Once or twice a winter, a strong Easterly or South Easterly front pushes snow into the McKenzie Basin. Snow falls to low levels, often affecting SH8, and leaves Mt Cook Village and Tekapo township with 20cm of snow on the ground. When this event happens it is time to head into the Two Thumb Range. There is the saying ‘winds from the east, three days at least’. So if there is an easterly day of storm conditions it may well be followed by gentler easterlies and good ski conditions. Cold clear skies and morning easterly cloud will mean ice cold conditions in Camp Stream (which is somewhat of an ice box) and you may well find the valley full of squeaky dry powder.
The most expeditious access is from the Roundhill Ski Field. This road is private and owned by the ski field, so it is important to be back at the car before 5pm. The land on either side of the road above the 900m mark is public conservation land. Should you wish to overnight at Camp Stream Hut, or at Royal Hut, and wish to leave you car at the Roundhill car park, you must request permission of Ski Patrol or ski field management.
There is also public access from Mt Gerald Station. This passes up and over to Camp Stream via Rex Simpson Hut. However, for a day trip, this is route would be considered too circuitous and long. The distance from the road is far enough from decent ski-able terrain to preclude a day trip. So that route is really only suitable for multi- day trips. (But, there are wallabies on that route, which is kinda cool..)
The beauty of the access to Camp Stream from Roundhill is that within 15 minutes from the road (given good snow) one can be in Camp Stream with a multitude of ski touring objectives at hand. There are multiple aspects, ridges and faces to ski with easy to moderate terrain. The route in from Roundhill Ski Field follows the Te Araroa walking trail. Do note that this access point faces north, and the snow can heat up during the day, so bear this in mind.
The route out retraces one’s steps, or, alternatively, ski out to the road, to join the Coal River Easement near Mt Gerald Station. For more information and details on this easement, review Walking Access NZ’s web page www.wams.org.nz
Another ‘loop’ option is to tour up Camp Stream, over Stag Saddle, and down to Royal hut, to return via a different valley. The best snow conditions for this might be when the snow is firm and fast. In soft conditions or deep powder, a lot of pushing and polling may be required to get down the reasonably gentle valleys.