As everyone in the Northern Hemisphere still drools over the signs of the upcoming winter, it’s easy to forget that our friends to the south are in the thick of their own snowy winter. Storms have absolutely battered the countries of Australia and New Zealand this winter, with Lake Wanaka’s resorts picking up several feet of snow in the last week alone.
Unpredictable weather has derailed even the most well-thought plans for skiers and snowboarders in the area. The typical sunny, warm weather that guests typically expect each season from the area has been anything but, leading to impromptu resort slumber parties, rock slides, and other bizarre weather related events – and these are just at the resorts. For someone to step out and try to conquer the New Zealand backcountry this time of year, you would likely not only view them as ambitious, but a little bit crazy. Tim Pierce, who films the web series, “Winter of Wells,” recently undertook a project that might fall into this exact category.
Pierce took to the Mt. Cook area backcountry where he led a daunting film shoot featuring some of North Face’s top athletes, shot over a multi-day ski and snow camping expedition. The project was dubbed “The Whole Nine Yards.”
Check out the final project which was filmed, directed, and edited by Tim Pierce:
The 9-person crew set out during August for what Pierce describes as “one of the most challenging and memorable jobs I have under taken in my career so far.”
With so many variables that you cannot control during backcountry expeditions, one of the biggest skills required for success in this field is being able to adapt to what ever is put in front of you. After initially narrowing the project down to a two-week weather window, the project was relegated to a single three day opportunity.
Relying solely on the power of their own two foot after the initial flight in, the athletes dug deep to tame one of New Zealand’s biggest mountains. However, it wasn’t a case of only the athletes “earning their turns,” but was just as difficult, if not more so for the filmers who carried over 50 pounds of camera gear including: two cameras, tripods, lenses, mics, snow shoes, harnesses, crampons, ice axes, camping gear and more.
Photos by: Mark Watson
Getting ready to pack the car in Wanaka at the start of the trip
The crew from left, Mitchy, Fraser, Janina, Charlie, Tim Pierce, and Steve (TNF Marketing Manager )
A night time lapse under the full moon of the campsite. Picture was shot using 20 second exposures at an interval of 25 seconds over a span of a couple of hours. The views alone almost make all the grueling hikes and harsh conditions, seem totally worth it.
Oh yeah – there’s epic skiing too. Fraser Mcdougall gets after it during the last few moments of sunlight on the day.
The crew relaxes a little bit knowing they have finally arrived at the finish line.