the crevasses are large. This is possibly due to a battle between masses of ice and the smooth schist slabs that make up this place. Perched between big drops to the north and the south, the setting is like an elevated strip of ice struggling to hold on to a place in the sky. The south side is witness to quite a spectacle, the journey of the slugs, as we called it. Lumps of ice calve off the impressive ice shelf and fall on to an almost flat schist slab, in this way, a slug is formed. This pile of ice can’t quite stick to the rock, so it begins creeping it’s way slowly downhill, towards the next main feature—a cauldron of sheer cliff lines. The slugs have no option but to depart from a life in the cool climes of the névé and they end up on a fast-track towards the sea, exploding into airborne mode and on to the valley far below. It’s quite a sight!

there are umpteen options for skiing on the névé, but plenty of crevasses and icecliffs to avoid. Here Haydyn Surgenor negotiates a spine above the lower crevasse field, with the cliff line into the Karangarua Valley beyond.

Carrying on from Sefton to complete our planned east to west traverse of the Sierra range meant that we ended up at this amazing location—a small lake perched on a ledge above a huge drop. This was our target exit-route. Navigation was difficult as the way to get there couldn’t be seen from the steep slopes above. The Pilkington descent route went all the way, it involved riding a steepening tongue of ice flanked by seracs and on down to snow ledges leading around the main terminus of the glacier. From there a final section unfolded before our eyes; a steep and narrow schist canyon leading directly to the lake. Unfortunately I was tail-end-charlie and had made no prior plans to stop for a photo. But seeing the others dropping excitedly into those surroundings was incredible. At the bottom Haydyn put in his final turns, which also marked the beginning of dealing with really heavy packs!

Looking down onto the Sierra range from the summit of Sefton. Two climbers check on our progress, having just packed up their camp near Welcome Pass, above the Copland valley (on right).

When we hit the last of the snow it was time to say goodbye to a beautiful alpine area. Here, schist cliffs frame the Horace Walker Glacier whilst Monica and Haydyn head for the next target—Christmas dinner!

THE CLIMBER ISSUE 68, winter 2009

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The west side of Sefton