Low Peak on Rolleston Ski, Southern Alps

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On November 21st, I was supposed to have a thesis advisory committee meeting (meeting with my PhD thesis committee to make sure that I am on the right track for my thesis). These meetings are stressful, but also can be very useful as my adviser is very "hands off" and I get little advising (which is mostly good). After about a month of emails back and forth to find this date, my boss emailed me to say that he had won an award and that the award ceremony, in China, was on the 21st, and we would need to reschedule my meeting. This was upsetting because it had been a lot of work to schedule the meeting. About an hour later though, I got an email from another grad student in my lab explaining to me that neither he nor another post doc could go to Australia to present our boss' work at the World Toilet Summit, so he was wondering if I could go, now that I didn't have my meeting.

Yes I could.

The month of May is my favorite time to ski tour in the US, the temps are warm and the snowpack is more predictable, so I figured that in New Zealand, November would be similarly nice (spoiler alert: it was). I bought a ticket to Australia that had a five day layover on the South Island of New Zealand and I started looking for partners and advice.

Many of my contacts and friends contacts in New Zealand (thanks Demi, Jono, Al, Akshay!!!) gave me the idea to ski the Low Peak on Mount Rolleston. This peak is minimally glaciated and therefore is a reasonably good choice for a solo mission.

By the time I got to Christchurch, I still had not found any partners for the Thursday so I rented a car and drove to Arthur's pass to see if I could find any skiing on Rolleston. I camped at Klondike Corner which was free and I woke up at 3:15, scarfed down breakfast and drove 20 minutes to the trail head. It took me a while to decide that I had eaten enough, but by 4:20 I was hiking the trail.

map, about 4500 ft of climbing

By sunrise, I had transitioned to skins and was skiing up the basin towards Low Peak. I had been told that the best way to climb was to ski up to the shoulder and then traverse the shoulder to the top. This worked out well and I was on around 8am just as the snow was starting to transition. The upper part was god turns on fun ~45 degree terrain, the middle was breakable, and the bottom was slushy, but it was all beautiful. Near the base of the peak, I ran in to a couple skiers on their way up, I feared that it was too late for them to ski happily or safely.

The Basin at Sunrise
Picture from the Ridge, looking up to Low Peak
Summit of Low Peak, Rolleston high peak behind
Start of the good skiing
Looking back on the good skiing

I walked out and pointed my car towards Franz Josef. It was great, I highly recommend this ski! Later, I also leanred that good spring weather is hard to come by and this peak is the the Bucket list of many-a-Canterbury skier, I felt very lucky to have sunshine on my random few days in the Southern Alps.

waterfalls on the walk out
river on the way to Franz Josef