This "New Zealand Haute Route" was pioneered by company founder Gottlieb Braun-Elwert together with Franz Waibl and Daniel Frey in a single day in 1985. Their Symphony on Skis 1985 record, 18.5 hours from Rankin Hut in the Godley Valley to Chancellor Hut, was broken by Grant Guise, Javi (Spain) and Lorenzo (Italy) in just under 13 hours on 5 September. The modern party travelled with ultra-lite ski touring gear and just day packs, whereas the original party carried full packs with sleeping bags, cookers, food for Chancellor Hut etc. This year will be 25 years since the first symphony was completed. Read the original newspaper article about the Symphony on Skis.
A very high level of fitness is required. Participants need to carry a full pack (approximately 20 kg including skis) over sometimes rough ground for 6-8 hours each day. Participants need to be able to ski very steep terrain and in all snow conditions with a heavy pack. Previous ski touring experience is essential (including some 6+ hour multi-day ski tours). Good preparation for this trip is our Mount Cook and Westland Glaciers Ski Touring week.
Day 1: 9:00 am gear check at our office, 30 Murray Place, Lake Tekapo. Drive up the western side of Lake Tekapo to Rankin Hut.
Days 2-6: We leave the comforts of Rankin Hut and head up the Godley Valley by torchlight. By the time the sun hits us, we are skinning up Rutherford Stream to our first pass: Armadillo Saddle. It feels good to be skiing down after our long ascent. We head down to the Murchison Glacier then up around the corner to Murchison Hut for a well earned rest.
Day break sees us heading up the Murchison Headwall to Tasman Saddle. We can now look forward to one of New Zealand's longest ski runs - the Tasman Glacier. We turn right at De La Beche corner and begin our journey up the Rudolf Glacier to Graham Saddle, the highest point of the Symphony. A downhill run then a traverse across the Chamberlin Snowfield to Centennial Hut.
The following day we cross the Davis Snowfield to West Hoe Pass and then enjoy a long ski descent down Fox Glacier to Chancellor Hut. Fly or walk out from Chancellor Hut to Fox Glacier township. It is recommended to fly from Chancellor Hut, as the route is often exposed to rock fall. 2 days reserved for weather contingency, and/or the option of staying at Tasman Saddle Hut to split the longest (middle) day.
Last Day: Drive back to Lake Tekapo, arriving around 5:00 pm.
Equipment: Alpine Recreation provides alpine touring skis, poles, skins, avalanche transceivers, shovels and crampons. You need to bring your own alpine ski touring boots. A detailed equipment list will be sent at time of booking. Outdoor clothing and packs can also be provided at no extra cost if necessary.
Accommodation pre-/post- tour: As our equipment check takes place at 9:00 am on the morning of departure, you may want to book accommodation in Tekapo the night before. Accommodation options in Tekapo.
Insurance: In case of accident New Zealand's Accident Compensation scheme (ACC) will cover the majority of costs (about 80%) involved with evacuation and injury treatment, even for visitors to New Zealand. However you still need ordinary travel insurance to cover such things as your cancellation if an injury prevents you taking part on the trip, or a close relative suddenly becomes ill; and medical insurance in case you become ill. More information re Accident Compensation. The New Zealand Alpine Club provides a good mountaineering specific travel insurance.
How green are we? Alpine Recreation reduces its carbon footprint and environmental impact through such things as:
- restricting group size
- using fuel efficient vehicles
- minimising use of vehicles and aircraft
- recycling, re-using, composting, avoiding "consumerism"
- minimal impact huts
- bulk buying of food supplies
- promoting conservation of native flora and fauna
- supporting community efforts to encourage appreciation of the natural environment.
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