Its been awhile since my last post so I’m gonna try to put together a few posts to sum up the events of the last few weeks. (this post has been written for some time and I simply forgot to submit it…) This past weekend I traveled with the University tramping club to Mount Hutt for a weekend of snow skills training called Snow craft. The point of the weekend was to do some awesome tramping while learning about using cool snow gear like crampons and ice axes. We left Uni a little after 8 on Saturday and arrived at Mount Hutt about an hour and a half later. The road up the mountain was pretty crazy; there were rarely any guard rails and the road was gravel and wound its way up the mountain with steep cliffs on the sides. We finally made it near the top where we parked the vans and geared up for the tramp. It took us about 3 hours of hiking to make it from the car park to the area where we decided to make camp for the night. Along the way we passed the Mount Hutt ski field and had a bunch of really cool views of the Southern Alps and the valleys surrounding the mountain.
When we finally reached camp, we started to dig in. The wind was so strong there that it actually knocked me down several times, and as the sun was starting to set it was getting a little cold. The snow wasn’t quite right for building snow caves (this was our original plan) so we decided to dig holes to pitch out tents in so we would be out of the wind. After about an hour of digging and piling the snow around the sides, we finally had a hole big enough for our tent. Myself and 3 of my friends had rented a tent from the tramping club since we didn’t have one of our own. We were told the tent was a 3 person tent that was big enough to fit 4 people pretty easy. Boy were they wrong!! When we finally pitched the tent, we realized they had rented us a small 2 person tent!! We decided to make dinner and go over our sleeping options. We cooked some pasta on a small camp stove and enjoyed the sunset over the Alps. We finally decided that we really didn’t have any other option than to squeeze into the tent and make do for the night.
Just before heading in for the night, we took some time to enjoy the stars. I honestly have never seen so many stars as I saw that night!! The galactic plane of the Milky Way was incredibly vivid and there were tons of stars everywhere. It really was an incredible view!! We finally started to get cold outside the tent and decided to call it quits for the night and settle in. I have to say it was a challenge getting all 4 of us guys to squeeze into that small tent. It was by far one of the most uncomfortable nights I have ever slept. We couldn’t move much at all since we were packed in so tight and I spent the night dozing on and off as I woke up from cramps and limbs that had fallen asleep as well as other people trying to get comfortable. I was very happy to see the sun rise the next morning!
The next morning we got up, dressed, made breakfast, and tore down camp. We left our packs at the camp and decided to head for the summit of Mount Hutt. Along the way though we stopped to practice some safety procedures for snow traveling called self-arresting. Self-arresting is a technique used to stop yourself from sliding off the mountain in case you fall. If you fall, you take your ice axe (which you keep ready in your hands at all times) and dig the claw into the ice and pull it under your chest to get your body weight over the head of the axe. We found a saddle in the mountain with the perfect snow to practice in as well as a safe area to slide down. It was actually a lot of fun to practice!! We took turns sliding down the hillside and practicing our techniques. We tried every scenario from sliding down easy, to diving headfirst, sliding on our backs, and running and rolling down the hill. After we all got a bit of practice in we continued toward the summit. It was a tough climb that required the use of our crampons, another snow tramping tool. Crampons are a set of large metal spikes that strap to your boots to give you extra grip in ice. They work really well and allow you to climb a nearly vertical slope of ice without any problems. We slowly and carefully made our way up the steep and icy slopes until we made it to the summit. The views from there were absolutely incredible! I thought our tramp the previous week to Mount Fyffe had given us some awesome views, but they didn’t quite compare to Mount Hutt. It was a beautiful day and it was just awesome seeing the Alps all around us! After snapping a bunch of photos we headed down from the summit, grabbed out packs, and headed back to the vans.
Overall it was another absolutely awesome weekend and I met a ton of really cool people and learned some really valuable snow safety skills. Each weekend here has just gotten better and better and I don’t know how the rest of the semester will top these trips, but I’m sure New Zealand still has quite a few surprises for me! This coming weekend though I think I’ll be taking it easy as I really need to catch up on my school work…who knew I was actually here in New Zealand to go to University??