Winter and spring all year long

It feels like winter never came in NZ – until November.  The wind howls, the house shakes and fresh snow appears on the mountains every two days.  Luckily our receding glaciers will be getting a nice neve top-up.  Plus, we had the bonus of an unprecedented fine spell through August.  It felt like Utah – never really worrying about the weather, knowing each day’s plan would likely come to fruition.  I had some great tours to the Upper Tasman glacier for the 20th birthday of online cycle company – Ground Effect.  I go way back with the owners – Guy and Fraser invited me to join them on a ski tour expedition to Northern India in 1991.  The trip was a big game changer for me in deciding to become a guide.  Thus, being asked (along with my great friend and ski guide, Anna Cook) to escort their birthday party was a real honour.  I wrote about it for my weekly Press ski column and it got front cover of the section.

For the second year in a row I toured with the Trolove party of farmers. This year, Roger Hodson was assistant guide.  That actually means that Roger breaks trail.  At Mt Olympus during the infamous August fine spell, Roger and I initially despaired at the lack of snow – only to find a sequence of superb stashes to keep the team entertained on.  Our first run took us down an excellent SE facing couloir into the Ryton valley. The crew were, as usual, highly amusing with some pretty bawdy jokes spinning around.  They are all really fit and great skiers.  We made good use of the hot tub, bar and the excellent hospitality of the Mt Olympus Ski club.  Obie, Scott and I went back later for more fun in the sun at Mt O.

The weather turned for the NZMGA ski guide exam. I was again directing this course but this time in stormy, cold conditions and increased avalanche hazard.  This kept us limited to the Upper Tasman instead of touring into the mighty Murchison as planned.  A bonus was a tour – putting the tour back into tour – to Barron Saddle hut at the head of the Mueller glacier.  I hadn’t been there in years and it was great to spend a night in the tin can, perched on the edge of some remote peaks.  We returned to Mt Cook village via the impressive Sawyer stream route (1000 metre descent) – with the pending IFMGA guy, Andy, leading the charge.

I’ve been employed as the Training Officer for the NZMGA for a year now.  A big part of my brief is to get guide training courses and exams organized and to get guides through their training pathway.  This means setting up assessor meetings and attending committee meetings, instructing and assessing.  October was a busy month of NZMGA but I was lucky enough to work with the ineffable Gary Dickson, NZMGA president.  During the past six years, Gaz has put his heart and soul into ensuring that the NZMGA remains a strong member of the international body, the IFMGA.  Gary and I recently instructed on what is likely the NZMGA’s most important course – the Snow and Ice Guide training.  Critical because it’s the course where climbers learn to take their amateur skills and turn them to guide skills (the difference really being how much you use the rope as a guide).

Gaz and I took the 6 day SIG to the wild West Coast.  We had a crew of 7 trainees – many of whom are already ice guiding the lower parts of the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers.  I love themes and this week’s one was factored around presidential security.  The President must be kept safe at all times.  It was a cold week but we had enough fine weather to get out everyday.  Shamefully we were trekking through powder snow a lot of the time!  I’m looking forward to seeing all of the SIG participants go further with their guiding.  Some will head the Alpine Trekking pathway, others the ski and/or climb.  Hopefully a couple will go for IFMGA.

Our six months in NZ is drawing into it’s final weeks.  I’ve got a couple more guiding trips to go.  Last week, Scott and I plus neighbours Dallis and Dr Dirt headed up the Rome ridge on Mt Rolleston (2275m) in Arthurs Pass.  We had a narrow weather window – much narrower than I expected, and we topped out in a white out and strong winds.  Later it rained.  Full conditions.  Luckily Scott, always strong, broke trail the whole way.  What a hubby!  The good doc was ecstatic as the last mountain he’d climbed was in 2000 in Pakistan!  Dallis and I stuck together as she is training for an ascent of Aoraki in December.

For many years I oscillated about being a guide and whether it was responsible to be both a mountain guide and a mother.  It was an agonizing time and has a long back story.  I’ve written and spoken about it a few times.  Philip Shepard (New Self, New World) writes of responsibility as responding to your call in life.  Your vocation.  By responding to the Call, you knowingly or unknowingly undertake a deepening of your responsibility.

Works for me.

Trolove crew Mt Olympus summit


SIG crew pitching


SIG crew en route


Me with El President


Tex taking Presidential security seriously


Trolove party people rip up South bowl

Barron Saddle hut

Barron Saddle hut


Upper Tasman ski exam


Me, Anna Cook and Guy on Tasman Saddle (Ground Effect collection)