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April 2014 Issue
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Big mountain skier

 

Not content to simply climb the highest mountains, Mark Sedon straps on skis for a super quick descent.

Most of us who have studied the map of an area like the Queenstown Lakes district have ogled over the highest summits. Their contours merge into swirling brown waves and high plateaus are covered in the huge white slabs of ice fields and glaciers. It looks as imposing as a piece of paper possibly can.

Lake Hawea-based mountain guide Mark Sedon studied the region in detail. He counted 18 summits that are more than 2500m before declaring he was going to climb every one. Not only that, once at the summit he would ski down; an exhilarating reward for hours of toil.

Two years on and Sedon’s as close to completing the task as New Zealand were to winning the America’s Cup. He’s ticked off 17 of the 18 and has had to turn back twice on the final summit – the remote Mt Ian, 2502m.

Sedon’s adventures have seen him skiing around seracs and crevasses in the dark and paragliding with skis on his back. And despite having turned back twice on his final target, he’s far from frustrated.

“I’m pretty cautious,” he said. “I don’t mind running away.

“I turned back on Mt Rob Roy the first time due to avalanche conditions and I attempted Mt Brewster three times before reaching the top – I would only go when conditions were right.

“With Mt Ian we stopped only 100m from the top because of the falling risk. There wasn’t enough snow covering the loose rocks.”

Originally, Sedon thought it would take 20 years to complete the task, climbing each mountain from the bottom, but sponsorship in the form of an $8000 adventure grant The North Face meant he could tick most of them off last winter.

He’s spent much of the money on helicopter flights to speed access. And although helicopters make climbing in a relatively short time frame more feasible, it certainly doesn’t make things easy.

“I’ve had quite a few frightening experiences,” said Sedon. “We had to be very careful skiing down the east face of Mt Edward. It was steep, with big seracs and crevasses and there was only one possible way off. We had to get it right and luckily we did.

“We also skied off Mt Avalanche with our headlamps on. There were crevasses everywhere and we couldn’t see too far.”

Sedon’s favourite mountain has been Mt Maori which he completed in three days after a gruelling 12 hour first-day climb.

“The ski down was such a great reward for the hours of climbing,” he said. “The sun was setting and the snow was perfect. It’s such a remote mountain that’s rarely climbed.”

Sedon’s taken climbing buddies with him on most trips and, between them, they’ve shot film footage which Sedon hopes to put together into a movie for the 2014 NZ Mountain Film Festival in Wanaka, which he runs.

-Matthew Pike

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