On a fine day at Temple Basin your eyes are drawn to the west and the peaks of Philistine and Rolleston. These mountains provide a perfect playground for the Canterbury mountaineer or skier; climbing routes and the snow-line are only around an hour walk from the car, slopes range from mellow to steep and exposed, and a range of aspects means you should be able to find good snow somewhere.
With high pressure setting in, we set off with a plan of ski touring to Waimakariri Falls Hut, to the west of Mt Rolleston, traversing Philistine along the way. Standing on top of Philistine we pulled the pin. The wind from the previous week had done strange things to the snow, and we hadn’t found the powder we were after. From the summit we could see perfect turns being laid down by the patrol staff at Temple, so it was an easy decision to go for plan B and check out opening day up there. It must have been one of Temple’s best opening days in years, with hero snow throughout Downhill basin.
From Philistine and Temple, the snow on Rolleston had looked less wind affected than elsewhere, so early on Sunday we started the walk up the Otira Valley once again. Great skinning conditions meant we were able to skin all the way to the top of the Otira Slide, only having to use crampons for the short 150m climb up the summit headwall. Having originally planned to ski back the way we came, we spotted perfect cold powder on the more sheltered Bealey Face. After skiing nice sunbaked powder on the headwall, we were treated to amazing snow right to the valley floor.
Back in Arthur’s Pass our buddy Evan got in touch, with a plan to tour off the back of Craigieburn the next day. The wind had picked up to gale on the ridgelines, but luckily we found more powder in the bowls to the south of Peak 1912 to cap off a great extended weekend.
Words and photos by Nick Begg and Tyrone Low