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Trip Report – Historic Huts and Heliskiing

By: Riley Smith

Source: The Otago Climber (Otago Section Newsletter – September 2018)

The six of us (Phil Somerville, Graeme Male, Shona Mackie, Dave Chandler, trip-leader Keith Moffat and I) met at the carpark for the scheelite mine loop walks just out of Glenorchy, and after a quick detour to buy sunglasses, we set off for McIntosh Hut at about 10:30am. We made our way up the lovely switchbacks through the farm then descended into Buckler Burn for an icy stream crossing, which wasn’t that bad on such a warm sunny day. We continued up past McIntyre’s Hut, lungs full of smelly air from the large herds of wild goats nearby.

I had carried my skins and skis up the hill and decided to get them out on the ridge. Of course the snow thinned out and I ended up cross country tussock skinning for a few sections before the snow came back. As soon as we hit the ridge we got a great view of Temple Peak, and the helicopter shuttling skiers up and down. Shortly after, we arrived at a rather buried McIntosh Hut.

It took the six of us around half an hour to get into the hut, due to having to dig out the whole veranda just to get to the front door. After a warm cuppa in the sun, I headed up on skins to have a go at Mt McIntosh, which turned out to be a very pleasant ski, with great snow and views. However, a bit of a suspect looking cornice with some nasty cracks made me turn around early about 10 meters from the summit.

Phil, Riley, Shona, Graeme and Dave summit Black Peak. Photo: Keith Moffat

The sky stayed clear overnight and although the temperature plummeted, the powder never froze for those on crampons (great for my skiing though!). At around first light we set off for the summit of Black Peak, traversing at the same height as the hut to gain the ridge that eventually drops down to the shoulder of Black Peak. From there we plugged our way straight up the face, steadily increasing in steepness until close to the top where it leveled off. There is actually a false summit, where we ended up and sensibly decided that there was no real desire to traverse a sketchy ridge to climb the extra 5 or so meters, so we got our photos from where we were.

What came next for me, was the best half hour of skiing in my life. I followed our up tracks down the steep rocky top section which eventually opened up into pristine wide bowls and deep powder. The others followed the sort of NE ridge down until roughly the same height as the hut where they started traversing. As I was down 300 or so meters in a few minutes, I chucked my skins back on and headed back up the others, for another line in paradise.

It went like this for a few runs, until we turned back and made our way back to Mcintosh Hut for lunch and a cuppa in the sunshine. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the sun watching helicopters buzz up Buckler Burn (for sight seeing or dropping off skiers we were assuming), until eventually it was time to head for the car park. Thanks to Keith for organising another excellent Section trip.

Posted: 05/09/18

Posted By: Narina Sutherland