A short film capturing The North Face® backcountry ski expedition to Murchison Glacier in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Watch Sam Smoothy and Fraser McDougall as they explore big alpine country in their backyard, the kiwi way.
The heli is lost to the immensity of New Zealand’s main divide as it banks on approach to our basecamp upon the Murchison Glacier. After setting us down in the midst of NZ’s Southern Alps, the chopper lifts, and the circular whipping wind and the ‘thoomping’ of blades dissipates, leaving a stillness and sense of isolation which, for a few moments, goes unspoilt by words. We’ve arrived.
With basecamp sorted and housekeeping complete, we set off, laying down our first skin tracks. Surrounded by 360o of NZ’s finest alpine country, the direction we head is a dizzying decision. We spend around 90% of our time out here going up and 10% going down. The turns are hard earned.
Night falls over basecamp, the moon shines with intensity, from a cloudless starry sky descends a penetrating cold. Chowing down a warm and hearty meal, we discuss the day that passed and what tomorrow brings, eventually seeking refuge within tents and down sleeping bags.
Dawn on the glacier brings with it amber hues and warmer thoughts, we drink hot tea and slowly get the muscles moving again. Fraser breaks trail as we head into another new zone. With the knowledge gleaned from the previous day, we get straight to it making use of the right aspects to find the best snow. Smoothy eyes an ice cliff just adjacent to our skin track, and after a few quick turns he releases a sizeable volume of slough, sending it clean amongst a waterfall of descending snow. On his second attempt, he dumps a front-flip off the prow, landing deep into the slope below.
Mid-afternoon, news comes over the radio, ‘an approaching front has advanced’, things are about to get real. We’re pressured to make a quick decision and after assessment of the options it’s clear – we’re calling in the chopper.
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