A flock of birds over Mt Cook, NZ

AORAKI | RAW

Landscapes, Mountains, Photography

The 2019 New Zealand Alpine Club winter photography workshop at Aoraki | Mount Cook lived up to it’s billing with dramatic winter weather delivering sublime photography conditions…

There’s a first time for everything.

The NZAC winter photography workshop was the first time I’ve had any professional photography tuition; the first time I have shot images in RAW; and the first time I have processed my images using Adobe Lightroom.

With Mother Nature providing sublime winter weather conditions (heavy snowfalls and misty, moody clouds), with expert guidance from tutor Rob Brown, and a trusty Ridgeline Adventures Land Rover ploughing through the deep snow to get us to the best locations, I think that the results of the workshop – below – speak for themselves.

Icebergs reflected in the mirror like waters of the Tasman Glacier Lake.

REFLECTION PERFECTION. Icebergs carved from the terminus of the Tasman Glacier reflected in the evening calm of the Tasman Glacier Lake.

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ICE BLUE. Evening light over a glassy calm Tasman Glacier Lake.

Sunrise and fresh snow Mt Cook National Park

SUNRISE & SNOW. Waking up to a winter wonderland. 30-40cm of light, fresh snow. 

Black ice on the main road in Mt Cook National Park New Zealand

FROZEN HIGHWAY. Treacherous road conditions in Mt Cook National Park after a winter storm. By mid-morning the road was littered with vehicles that had spun into snow drifts or become stuck. We rescued one Chinese tour bus which had ignored road closure signs and ventured into the National Park through deep snow – without chains!

A flock of birds over Mt Cook, NZ

FLYPAST. Canadian Geese make a timely early morning appearance over the summit of Aoraki | Mount Cook.

Misty morning at Aoraki Mount Cook New Zealand

THE CLOUD PIERCER. Early morning cloud and mist clear to reveal Aoraki | Mount Cook. This image won the NZAC 2019 Landscape Photograph of the Year Award.

Fresh winter snow on Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand

AORAKI. At 3,724m she’s New Zealand’s highest peak.

Mt Cook Sunrise

TASMAN RIVER FLATS. Fresh snow and a misty, moody sunrise.

The Tasman River meanders through the frozen landscape of Mount Cook National Park.

TASMAN TRANQUILITY. The Tasman River meanders through the frozen winter landscape of Mount Cook National Park.

Winter panorama of Aoraki Mt Cook with fresh snow

WINTER WIDE ANGLE. Panoramic views across the Tasman River flats towards Aoraki | Mount Cook (centre of frame).

Photographers in winter at Mt Cook New Zealand

TASMAN TRIPODS. Intense focus on the spectacular winter landscape.

Photographer in a snow storm, Tasman Glacier Lake, Mt Cook, NZ

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT. An umbrella is now an integral part of my camera kit. 

Icebergs covered in fresh snow on the Tasman Glacier Lake, Mt Cook, New Zealand

SNOW & ICE. Freshly frosted icebergs drift in the Tasman Lake during a blizzard.

Snow and icebergs Tasman Glacier Lake Mt Cook New Zealand

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE. A slow shutter shot during a winter snowfall over Tasman Lake.

A photographer in snow at Tasman Glacier Lake, Mt Cook, NZ

SNOWMAN. Mark hiking through 30-40cm of fresh snow to reach the Tasman Lake.

The Tasman Glacier Lake shrouded in a blanket of thick snow. Mount Cook National Park.

FROZEN. The Tasman Glacier Lake shivers under a blanket of thick new snow.

Sunrise over Tasman Glacier Lake New Zealand

FIRST LIGHT. The rising sun illuminates drifting icebergs on the Tasman Glacier Lake.

Fresh now and icebergs on the Tasman Glacier Lake Mount Cook New Zealand

VANISHING LAND. Sunrise over the Tasman Lake with the terminus of the Tasman Glacier retreating into the horizon (back left).

Icebergs drift in the frozen waters of the Tasman Glacier Lake.

BERG-LAND. Icebergs drift in the frozen waters of the Tasman Glacier Lake.

A photographer takes a picture of Aoraki Mt Cook New Zealand

PHOTOGENIC. Aoraki | Mount Cook wearing a her white winter coat. An idyllic setting for a winter photography workshop!

Bergsfjord in winter, Northern Norway

VOYAGES IN VALHALLA

Adventure, Landscapes, Mountains, Skiing

VALHALLA (/vælˈhælə, vɑːlˈhɑːlə/; from Old Norse Valhöll “hall of the slain”) the mythical Norse realm of the Gods… 

Northern Norway, high above the Arctic Circle, was to be our Valhalla. The playground of Gods. 

With the right to roam freely across this vast Arctic wilderness, with fishermen’s cottages available to rent, an endless supply of cod, and a comprehensive network of public ferries to transport you from one fjord to another, Northern Norway in early spring is a ski-tourers dream.

But the fickle Norwegian weather had the potential to turn our dreams into nightmares as the tempestuous elements raged for two weeks throwing everything at us, save only the thunderbolts from mighty Thor himself…

Sea ice in Altafjorden, Alta, Northern Norway

FROZEN FJORD. Broken sea ice in Altafjorden as a convoluted day of ferry-hopping to Bergsfjord begins in Alta, Northern Norway.

Ski touring in Northern Norway

WHITE WALKER… After bad weather curtails our pick up by fishing boat from Øksfjord, we decide to hike through town and head into the hills for our first ski…. Winter was definitely coming….

Ski touring in Northern Norway

WEATHER WINDOW. Pressing on towards a small summit in a fleeting window of fine weather.

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WEATHER WITH YOU. “Walking round the lake singing stormy weather”... ski touring in circles as we lose all sense of direction on a frozen lake during a white out.

Ski touring in a blizzard in Northern Norway

RUSH HOUR. Skinning back through the snow covered streets of Øksfjord to rendezvous with the night ferry to Bergsfjord.

Bergsfjord in winter, Northern Norway

THE MORNING AFTER. Following a late night arrival in Bergsfjord (which required a bit of door-knocking to finally find our accommodation), we woke up the next morning to find that Bergsfjord was pleasantly easy on the eye…. albeit when the almost constant driving snow and ice allowed us to open them!

Bergsfjord Northern Norway

VIKING [NOT SO] LONGSHIP. Ideal transport for ski raiding parties in the Norwegian fjords.

Boat accessed ski touring in Northern Norway

RAIDING PARTY. Preparing for a full frontal assault on the snowy slopes of Sør-Tverrfjord.

Ski touring in Sør-Tverrfjord, Northern Norway

EARNING THE TURNS. Hiking above Sør-Tverrfjord and into some great snow…but with some heavy Norse weather on the horizon.

Ski touring by boat in the fjords of Northern Norway

BLIZZARD OF BERGSFJORD. Boat accessed ski touring in the fjords of Northern Norway, where you can literally ski right onto the boat!

Fishing boats in Bergsfjord, Northern Norway

BOATS OF BERGSFJORD. Fishing boats in the sheltered Bergsfjord harbour. The constantly changing weather lurched from driving gale force winds, to straight-down snow with occasional small pockets of blue sky.

Arctic beer in Northern Norway

REFRESHINGLY NORWEGIAN… and reassuringly expensive… Hydration is a crucial part of Arctic survival. Oh, and fish. The local fishermen were extremely generous and gifted us huge Arctic cod and halibut, which were skilfully filleted by us (or rather butchered) with a blunt bread knife!

Glacier in Northern Norway Fjord, Arctic Circle

BLUE ICE. The cascading blue ice of an Arctic glacier flowing down to about 200m above sea level.

Langfjordhamn in Northern Norway

LONELY LANGFJORDHAMN. The picturesque and completely deserted fishing village of Langfjordhamn. Finding the door unlocked to the small Post Office (located on the wharf) proved a welcome refuge from another bitter Arctic storm. Sitting amongst mail bags with parcels waiting to be picked up whilst sipping hot tea was a surreal experience in what seemed to be a ghost town.

Aurora Borealis Northern Lights over Bergsfjord Northern Norway

BERGSFJORD BOREALIS. The Northern Lights over Bergsfjord made an appearance on our one and only clear night!

Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights in Northern Norway

BIFROST. The rainbow bridge connecting Asgard, the realm of the ancient Norse Gods, with Midgard – the world of humanity.

Ski touring in an Arctic storm Northern Norway

NIFLHEIM. The mythical Norse realm of primordial ice and cold…. a.k.a. another day of Norwegian ski touring.

Sheltering from a storm in a bothy bag in Northern Norway

THE BLUE BOTHY. 5 x ski-tourers weathering the storm in a bothy bag designed for 4… Strictly a no-fart zone!

Frozen Arctic roads in Northern Norway
RAGNAROK | HIGHWAY TO HUSOY. Following a rough and stormy overnight ferry trip from Øksfjord to Finnsnes (subtitled In Which We Lost Our Whisky’), we spent a futile morning chasing snow-ploughs hoping for the road to our next base at Husoy to open. On the verge of mutiny (2 x ‘hangry’ Valkyries will do that), we thankfully found the only place serving breakfast within a radius of ~100km
Ski touring in Northern Norway

SHELTER FROM THE STORM. Hiking up through the relative shelter of the trees during more gale force wind gusts.

Ski touring in Northern Norway

HEAD DOWN INTO A HEAD WIND. Some hard yards in some challenging weather.

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NORSEMEN. On the march.

The road to Husoy Island Norway

HUSOY HILL. It took a fleet of Norse Heavy Metal (think Thor’s hammer) to clear the road to Husoy, but by late afternoon the steep, slippery descent to the island village was open… Only now, getting our gutless van back up the hill was the worry…

The island of Husoy, Northern Norway

ARCTIC ISLAND. The isolated island of Husoy, quite a challenge to reach in the Arctic winter.

Husoy Island in the fjords of Northern Norway

ICE ISLAND. Husoy sheltered amongst towering peaks of the Northern fjords.

Segla, Northern Norway

SPECTACULAR SEGLA. Rising from the icy depths, Segla dominates the fjord landscape. It was our objective for the next day’s skiing.

Ski touring in the shadow of Segla Peak, Senja Norway

SCALING SEGLA. Climbing up from Fjordgård and dominated by the towering summit of Segla.

Panorama of Segla and Fjordgård in Northern Norway

POLAR PANORAMA. Segla Peak and Fjordgård below left.

Skier and Segla peak, Northern Norway

SKIING SEGLA. Sublime skiing, sublime views.

Ski touring near Fjordgård in Northern Norway

WINTER WANDERINGS…

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FREE THE HEEL TO FREE THE MIND…. Or fix the heel to fix the problem?…

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TELE-MARKER IN THE TREES.

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WHAT GOES UP…. Must come down. Skiing down to a picnic lunch on the beach!

Skiing down to the ocean in Northern Norway

BEACHED AS, BRO. The novelty of skiing to the ocean never got old.

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KICKING STEPS. Carrying our skis for a rare steeper section of hard, windblown snow.

Ski touring in Northern Norway

LAST HURRAH. Blue skies and dry, boot deep powder for our last day.

Ski touring in Mefjordbotn Northern Norway

HIKING VIKINGS. Climbing up through the trees near Mefjordbotn.

Skier in deep powder in the fjords of Northern Norway.

RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES. Worth the wait. Charging through waist deep powder down to sea level in the fjords of Northern Norway.

Skiing in Northern Norway on a powder day

FINDING VALHALLA. Winter playground of the Gods.

Ski touring in Northern Norway

POLAR POWDER DAY. Hiking up for another lap in superb conditions.

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FROM SEA TO SUMMIT. And back again…

Ski touring in the fjords of Northern Norway

UNFENCED LAND. The right to roam applies most shores, forests and mountains in Norway making it a skiers dream.

Fjords of Northern Norway

PARTING SHOT. The fjords of Northern Noway.

Aerial view of Tromso, Northern Norway in winter

PA GJENSYN NORWAY! Departing Tromso and the Arctic winter.

Dumb Bell Lake near Lake Ohau in the Southern Alps NZ

DUMB BELL TRAINING

Adventure, Landscapes, Mountains, Photography, Walking & Hiking

To help keep fit for an upcoming ski-touring trip to Norway, we’ve been seeking out some new multi-day hikes in the mountains. So, when I spotted Dumb Bell Lake on the map it seemed like a serendipitous opportunity for some big mountain training!

With a weather window of about 36-hours before a strong North West storm was due to blow in across the South Island, we were confident that we could squeeze in the overnight tramp to Dumb Bell Lake.

Beginning at Lake Ohau, our hike started by following a well formed track up through the native beech forest alongside Freehold Creek. From above the bushline it was case of route-finding as the track petered out to become a lightly marked route that traversed golden tussocks (scattered with vicious, spiky Spaniard bushes) and then into boulder-strewn scree slopes at around 1,500m once we reached the alpine zone….

Long exposure of a waterfall in native New Zealand beech forest

FREEHOLD. Freehold Creek cascades down through native beech forest at the beginning of our long climb upwards…

Hiking through native New Zealand beech forest

MOSS GROWS FAT ON A ROLLING STONE. Hiking up through native beech forest in the lower valley of Freehold Creek.

Hiker in tussock in the Southern Alps of New Zealand

TUSSOCK TRAMPING. Climbing up through the tussock and slippery snow grass above the bushline.

Alpine tarn and wetland near Lake Ohau New Zealand

THE GREAT SOUTHERN SPONGE. Alpine wetlands, including tarns like this, are the water table for the South Island’s waterways – acting like a giant sponge to store water and feed the alpine creeks year-round.

Hiking through tussock near Lake Ohau in the Southern Alps NZ

TUSSOCKS & TARNS. Following the occasional rock cairn on the lightly marked route through the tussock.

Hiking near Lake Ohau New Zealand

SCREE TOP. After 45 minutes of taking two steps forward and one step back as we climbed the steep scree slopes, we finally topped out on the saddle at the head of Freehold Creek (1,800m).

Lake Ohau NZ Panorama

180° SCREE VIEW. Panoramic view from the saddle at 1,800m looking over Lake Ohau towards the Ben Ohau Range (left) and Benmore Range (right, horizon).

Hiking above Lake Ohau New Zealand

BLOWN AWAY. Literally & figuratively. We had to batten down the hatches against gale force winds on the ridgeline, but the view of Lake Ohau blew us away too!

Hiking across scree slopes near Lake Ohau in the Southern Alps NZ

ROCKY ROAD. Huge boulders litter the route across the saddle towards Dumb Bell Lake.

Alpine tarn in the Southern Alps of New Zealand

EMERALD. An tarn glistens in the barren alpine landscape as we sidle around rough, boulder-strewn slopes.

Alpine Tarn Southern Alps NZ Panorama

A TARN FINE VIEW. An alpine tarn amongst rugged scree slopes. Barrier Range in the background.

Hiker on scree slopes in the Southern Alps of New Zealand

RED ROCKS. More rock-hopping on the descent to Dumb Bell Lake

Mt Stafford and the Barrier Range New Zealand

THE BEAR CLIMBED UP THE MOUNTAIN…. and all that he could see was the other side of the mountain! In this case, Mt Stafford (2,208m) and the Barrier Range

Dumb Bell Lake & Mt Sutton near Lake Ohau New Zealand

FIRST GLIMPSE. Our first view of Lake Dumb-Bell (1,557m) with Mt Sutton beyond.

Dumb Bell Lake near Lake Ohau in the Southern Alps NZ

DUMB BELL LAKE. The rewarding view after 6 hours of tussock-bashing, scree running and boulder hopping….

Camping in the Southern Alps near Lake Ohau New Zealand

TENT WITH A VIEW. Idyllic campsite next to a handful of small alpine tarns with epic views of Dumb Bell Lake and Mt Sutton (2,007m). Ohau ski field is on the other side of the mountain.

Lake Dumb Bell in the Southern Alps NZ

DUMB BELL AT DUSK. A Nor’ West Arch over Lake Dumb Bell heralds a change in the weather

Hiking in the Southern Alps NZ

THE GREAT ESCAPE. Day 2 and a 6am start to keep ahead of a weather warning bringing severe gale force winds and rain to the Main Divide.

Hiking near Lake Ohau New Zealand

RACE PACE. Quickening the pace as storm clouds gather…

Storm clouds in the Southern Alps NZ

THE CHASE. Being chased out of the Ohau Range by an incoming storm front!

Hiking across a scree slope near Lake Ohau New Zealand

SCREE RUNNER. Honing our rock-hopping skills as the skies darken and the wind builds…

Lake Ohau in the Southern Alps NZ

BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY! Sun beams pierce the gathering storm clouds to light up Lake Ohau. The downhill run back to the car was in the lee of the wind and sheltered, and the beech forest provided cover from the few passing showers. We were then back at the car, drinking coffee and scoffing carrot cake in Omarama before the storm really started to blow…

 

 

Alpine Lake Southern Alps New Zealand

THE LAKE WITH NO NAME

Adventure, Landscapes, Mountains, Photography, Walking & Hiking

High in the Huxley Range of New Zealand’s Southern Alps lies a spectacular unnamed lake which has been on our radar for a while….

With a favourable forecast and a good few kilometres in our legs from a handful of hikes over the Christmas holidays the timing felt right to try and hike up the lake which we’d only seen on the topo map.

After negotiating a rough 4WD track – where some of the time only 3 wheels were actually in contact with the road (its now known as a “3WD track”) – we set up camp in the valley floor, fuelled up for a big day and assessed the topo map for the best route up to the lake.

What followed was one of the most spectacular and varied day walks which we’ve ever experienced. The hike traversed gentle river flats, native beech forest, countless waterfalls, high alpine meadows bursting with wild flowers plus the gin-clear lake itself flanked, fortress-like, by rocky moraine walls and scree slopes.

Camping in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

BASE CAMP. Whilst this looks idyllic, what you can’t see are the vast swarms of sandflies which drove us into our tents by about 8:30pm!

Reflections of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

REFLECTION PERFECTION. Evening reflections of Mt St. Mary and the Barrier Range.

Hiking in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

HEAVY SKIES. Low cloud envelops the mountain peaks but provides some welcome shade from the summer sun as we start hiking up the valley.

Hiking in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

MISTY MOUNTAINS. Clouds clear to reveal the summit of Mt Heim (2,205m). The unnamed alpine lake which was our objective is nestled in the glacial cirque just below the summit.

Hiking in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

JURASSIC PARK. Mt Barth (2,456m) dominates the skyline with thundering waterfalls slicing through the landscape below.

Canyon Creek

CANYON CREEK. At the base of Canyon Creek’s cascading waterfalls and the beginning a long hot climb.

Hiking past waterfalls high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

CHASING WATERFALLS. Criss-crossing a myriad of waterfalls and cascades as we make our way ever upwards and towards the head of the valley.

Hiking high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

TRAMP. The last of the morning cloud burns off just as the hike takes on a steeper gradient…

Tramping high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

ALPINE ZONE. Climbing steadily higher towards the alpine zone.

Freedom

FREEDOM. The marked track begins to peter out making for some fun route finding of our own through steep, exposed and quite rough country.

Hiking through alpine meadows of wild flowers in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

ALPINE MEADOW. Onwards and upwards through carpets of alpine flowers.

Alpine meadow & wild flowers in the mountains of the Southern Alps, NZ

DAISIES FOR DAYS. Acres of alpine flowers soaking up the summer sun.

Hikers high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

THE HILARY STEP. Well, kinda sorta….

Scree Runners

TWO’S COMPANY, SCREE’S A CROWD. Traversing the rugged moraine walls of the Huxley Range.

Hikers cross scree covered moraine walls in the Southern Alps, NZ

BOULDER HOPPING. Crossing the scree covered moraine walls as we approach the alpine lake.

Alpine Lake Southern Alps New Zealand

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. The spectacular blue waters of a glacial lake (1,650m) surrounded by the boulder-strewn scree of moraine walls.

Icebergs float in an alpine lake in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

BERGLAND. Icebergs drift freely in the alpine lake… and are much harder for a hiker to balance on than they look!

An alpine lake high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

GLACIAL. A rocky moraine wall is all that’s left of the long-since retreated glacier that carved out the cirque where the lake now lies.

An iceberg floats in an alpine lake high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

FLOATER. The last remnants of winter snow drift gently in the breeze.

Alpine Cafe

THE ALPINE CAFE. Not a bad lunchtime view.

An alpine lake high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand reflected in a pair of sunglasses

FRAMED. Reflecting on a great morning of hiking in the Southern Alps.

An alpine lake high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

ALPINE OASIS.

Swimming in an alpine lake in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

POLAR PLUNGE. A momentary lapse of reason… Yes, it was cold!

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MISSION CONTROL. Scoping lines for future missions.

A glacial lake high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

NO NAME. A spectacular lake such as this really deserves a name

Hikers high in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

ROCKY ROAD. Descending back towards the valley, which looks a long way down!

Panorama of Canyon Creek, Southern Alps, New Zealand

WIDE ANGLE. Taking in the expansive view of Canyon Creek and on to the Ahuriri Valley beyond.

Hiking in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

VALLEY VIEW. Looking back up Canyon Creek on the return to camp.

Sunset over the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

SUNSET ROCKS. Enjoying the last of the evening sun and rehydrating with a couple of cold beers after an 11hour day of spectacular tramping.

Storm front in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

NEXT MORNING. A Nor’ West front blows into the Ahuriri and chases us out of the valley

Storm front in the mountains of the Southern Alps, New Zealand

PARTING SHOT. Escaping the advancing wall of weather.

SPACE CAMP

Adventure, Landscapes, Mountains, Photography, Skiing

SPACE (noun) 1. the unlimited three-dimensional expanse in which all objects exist, 2. a blank portion or area, 3. the region beyond the earth’s atmosphere containing other planets, stars, and galaxies; the universe.

A visit to Adventure Consultants‘ new alpine heli camp high in the mountains of Wanaka’s Southern Alps will give you the opportunity to experience space in every definition of the word.

The futuristic geodesic domes – which resemble an igloo and/or spaceman’s helmet – seem to defy space like Dr Who’s TARDIS*, and at an altitude of 1600m provide a superb base for ski-touring in the vast expanse of the McKerrow Range.

Joining a visiting Australian journalist, I was privileged to get a first taste of the new ski-touring experience, oh, and those all important First Tracks.

Thanks again Guy & Suze!

Time and Relative Dimension in Space.

Helicopter take off over the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

ROTOR WASH. An icy blast as the helicopter peels away after dropping us in the heart of a pristine alpine wilderness.

Ski-touring in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

THE McKERROW MARCH. Hiking up into the wilds of the McKerrow Range with our home for the night, the igloo-esque geodesic dome, to the right of frame.

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SUNSET BOULEVARD. The Southern Alps cast long shadows as we hike towards the mountain tops.

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SUNBURST. Spectacular back-country ski-touring conditions with great views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT. The last of the evening sun lights up the dome at the camp below (bottom left of the frame).

Ski-touring at sunset in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

SUNSET LAPS. Skiing at sunset in the shadow of Mount Aspiring.

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GOLDEN GLOW. Scoping fresh lines for the next morning as the sun drops behind the Southern Alps and Mt Aspiring.

Ski-touring camp at sunset in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

HOME SWEET DOME. The geodesic dome under the glow of the setting sun.

Ski-touring camp in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

CHEERS! Toasting the first group of visitors to stay at the dome. The domes are equipped with a full kitchen range (inc. extractor fan), solar powered LED lighting, log burner, tables, chairs, comfy bean bags and bunk beds with plush mattresses (no plastic coated DOC style mattresses here)! 

The milky way over a ski-touring camp in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

SPACE CAMP. To infinity and beyond!!….

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400 BILLION. That’s the estimated number of stars in the Milky Way, with a mere 100 billion (ish) planets. I wonder who’s out there taking photos of us?…..

Ski-touring camp in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

OLD FASHIONED STORY TELLING. Tall tales over a glass or two of pinot and single malt by the fireplace. Despite the down jackets and hats, once the log burner got cranking it was warm & cosy with the quilted double skin of the dome providimg great insulation. 

Panoramic sunrise over the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

PASTEL PANORAMA. Sunrise over the Southern Alps.

Ski-touring camp at sunrise in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

IN THE PINK. Yet even on such a stunning morning, I was the only person outside taking photos at 6:30am…

Ski-touring camp at sunrise in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

FROSTY FOOTPRINTS. Solitude at sunrise… Everyone else was still in their sleeping bags!

Sunrise over Mount Aspiring in the Southern Alps near Wanaka, New Zealand

SUN KISSED. The summit of Mt Aspiring (3,033m) catches the morning’s first ray of sunlight.

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MORNING GLORY. Mount Aspiring and the Southern Alps at sunrise.

Camping breakfast

FIRST TRACKS….BUT FIRST BREAKFAST. Steaming hot coffee, bacon & eggs.

Ski touring in the Southern Alps, Wanaka New Zealand

LOADING ZONE. Loaded up with coffee, bacon & eggs, we load up for a day of ski-touring.

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LINED UP & READY TO DROP. First run of the day on a pristine blank canvas.

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FIRST TRACKS. Catchy name for a new ski-touring business perhaps?…

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VALLEY VIEW. Ripping down the valleys of the McKerrow Range.

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SPACE | THE FINAL FRONTIER. And freshies for days!…..

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EARNING TURNS. Climbing upward for another lap.

Ski touring camp in the Southern Alps, Wanaka New Zealand

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. The dome blends in with the snow and is quite hard to see…although I bet the local population of kea have spotted it! 

Backcountry skiing in the Southern Alps, Wanaka New Zealand

UPSIDE DOWN POWDER. Punching through a thin frost crust to the light, dry powder snow below.

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POWWWWW!

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BASE CAMP. Back at camp at the end of a sublime day of skiing in the back-country.

View of Lake Wanaka from a helicopter

HOME RUN. The short helicopter flight back to the cars with more stunning views over Lake Wanaka and Mt Aspiring.

Mountain reflections in Lake Hawea, New Zealand

REFLECTION PERFECTION. Lake Hawea at it’s mirror-like best on the return drive to Wanaka.

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DOUBLE VISION. Perfect reflections of Corner Peak in a glassy calm Lake Hawea.

FIRST TRACKS, AGAIN…

Adventure, Mountains, Skiing

2018 is going down as the ski season that just keeps on giving. Another weekend, another day of ski touring in perfect snow conditions.

A classic Treble Cone storm of a moisture laden NW’er followed by a cold southerly delivered 20cm of consistent, dry snow across the entire mountain with a low avalanche risk. A classic Treble Cone powder day was on the cards.

With no need to race everyone else in the classic “TC Chinese Downhill” for the first chairlift and first tracks of the day inbounds, we fuelled up on coffee and cheese scones before traversing out of bounds and into the backcountry.

We were then alone.

Just four of us with a blank canvas of untracked powder all to ourselves – and that’s the way it stayed for pretty much most of the day!….

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ANTICIPATION. With sublime snow conditions, the top can’t come soon enough.

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OLD SCHOOL. Perfect ‘powder 8s’ in perfect conditions.

Skier in fresh snow at Treble Cone, Wanaka, New Zealand

POWDER DAY PERFECTION! Treble Cone backcountry at its best.

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POWDER DAY PLAY TIME.

Ski touring at Treble Cone, Wanaka, New Zealand

TRANQUIL TOURING. Hiking up for another lap.

Skier in fresh snow at Treble Cone, Wanaka, New Zealand

ROOSTER TAIL. Charging through the fresh snow.

Skiers in fresh snow at Treble Cone, Wanaka, New Zealand

THE WIGGLES. Freshies all day!

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GOING WITH THE FLOW. Last run of the day.

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FINALE. The final pitch of the day to the valley floor and the end to an epic TC powder day.

Panorama of the NZ Southern Alps in winter. Wanaka New Zealand.

POWDER DAY PANO. Black Peak (centre) and the Southern Alps.

Backcountry skiing at Treble Cone, Wanaka NZ

POOR MAN’S HELI

Adventure, Mountains, Skiing

Step outside Treble Cone’s backdoor and on the right day you’ll find a wilderness of untracked powder…

Fresh snow!
Blue skies!
High avalanche risk.

That’s usually the way things go when there’s fresh powder in the backcountry, making ski-touring way too risky. But, on a handful of exquisite days each season the planets align allowing those of us without helicopters to access acres of deep, untracked pow!

Last Sunday was one of those days…

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CHARGING. Dropping into ‘Backdoor’ off the summit of Treble Cone and charging through some crusty, variable snow at the top.

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POWDERY PILLOWS. Finding some nice lines lower down.

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FREE HEELS | FRESH LINES

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FRESHIES. Boot deep and dry.

Backcountry ski-touring at Treble Cone, Wanaka NZ

PARALLEL LINES. Traversing into more powdery goodness.

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OUTBACK. A lone figure is dwarfed by the Southern Alps.

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WHAT GOES DOWN…. Must go back up!

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EVERY DAY IS A WINDING ROAD…. As Sheryl Crowe once sang.

Backcountry skiing at Treble Cone, Wanaka NZ

SCOPING LINES. Three heads are better than one….

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SOLO. Earning the turns.

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MAJESTIC. The Matukituki Valley.

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RACING SHADOWS. Floating through a perfect powder day.

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TELE-TURNS.

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FREE THE HEEL | FREE THE MIND. G in his happy place.

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TIPS UP. And she’s not even sponsored by K2!

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POW WOW.

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TEMPTATION VALLEY. So tempting to ski to the valley floor in such epic conditions… just a long climb back up!

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THE UPSIDE DOWN. Fresh tracks, but going up, not down!

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VALLEY VISTA. Hiking out with views for miles.

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HOME STRETCH. Closing in on the summit.

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SUMMIT SENTINEL.

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COVER SHOT. The last run home.

Mountain reflections in Lake Wanaka NZ from Treble Cone

REFLECTION. Back in the car park and reflecting on an epic day with cold beers and high 5’s… and that view. Mou Tapu Island reflected in the inky waters of Lake Wanaka.

Morning sunburst over Bob Lee Hut, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

FULL MOON | FUN DO | SNOW FARM NZ.

Adventure, Landscapes, Mountains, Skiing

The full moon fondu at Snow Farm, followed by a midnight ski into a backcountry hut is a must do…. We might have bypassed the fondu, but it was nonetheless a very fun do!

Take some skis.
A blizzard.
A rare blood moon.
A solar eclipse.
A backcountry hut full of whisky.
Good company.
Cards Against Humanity.
A hangover.
Bacon sandwiches.
A camera.
….and you’ll have a rather splendid weekend at Bob Lee Hut high on the Pisa Range, Snow Farm NZ.

Cross country skiers in a blizzard, Snow Farm Wanaka New Zealand

WHITE WALKERS…. and winter is most definitely coming! Heads down into a blizzard through the Roaring Meg Valley.

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RIDERS ON THE STORM. Headlong into the blizzard.

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IN THE GROOVE. Classic style in classic weather…

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WEATHERED. Andrew & Sue arrive at Bob Lee Hut having weathered the storm.

Bob Lee Hut, Snow Farm Wanaka, New Zealand

SHELTER FROM THE STORM. The warm and welcoming dome of Bob Lee Hut.

Bob Lee Hut under a full moon, Snow Farm Wanaka, New Zealand

MOONLIT. The full moon shrouded in clouds as the storm clears over Bob Lee Hut.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT. The full moon illuminates the the landscape.

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MOON SHADOW.

Fireworks at Bob Lee Hut, Snow Farm Wanaka, New Zealand

STARBURST. Chris unleashes an impromptu and exclusive fireworks display.

Bob Lee Hut under the night sky, Snow Farm Wanaka, New Zealand

GLITTER & GOLD. Fresh snow glistens in the moonlight.

Ice sculpture, Snow Farm Wanaka, New Zealand

SNOW CIRCLE. Chris proudly displays his circular frame for viewing the imminent solar eclipse…

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WINNERS CIRCLE. The 2018 winner of the Snow Farm Open Gurning Championship….

Sunrise over the Southern Alps, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

BLOOD RED.Too cloudy to view the blood moon & eclipse, but a blood red sunrise was not a bad consolation.

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MORNING GLORY. Shafts of sunlight pierce the inky morning skies over Bob Lee Hut.

A cross country skier views the sunrise over the Southern Alps, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

EARLY BIRD. A keen ski instructor joins us for the dramatic dawn display.

Sunrise over Bob Lee Hut and the Southern Alps, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

BASE CAMP. Flags flutter outside the hut.

Sunrise over the Southern Alps, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

PASTEL PALETTE. Pink hues over the Southern Alps at sunrise.

Dancing with a tiger, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

THE TIGER TANGO….

Sunrise at Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

COLOURFUL CLOUDSCAPE.

Sunrise reflections in Bob Lee Hut, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

WINDOW ON WANAKA. Reflections of sunrise, Bob Lee Hut.

Cooking bacon at Bob Lee Hut, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

BOB LEE BREAKIE. Medicinal bacon sandwiches to treat a few hungover heads…

Sunrise over Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

GOLDEN GLOW. A recently eclipsed sun lights up the Pisa Range.

Fresh snow and groomed trails at Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

LAYERS. Fresh snow and freshly groomed trails at Snow Farm.

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GROOVY, BABY. Manicured morning trails.

Contrasts at Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

CONTRASTS. White on black.

Morning sunburst over Bob Lee Hut, Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

RAY. A drop of golden sun…. Far, a long, long way to ski…

Fresh snow on rolling hills at Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

PILLOWS. A fresh white coat for the Pisa Range.

Mugs at Bob Lee Hut, at Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

MUG SHOT. All our cups in a row.

Bob Lee Hut, at Snow Farm, Wanaka NZ

CHORES. Andrew deals to the dishes.

Snow mobile at Snow Farm, Wanaka New Zealand

BLANK CANVAS. A snow mobile cuts fresh tracks across the landscape.

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A MOTLEY CREW.

Cross country skiing at Snow Farm, Wanaka New Zealand

WHITE LINES. Skiing out from Bob Lee Hut across the Pisa Range.

The Pisa Range in winter Snow Farm, Wanaka New Zealand

VALLEY VIEW. Early morning views across the tranquil Pisa Range, the Roaring Meg and Meadow Hut.

Cross country skier at Snow Farm, Wanaka New Zealand

SOLITUDE.

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UNTRACKED. Traversing an untracked landscape of fresh snow.

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LONG SHADOWS. The early morning sun casts long shadows across fresh pillows of snow.

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ROLLING IN THE DEEP.

Sunset on Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Volcanic Vacation

Adventure, Landscapes, Mountains, Photography, Walking & Hiking

During late May and June, Wanaka frequently shivers under a frigid blanket of low inversion cloud so its a good time to migrate to the warmer climes of the Pacific Islands… at least until the ski areas open.

Our islands of choice this year were Maui and Kauai (Hawaii) for two weeks of hiking through volcanic landscapes, snorkelling with turtles, a little bit of surfing and a whole lot of kicking back with with a cold beer or G&T watching the sunset….

Aerial view of low inversion cloud over Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

INVERSION. Wanaka’s down there somewhere shivering under the low inversion cloud. Hawaii sunshine here we come!

Windsurfing at Ho'okipa Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii

ALOHA MAUI! Windsurfing at Ho’okipa Beach Park, Maui – just a stone’s throw from the airport.

Hawaiian green sea turtle

MEETING THE NEIGHBOURS. A Hawaiian green sea turtle pops up for a breath of air right outside our beach-side apartment.

Hawaiian sunset, Maui

MAUI MAGIC. The setting sun over the island of Moloka’i.

Hiking through the craters and cones of the Haleakala Crater on Maui, Hawaii at over 3,000m / 10,000ft.

HALEAKALA HIKE. Hiking through the craters and cones of Maui’s Mt Haleakala at over 3,000m / 10,000ft in altitude.

Volcanic cone in the Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

CRATER CAM. A dormant volcanic cone in the Haleakala Crater, Maui.

Volcanic cones in the Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

TREBLE CONE. But not as we know it… although you could probably ski down the flanks of these cones too! The “Big Island” of Hawaii is visible on the horizon, but luckily we were not disrupted by any of the volcanic eruptions or lava flows causing havoc here.

Volcanic cone in the Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

CONICAL CRATER. We stopped for lunch just on the rim of this large volcanic cone. (Looked just like the mighty Sarlaac Pit from Return of the Jedi)! 

Volcanic cones in the Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

MARTIAN LANDING. The Haleakala Crater exactly as I imagine the surface of Mars might look.

Volcanic cones in the Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

RAINBOW VALLEY. The multi-coloured volcanic hues of the Haleakala.

Above the clouds in the Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

CLOUD SEA. At over 10,000ft in altitude the Haleakala Crater is well above the clouds.

Orographic rain cloud rolls into the Haleakala volcanic crater, Maui, Hawaii

OROGRAPHIC. The trade winds blow moist air against the windward slopes of the huge Haleakala volcano to form orographic clouds and localised rainfall on the NE coast of the island resulting in lush, green rain-forest.

Hiking trails on the Haleakala volcano, Maui, Hawaii

MAUI MEANDERINGS. Hiking tracks criss-cross the Martian landscape of the volcano.

Hiking through the Haleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii

LAYERS. Hiking through Haleakala.

Panorama of the Haleakala Volcano on Maui with views across to the Big Island of Hawaii

VAST VOLCANIC VIEWS. Panorama looking across the Haleakala Crater with the “Big Island” of Hawaii visible in the distance.

Sunset on the Maui Coast, Hawaii

WINE’D DOWN. Happiness is…. a moody Maui sunset and a good bottle of red.

Meadering river near Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

CLIMBING IN KAUAI. The aptly named Waimea Ditch, drains the Waimea Canyon on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

A waterfall runs through the volcanic red soils of the Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

RED RIVER. A small waterfall cascades through the red volcanic soils of the Waimea Canyon on Kauai.

Waipo'o Falls, Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii.

CAPTIVATING CANYON. Spectacular views across Waimea Canyon and Waipo’o Falls. Central Kauai.

Panorama of Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

WAIMEA | WIDE ANGLE.

View from the top of Waipo'o Falls, Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

PLUNGE. Waipo’o Falls plunge 800ft into the Waimea Canyon below.

Waimea Canyon. Kauai, Hawaii

A VERY GRAND CANYON. But not THE Grand Canyon… Waimea Canyon, Kauai.

Coastal cliffs of the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii

KAUAI CLIFFS. Low cloud rolls over the Napali Coast. A hard hitting hurricane in April caused significant flood damage to the Northern areas of Kauai with road access to some areas, like Napali, still closed months later.

Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii

COASTAL CLIFFS. The dramatic volcanic cliffs of the Napali Coast.

Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii

OCEAN OUTLOOK. Kauai’s Napali cliffs fall into the North Pacific Ocean.

South Kauai coastline, Hawaii

WEATHERED. The rugged volcanic cliffs on the South Kauai coast

Body boarding on Kauai, Hawaii

BLUE TUBE. A body-boarder catches a sweet ride on Kauai.

Body boarding on Kaui, Hawaii

LET’S BOOGIE…. body boarding, Kauai.

Surfing at sunset on Poipu Beach, Kaui, Hawaii

WAVE RIDER. Surfing at sundown, Poipu Beach.

Sunset on Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

GOLDEN GLOW. The sun sets over the palms of Poipu Beach.

Sunset on Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

LAST LIGHT. The last rays of sun burst over Poipu Beach, Kauai.

 

A mountain biker enjoys a view of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

WEST SIDE STORY

Adventure, Landscapes, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography

On the shortest and coldest day of the year, it seems like a timely opportunity to look back at a great multi-day biking adventure from the summer – on the longest and hottest day of the year….

A perk of my job is the opportunity to meet great people and on occasion to explore some fantastic places. So, when the opportunity to organise a multi-day mountain bike adventure in the back-country for a photo-shoot to support a media campaign, I jumped at the chance to both coordinate and join the trip.

Working with photographer Jay French from Freeride NZ, we concocted a plan to access a remote corner of Lake Wanaka by boat and then spend 2-days riding back to Wanaka on a variety of trails ranging from 4WD farm tracks, single track and, well, pretty much no track at all! We also planned to overnight at a backcountry hut on West Wanaka Station (by kind permission from the landowner), with a gear drop & support provided by 4WD courtesy of my mate Mark from Ridgeline Adventures.

To round off the plan, Jay had lined up four of NZ’s leading mountain bikers to join us for the weekend as talent for the photo-shoot; Alanna Columb, Phoebe Coers, Elmo Cotter and Conor Macfarlane.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at how it happened, but to see the professional photographs, check out Jay’s story and shots here on Eskapee.

A mountain biker loads his bike on to a boat at Wanaka Marina at sunrise

EARLY BIRDS. 0530 hours at the Wanaka Marina to load the bikes on to the boat.

Sunburst at sunrise Wanaka NZ

ANTICIPATION. Bikes loaded onto the water taxi and ready to roll….well, now the sun is up anyway!

Reflections seen from a boat cruise on Lake Wanaka, NZ

REFLECTION PERFECTION. A spectacular morning to be on the lake.

Water taxi on Lake Wanaka, NZ

BEACHED AS. 0630 at Minaret Burn beach, West Wanaka.

Mountain bikers in Lake Wanaka, NZ

CONVOY. The track starts to climb steadily upwards from the lake.

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PERCHED. Jay finding some elevated angles.

Mountain bikers pushing through dense bush in Lake Wanaka, NZ

BUSH BASHING. Still heading upwards, but a machete might have been useful. But on the upside, Jay seems to be enjoying himself!

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MILES OF SMILES. Clear of the dense bush, Alanna enjoying the remote mountain track.

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AIRBORNE. Masters of their craft. Conor hits the mark, and Jay nails the shot.

Mountain bikers in Lake Wanaka, NZ

PAUSE. Taking a moment to just take it all in.

Kea in Wanaka, NZ

THIS COULD BE TROUBLE….. Finding that we’re not alone at Minaret Burn Hut. Will our tents still be standing in the morning?

Mountain bikers wheelie in Wanaka, NZ

WHEELIE FUN. Conor and Elmo perform for the camera.

A mountain biker enjoys a view of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

SUMMER VIBES. The ride up was worth the view but the downhill and swim in the lake was priceless.

Mountain bikers, Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

DOWNHILL. Being drawn down to the water on a hot summer’s day.

Swimmers have fun in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

FLICK. Lakeside cool down.

Mountain bike maintenance in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

UH-OH…. Phoebe & Conor convert Jay’s bike to a single speed following a blown derailleur.

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HANDY. Conor proves to be a handy man to have on a multi-day bike trip!

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WRAP. Reviewing the days work at Minaret Burn Hut.

Rainbow over the mountains, Wanaka New Zealand

BLACK CLOUDS OVER BURKE. Storm clouds loom over Mt Burke.

Storm clouds and a rainbow over the mountains, Wanaka New Zealand

MOUNTAIN MOODS. A storm front rolls over the lake.

Mountain biking, Wanaka NZ

PUSH. The boys prepare to perform for the camera again.

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GOLDEN HOUR. Moody light makes for great photography…. “just do that once more please team”!

Sunrise over Mou Waho Island, Lake Wanaka NZ

SUNRISE. A magical start to the day as the sun rises over Lake Wanaka and Mou Waho Island.

Mountain bikers at a backcountry hut, Lake Wanaka NZ

HUT LIFE. Minaret Burn Hut – a little slice of backcountry heaven.

Backcountry hut, Lake Wanaka NZ

RUSTIC. A night in the backcountry often means sharing with some wild, hairy, and 8-legged locals!

Downhill mountain biking, Lake Wanaka NZ

DUST DEVILS. Day 2 downhill.

Mountain biking, Lake Wanaka NZ

“ONCE MORE PLEASE”! Our patient modelling talent push up for one more photo call….

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FOLLOW MY LEADER. Finding fun lines on the Minaret Burn Track.

Mountain bikers cross a river, Lake Wanaka NZ

COOL CROSSINGS. Wading across the chill waters of the Rumbling Burn.

A mountain biker rides through a river, Lake Wanaka NZ

COOLER CROSSINGS. Elmo blasts through another creek crossing… this time with his shoes on!

Mountain biking in Wanaka NZ

ROLLIN ON A RIVER. Well, more of a small creek than a river…. Fun times in the Wanaka high country.

Mountain biking photoshoot in Wanaka NZ

IN THE CAN. Checking out the results of the morning’s work.

Mountain biking in Wanaka NZ

LAKESIDE. A blistering hot ride back along the Glendhu Bay Track to Wanaka.

Mountain biking along a lakefront trail in Wanaka New Zealand

HOME STRETCH. A hot and hilly final push towards a cold beer!

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PHEW WHAT A SCORCHER! Hot, dusty and sweaty…. exactly as things should be after 2-days of great riding!

Rhyme & Reason Brewery, Wanaka NZ

A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES…. and tired legs…. and dehydrated bodies…

Pints of beer at Rhyme & Reason Brewery, Wanaka NZ

BEER O’CLOCK! Rehydrating after a hot day in the saddle at Rhyme & Reason Brewery.

With thanks to Jay from Freeride NZ for the photography tips, Mark from Ridgeline Adventures for the 4WD logistics support (i.e. cold beers), and Alanna for the introduction to “Cards Against Humanity”…. we’ll never be the same again!