Kyle Miller has been bouncing around New Zealand since August, living a Southern Hemisphere life of camper vans, storm fronts, and split missions. We hear from Kyle in unpredictable intervals, with a flurry of emails and photo drops downloading his latest Kiwi mission deep into the mountains of the island nation—and usually asking us for a bit more budget to scrape up a little heli time. Then Kyle drops off the radar only to re-emerge with another incredible story of another incredible place. His latest about heli drops to the Tasman Glacier and shredding in metric beneath the shadow of Mt. Cook before getting stormbound at the Kelman Hut is another mini-epic in his South Island saga. The only thing we know for sure is that there will be a sequel. —LYA Editor
Words by Kyle Miller, Images by Kyle Miller and Ryan Nicol
It seems the mountains pull me back almost daily, and with a promising forecast of a few days of sunshine after what could be the final snowstorm of the season, I found myself back in the alpine, back to a familiar landscape of white on the ground and blue in the sky, a contrast of cold and warm–but this place is different. I thought we had it tough in Washington but everything about this country is bigger…well, other than the seasonal snowpack, and I needed to see what else this amazing country has to offer.
This country seems to run on helicopters for hiking, hunting, ski touring and pretty much everything else that has to do with the outdoors, as the South Island has a total of three mountain passes, which are all etched into the mountainside. Instead of slogging a full day of the two forecasted sunny days, we loaded into a chopper and worked our way up the Tasman Glacier. I had been on a heli once before touring with Eagle Pass Heli but it was cloudy, so I didn’t get the airborne experience I had dreamed of… well, this time I got the experience tenfold. With over 200cm of new snow covering the biggest mountains and glaciers in New Zealand, we made our way up to Tasman Saddle and the Kelman Hut, otherwise known as the “freezer on the ridge.” Kelman is a 20-person hut that looked more like something you would see in the Alps, precariously holding onto a few rocks surrounded by glaciers and cliff bands, perfect for touring, not so much if you are afraid of heights.
The sun was out but it hadn’t warmed up the snow, so we ran around for the rest of the day making laps in brilliant deep stable powder surrounded by some of the best scenery I could ever imagine. Seracs, endless mountains, and a backdrop of Mt. Tasman and Cook to keep my eyes busy, as we summited and lapped Hochstetter Dome and surrounding ridges until the sun went down, and we went back to the hut and made plans for our final day of sunshine.
Elie de Beaumont is a beast of a mountain, jutting 3,109 meters above the Tasman Sea and working the chain of the Great Divide. Only one of 23 peaks above 3,000 meters and the furthest north of them, we decided to give it a go. During the summer it is a crevasse nightmare, but we were able to make our way carefully up to the base of it with two ice axes, steel crampons, and harnesses. We made our way up what we thought was the crux until making it to the final pitch, where a nasty ’shrund slowed our process. In the end, we made our way to the summit and took in views of the Tasman Valley to the south, the Tasman Sea to the west, an endless display of mountains to the north, and an atrocious drop almost vertically down to the west coast.
Conditions were all you could ask for and more while descending Elie. Not only was it soft, but it delivered face shots along the way. In the end, the run was about 4,000 feet of vert, 6 miles long and worth every minute of grueling climbing. That night we made it back to the hut and listened to the forecast which mentioned a “northwesterly” heading this way, which translated to three days being hut-bound. So Bananagrams and card games kept us going until the weather cleared. We rode the Tasman Glacier 11 kilometers to where we patiently waited for a heli to pick us up and get some of us back to civilization. I, however, was off to the west coast for yet another six-day mission being blown sideways in this epic land.
For more info on splitboarding in New Zealand, check out Ryan Nicol’s trip reports at SplitN2.com.
Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.