On Friday, 21 September, Hans Anderson and I went for a long weekend to ski some mountains in Mount Cook National Park. Friday had a mediocre weather forecast, calling for rain and snow. We chanced that the weather would be better than forecasted and went up and skied Edgar Thompson.
Edgar Thompson is a NZ Grade 2 climb and is easily accessed from the Mount Cook road. A 1.5km 4wd track leads you to a trailhead for continuing up the Birch Hill Stream to climb the south face of the mountain.
There are several ways of ascending Edgar Thompson with some information online pointing to climbing the north side from the Hoophorn and ascending the ridgeline to the summit. This is possible and I attempted to do this last year but it has a few flaws; it’s a lot of walking up dry-mountain sides; takes a long time; limits the skiing. So, this time, Hans and I ascended the south face directly from Birch Hill Stream.
Once we made it the bottom of the ‘access couloir’ onto the snow benches, the climbing was quick and we put our skins on as soon as possible and skinned the whole rest of the way to the summit. Snow conditions were moist with up to 50cm settled new snow from the storm several days beforehand. Clouds were in and out with mostly clear skies to our south.
Once we ascended to the bench under the summit slope the rest of the climb lay before us. A steep skin track veering to the lookers right side and wrapping around got us to the summit pretty quickly.
Reaching the summit, the clouds were back sitting on the upper 50m and we had to wait a little for a decent clearing to appear to ski down.
The skiing down the summit slope was awesome, with confidence-inspiring snow conditions you could rip down the steep slope.
Below the summit slope, the skiing was still great, but getting heavier.
Video – Joel skiing down Edgar Thompson snow benches
As we reached the lower portions of the slope, between elevation bands 1700-1500m, the snow was in the perfect conditions for wet-loose avalanches and you needed to be wary of not skiing fall-line for too long, lest your loose-wet ‘tail’ catch up to you.
Below 1500m there was less new snow and the snow had already experienced several melt/freeze cycles and skied well as wet-corn to the end of the snow line. We continued skiing down some large debris tongues and then walked back out the valley to our car. Easy 8hr day, car to car.