Participants: The 6 Ice Masters (Tania, Glen, Woulter, Richard, Enda and Sam) + 36 brave ice wanderers
Dates: Aug 9 – Aug 10
Words: Josie Dransfeld
Once upon a time when the beloved and yet accursed Mistress Winter finally decided to bless New Zealand’s mountains with a decent dumping of fresh and powdery snow, it was time for another attempt of getting Snowcraft underway. Postponed and cancelled due to a lack of the fluffy white stuff countless times earlier it now so happened that we almost had too much of it. The Ice Masters had to assess the situation, call up highway and ski patrols alike to make sure the roads were clear and avalanche danger manageable. Luckily, everything could go ahead!
On a crisp and clear and very early Saturday morning the snow crew gathered to head out to the magical mountain ranges of Arthur’s Pass National Pass. The company was delayed by slightly rundown vans provided by Avan Rentals – may Mistress Winter curse them – due to shockingly flat tires and no supply of snow chains. Finally on the road again, our first destination of the day was reached: The Temple Basin Ski Field.
After every ice wanderer was equipped with crampons, helmet and ice axe, the ascent to the lodge started. It must have been pretty cold the past days, halfway up the trail transformed more into an icy uphill slide that made it tricky at times not to slip. Some of us apparently did, but after an hour or so, everyone made it safely to the lodge and it was time for lunch. The Ice Masters, in the meantime, determined the route up to the basin where the camp would be set up for the night. The Weather Masters from MetService issued a forecast of -9… Quite correctly, it turned out…
Before starting the climb, there was plenty of time to get funny, disco-y and ice axe-waving pictures! With such a stunning backdrop, this opportunity was not to be missed 😉
To keep everyone happy, the company of ice wanderers was divided into three groups. Woulter and Glen headed up speedily with the faster ones amongst us, Sam and Enda took up the medium peeps, Tania and Richard formed the rear group, now famously known as the ‘slush puppies’. Since the whole point of doing Snowcraft includes learning how to walk in crampons, these things with normally 10 pointy ends were attached to the boots and off we went…
up…up…up…up, up, up…Trying not to bump into numerous skiers and snowboarders on the way, the crews zigzagged along the slopes, sinking in and tripping over the sometimes very loose snow. Walking in crampons is a quite cool experience, it makes for a mostly safe feeling on icy bits, albeit it can be extremely tiring. When the second group arrived at our base camp, the digging of snow caves was already well in progress, however, one of the Ice Masters seems to have disappeared to ‘dig a pit for number one’. What does that mean, one might wonder?
Well, up in the snow and ice, things that normally degrade naturally… just don’t, because it’s too cold. In tramping speak ‘number one’ refers to the yellow stuff. And you want to go to a pit to do…the easy business. Seriously, it’s yucky and utterly disgusting to have yellow spots right in front of your tent or snow cave, or down at the lodge where our fellows from the Snowsports Club obviously got pretty hammered the previous night and couldn’t be bothered to go someplace further or actually use the toilets there! If the business falls into category ‘number two’, you need to use a ‘Poo Pot’…Which should also be avoided, if somehow possible…
Coming back to the pleasant things about camping in the snow: Digging snow caves! It takes a lot of time and some knowledge, but the effort is totally worth it, especially when the result is a ‘snow mansion’ providing space for eight ice wanderers and even some candles. Building snow caves also inspired the re-phrasing of one the more or less annoying songs from ‘Frozen’:
Who needs a snowman, when you can build a whole cave? But then, there was soooo much snow, that we totally should have built a snowman, too!
As the hours passed and the digging continued, those who weren’t involved in the latter had time to enjoy the marvellous, sunshine and show off 😉
But when the sun started setting, it really did get pretty cold quite quickly which then resulted in the title of this trip log: ‘Frozen’.
One should actually know or realise for that matter that everything freezes solid that is not put into packs, tents or caves overnight. There were frozen fleeces, frozen hair, frozen trousers, frozen shoe laces, frozen gloves…And yes, frozen boots! Although the boots were stored in a plastic bag in the snow cave, it did not help. The next morning, the boots of this trip log’s author were frozen solid. Instead of having a lovely hot cuppa of tea, plenty of snow had to be melted to unfreeze the boots. It was a pain to get these boots on again, be assured…
“Let it freeze, let it freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze, let all my nice gear freeze…..”
Who cares of letting go, dear Elsa, when you can let it freeze instead? 😉
Besides all the frozen business, the company gathered around 11 on Sunday morning to practise one essential skill: Self-arresting with an ice axe! It was not as icy as desired, but it was fun anyway to slide down slopes on your bum, the bottom or backwards or headfirst!
Sad to say, there was an evil-looking cloud moving in all too soon, and we had to make our way down the mountain, back to the Temple Basin lodge where we all had a very late lunch and found that some of our food, namely cheese and carrots, had frozen solid as well! Dang…
And so the adventure in snow and ice slowly came to an end, making the descent on slushy ice to the car park, where all of a sudden found a box with all the club’s first aid kits, probes and avalanche transceivers was found snuggly sitting in Tania’s car! Thank goodness…we didn’t slide into any major troubles up there 😉