I love trying out new sports. The whole process of learning new movements, figuring out how something works, then playing and improving, is something I thrive on (fun fact: I danced classical ballet for 10 years until I was 17. Ballet is amazing training for body awareness and for learning how to watch and copy movements).
But believe me, it’s not always smooth sailing. When I repeatedly fall or am not able to do something, I sometimes get frustrated. Why? Usually it’s when I’m thinking something along the lines of “I should be able to do this by now!”. That is an expectation I have of myself, created by my dear old ego. What I’m doing here is focusing on a fixed outcome or result. In contrast, when I’m adopting a flow mindset, I focus on learning and growing. In the flow mindset, there are no mistakes, only feedback. I’ve found this mindset to be incredibly powerful for busting through feelings of frustration and demotivation and generally having a much better experience.
I used the flow mindset in this video while learning to wake surf this summer for the first time, on beautiful Lake Powell in Utah/Arizona:
I love trying out new sports. The whole process of learning new movements, figuring out how something works, then playing and improving, is something I thrive on (fun fact: I danced classical ballet for 10 years until I was 17. Ballet is amazing training for body awareness and for learning how to watch and copy movements).But believe me, it’s not always smooth sailing. When I repeatedly fall or am not able to do something, I sometimes get frustrated. Why? Usually it’s when I’m thinking something along the lines of “I should be able to do this by now!”. That is an expectation I have of myself, created by my dear old ego. What I’m doing here is focusing on a fixed outcome or result. In contrast, when I’m adopting a flow mindset, I focus on learning and growing. In the flow mindset, there are no mistakes, only feedback. I’ve found this mindset to be incredibly powerful for busting through feelings of frustration and demotivation and generally having a much better experience.I used the flow mindset in this video while learning to wake surf this summer for the first time, on beautiful Lake Powell in Utah/Arizona.So remember to "let it flow" next time you learn something new and you will learn much faster and have more fun too!
Posted by Lorraine Huber on Monday, October 22, 2018
So, remember to “let it flow” next time you learn something new and you will learn much faster and have more fun too!
In a previous post, I spoke about how I was going to try something new for my strength and conditioning this off-season. Three months later, I’m amazed at how CrossFit has improved my fitness over the summer. I’m almost as strong as I’ve ever been and my cardio has improved dramatically. I also dig how explosive I am right now. During the workout in the video below, I completed 200 push-ups, something I could never have done as little as 2 months ago. I can’t wait to see how my new fitness level translates to skiing! It has certainly helped my surfing immensely: feeling tired from paddling is a thing of the past ?.
Huge shout out to CrossFit2120 for the professional coaching and great vibes, I love training with you guys!
I’m amazed at how #crossfit has improved my #fitness over the summer. I’m almost as strong as I’ve ever been and my cardio has improved dramatically. I also dig how explosive I am right now. In the #workout in this video I completed 200 push-ups, something I could never have done as little as 2 months ago. I can’t wait to see how my new fitness level translates to #skiing! It has certainly helped my #surfing immensely, feeling tired from paddling is a thing of the past ? .Huge shout out to Crossfit 2120 for the professional coaching and great vibes, love training with you guys! #crossfit2120 #fitfam #skifitness #getfit #crossfitgirls
Posted by Lorraine Huber on Thursday, October 11, 2018
After months of soul searching and careful consideration, I have decided that this is the year I’m going to retire from the Freeride World Tour. I’ve had 8 intense and unforgettable years on Tour. I skied two of my best competition runs in Fieberbrunn and at the Xtreme Verbier during the #fwt18 season and I am very happy to end my competition career on such a high note. Competing on the FWT has given me so very much: something to strive for, dreams and goals to achieve which have enriched my life, memorable experiences of #skiing with some of the best #freeriders around the world, and friendship. It has allowed me to introduce the sport of #freeriding to a broad audience in Austria as well as internationally. I am truly grateful for the many personal lessons and experiences over the years on the qualifier events and on Tour – it’s been a hell of a ride! Although I’m retiring from competition, by no means am I retiring as a #professionalskier. It’s especially important to me to pass on my knowledge and experience in the sport of freeriding to future generations – particularly to #femaleskiers. I plan on expanding my Women's Progression Days by Lorraine Huber. I will also be busy with the production of ski film projects. My next big goal is to complete my master’s degree in #mentalstrength coaching at the University of Salzburg. This will enable me to #coach athletes professionally in reaching their full potential.I want to use this opportunity to thank the organisers of the FWT as well as the judges and the athletes I’ve learnt so much from and shared incredible highs and lows with. I want to thank my family and friends for their ongoing support – I know it wasn’t always easy – thanks from the bottom of my ?? Thanks to my strength coaches and to the employees at the Olympiazentrum Vorarlberg for their training expertise and their valuable support in getting me through my last two injuries. I want to thank my sponsors Kästle Ski, @Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Bergans of Norway, SCOTT Sports, Audi Österreich, Strolz Sport & Mode, Dalbello Ski Boots and Roeckl Sports for having shared my journey and for their ongoing trust. And lastly, the fans for all your support. Thanks for watching me ride and for sharing the stoke! Keep following me here to found out more about my future project and don't forget to shred the gnar!
Posted by Lorraine Huber on Wednesday, September 19, 2018
After months of soul searching and careful consideration, I have decided that this is the year I’m going to retire from the Freeride World Tour. I’ve had 8 intense and unforgettable years on the FWT and I am very happy to end my competition career on such a high note. I skied two of my best competition runs in Fieberbrunn and at the Xtreme Verbier during the FWT 2018 season, and using this momentum, I want to build my future and direct my energy into new projects now.
Competing on the Freeride World Tour has given me so very much: something to strive for, dreams and goals to achieve which have enriched my life, memorable experiences of skiing with some of the best freeriders around the world, and friendship. It has allowed me to introduce the sport of freeriding to a broad audience in Austria as well as internationally. I am truly grateful for the many personal lessons and experiences over the years on the qualifier events and on Tour – it’s been a hell of a ride!
Although I’m retiring from competition, by no means am I retiring as a professional skier. I want to put all my energy into new projects now. It’s especially important to me to pass on my knowledge and experience in the sport of freeriding to future generations – particularly to female skiers. To this end, I plan on expanding my women’s freeride camps in Lech am Arlberg – the Women’s Progression Days. I will also be busy with the production of ski film projects. My next big goal is to complete my master’s degree in mental strength coaching at the University of Salzburg. This will enable me to coach athletes professionally in reaching their full potential.
I want to use this opportunity to thank the organisers of the Freeride World Tour as well as the judges and the athletes I’ve learnt so much from and shared incredible highs and lows with. I want to thank my family and friends for their ongoing support – I know it wasn’t always easy for you – thanks from the bottom of my heart. To the employees at the Olympiazentrum Vorarlberg for their training expertise and their valuable support in getting me through my last two injuries. Big thanks also go to my sponsors Kästle, Lech Zürs, Bergans of Norway, Scott, Audi, Strolz, Dalbello and Roeckl Sports for their ongoing trust.
And lastly, the fans. What an incredible support you have been over the years as well as giving me encouragement not to give up during the tough times. Thanks for watching me ride and for continuing to follow my future endeavours!
The off-season is a time to regenerate and strengthen my body for the upcoming winter. For the last 7 years, I’ve followed a more or less traditional strength training program with my coaches with a focus on explosive strength. I would go to the gym 3 to 4 times per week, doing specific exercises for a certain number of sets and repetitions, with a specific amount of rest in between. It would typically take me 2 to 2,5 hours to get through the entire program. The long sessions took a large chunk out of my day, and I found it increasingly hard to motivate myself to go to the gym.
This year, I’m going to try something new, and I’m pretty excited about it: CrossFit. CrossFit is defined as „constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity”, see CrossFit.com. Functional movements are movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. The movements in CrossFit include, among others, aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, and rowing. Sessions are done in a group environment and are short and intense, using the method of interval training to develop the cardiovascular system. Interval training is the key to developing “cardio” without the loss of strength, speed, and power which results from aerobic training (activities at low power and lasting in excess of several minutes, such as running longer distances). For me, this is where CrossFit gets really interesting, as I have always struggled to find a way to train power as well as cardio – which I need of course for hiking lines and skiing long runs. According to Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, anaerobic activity can be used to develop a very high level of aerobic fitness without the muscle wasting consistent with high volumes of aerobic exercise (What is Fitness, 2002).
Before you sign up to a CrossFit gym or “box”, you want to make sure it has good coaches who will teach you good technique. I’m going to be working with owner and coach Dan Miller of CrossFit 2120 in Del Mar near San Diego, California. Dan is a perfect fit for me for three reasons: 1) he is an amazing and highly qualified coach with a strong emphasis on technique, 2) he is a retired competitive mogul skier, and 3) he runs a well-equipped, fun, and friendly CrossFit gym with other great trainers and members who are motivated to regularly put in the work.
I had a chat to Dan Miller the other day which I would like to share with you below. I welcome you to follow my journey on Facebook and Instagram this summer as I experiment with this completely new training form, so stay tuned!
Interview with Dan Miller, owner and coach of CrossFit 2120
Lorraine: What can I expect from training CrossFit?
Dan: Of course, what you get out of CrossFit will always depend on the individual and how many days you train per week. I would want to see you train 5 days per week. Given that you’re a dedicated athlete and move well already, I believe you will see substantial growth in three months and I’m excited for you. I think you’ll like where you’ll be.
I think your engine (cardio) is going to greatly improve, you’ll get stronger and your overall work capacity will improve. And we’ll be able to measure that too.
Lorraine: Is CrossFit going to translate to my skiing or will I just get better at doing CrossFit?
Dan: I have no doubt that CrossFit is going to apply to your skiing, because I have seen it time and again with the members at our gym. They have more strength and stamina to enjoy the sports and things they love to do outside of CrossFit.
You will have increased stamina as far as the hiking, skiing with confidence and multiple ski runs goes as well as the capacity to do more in a day, week, or month. It will translate in a way that you can go hard all day long on the mountain, still feel good in the evening, and be ready to go hard again the following day.
I’m not saying that how you trained so far wasn’t the right way to train – you trained how you had to at the time to win a world championship, and it obviously worked for you. Let’s just look at this as doing something different. CrossFit is going to provide you with a lot of variety with aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing, and more.
You might also find that after training CrossFit for three months, you won’t shy away from continuing that training during the winter season and maintaining your strength.
Lorraine: Well it certainly would be a huge plus to keep my strength and not have to start from scratch again after the winter season like I always have done in the past. I never found the discipline to go to the gym during the winters, I would always just ski and stretch/mobilise. After the winter, it was always painful to get back into the gym again.
Dan: I can see you getting your fitness to a level that you will want to maintain. Accessibility shouldn’t be a problem, you can find CrossFit gyms everywhere these days. That will definitely be an interesting experiment for you.
Lorraine: What else is special about CrossFit?
Dan: The magic is in the community for sure. Depending on what box you work out at, the community is a big thing.
Lorraine: Do you think I’m going to be the fittest I’ve ever been after three months of training with CrossFit 2120?
Dan: You’re going to be the fittest you’ve ever been, and you’re going to grow three inches too – is that ok with you? (laughs)
Lorraine: Tell me a bit about you Dan. When did you get into CrossFit?
Dan: I’m an OG, an original! I got my CrossFit Level 1 Certification back in 2005. There were only 22 CrossFit affiliates in the world at that time (now there are more than 13,000 CrossFit gyms located in 142 countries). After my certification I worked with Mark Divine who later started SEALFIT. In 2012, I opened CrossFit 2120 and I also coach the SEALFIT Kokoro Camp, a 50-hour crucible training event modeled after the US Navy SEALs “Hell Week”.
I’m over 50 now and my training currently is as good as it has been in the last six or seven years. I’m really enjoying the training and I get in here 4 to 5 days a week, sweating right alongside the members.
You can read more about Dan Miller here.
Das Interview führte Mila Hanke exklusiv vor dem Freeride World Tour-Finale 2018. Mila Hanke ist Diplompsychologin, Sportpsychologin (asp) und Journalistin und lebt derzeit in Aschau im Chiemgau (Deutschland). Infos zu ihr und ihrer Arbeit gibt es im Netz unter www.sportandmind.info, www.die-sportpsychologen.de/milahanke und www.milahanke.de). Das Interview ist zuerst auf der Internetseite www.die-sportpsychologen.de erschienen (Link zum Original), einem Netzwerk und Blog-Portal für SportpsychologInnen aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Ich durfte das Interview hier freundlicherweise übernehmen.
Lorraine Huber gewann 2017 die Freeride World Tour (FWT) der Ski Damen – die Weltmeisterschaft der Freerider. Seit Jahren fährt die 38-jährige Österreicherin aus Lech am Arlberg ganz vorne in der Weltspitze mit. Wer die Wettkampfbedingungen nicht kennt: Die Teilnehmer dürfen den zu fahrenden, mit Felsklippen durchsetzten und meist sehr steilen Tiefschneehang nur von gegenüber per Fernglas besichtigen, um sich vorab eine möglichst spektakuläre Abfahrtslinie zu überlegen. Einen Trainingslauf gibt es nicht. Für den Wettkampf steigen die Fahrer und Fahrerinnen nach oben zum Startpunkt und müssen dann die Linie ihrer Wahl möglichst schnell, flüssig, mit tiefen Klippensprüngen, Tricks und sauberen Landungen abfahren. Judges bewerten den „run“ nach einem Punktesystem. Diejenige mit der höchsten Gesamtpunktzahl aus fünf weltweit verteilten Contest gewinnt den Weltmeistertitel.
Seit Januar steht Lorraine Huber in der FWT 2018 unter dem Druck, ihren Vorjahrestitel zu verteidigen. Die ersten drei von fünf internationalen Contests liefen nicht wie erhofft, Lorraine lag danach nur auf Platz acht der Gesamtwertung. Beim Contest im Österreichischen Fieberbrunn am 10. März musste ein Knoten platzen, um doch noch unter die besten Sechs und damit ins Finale am 31. März in Verbier einzuziehen. Und dieser Knoten platzte: Lorraine siegte in Fieberbrunn und schaffte als Gesamtvierte doch noch den Sprung ins Finale (siehe Video des Runs unten). Auch aufgrund ihrer mentalen Vorbereitung.
Im Interview mit Journalistin und Sportpsychologin Mila Hanke verrät sie, welche Mentaltechniken ihr wann am meisten helfen. Außerdem interessant: Weil Lorraine die mentale Stärke im Ski-Sport so wichtig ist und sie auch andere Sportler in dieser Fähigkeit unterstützen möchte, absolviert sie gerade ein Masterstudium zum Mentalcoach an der Universität Salzburg.
Lorraine, wie wichtig ist der „mentale Faktor“ in deinem Sport?
Beim Freeriden ist er enorm wichtig. Es wäre aber ein Trugschluss zu denken, dass innere Stärke ausschließlich im Kopf, also durch die richtigen Gedanken entsteht. Je besser mein Training in der Saisonvorbereitung lief, je stärker ich körperlich bin, je ausgeruhter ich mich fühle, je mehr ich meinem Material vertraue usw., desto stärker bin ich auch im Kopf. Körper und Geist hängen eben immer zusammen und beeinflussen sich gegenseitig.
Von welcher sportpsychologischen Methode hast Du bisher am meisten profitiert?
Von ideomotorischem Training, auch Visualisierungstraining genannt. Vor jedem Wettkampf stelle ich mir meine geplante Abfahrtlinie im Detail vor, vom Start bis ins Ziel. Und zwar aus meiner eigenen Perspektive. Beim Freeriden ist das enorm wichtig, da wir den zu fahrenden Hang nur von gegenüber „besichtigen“ können und es keine Trainingsläufe gibt. Du fährst also oft für dich komplett neues Gelände. Vorab stelle ich mir nicht nur das Gelände vor, wie es aus meiner Perspektive aussehen wird – die Rinnen des Hanges, die Felsen, die ich umfahren muss, die Klippen, die ich springen will, die Landeflächen usw. – , sondern auch das Rundherum am Contest-Tag: das Geräusch des Helikopters, der uns oben am Berg absetzt, die Atmosphäre am Start während des Wartens, meine Empfindungen direkt im Start-Gate – so lebendig wie möglich und mit allen Sinnen. Wenn ich die Bilder im Kopf mit den Emotionen verbinden kann, die ich an den verschiedenen Orten und Zeitpunkten im Wettkampf empfinden möchte, dann ist die Wirkung dieser Mentaltechnik umso stärker.
Seit Beginn der Freeride World Tour 2018 im Januar stehst du unter dem Druck, deinen Weltmeistertitel vom letzten Jahr zu verteidigen. Der Saisonstart lief aber nicht so gut und bis zu deinem Sieg in Fieberbrunn sah es sogar aus, als würdest du es nicht ins Finale schaffen. Wie gehst du mit hohem Leistungsdruck um?
Dabei hilft mir die richtige Zielsetzung. Ich konzentriere mich voll und ganz auf mein Skifahren – also wie ich technisch fahren möchte – und nicht auf das Resultat, das ich erzielen will. Es ist gut, eine übergeordnete Vision wie einen Weltmeistertitel zu haben, um Zugkraft zu generieren und Ressourcen zu fokussieren. Aber während meiner Wettkampfsaison hilft es mir enorm, den Fokus auf kleinere Teilziele zu lenken, bis hin zu dem, was ich am Wettkampftag frühstücke oder wie ich mich aufwärme. Ganz wichtig ist für mich zudem, bei jedem Contest neben einem Leistungsziel auch ein Lernziel vor Augen zu haben – wie zum Beispiel einfach Spaß zu haben, möglichst viele Erfahrungen zu sammeln, von Konkurrentinnen dazuzulernen. Wenn ich mich auf das Lernen und meine persönliche Entwicklung konzentriere, dann ergeben sich die Resultate von selbst. Diese Lernziel-Perspektive war auch ein wichtiger Baustein dafür, dass ich trotz des Rückstandes fokussiert und motiviert geblieben bin, den Contest in Fieberbrunn gewonnen und es doch noch ins Finale geschafft habe.
In deinem Risikosport könnte ein Fehler schwere Verletzungen mit sich bringen oder sogar tödlich sein. Was hilft Dir, mit Ängsten umzugehen?
Beim Freeriden wie auch bei anderen Sportarten hilft es zunächst, Gefühle der Angst zu differenzieren: Wovor genau habe ich Angst? Sind es Ängste rund um die eigene Gesundheit? Und/oder Versagensängste? Und/oder Zukunftsängste? Wenn ich zum Beispiel Versagensängste empfinde, bin ich meist blockiert, was dazu führt, dass ich sehr verhalten bzw. verkrampft Ski fahre. Indem ich sportpsychologisch daran arbeite, verschiedene Eigenschaften in mir aufzubauen oder zu stärken (zum Beispiel mehr Mut, mehr Entschlossenheit), kann ich mich selbst von einem blockierten in einen mutigen Zustand verändern. Bestimmte Eigenschaften stärke ich unter anderem durch diszipliniertes Denken (unterstützende Wörter, Sätze und Bilder durch meinen Kopf gehen lassen) sowie diszipliniertes Verhalten (unterstützende Körperhaltungen, Gesichtsausdrücke). Dabei gibt es eine Vielzahl an mentalen Techniken, die ich einsetze. Ein Beispiel für diszipliniertes Denken wäre, mir in einer angstauslösenden Situation nicht innerlich zu sagen: „Boah, das ist ja brutal steil! Wenn das jetzt schief geht…“. Sondern mir zuzusprechen „Ich habe mich bestmöglich vorbereitet, um eine Passage wie diese zu meistern. Ich schaffe das!“
Welche Mentaltechniken nutzt du sonst noch in einem Wettkampf?
Wenn ich oben am Start stehe, muss ich „vom Kopf“ – also von der ganzen akribischen Planung und Analyse vorab – „in meinen Körper“ kommen. Nur dann gelange ich bei der Abfahrt wirklich in einen Flow-Zustand. Mittlerweile funktioniert das bei mir sehr schnell über eine Routine aus Körperreizen. Zum Beispiel vor dem Start die Oberschenkel abklopfen, Fäuste ballen, tiefes Ein- und Ausatmen, in die Hände klatschen. Dann lenke ich meinen Fokus auf das Hier-und-Jetzt und bin auch körperlich aktiviert und „ganz da“, um meine Leistung genau jetzt, in den folgenden Minuten, erbringen zu können.
Interview: Mila Hanke, zur Profilseite von Mila Hanke
I have been organising women’s freeride camps for 10 years now, so I was pretty excited to run this year’s Women’s Progression Days as a freeride and ski touring camp for the very first time, from 12 to 15 April in Lech am Arlberg.
Looking back, it was one of my favourite camps of all time! Being on the mountain early and following the sun’s rays to harvest beautiful corn snow is simply magical. Being able to do this with 21 motivated and passionate women is even better. Due to the warm weather, we caught the first lift at 8:30 am and skied without a break until mid afternoon, after which all three groups were able to meet up again on the mountain to share a well-deserved lunch. Participants were able to test the TX and FX models from Kästle, improve both their skinning as well as ski technique, hone their skills in avalanche rescue, learn from their guides to read terrain better and make more informed decisions on line choice, and of course ski a bunch of beautiful runs. And this is probably the most powerful thing of all: getting the chance to ski with so many other ripping women who are equally passionate about skiing is truly special and something you just can’t experience in mixed groups. Anja Schmidt, a participant from Vienna, captures the essence of what I mean in an email she wrote me a few days after the camp:
“It’s incredibly motivating to ski in a group of strong women – strong both in regards to their skiing as well as their personalities; when girls are shredding on your left and on your right and you just feel so much joy watching them and gratitude for being part of it. I’m still so stoked, inspired, motivated and empowered…THANK YOU so much, you have no idea how POWERFUL you are, especially with your initiative to bring women together to ski and learn.”
In the evenings we practiced yoga and enjoyed dinner at various locations in Lech together, with plenty of opportunities to make new friends.
I especially want to thank my guides Melissa Presslaber and Gerlinde Stickler who did an incredible job at keeping the participants safe and happy. Thank you also to Kästle Skis for providing the ski test and to Strolz for looking after all our needs regarding equipment and gear storage. And finally thank you to all the participants for joining and being part of such an amazing event – the feelings of being motivated, inspired and stoked are definitely mutual! See you next winter!
If you have a friend/girlfriend/wife you think would enjoy participating at the Women’s Progression Days by Lorraine Huber, then go ahead and share this article with them!
In this video you can follow me on my road to the crown at the Freeride World Tour 2017. After 8 seasons of competing and two recent injuries, 2017 was the year everything finally came together. Developing the mental strength skills to compete in a high pressure situation was the crucial factor for me last season. It allowed me to find flow during my runs and, as a by-product, win the championship. I’m currently studying a master’s degree in mental strength coaching at the University of Salzburg, Austria, and I can’t wait to continue honing my mental strength skills during competition this winter and learn as much as I can as a future mental strength coach. As always, I’m continuously honing my technical skiing as well and I love this ongoing process, because there is always something new and fun to learn.
I want to thank my sponsors for the great partnership over many years now: Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Kästle Skis, Bergans of Norway, SCOTT Sports, and the Olympiazentrum Vorarlberg. Being able to focus on skiing for the past decade and grow as an athlete would not have been possible without you! Thank you and here’s to many more years of excellent partnership!
Like for many of you, my world was turned upside down ever since I was informed about Matilda passing away in an avalanche in Chile. I have not been able to write about her until now since I needed time to gather my thoughts and calm my feelings. I have been thinking about Matilda, her Mattias, and her family countless times a day. I have been talking to both people who loved her and knew her well as well as people who knew her only fleetingly or through the media. She touched the lives of so many.
The hashtag #inspirelikematilda couldn’t be more appropriate to celebrate the unique person Matilda was and continues to be through our thoughts and feelings about her, and more importantly, through our actions inspired by her. Matilda was a person who did what she loved in life. Her life was a product of amazing, challenging and beautiful experiences that she had purposefully created. She loved her Mattias, she loved skiing, she loved her family and friends, she loved creating things and bringing people together. She was beautiful, both loving and gentle, yet courageous and fierce.
In Mattias, Matilda found her soulmate and experienced a relationship in her life that many people literally never experience. As a professional skier, Matilda learnt to face her fears, grow as a person, and challenge herself like many people don’t often do in their lives.
Looking at it in this way, Matilda lived a rich and fulfilling life, a life that can inspire us to do the same. Do what you love! Life is too short to waste time doing things you don’t like or even hate, to spend time with people who don’t enrich and inspire you, to not be doing the things you love out of fear or other reasons. You could be living a perfectly safe life, and then become involved in a fatal car accident or be shot down tomorrow going about your normal day. We simply don’t know when our time is up.
So that’s what I have taken away from Matilda’s passing. Matilda is a true inspiration and I am so very grateful to have spent a lot of very special moments together with her, especially during our time filming together for Shades of Winter in Alaska and during the many years of competing together on the Freeride World Qualifer and Freeride World Tour.
I want to extend my deepest sympathies to her husband Mattias Hargin and her family during this most difficult of times. We are all thinking of you and sending you much love and light.
Getting into more serious ski mountaineering has always been on my list, but it was mostly ranked behind my freeride skiing and sport climbing. Last year, I decided that if I really want to get into ski mountaineering and become an equal rope partner on the mountain, it’s time to refresh some technical skills and learn the ones I’m still lacking. After some research on Google, I soon found what I was looking for: the ‘Alpine Expedition Course’ with Adventure Consultants from Wanaka, New Zealand. Managed by mountaineering legend Guy Cotter, Adventure Consultants is a world-renowned mountain guiding company with a legacy of climbing expeditions to the world’s highest peaks, and wilderness treks to the more remote corners of the globe. The also offer a comprehensive course Program in New Zealand, Europe, and North America.
A couple of months later, I found myself on route to the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka, where I had spent a couple of winter seasons four years earlier. In a way, it felt like coming home. Shortly after my arrival, I was on the way to the AC HQ. There I met the other course participants and my guide Jono Gillan, who was to become the funniest but also most competent teacher I could have wished for.
I was pleased to find out that we were a small group of only three participants: Denis, a successful and highly intelligent engineer from Brisbane, Australia, T.J., an officer in the U.S. navy who flies in F18F fighter jets and is trained to be as deadly as possible, and myself. After some slightly nervous first introductions, gear and weather check, comes the news: there’s weather coming in from the SW, we wont be locating to the Remarkables mountains in Queenstown today, but doing some rock climbing at Hospital Flat in Wanaka instead. Soon, I was climbing my first routes in leather mountaineering boots, a very strange feeling indeed. With his 90 kilos, T.J. seemed comfortable enough for me to belay him. T.J., Denis and I were checking each other out, trying to gage how we would fit together during the course. After all, we would be spending the next 12 days together, and in close quarters too. It soon became apparent though that we’re going to make a great team. Jono seemed impressed with our climbing level, which made us feel very good about ourselves.
Remarkables was on the plan the next day. With almost hyperactive energy levels, Jono shows us the ins and outs of correct crampon and self-arresting technique, and building snow anchors. Then it started dumping, so we decide to head down and cover some theory: roping up on the glacier and pulley systems. Especially Jono’s clear explanation of pulley system theory was incredibly valuable. In no time, I was building and combining 2:1 and 3:1 pulley systems with more clarity and confidence then I’d ever had.
That night, we cover how to plan food for an expedition and pack everything required for a full week spent in a hut in a very remote location. The following day, we drive towards Mt. Cook village, check into our accommodation for the night and head out to climb one of Jono’s favourite routes on Sebastapol Bluffs, the only crag in New Zealand with true multi-pitch within 10 minutes of the carpark. To challenge ourselves, we choose to climb in our mountaineering boots. Still feels weird.
At the crack of dawn next morning, we’re up and preparing to fly via helicopter to Tasman Saddle Hut. The weather report had been correct and finally the sky was clear. The flight over the 27 km long Tasman Glacier is awe-inspiring. I’m immediately struck by the seriousness of the mountains flanking the Tasman. Although not particularly high, they look like Himalayan mountains with their steep and heavily crevassed flanks and precariously balanced ice seracs just waiting to peel off the mountainside at any time. I begin to understand why climbing Mt. Cook is so dangerous.
Our home for the week, the Tasman Saddle Hut at 2300m, is perched on a death ridge with huge seracs on one side and a sheer, vertical rock wall on the other. Walking carefully over the icy snow, we carry all our supplies and gear down to the hut from the landing zone. But first, Jono tells us about an experienced climber who died here last year after slipping and falling to his death carrying a box laden with food down to the hut. We put on our crampons and carry only one item at a time. Then we gear up to make use of the remaining good weather. We head towards Hochstetter Dome while getting interesting insight to correct rope travel and route finding through glaciated terrain. Streaks or so-called “angry bird” clouds (at least that’s what Jono calls them) warn us of oncoming bad weather and we decide to head back to the hut, the Hochstetter Dome left unclimbed behind us.
For the following 48 hours, 200 km/hr winds, freezing temperatures and 50 cm of new snow was the order. We tie in to a fixed rope to walk a few meters through the storm in order to use the outside toilet. I had to muster all my strength to be able to open the toilet door against the wind. Jono though doesn’t let us get bored. With the hut to ourselves, we spend a couple of hours cleaning the kitchen and disposing of left behind and out-of-date food supplies. Then we delve into practicing building rock anchors and crevasse rescue, as well as orientation, weather, and snow and avalanche awareness theory.
As soon as the weather breaks, it’s go time. Since it’s too dangerous to climb any peaks due to the extremely wind affected snow, we head down the glacier to some huge seracs and spend the day ice climbing and building ice anchors using ice screws and V-thread anchors. We climb until we are completely saturated from the dripping ice, arriving back at our refuge just before dark.
After radioing through to base, we find out that more bad weather is on its way. After a quick meeting and with heavy hearts, our group decides to leave the Tasman in favour of doing some alpine rock in the Remarkables area, where the weather is forecast to be better. We still have one morning of decent weather to play with, so at 4 am we’re up and getting ready to reattempt Hochstetter Dome. Jono sets a furious pace and pushes us on as fast as possible towards the summit. We don’t have much time and we still need to get back to the hut, call the heli, pack all our gear and supplies together and carry it up to the landing zone before the weather comes in, and it was already coming in, fast.
Breathing hard, I hammer a snow stake into the hard snow, top clip with somewhat fumbling fingers and yell to T.J. that he’s on belay. T.J. charges up so fast I have to work hard to pull the rope fast enough through my belay device. Definitely using the Munter hitch on the next pitch. T.J. and I move fast and only speak when necessary, passing the other climbers ahead of us who had camped out in the snow. We finally reach the summit, pausing briefly to admire the view. We don’t linger long however, and soon we’re carefully retracing our steps along the very narrow snow ridge, belaying each other back down the icy ridge of Hochstetter Dome. After the ridge, we’re practically sprinting downhill through the knee-deep snow to get to the hut. Poor Denis is roped up with Jono and has to fight to keep up. We make it out of there just in time before the helis are forced to shut down due to a lack of visibility.
The evening is spent showering and cooking and eating lots of food. Heavenly! We admire the audacity and skill of the early Mt. Cook climbers at the visitor centre the following morning and then drive back to Queenstown. Although the weather has been tough, the mood in our group is excellent. Jono and T.J. are getting along famously, talking for hours about aviation and flying jets. There is much banter and joking, as well as sets of ten push-ups every time one of us said the word “mine”, which, in Jono’s case, was an awful lot.
Upon arrival in Queenstown, we check the weather again and are disheartened to find that it has worsened. Nevertheless, we decide to use the last days camping out in the Remarkables as planned. I’m keen to go over expedition camping skills, tenting, snow caving and bivvies too. Once again, we are forced to turn back on an attempt to climb Double Cone due to high winds, but it was still such a positive experience. We wrapped the course up with another day spent on Hospital Flat, where Jono teaches me the art of placing nuts and cams. It was a steep learning curve and that day I lead my first trad route, with much encouragement from the boys. Finally, we practiced some advanced self-rescue skills on rock including hauling and lowering, and felt very good about how far we had come indeed.
Weather can be difficult in New Zealand, but we were unluckier than most perhaps. But thanks to Jono and his huge efforts to pass on as many skills as he possibly could to us, the Alpine Expedition Course was still a big success. I learnt many new skills and gained a lot of confidence in alpine climbing techniques. Rarely have I laughed as much as during those twelve days, and I have made three new friends for life.