Thursday, December 26, 2013


I thought I'd follow up the previous post with some photos of what the Darran mountains look like when you can actually see the tops of the peaks. This morning's forecast for dry, stable weather over northern Fiordland prompted me to grab my pack and bolt for the hills. On days like this the big granite walls, steep sided pinnacles and hanging icefields lose their sense of forboding. It seems you could simply wander at will, scrambling up peaks and traversing snowy ridges, making grand enchainments. Indeed on a day like this with a partner, rope and rack, the possibilties for challenging and interesting circuits are endless.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Moody Day In The Darrans

A small avalanche rumbled across the valley as I picked my way down the increasingly slippery slabs above Black lake. Just 500 vertical metres below, the huge granite walls capped by snow and ice, give way to the calm of the valley. I had been 'weather-blocked' - again. Which is fine. Barrier Knob will there next week, or the week after, or whenever a weather window opens long enough to 'let me in'. I'm learning to appreciate there is no such thing as bad weather, just weather. If you want to ramble amongst a range that receives an average of seven metres of rainfall per year (seriously), this kind of attitude is a prerequisite. 

The Mt Cook Lillys are in full bloom

There was a brief glimpse of blue sky 

But the clouds soon closed in

Black lake is still partly frozen and filled with dirty avalanche debris

Saturday, October 12, 2013

As It Should Be

I've been living in Te Anau for about a week or so now and I'm genuinely excited to be based on the edge of Fiordland, New Zealand's biggest, wildest chunk of wilderness. Deep fiords lined with huge granite walls, glaciated peaks, hundreds of picturesque waterfalls, huge lakes fed by fast flowing, impossibly clear rivers, unique wildlife, easily accessible trails as well as valleys and ridges which seldom see people. An outdoor bum's paradise with enough opportunities for several lifetime's worth of adventure. As psyched as I am about playing - and working - in the deep south for the next seven months, I can't help but think about the four weeks previous spent roadtripping from one end of the south island to the other. 

The thing is, those four weeks didn't include any particularly bold or adventurous missions and I can't say I ever really extended myself. We hiked some trails, we ran some trails, we rode some trails, we scrambled up a few easy peaks, we clipped bolts at a few crags, we skied a bit (still can't ski) and we floated down some rivers..all brilliant days playing in the outdoors. We also slept in often, had leisurely breakfasts and spent rainy mornings in cafes or reading in the van. Granted, being constantly surrounded by ever-changing, absurdly beautiful terrain accounts for some of my pining for life on the road. But what I'm really missing is just being outside everyday, living a simple life uncluttered by the bullshit that can sometimes rule our 'everyday' lives.   

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cupola Basin Bliss

If you asked me to suggest one must-see spot at the top of New Zealand's south island, the Cupola basin might be it. Of course, I could change my mind after the next mission to some other amazing backcountry nook. But for now, after a great trip with my bro recently plus a couple of brilliant days this week, Cupola basin has to be top of the list.

Then the sun came out..

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Ridge Ramble

Apart from a few days messing around at my local ski field, the last few weeks have - for the usual reasons - featured way too much town time. But this stunning day spent mostly above treeline made everything ok again

The northern section of the St Arnaud range manages to combine accessibility with an adventurous feel and epic views. In a good winter the mode of travel on this route would be skis or snow shoes, but winter seems to have given up at the top of the south island. Trail runners and micro spikes are all that is needed in the current spring like conditions.

In winter, the Rainbow ski field road makes it possible to do a bike drop not too far below the crest of the ridge, making a neat loop starting and finishing at Kerr Bay on the shore of Lake Rotoiti. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Slow In The Snow

Each week I go to the mountains and each week I come back with another valuable lesson learned. Every trip spent moving in the mountains - by foot, bike or boat - provides sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious clues about how to be more at home in the hills. Being a winter novice, the lessons have been coming thick and fast lately. This week Danno, Will and myself got schooled while trying to impose our light and fast ethos after a good dump of snow in Nelson Lakes. Our pace through the deeper sections of snow meant we weren't able to complete our planned loop but we were ok with that..just another lesson learned. 

Our minimalist tarps and bivies were replaced by backcountry huts on this trip. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's a Start

Winter has been slow to take hold in my local hills at the northern extremes of the southern alps. We have had some good dumps of snow over the last few weeks, each one causing a buzz of excitement and a hope that the temperatures will stay low enough to herald a start to winter 'proper'. But each time the cold fronts have been followed by rain and warm northerlies, leaving only the highest peaks clad in snow. Still, over the last few weeks of hiking, biking and especially paddling, it has been cold enough to feel like the start of the season. 

Crossing icy streams is becoming less appealing

We are still getting away with unlined trail runners

Microspikes have made an appearance though

 Our packrafts will probably still get out now and then over winter

                                                                Still warmish on the trails around town