Mt. Olympus, New Zealand, July 17, 2010, pics added

Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding anywhere in the southern hemisphere: New Zealand, Australia, South America, etc., including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.

Mt. Olympus, New Zealand, July 17, 2010, pics added

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:55 pm

This was my first experience with the oft-discussed New Zealand club fields. I am being guided by http://www.blackdiamondsafaris.co.nz/, whom I recommend highly to vacationing skiers who want to try the club fields. Reason #1 is the Mt. Olympus access road, which is probably the hairiest I've ever seen (maybe Arpa in Chile would be comparable with a lot of snow and ice).
IMG_6825.JPG
IMG_6825.JPG (144.01 KiB) Viewed 5367 times

After an exhausting day I would certainly not want to drive down that road, and if you are renting a car 2WD would be out of the question to get up there. A nine year old girl was injured late in the day, and my guide Marcus helped attend to her until a helicopter evac arrived about 5PM.
IMG_6878.JPG

Any serious injury requires the heli due to the likely distress descending that road.

The Black Diamond guides did say that Mt. Olympus was the worst of the access roads, and perhaps its location deep into the mountains meant less mist/rain effect than I saw at Mt. Hutt or Porters. The club areas do not have any grooming equipment whatsoever, but the main skier packed lines had a pleasing packed powder surface. Less busy runs had a thin breakable crust layer that was tricky with the Apache Recons (demos, not mine) but would support a fatter ski with good technique. Some young locals were ripping up this slope:
IMG_6856.JPG
IMG_6856.JPG (91.81 KiB) Viewed 5367 times

IMG_6860.JPG
IMG_6860.JPG (79.51 KiB) Viewed 5367 times

We went over there and it required careful skiing-on-eggshells technique for me.

Weather was overcast in the morning with some sunny breaks in the afternoon. Slopes were mostly shaded due to primary south exposure. Map in lodge:
IMG_6833.JPG
IMG_6833.JPG (116.51 KiB) Viewed 5367 times


There's about 1,500 vertical directly lift accessible, but there are ridgelines above which the members hike for some steeper lines and when there's fresh snow. Here's Little Alaska above the Back Run:
IMG_6845.JPG
IMG_6845.JPG (84.2 KiB) Viewed 5367 times


And the Sphinx above the Main Face late in the day:
IMG_6867.JPG
IMG_6867.JPG (84.38 KiB) Viewed 5367 times


The members/patrol must also hike above the lifts to do avalanche control. There's a lot to do, and with a major dump they may have to call in a helicopter to bomb if the hike looks too unsafe. The saddle in the background of this pic of Frozen Waves is the least exposed climbing route to do control work.
IMG_6850.JPG
IMG_6850.JPG (59.77 KiB) Viewed 5367 times


There are 3 rope tows and the lodge is at the top of the first tow.
IMG_6843.JPG
IMG_6843.JPG (110.12 KiB) Viewed 5367 times

It sleeps 38 and was full for the end of the school holiday week. Quite a few kids, and FTO readers would no doubt approve of kids learning to ski in an environment like this. Small children learn to use the nutcracker to attach to a parent while the parent attaches to the moving rope.
IMG_6863a.jpg


Some older kids built a booter for their entertainment.
IMG_6852a.jpg

This and other skiers landed their backflips cleanly.

Nonetheless Marcus said there were less than 100 people on this Saturday and never more than 200. Thus the low density powder stash reputation of the club fields.

The club members are very resourceful. A few years back the NZ government offered to run electricity partway up to the club fields. Mt. Olympus and Broken River accepted the offer, but the members still had to run the electrical lines underground themselves up the last several km and about 3,000 vertical feet. Mt. Olympus equipment building with rope tow electrical motors:
IMG_6865.JPG
IMG_6865.JPG (193.61 KiB) Viewed 5367 times

Other club fields like Cragieburn still run everything off diesel generators.

The Black Diamond guides also supply a harness for the nutcracker and canvas covers to protect your gloves. BD's harness is designed to offer broad support somewhat like a windsurfing harness and not concentrate pressure. I was quite comfortable riding the tows once I got attached to them. Getting attached was another story. You have to grab the tow like a conventional tow with the inside hand and flip the nutcracker onto the rope with the other hand. Once the nutcracker is clamped the uphill force is exerted through the harness, though you still have to hold the nutcracker shut and your legs get more tired than from a poma or T-bar as you're crouched a bit lower. I was successful attaching to the 2 upper tows about 3/4 of the time. The lower tow was more difficult and I succeeded only 2 out of 10 times. 3 times Marcus had to stop that tow so I could attach to it.

Black Diamond can arrange lodging at Glenthorne Station, which is about 45 minutes down the Olympus access road and an hour+ from the other 2 club fields they use. Tomorrow night I'll be staying at the Castle Hill "The Burn" B&B, which is on the Arthur's Pass road close to Porter's, Broken River and Cragieburn.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9820
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Mt. Olympus, New Zealand, July 17, 2010

Postby sven » Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:43 pm

What a coincedence... I am in Christchurch now, just did 2 days at Olympus, 1 at Craigieburn, 3 at Broken River and 1 at Mt. Hutt. The skiing on the 18th was the best I've had all week (I'm guessing it was for you as well) - I was at Broken River and was down to a t-shirt... but yesterday I barely lasted 3 hours at Mt. Hutt. The ice was unbearable... not sure if Broken River would have been better. Today they had Mt. Hutt on wind hold for both the danger it posed to drivers on the access road & the inability to run the lifts. I hear Ohau is really nice right now though if you have more time and the willingness to drive a fair distance...

Mt. Hutt really doesn't get much direct sun exposure I noticed as compared to BR or Craigieburn... I think it's probably the worst option with no recent snowfall & really icy/windy conditions as of late. Olympus had a pretty nasty ice crust on anything not skier packed for the 2 days I was there, and Craigieburn was really bare and rocky. Best snow quality was at Broken River for sure. The bottom hut at Olympus is great though, we stayed there for 2 nights - it's all self service, so had to stock up on lots of food before driving up, and it cost only $25 NZD per night... I think the closest place to buy food is Darfield which is like 1.5 hours away. I'll post some of my photos under your reports once I get back to Melbourne tomorrow...
User avatar
sven
 
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Sep 26, 2004 5:54 am
Location: Brooklyn

Re: Mt. Olympus, New Zealand, July 17, 2010

Postby sven » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:02 pm

And I've got to add - the people up at Broken River are great. I was offered free home brewed microbrew beer every day I was up there, the atmosphere was definitely the most relaxed of any club field I've ever skied at, and it seems to be the south island hub of telemark skiers. The dinners that were cooked were awesome, and it took only a day to be on a first name basis with most of the club members up there. And whenever someone new to riding up the rope tow with the nutcracker appeared to be struggling, someone usually helped give them a bit of an initial tow to help them clamp their nutcracker on. Though Craigieburn might come in a bit stronger in terms of steep, burly terrain, there are some nice steeps off the top tow at Broken River and the atmosphere at Broken River would be enough for me to choose being a member of BR rather than Craigieburn if I was living here (and besides - you can skin over to Craigieburn really easily from BR). Definitely recommend checking it out and spending a night or two in one of the huts...
User avatar
sven
 
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Sep 26, 2004 5:54 am
Location: Brooklyn

Re: Mt. Olympus, New Zealand, July 17, 2010

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:26 pm

I was somewhat worn out after Saturday at Mt. Olympus and ready to take a couple of days break. But then I saw the weather forecast for deteriorating weather Monday/Tuesday with possible wind of 50+ MPH. So I decided to ski Porters Sunday on the way to the West Coast. Sunday the 18th turned out to be the blue sky day with the most pleasing snow conditions of my trip. On Monday with refrozen snow and Tuesday with a rain/snow line about halfway up Broken River I'm glad I was not skiing. Fortunately I got in a guided Franz Josef glacier walk Monday afternoon with just a bit of drizzle. From late Monday night into Tuesday afternoon it poured rain on the West Coast.

I saw a topo map of Broken River and Cragieburn while at Broken River Wednesday. The average orientation is southeast but skier's right of most of the bowls would get direct morning sun. Craigieburn is supposed to have an abundance of steep terrain, which is why current coverage is not yet adequate for good skiing. Broken River has similar snowpack but has tussocks on its lower slopes so you're not hitting many rocks there.

NZ weather can come from nearly any direction. The big dump in mid-June worked its way up the South Island from the southeast. Thus the areas that stick out into the Canterbury plain (Mt. Hutt and even more Mt. Lyford) got the most snow. Moving inland to the NW snowfall from that storm tailed off quite a bit once you got past Porters. Temple Basin, which is farthest inland past the town of Arthur's Pass, is not open yet. The West Coast gets 100+ inches of precip per year minimum and 2-3x that as you hit the mountains. The problem is that the NW flow is coming from relatively warm water and while it's mostly snow at the top of the glaciers at 3,000 meters, the ski areas top out at 2,000 meters and thus can get rain if those storms get across the Southern Alps. So perhaps it's just as well most ski areas are on the leeward side given their elevation.

There had been some rain in the ski areas since the big June storm. Of the areas I skied I would say Mt. Olympus had the least amount of resulting hard snow. The crust was tough to ski but that was because it was thin and breakable. Much of the shaded off-piste at Mt. Hutt and Porters was solid frozen granular. And there was a hard subsurface under the new snow at Broken River.

Guide Marcus and BD co-owner Heather at the bottom hut at Mt. Olympus:
IMG_6827.JPG
IMG_6827.JPG (140.32 KiB) Viewed 5367 times

IMG_6828.JPG
IMG_6828.JPG (91.93 KiB) Viewed 5367 times

That hut is at about 3,000 feet. The second pic is the radio to call up the hill to the base at 4,700. However that bottom hut is also at the bottom of the Ryton drainage, one bowl east of Mt. Olympus' Main Face and an enticing backcountry run when the snow is deep.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9820
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California


Return to Down Under

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


All content herein copyright © 1999-2017 First Tracks!! Online Media

Forums Terms & Conditions of Use