Episode 8 - Cass Valley & The Scorpion
The nitty gritty...
A 3 day gallop up the Cass Valley in New Zealand, to attempt a ski tour of Mt Hutton and the Scorpion loop. (see below for full description)
With a delicious looking late October high pressure period on the horizon, plans were quickly hashed with Manu Nadler, Jethro Robinson, Bella Mi and Lucy Bellerby to drive up the Cass Valley to the Memorial Hut. From here we wanted to climb and ski Mt Hutton, before hitting the mellow, but scenic Scorpion loop for the final day.
Day 1 consisted of a couple of hours off roading to get to the hut. A sublime treat in Jethro’s off road behemoth. However, the trip was tad more interesting for Manu in his 4x4 Toyota Hi-Ace van. After a naughty bit of backtracking and river navigation, we all arrived at the hut and settled in for delightfully civilised night. (Worth noting here, that the track to the hut is usualy easier. Recent floods had wiped out sections, making it a slightly more torrid affair).
Day 2 dawned with a nice n’ early start. Coffee’d up and ahem, raring to go. We jumped in the truck for a kilometre of easy drivable terrain. From here it was 9km or so amble to the snow line. Skinning up into the Huxley glacier was a divine treat, with the rapidly rising low cloud and morning light, giving all but the most carnal of pleasures a run for their money.
However, with that sudden visibility, came the realisation that a motley collection of hazards awaited us on the route. Seracs, far larger than what we had anticipated from Google Earth, hung like 3 storey houses over the lookers right of the glacier. Huge avalanche debris paths were strewn from the previous storm cycle. And moderately precarious ice blocks were dotted around the main glacier and route. Low risk in colder and more stable conditions. But the rapidly rocketing freezing level, just made the prospect of summiting a tad unrealistic. We still managed to skin a fair way up the route and as a consolation prize, found a beautiful looking couloir to rip. ‘Hot’ powder was on the menu and barring the snow in the couloir, which wasn’t great, we had a fantastic ski.
A long trudge later and we were back at the hut chowing down on beers and Shepherd’s Pie. Lucy’s daughter, Fern, a local Shepherd. Joined us and true to her craft, brought the said pie.
Day 3 was a slightly more relaxed wake up. Our objective was the mellow, but long and scenic Scorpion loop. A bloody FREEZING river crossing and rapid height gain up a steep grassy valley side, saw us at the snow line far quicker than the day before.
The Scorpion loop was comprised of pleasurable skinning up to a scenic col and then a long multi phase descent back down to the Lady Emily Hut. From here we rejoined our route from the morning to descend back down to the Memorial Hut. Snow was a mix of really flipping slushy and nice ‘hot’ powder. All that remained that evening was to exit out of the valley in the 4x4’s. Again an easy job for Jethro, but quite the headache for Manu in his van. Shovels came out a few times and after negotiating the trickiest of sections, Manu managed to burst his tyre on some flat easy ground. Anyhow, the wheel was swapped and we trundled out the valley to the nearest Japanese restaurant in Tekapo. For a bloody good feed.