Almost Ski Touring to Turoa from Whakapapa
The plan was to set out from the top of the Far West T-Bar at 10 am. A good number of people were interested, so it is obviously something to try again, weather permitting. The official story was that the lifts were closed for de-icing and avalanche control. There had been up to 25cm of new snow over 2 days prior to the weekend. The wind was up, there was flurries of corn snow and visibility wasn’t always great, but still three of the original party decided to go for a short trip to counteract hut fever.
The group used “Skins”, named after the seal skins used in early times for the “nap” of the fur which will grip the surface one way and slide the other way. These have a reusable glue which sticks to the sole of the ski. The other feature is the bindings which allow you to raise the heel to walk easily or lock it to ski. Ski poles are now used for balance rather than forward motion. The ski moving forward does not leave the snow but has the weight decreased to allow it to slide more easily along the snow. While the “nap” might have “attitude”, it will let go if you travel directly up a steeper slope, and you fall on your face. Steep slopes are tackled by traversing in a zigzag across the slope.
The big advantage is that the weight of the body is distributed over a much larger area so that you don’t sink into the surface at each step. At times the basket on the pole may be pushed 15cms into the surface where the ski only sinks 1cm. With such conditions you avoid the steeper slopes which might be a risk. Ruapehu rocks coming through the snow are now reassuring, holding the snow in place, rather than ski obstacles. The chosen route was the gentle gradients of Home Run, Delta Run to Delta Corner and thence to the NZAC Hut, followed by downhill skiing to get back to the ASC Hut.
It is a very different experience to be on the mountain with lifts closed. You have wide areas to yourself. Limited visibility adds to the sensation of isolation. Luckily the wind direction was never into our faces so that parka hoods saved us from a sand-blasting. With a little imagination one could have been in an untracked wilderness. The only life seen popped out of Downhill Club as we passed above them or was huddled together at Delta Corner doing snowcraft instruction. After a refreshment stop we skied down to the Waterfall T-Bar for a few runs as a reward for the effort of walking, but decided that it was too cold to be fun with the Ts running so slowly. We could now say that we had done it and set out to follow the ski field back to the hut. Peter Jemmet carefully picked a route above Tenents Valley and across ridges to Home Run to allow us to ski back to the door of the hut with minimal damage from rocks. In all, a very interesting experience.
Party Peter Jemmet, Peter Loveridge (scribe), Cyprian Toder