Story of some Brits living in New Zealand for the Southern Hemisphere Winter in 2004
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Sunday, August 15, 2004

More Antics at Mt Hutt

After staying the night in Methven, albeit without toothbrushes or spares of any description, we decided we may as well head back up Mount Hutt today for some more skiing. The snow report suggested that hats and googles would be essential today - we later realised this was probably a disguised warning to stay away.

As we hit the road it quickly became apparent that we would need chains on our car right from the start of the 14km ride up the main part of the track. Duely fitted we cruised over snow and ice, dodging recent rock falls, right to the top. Pretty soon we couldn't help noticing the whiteout conditions caused by a combination of low cloud and wind distribution of recent snow. Not knowing much about skiing we didnt know what the ski fields would be like to ski on, so we carried on.

On arrival we paid up and had a go at skiing. Quite tricky! The heavy overnight snow had changed the slopes considerably and combined with the whiteout conditions made things quite tricky. Well, that's to say the least of it - a couple of times I shot over shelves which had not been there yesterday to discover what ski jumping is all about, at least in concept.

Towards the afternoon we both played around on the novice slopes a lot though I later found that because these are right next to a steep bank of snow, the whiteout conditions were worse there and you really couldnt see much.

By about 3pm the tow lifts shut, an hour early! The lifties explained that the road was once again shut and they needed to get people down. With the recent memory of being stuck up the mountain we got our act together to line up for our descent. In the event things were not too bad. The road crew ensured chains were on all vehicles, that everyone stayed spaced out a lot, and we started out 16km back to the main road (in first gear - the poor car!).

Things seemed in control until we passed the first 4x4 in the ditch at the side of the road (you really dont want to fall off the other side of the road!!). Soon after we were further delayed, which at first was helpful as it gave use chance to try and do something with our frozen wipers (unhelpful in snowing & whiteout conditions when descending on ice and snow with a sheer drop to one side).

It turned out that another 4x4 had turned sideways around the corner and the next car had run into it. At this point we started to doubt our little 2 wheeled drive toyota. Nearer the bottom of the mountain the ice got worse - a fact which became clear as we saw our 4th crashed car.

Eventually making it back to the tarmac road we had to continue for a while with the chains on so deep was the snow.

Getting the chains off was not the ordeal it has been, since we're getting quite practiced now but it still involves laying in the road under the car, so it's quite messy.

Driving back we were keen to get a cup of tea or something as the driving, with deep snow all around and the roads only gritted, not salted, was quite tough. We had previously written off Darfield as a tea stop opportunity but this time we came up trumps. As we headed out of town, disappointment already setting in, we came upon a 'pub and cafe' sign, for a place which I think is the Terrace Pub & Cafe. We were very surprised to get a really very good homemade pizza there and to sit on the sofas by the fire to eat it. Really nice spot which we will revisit I'm sure.


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