Snow in the Mountains

Christchurch itself rarely gets snow, but in winter after a nasty southerly change ("This wind is from Antarctica!" says Milo, with a grimace) the Southern Alps appear the next day glistening and stark, transformed from brown to white, shining over the Canterbury Plains.  A deep fresh snow fell a week ago, and we brought the kids up to Porters Pass to have a play.  That's Lake Lyndon, frozen over.

Christchurch itself rarely gets snow, but in winter after a nasty southerly change (“This wind is from Antarctica!” says Milo, with a grimace) the Southern Alps appear the next day glistening and stark, transformed from brown to white, shining over the Canterbury Plains. A deep fresh snow fell a week ago, and we brought the kids up to Porters Pass to have a play. That’s Lake Lyndon, frozen over.

Now plows even notched out parking places along side the road here, where the sledders traditionally congregate.  It's not that bad a deal, actually; snow in the mountains when you want it, but not at your doorstep needing to be shoveled.

Now plows even notched out parking places along side the road here, where the sledders traditionally congregate. It’s not that bad a deal, actually; snow in the mountains when you want it, but not at your doorstep needing to be shoveled.

Jeremiah bought sleds just for the occasion, but Mommy was more into sledding than kids.  "Come on, Milo, don't you want to take a slide with me?"  No, actually, he didn't.  Instead, he was really into constructing a giant snow man with Daddy.  They designed a ramp and used a sled to move the giant snowman belly into place.

Jeremiah bought sleds just for the occasion, but Mommy was more into sledding than kids. “Come on, Milo, don’t you want to take a slide with me?” No, actually, he didn’t. Instead, he was really into constructing a giant snow man with Daddy. They designed a ramp and used a sled to move the giant snowman belly into place.

Naomi wasn't so into the snow at first.  It was deep enough that her legs stuck in to her hips, so she couldn't get around on her own until the snowman clearing was complete.  The snowman wasn't so interesting to her either....until Jeremiah made her a couple baby snowmen.  Here she's tenderly bestowing a kiss on a snowy baby head.

Naomi wasn’t so into the snow at first. It was deep enough that her legs stuck in to her hips, so she couldn’t get around on her own until the snowman clearing was complete. The snowman wasn’t so interesting to her either….until Jeremiah made her a couple baby snowmen. Here she’s tenderly bestowing a kiss on a snowy baby head.

That's one big snowman!  Plenty of other folks posed with our creation for a photo shoot, but I didn't see anyone else get a piggy back ride.

That’s one big snowman! Plenty of other folks posed with our creation for a photo shoot, but I didn’t see anyone else get a piggy back ride.

The day we were up there with the kids was still and just above freezing, with chilly water droplets dripping from the tussock grasses.  It made for great snow packing conditions, and it would have been great snowshoeing too....except our snowshoes are back in America.  Good soft snow is pretty rare in the southern alps, so we left our snowshoes back home and opted for crampons, which are more suitable for the crusty snow typical of NZ.  It's hard to express the frustration of owning the right piece of gear for a great adventure, but having it inaccessible on the other side of the globe.

The day we were up there with the kids was still and just above freezing, with chilly water droplets dripping from the tussock grasses. It made for great snow packing conditions, and it would have been great snowshoeing too….except our snowshoes are back in America. Good soft snow is pretty rare in the southern alps, so we left our snowshoes back home and opted for crampons, which are more suitable for the crusty snow typical of NZ. It’s hard to express the frustration of owning the right piece of gear for a great adventure, but having it inaccessible on the other side of the globe.

There's Lake Lyndon in the background again, but this weekend was definitely colder and less hospitable.  I went up for a day hike to Castle Hill Peak with some friends under clear skies, but the wind was howling.

There’s Lake Lyndon in the background again, but this weekend was definitely colder and less hospitable. I went up for a day hike to Castle Hill Peak with some friends under clear skies, but the wind was howling.

Here's the gang--Sayuri, Molly, and Carrie.

Here’s the gang–Sayuri, Molly, and Carrie.

Last weekend's snow had gotten a bit crusty and a couple inches of fresh soft powder was skittering over the surface, sculpted by the wind.  It felt like a desert, stark and hostile.

Last weekend’s snow had gotten a bit crusty and a couple inches of fresh soft powder was skittering over the surface, sculpted by the wind. It felt like a desert, stark and hostile.

Here is Castle Hill Peak at the end of the ridge, sitting at nearly 2000 meters.  We started at about 950 meters and climbed to about 1850, and the nob below the peak, before we decided that we'd had enough of the wind.  On a still day this walk would be magic, and I've been up there when we reclined in the snow and boiled a kettle for tea.  There would have been no lighting a stove yesterday, let alone standing around to soak up the sun.

Here is Castle Hill Peak at the end of the ridge, sitting at nearly 2000 meters. We started at about 950 meters and climbed a little bit, and then the wind picked up.  We seriously thought about ditching and going back to town for a coffee, but Carrie was keen to press on and we were all up to the task, so we kept on pushing on.  In the end we got to about 1850 meters, and the nob below the peak, before we decided that we’d had enough of the wind. On a still day this walk would be magic, and I’ve been up there when we reclined in the snow and boiled a kettle for tea. There would have been no lighting a stove yesterday, let alone standing around to soak up the sun.

Here we're looking back along the ridge where we just walked.  The wind had suddenly stopped, as if a giant door had been shut.  I turned around to Carrie:  "What the heck?!?"  The silence was eerie... until 15 seconds later when the wind started up again.

Here we’re looking back along the ridge where we just walked. The wind had suddenly stopped, as if a giant door had been shut. I turned around to Carrie: “What the heck?!?” The silence was eerie… until 15 seconds later when the wind started up again.  No wonder so many cultures come up with mythology to explain natural wonders–I could imagine that the frozen giant blowing the winter wind needs to stop to take a breath once in a while.

We turned around and with the wind at our back,  at first the decent felt like a stroll in the park.  We wondered if we had made the right choice, turning back when we did.  "I sure HOPE that wind is HOWLING when we get back to the car!" I exclaimed.  And it was.  Here Sayuri is silhouetted against the blowing snow, like some sort of sci-fi space trek.

We turned around and with the wind at our back, at first the decent felt like a stroll in the park. We wondered if we had made the right choice, turning back when we did. “I sure HOPE that wind is HOWLING when we get back to the car!” I exclaimed. And it was. Here Sayuri is silhouetted against the blowing snow, like some sort of sci-fi space trek.

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3 thoughts on “Snow in the Mountains

  1. Oh my – hard to fathom you having this type of weather when Alaska is so dry & burning up. After your last January visit to New York, it is great to know you folks can find some snow to enjoy in the mountains of New Zealand. Looks like GREAT fun.

  2. brrrrrrr, I can almost feel the cold and the wind as I read through as I look out and see the tall grass you gave us weaving back and forth next to the fence and the green, rain soaked lawn and know the temp is supposed to be in the mid 70’s later on.
    I so enjoy your photos and narratives; you have such a gift of sharing your love of nature (and your family), no matter what the season. I still remember seeing you walking down E. Main St when Milo was such a tiny baby, carried next to your heart and bundled against the freezing cold February weather, shaking my head and wondering “why” … and how … anyone could look so serene and happy, being out in that weather. lol Silly me. ‘Twas Molly!

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