“Working in Paradise” 2014-2015 . Heli-Hike Guiding. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. After a chance encounter during a guided ski trip on the Tasman Glacier, I somehow ended up living and working in Aoraki/Mt Cook for the 2014-2015 summer. My parents and I travelled to Aoraki/Mt Cook Village to go ski the Tasman Glacier with the very experienced and local legend, Charlie Hobbs of Southern Alps Guiding. As we paused between runs to wait for the ski plane to pick us up, what started as a conversation turned into a job interview, and a few months later I returned to start work. The job was a mix of guiding on the glaciers on the eastern side of Aoraki/Mt Cook and working in the Old Mountaineer Cafe/Restaurant behind the bar when the weather was poor for flying. Along with the job in the incredible location, I also had a little house to live in which had an epic view of Mt Sefton and the Huddleston Glacier, which often had avalanches rumbling down its east face in clear view from my front deck.
We would check the weather and avalanche conditions each morning and if the weather looked good for flying we would be off to the Aoraki/Mt Cook airport with groups of usually 4 to 6, and up to 14 on one occasion. We had many places to choose from to land and depending on group sizes and conditions we would take either ski planes or helicopters to the hiking site. When the snow conditions were right we would land up near Tasman Saddle Hut and hike across to Climber Col Icefall, below the perfect pyramid peak of Mt Green. Another spot we would fly into using helicopters is to the white ice at De La Beche Corner, an excellent spot to find ice caves and crazy sculptures created by the ever changing glaciers. Another side job was to sometimes Kayak Guide clients amongst the icebergs on the Tasman Glacier Lake. This was a unique and amazing way to see the Caroline Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook and, if lucky, a calving event when a house sized piece of ice breaks off the terminal face of the Tasman Glacier. The flying in the area is world class with some of the best pilots in the world, who often spot the limited and adventurous wildlife roaming in the mountains of the Aoraki/Mt Cook area. I will never forget the silence once the drone or the ski plane or whirling helicopter has gone and you are left alone with a huge majority of the biggest peaks in Aotearoa. Many of our European visitors are blown away that there is not one hotel or gondola polluting the visual spectacle of the pristine landscape.