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June 2013 Issue
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Powder travel

Snowshoeing into Upper Wye Creek. Photo supplied
Car park to saddle, 1hr; saddle to Lake Wakatipum 6-7hr
Remarkables Ski Field, SH6

Upper Wye Creek Basin, Remarkables Conservation Area

The latest generation of lightweight, all terrain snowshoes are a world away from the cartoon tennis rackets of old. A good place to discover their advantages for getting around in winter is the beautiful and easily accessible Upper Wye Creek Basin in the heart of the Remarkables Conservation Area. The 3890ha block is a quiet haven easily accessible from the crowded Remarkables Ski Field.

From the ski field car park, follow the Lake Alta Track from behind the main cafeteria to Wye Creek Saddle and the head of the basin. Crossing the saddle requires avalanche assessment of the steep southern aspect slopes and ideally you’ll be carrying transceivers and avalanche rescue gear. From here there are spectacular views across the snow-covered peaks of the Remarkables.

The Basin stretches for 5km and you’ll be glad of snowshoes as deep powder snow lingers in the gentle bowls and guts throughout winter. The dark southern face of Double Cone hangs over the lower part of the basin; the pyramid-like peak gives the area an enclosed, mountain sanctuary atmosphere.

Many climbers pass through here on their way down to the vertical ice cliffs of Upper Wye Creek and it’s possible, as a one-way trip, to continue walking all the way down to SH6 on the shore of Lake Wakatipu.

But the basin is so beautiful that it makes an amazing destination in its own right; the peaceful powder-filled gullies are a welcome contrast to the busy ski field. It’s the kind of place you could take a tent and spend a night under the frost-torn southern sky, the sound of hoar frost crystals tinkling in the light breeze of a catabatic wind far above the partygoers down in Queenstown.

And floating along on the surface of the snow with a pair of snowshoes you’ll have barely left a track behind you.

– Fraser Crichton