Cover Photo by Richard Goldsbury - the Crew up top with Mt Potts on the right
Photo by Ollie Hunt: Will Todhunter, Ben Tyas, and Hamish McDowell up the top of the Sphinx at Mt Olympus - Late late season.
With the season coming to a close, and a number of epic days in the spring snow at Broken River and Mt Olympus already in hand per the above Photo, I decided to join Harry Chapman, Ollie Hughes, Nick Sutcliffe, Sam Minnell and Richard Goldsbury for a ski tour mission up to Mt Potts,
Leaving town on Friday evening, we made our way out to Lake Clearwater and parked up for the night - waking up to an awesome sunrise.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Sunrise at Lake Clearwater.
We parked at the bottom - the base of Mt Potts is about 10 minutes up the road from clearwater towards Erewhon Station, on the left up a farm track - and mounted up the bikes. The E-Bikes made short work of the climb - though not without inducing some sweat under the ski gear. With an E-Bike, if you can make it across the slip on the old road then you can ride right up to the snow - or even on the snow - with your skis on your pack.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Nick Sutcliffe (L) and Sam Minnell (R) Guide their trusty E-Bikes up the 4wd track against a magnificent backdrop.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Tread carefully or the slip might get you.
It's an interesting experience ski touring into one of the only mountains that used to have a fully operational ski field but now only has scattered remnants of the hut and tows, and one logdrop perched in the middle of the basin - wood and rusted iron scattered away, returning to earth.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: If you look closely you can see my ski pack silhouetted above the shingle at the base, an awesome view to roll up to - final turns of the day were down the chute to the right.
Arriving at the snow about 9am, the firm snow from the melt freeze lower down made for swift passage on the skins up to the mid point, and we made the top ridge in the sun by about 11am.
More impressive for Ollie Hughes, who forgot his skins and so spent the majority of the day bootpacking - fortunately not up to his thighs (mostly) in slush. The initial pitch is super impressive with this gigantic buttress in the centre of the basin, with two chutes feeding into one at the base.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Long Drop long past use, but an interesting sight.
Fresh snow from earlier in the week hadn’t been fully destroyed by the sun and we managed to pick off a couple of decent pitches in the beating sun.
The terrain is awesome in the zone, but the snow was slightly grabby with sun affecting it - so picking shady spots was critical.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Myself, working my way through to some of the good stuff, and earning leg burn in doing so.
With two laps off the top to the middle in the bag, we found another peak - unfortunately the backside wasn’t an option as we had to be back in town by 7, but we watched over the back as a group of four or five skiers scored epic corn on a consistent 400m+ vertical pitch.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Wouldn't have minded a rope tow or 3 about now.
We scored on the frontside with two laps down a shorter pitch, and by this point Ollie Hughes had MacGyvered himself a pair of skins, from the bike tie-downs no less. Surprisingly effective, these went some way to saving his legs from bootpacking. (After being unable to convince anyone to leave Christchuch the night before and bring his skins up, Ollie Hughes did bootpack the entire way to the top for the first lap, before experimenting with some aerofast tiedowns)
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: If you look closely you can see that Ollie's skins aren't the conventional type. It isn't stupid if it works, right?
With 4 laps down as we headed home I raced up to the lower central peak as fast as my somewhat knackered legs would allow me, and made my way towards the chute I had been eyeing up on the initial climb into the main basin.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Myself preparing to drop down off the central peak into a hairily variable section of snow - ice, chalk, slush, porridge, and the finally a wet slide to finish it off.
I was unpleasantly surprised by the super icy entrance on the lookers' right, which had been in the shade all day, pushing the limits of my pin bindings - but thankfully not releasing. It was a good test on my balance too, especially with legs that were feeling the previous 4 laps. Rock solid ice chunks gave way to some spring corn, which then turned into completely soggy, leg-obliterating, sticky, grabby sludge as I tried to make the last turns look good. Looking back as I was sliding through the lower slopes trying to avoid leg cramp, watched as a a minor wet slide behind kicked off me - a good sign that we had timed our departure well.
Photo by Richard Goldsbury: Sam Minnell, Freerider, Skier, Fischer Ranger Ski Boot owner.
We finished off the day rolling down the hill with an epic view of the Rohan (from Lord of the Rings) back to Christchurch.
For me, the painful reality of pedalling up the Port Hills in mild agony as my legs slowly recovered over the course of a week was enough of a reminder that transition onto the bike was complete.
Missing the snow and want easier access to it? At Chill, we sell and hire E-Bikes - Check out the range here.