Christian's Little Jaunt
Right, I've looked into it and it only takes about 60 grand. I'm going to buy a helicopter and train to fly the thing. What a day yesterday - Saturday. After being bumped by the weather (this cold rainy island is more temperamental than ours) for 3 days, eventually woke up to a bluebird morning and got the call from the lovely Teagan down at Harris Mountains Heli. "Hey Christiaaaaaaan, you wanna go in the heli today huh?" she drawls in her Texan way. "Sure Teagan, I'll be there in the next 4.6 milliseconds" I reply in my Suffolk-wannabe-East End lilt. Pete was the guide, and drove me and newly acquired team mates up through the beautiful foothills outside Wanaka to the helipad. I say helipad, but as you can see from the photos it was a field, with LOTS of dung everywhere. And cows at one end. (I'm sure they didn't come near us through embarrassment at having crapped all over our landing.) There's only 4 team mates in each guide's group, so my buddies were Claude, Claude's son Bruno and Bruno's son Arnaud. I believe that Arnaud's foetus Pierre and Pierre's sperm Henri were double-booked so couldn't make it. Claude and his family develop hotels on Bora Bora and Tahiti - what a drag eh? Anyway, back to helis. When these things start up, blades whizzing, the wash created is like a hurricane. It knocks you over if you're within 20 feet of it. You get the whole safety briefing thing, don't stand up too quickly if the machine's on a slope or the blades will decapitate you, y'know, the usual type of thing, then you're up and away. The isolation up there is total - pure untracked faces of pristine powder snow, peaks and ridges as far as the eye can see. The ride feels really smooth, there's much less turbulence than you get in a fixed wing (that's what us heli veterans call planes y'know.) Pete the guide told us that Pete the pilot flew Huey helis in Vietnam, so he was pretty damn good. Every time we came in to land, he'd spin it as though he'd just slammed the brakes on, the tail of the beast pointing towards the sky and the nose facing vertically downwards, making you strain against your seatbelt as though you're going to fall through the front window. The boarding was awesome - pure powder, first tracks down every run, BIG rooster tails every time you slash a turn, not a cloud in the sky. Again the photos can't really do it justice. We dropped 8 times, with a total vertical drop of just over 5000 metres. It feels pretty cool to be deposited on a 5 metre wide ridge, with powder faces to your left and right, towering peaks all around and only 4 other people anywhere near you, knowing that the way down will take about 15 minutes and be uninterrupted perfect freeriding. And it feels even cooler to know that once you're there, a helicopter will pick you up and take you back up top to a different ridge. It was great, etched into the memory banks forever. So, as a celebration, we went to the pub and spent somewhere in the region of 8.4 billion dollars on various nonsense concoctions. Lunch was good on the mountain yesterday, but seeing it once should have been enough.