ON MISADVENTURES AND IT ALL BEING WORTHWHILE
Read up on Nick's (mis-)adventures on the way to, around and at Fox Peak:
It takes a great trip for you to leave minus a broken vehicle and have already locked yourself into returning.
Words and Photos by Nick Pascoe
Over the last few years riding in Canterbury word has been filtering up of great experiences to be had at a couple more club fields further South. These club fields stick to the old ways, having no staff and opening only on weekends when there’s members off the farm and out of the local businesses who are available to run the rope tows. Both Fox Peak and Awakino have been on past season’s hit lists, and remained unchecked. With this season’s record snow falls in the Mackenzie country the excuses grew quieter, and I finally managed to pull the pin on a trip up to Fox Peak.
It was originally planned to be all weekend, heading out early on Saturday morning to make the most of the only two days a week Fox Peak was open. However the blessings of the snow gods had been a touch too much. On Friday the spanner was thrown into the works with the tows and road needing to be dug out, and opening to be delayed to Sunday.
My backup was pretty successful, with Mt Olympus having an opening day to remember. Following a quick celebratory snack and beer in the Top Lodge, I tiptoed my way back down the Olympus access road in my trusty Subaru. Three hours later and my optimism of not checking maps, having a flat cellphone, and telling Mum I’d be at the Fox Lodge before the sun set, had me guessing the way through gravel crossroads in the dark. All the excitement returned though as I saw snow settled on the flatlands through my headlights. My chains quickly went back on for the second time that day, and I could see the lights of the Lodge half-way up the mountain.
In classic fashion my chronic optimism bit me again, when I smelt smoke and saw bright flashing lights on my dash. I stopped instantly on the single lane road, at which point the engine stuttered to a halt. After fifteen minutes of filling up the radiator with water I tried to park up off the road by reversing in neutral, only to wind up on a flat spot where I was well and truly blocking the road. With the car still not starting I began to shake out my sleeping bag. One last attempt though had the car start, and I was able to crawl up the last section of road to the relief of Fox Lodge.
It’s a hidden gem, with old style gas showers, the on-element toasting racks which should definitely be considered antiques these days, and a bargain also. I tucked into some dinner courtesy of Mum who was relieved to see me, and promptly fell shattered into bed. The next morning I was dragged out of bed for eggs by Mum, something I’ll always appreciate, and we headed up to the ski field with anticipation of no crowds and a powder filled day. The carpark was a rush of activity. Asking a local if they needed a hand quickly spiralled out of control.
I had two minutes to get my stuff sorted, and then was peering out the door of a helicopter over some amazing backcountry terrain, ready to get to work laying out a new rope for the Apex tow. A lot of slogging through snow, dragging rope, and weaving in a new splice later, and I was well and truly deserving of the fresh turns that were still to be had in Fox Peak’s expanse of terrain. At a field only open two days a week though, there’s never a chance for it to be tracked out.
The day had quickly disappeared, and after one final run down the main face I was left peering up at the backcountry peaks and ridgelines around the mountain. Mum was talking to the locals, and mention of availability throughout the season came up. Assured that the cost of a trip was usually less than replacing a car, it didn’t take much arm twisting for me to lock in a trip back up soon. I’ve ticked Fox Peak on my season’s hit list, but haven’t yet scratched the surface of the potential at this gem.