Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ohau We Love Backcountry Snowboarding

Portable yurt in Mt. Dobson parking lot
We finally managed to pull ourselves away from Timaru and head towards the mountains again.  The weather forecast was for sun, light wind, and warm temps so we revisted the Mt. Dobson parking lot with our portable yurt (the van) and spent 3 days in the backcountry.  We stayed until the last day of the season, afterwhich, they closed the private access road.

Next, Scott had scoped out the Ohau skifield, about 2 hours southwest of Mt. Dobson in the Ohau Mountain Range.  Our backcountry ski book had suggested that even if the skifield is closed for the season, you can request access at the bottom of the road at the Ohau Lodge. We headed to the
Lake Ohau in the background
lodge and expected nothing more than a quick transaction to pay an access fee and/or get a key to unlock the gate.  What followed was a very weird interaction with one of the co-owners of the Ohau Lodge.  At first, he told us "no, we don't let people up the mountain when there is snow and danger of avalanche".  Scott pushed back, saying that our backcountry book suggested that they allowed it.  The manager told us they allow people up there in the summer, but not right after closing the skifield (which had been the day before).  He went on to tell us that they hadn't locked up the buildings or property.  Although Scott continued to push back, both of us were resolved to leave and started turning to head out the door.  The manager then started asking us where we were from, where we had been, what we were doing, etc.  Annoyed, Scott gave him short answers.  It turns out, the manager was worried that we were locals (the accent didn't give us away?) and that we would soon be telling everyone about the poaching opportunity in the Ohau backcountry after the resort was closed (again, it was in the book!).
Hiking up from Dumbell Lake in the Ohau Range
After he felt assured that we weren't locals, he told us he would unlock the gate for us, and he didn't charge us anything.  We still don't understand why he played such games with us, but we'll be prepared next time. There is a lot of public land in NZ that can only be accessed via private roads, so this may happen again.

The following 2 days were bright, sunny and magnificient on the mountain.  The views of Ohau Lake below us and the southern alps were the best part.  Since the snow wasn't the best, we were happy to leave after a couple of days.   Only one casualty -- we lost a hub cap on the road up (or down?).

A baby huck in the Ohau Range

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