Georgie McNamara gives us an insight into connecting with her biking ‘Third eye’

Want the inside scoop on our Christchurch Bike Skills weekend? Big thanks to debut Mission WOWer Georgie for her witty words and upfront account of the course and to Mark Bridgwater Photography for capturing what it’s all about.

Thanks for your support Christchurch, we’ll be back in spring for more.  Email us here if you’re keen to be kept in the loop.

Winter backcountry courses are up and running- check them out here

Words: Georgie McNamara
Photos: Mark Bridgwater

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I first heard about Jo Guest and the Mission WOW ethos riding the chairlift in Austria this year during a particularly high avalanche danger season. Conversations were being had about the necessity of recapping on the fundamentals of being in the back country. The Mission WOW avalanche course was tucked away as a must do during the coming NZ winter. So, back in NZ when I heard through my gal pal, Georgie Allen from Smith, that Jo was running a mountain biking skills course for chicks I thought – cool, why not? I had been getting into riding lately and had intentions to pursue it, and while I had no idea of what the course was all about the opportunity seemed timely so I signed up and headed along.

The day started at The Cup Cafe over looking the city on a typical crisp autumnal Christchurch morning. Welcomes and flat whites flowed and so did some super cool giveaways from Smith Optics and Mons Royale. After a quick de brief on the format and expectations of the day ahead, we headed up to Victoria Park to get into it. From the outset the energy and enthusiasm of the coaches was evident and this quickly rubbed off onto the apprehensive faces of the group. It was clear their goal was for us to have as much fun as possible while providing an environment of freedom to ask questions and individually dictate what we wanted to take away from the day; whether it be that ‘sh*t yes, nailed it!’ moment when conquering something for the first time or simply gaining a little bit more confidence. The day wasn’t competitive or stressful but full of laughs and banter. There was an expectation to push your own boundaries, but no pressure to go beyond those if you weren’t comfortable doing so – this is fundamental when learning new skills or picking up a new activity as it can be the difference between deciding you love it or hate it. The groups were broken down into 6-10, big enough for just the right amount of 1:1 attention and fostering group morale. The activities focused on skills such as braking, bike / body separation when making tight and technical turns, and most importantly body position on the bike. Techniques in all of these areas have been drilled in to my head and when ever I am on my bike I can hear Kate McDougall in my ear, “bend your elbows more, lower over your handle bars, heels to the ground!” We had fun on the uphill, downhill, pump track, berms, tight trails and in the forest and open areas too.

The rewards of mountain biking such as confidence, progression and the endorphin release go beyond the physical. For me, I connected to my “third eye” on my bike, as I have on my yoga mat. I also loved discovering the similar feelings to skiing such as going fast and pumping your body into turns. It’s when you start generating feelings outside in nature that make you feel good; when find yourself so far removed from the demands and stresses of the 9-5, that an activity becomes addictive and you realise you’ll probably find yourself doing it with your kids. This is something Jo and the crew have given me. I would be no means say I am a “good” mountain biker yet, but with Mission WOW that’s beside the point. If you are keen to get out there and do it again and mountain biking has got you stoked, then you have been successful.

I would highly recommend the bike skills course what ever level you’re at. I doesn’t matter if you’re a slightly nervous new timer or that girl that goes hard and keeps up with the boys, there is something new to be gained whether it be slightly tweaking and perfecting a skill you thought you had down or attempting something new you’d been scared to try for years, and everything in between. Mission WOW creates an environment where not giving it a go doesn’t really seem like an option as there is nothing to lose expect for maybe a bit of skin.

Big shout out to Smith Optics, Mons Royale and The Cup for making us feel special and to Perryn, Kate, Jamie and Jo for their patience and energy coaching a diverse range of women.

You’ve signed up, now what?

Anna Keeling, our Canterbury mountain guide and local guru checks in to help you prepare for you first course.
You’ve signed up – now what?
Being in decent shape for the course will hugely enhance your fun factor.  What can you expect in a day ski touring?
Before heading outside we’ll grab a coffee and have a chat about weather and avalanche conditions.  Your guide will show you how best to pack your pack and will check it fits comfortably.  We’ll generally take a one-ride to the top of the chosen ski area.  The guides will lead you into the first run and, depending on location, will teach a lesson in companion avalanche rescue.  You’ll learn to use your transceiver, shovel and probe and effect some basic first aid.
After a snack, we’ll climb for two hours or so (with breaks and coaching) back to the top.  There may be time for a second run.  Your guide will show you how best to use your touring equipment – how to dress, fit your pack most comfortably, put on and remove your skins, release your heels and climb efficiently.
On day 2, we’ll head out for a full day tour.  The Criaigies offer plenty of terrain from beginner to advanced – so there’s something for everyone.  You can expect to climb up to 1000 metres on that day over the course of 2-3 runs.  It may sound somewhat strenuous (yet firming) and the views are always a superb reward for your effort.
How do you prepare for a course like this?  
You need to ski/ride a lot.  If your skiing is not versatile (ie you are good on blue groomers and corn snow but you get tripped up or lose confidence once you hit anything steeper, cruddy, powder or icy) then you need to put in some solid miles on the ski area.  A few lessons with an instructor (tell them what you are aiming for) will pay dividends on your backcountry enjoyment.  Practice skiing with your pack on to work out your balance.  We also highly recommend skiing on your touring gear at least once to better familiarize yourself with it’s nuances.
Having some survival skills for bad snow are a real plus in New Zealand – a kick turn in both directions and the ability to side-slip like a falling leaf, are great tricks to have and can be practiced on steeper slopes in the ski area.
Secondly, you need the fitness to enjoy yourself.  In the four-six weeks before the class, get out hiking with your pack a couple of times a week.  Take ski poles if you want.  Bike hills if that is your thing.  Build up your endurance.  Maintain a talking pace – but not an easy talking pace!  Aim to be able to hike or ride comfortably uphill for an hour or more.  Good tracks in Christchurch are the Rapaki area and various tracks from Victoria or Barnett Parks.  If weather and time preclude outdoor trips then some solid work on an inclined treadmill or on the stair climber (45 minute-one hour session) will work fine.  Cycle spin classes also have a nasty power-endurance component to them.  It hurts so good!
Although Mission WOW offers ski touring for beginner tourers, backcountry skiing is not for the faint-hearted skier.  Once we leave the ski area boundary, we are on our own and must be able to handle changing conditions as a team.  Having the fitness and ski/riding mileage behind you will make it way more fun.  You’ll be able to cope with changes with confidence and finesse.
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Wanaka Heli-Bike-Camp-SUP mission

 

GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT: WANAKA STYLE

“Approaching a wall of mountain in a helicopter with a 35-knot gale blowing is a good way to start a MTB ride. Apart from the obvious advantage – you don’t have to ride up – it means you won’t be phased by the ride down, no matter how sketchy. Reassuringly, the pilot looked more like he was solving a particularly challenging Sudoku puzzle than landing a helicopter – full of women and bikes – on the top of a 1500m peak in a howling gale.” (excerpt from Miek Deuninck’s account of Mission WOW’s epic Heli-Bike-Camp-SUP mission on the banks of Lake Wanaka in Cooler Magazine)

Want to read more? Check out the article in Cooler Magazine‘s new issue. Download the digital version for here or subscribe for the paper version to be delivered to your door.

Big shout out to Wanaka Bike Tours,Wanaka Kayaks Sup & SailStash Media WorxCarrick Winery & RestaurantMount Edward Winery,Federal Diner Camilla Stoddart Photography for making it happen.

 

 

 

 

Findings from Bhutan

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We’ve been up and over into remote valleys, here is some rambling babble and findings from the past couple of days. ( I take no responsibility for incorrect info or poor writings, this is me trying to write down info as fast as possible as our insanely knowledgeable guides answer every random question we throw at them)

The main tourist seasons here are spring (March, April, May) and autumn (Sept, Oct, Nov). Summer (June, July, Aug) is monsoon when it can rain for days and weeks at a time. Winter can get pretty chilly and snowy up high but places like Punakha (described by our guide as the ‘Florida’ of Bhutan, are ideal temps and far too hot in summer.

Over the Lawala Pass, 3300m, and dropping down into the Phobijikha Valley at 2900m, you feel like you’re in Switzerland. Something about the land, the valley, the villages scattered around the hills, the wooden/ rammed earth 3 storey houses with small family farm land around.
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The bowl-shaped glacial valley is protected due to the large flock of black necked cranes that spend the winter here and fly to Tibet to breed in summer. There are only a few thousand left in the world is this is the main place to see them.
Lots of potatoes, turnip, radish grown here and exported to Indian and Bangladesh. It’s too high here for rice so there are no terraces.

We knew that we were travelling at the very end of winter/ start of Spring, meaning that but were slightly shocked to wake up to a complete blanket of snow over the whole valley. After some worried discussion from the guides a decision was made to leave as soon as the storm ended and sun came out, a day earlier than planned, as it was due to ice up the next day and we still had the 3300m pass to get back across. So back down it was to ‘Florida’ for a hike up to a mountain village and down the otherwise.
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Bhutan is working towards self sufficiency. At the moment a lot of food is imported from India and they home in the future this will change. The government encourages farmers to stay on their land rather than move to the city. The government provides assistant with agriculture techniques and crop knowledge.
There are 4 hydro power stations in operation and 3 more being built. All the gas and oil for Bhutan has to be imported from India at great expense- the income that comes from one hydro station is just enough to cover it. They are importing 200 electric cars from India as a trial for civil servants and then hope to encourage others to buy.
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To try and prevent to overcrowding of the capital Thimphu, the government aims to develop a major town in each district/ valley so that people will move there rather than the capital. Wangdi is the first example of this, it has the added advantage that the 2 new hydro power stations are being built just down stream so there is a great need for accommodation and services. But it feels like any new-build town does.

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Bhutan is trying to build a massive education city for masters/ postgrad uni. Outside investors for good will rather than business opportunity would be involved. They are aiming to educate 25,000 students as too much money is going outside of country for postgrad levels studies. They are waiting on land commission permission for the 1000 acres site, since the change in government there has been a hold up.

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Mission WOW Longest Day Ride 2013

On Saturday the 21st of December we’ll be putting all that light to good use by riding from sunrise ’til sunset. Sort of… we reckon there’ll be a lot of eating, swimming and banter to break up the riding.

You can join us at any stage of the ride for as long or as little as you like. During the day we’ll be doing regular updates via Facebook  and Twitter so you’ll know where we’re at and can come find us.

The map below is “The Grand Ambitious Plan” which we have roughly 18 hours to complete. You never know: it could actually happen!

Map

Map

We’ll be kickstarting at 5.54am at the wharf on the Wanaka lakefront for coffee and bacon rolls. From there we’ll be driving to West Wanaka to start our day’s adventure with a ride up to a hut.

After that the plan is to make our way around the lake via the Glendhu Bay track, stop in town for second breakfast, carry on to Sticky Forest, head round Dean’s Bank, eat more, and then ride to the Luggate Pub – and maybe back – depending on the state of us. Because it’s a grand and ambitious plan, we also have Hawea in there as the final leg.

We’ll supply bacon rolls and coffee at sunrise for those who let us know they’ll be there. Other than that you’ll need to bring your own everything.

We suggest plenty of snacks (and $ for cafe / pub stops), clothing for all weather, spare tubes and puncture repair kits, and some basic first aid stuff. Just the regular things you bring when going on a big outdoors mission.

All our plans are loose plans, they may change as the day progresses. You’re welcome to come and go at any stage, bring friends / partners / kids, and go at whatever pace is comfortable.

So, who’s keen???

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Mid-winter event update

Hello lovely ladies of past and present Mission WOW,

Hope the season has been treating you all well and you’re ready for the awesome spring that we’re hoping for!
This is a quick mail to remind you of the events we’ve got coming up for the rest of winter in Canterbury, Turoa and Wanaka.
Info for all events here, with a recap below
7-8th Sept: Porters Backcountry Weekend- Fully booked for 2013 but we will definitely be running it again next winter
9-13th SeptWOW Wellness Retreat Ski 5 club fields, nights skiing, yoga, backcountry safety, nutrition and workshops $640
14-15th SeptMt Olympus Final Fling– We need your reservations by this Sat 17th Aug otherwise they will start filling the hut with randoms. You need to book through the Olympus booking system at bottom of this pagehere but if you can’t quite get round to this by Sat and you know you want to come then pretty please just send me an email so I can reserve you a bed.
14-15th Sept: Turoa Backcountry Weekend- Intro to backcountry and Touring for the North Island ladies
20-22nd Sept: Wanaka Backcountry Progression Camp- We are just finalising the details with Aspiring Guides- it’s looking like a 3 days, 2 night trip with a heli flight into Robrosa Hut on the Pisa Range, touring in the basin for 2 days, staying in huts and then touring out to the Snow Farm. There are 2 huts, each sleeping 5 so there will be 2 guides and 8 participants. I will send out more details soon to those who have expressed interest, let me know if you’re keen if you haven’t already.
19-20th Oct: Turoa Backcountry Weekend- Overnight hut adventure ski touring for the North Island ladies
and then we’ll be back into bike, surf and hike adventures!
Looking a 20 min watch?- Ted Talk- Dave Eggers- Once Upon a School 
Thanks for you time and support for Mission WOW, any questions, pls ask
Group ski it's all about technique

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Effort vs Reward, Treble Cone

It’s been a wet week.  After such a fab start to the season we watched, when the rain clouds cleared, as the snow level crept up the mountain. Gutted.

Treble Cone had been closed and the rain had groomed the entire mountain and then set it up, nice and firm like. Good base. Making sure it’ll stay around till spring. hmmmm.

View from saddle track, Treble Cone, Wanaka

When Thursday rolled around the the sun rose onto TC, the game was on again. 5-10cm in the saddle, that’s all we needed! The lower mountain was shimmering beautifully and with it the warning signs came- ‘Stay on piste, don’t venture off, very firm conditions. Lower main street closed’.  A bit more hmmmm.

View from saddle Chair, Treble Cone, Wanaka

When the saddle was open, and the obligatory chinese downhill was past, we ventured up for a sampling. And we were very pleasantly surprised.  the shady shoulders were in prime condition and the day was deemed well worth it.

From summit of Treble Cone, Wanaka looking back along Matukituki Vally

The summit was open and so a little trot up there was suggested. Smooth, creamy fresh goodness, way more than we had bargained for. Satisfaction guaranteed. A second little trot up the old summit hike ridge line took us to a slightly different view that we don’t see very often anymore. More of the same fresh and open, making the effort well worth the reward.

hiking the old summit ridge, Treble Cone, New Zealand

All in a morning and back down by lunch. Love it. Thanks Treble Cone. Looking forward to what you’ve got to offer tomorrow, we’ll be there rain or storm!

Backcountry Stoke- Miek Deuninck

Miek’s article in NZ Skier Mag 2013

Miek

BACKCOUNTRY STOKE
Back in the 1990’s as a teenager, those Motatapu chutes out the back of Treble
Cone were my Shangri-La. A couple of my equally ignorant friends and I lapped
those things out any chance we got. Closed? Closed schmosed, more pow for us.
Yep we were completely and blissfully ignorant of the potential dangers posed
by avalanches. I remember those days of lapping the chutes as some of the best I
had skiing. I loved the pristine silence. I felt like I was in the mountains in a way I
never did within the boundaries of TC.
Last season I realised that skiing and I were stuck in a rut: there was no passion
anymore. There’s always a few options when a skier gets to this point: start
jibbing, take up snowboarding, go live in the northern hemisphere, or give skitouring a shot. Jibbing’s not really me, unless there’s a pillow of powder to land
in, and if there is, I’m generally not spending much time jibbing; snowboarding
hurts, and the northern hemisphere’s logistically challenging.
So ski touring it was. Fortunately, I’d learnt a thing or two about snow since
being a teenager. I was aware that ignoring CLOSED signs, and striking out on my
own for a casual jaunt up the nearest snow laden hill would not be the most
intelligent approach. I tried going out a few times with my far more experienced
partner: this was helpful, but didn’t satisfy my need for control. As in most male /
female relationships, my tolerance for, and approach to risk are quite different to
his; and at some stage he was going to get real over being asked “why?”
constantly. As a novice I didn’t feel comfortable going out with a group of
experienced backcountry fiends: like many women, I tend to underestimate my
ability, and I hate feeling like I’m holding people up.
Luckily for me (and my partner) there were some female specific backcountry
skills clinics running last season.Amongst a lot of other essential things – such as
reading weather, snow conditions, and terrain; knowing what equipment I
needed and how to use it – I learnt the following: 1)learning about snow is not
like learning about sharks, where the more you know the less scary it becomes
2) I love skiing the backcountry and I must do more.
Apparently I’m not the only one whose relationship with skiing was lacking
lustre. I met around 30 or so women at last season’s backcountry sessions. Going
touring with that many women did put a bit of a damper on the “pristine silence”
of the mountains, but if hey if I can’t have the silence, I’ll settle for witty banter
and laughter.
On our touring sojourns we learnt that we were all there for similar reasons –
obviously there’s the vast areas of terrain and powder you’ll only have to share
with your crew; and then there’s the feeling of that first beer creeping into heavy
muscles after a day spent gaining altitude the honest way. But there’s also the
less obvious reasons; touring expands horizons both literally and
metaphorically, it involves a level of risk and challenge not found within bounds.
Going beyond the realm of the comfortable is not as expected of women in
adventure sport settings as it is of men: that’s a shame because women are far more capable then we often think we are. That’s why I was so stoked to see so
many new female backcountry fiends; not only do I have heaps more touring
buddies, but there’s more role models out there for those ladies who still
mistakenly assume that they can’t.
For the first time in years I’m really amped for winter. I find myself scanning the
mountains, looking for potential lines. I look at maps with my partner, trying to
suss out access. The Metservice site is a new favourite; those pretty maps are
starting to make some sense. I also got to buy new toys; touring boots are a
revelation!I’ve got touring to thank for giving me back my skiing addiction, and
I’m not the only one; when I ask my fellow touring newbs if they’ll be back out
there this season, the answer all round is yep!

Words by Miek Deuninck

March 2013

Hi Blog,

Apologies for the slight lapse in attention that I’ve been paying you in the past 18 months.  My 2013 New Year’s resolution to ‘write more’ has taken a while to kick in, but I’m here and present now.
Jo

1 MARCH 2013

Miek

Over the past 3 months the Mission WOW Facebook site has been fortunate enough to be gifted the words, thoughts and fabulous findings of Miek Deuninck. She has also written numerous articles, press releases, personal accounts and informative descriptions. An absolute legend, in my books, and someone I’m forever grateful to.  If you’ve got a few minutes I would recommend checking out her blog and in particular the Eulogy to her grandmother. Genuine and open, her writing absorbs you and lets you in.

So, on the eve of my departure, Miek gave me my task- to start using Instagram, posting one photo a day, sprinkled with blog activity for good measure, describing my 2 month trip.

Here we are.

The first part of my journey has taken me from New Zealand to Canada, with a 24 hours stop off in Vancouver, having been taken to an early morning yoga class and a forest wander round Deep Cove in the pouring rain. Pretty stoked with my tour guide for that itinerary, thank you!

Road SnowI now sit aboard the notorious Greyhound bus for the next 9 hours as it delivers me to location number 1: Revelstoke, BC.

The mission? to meet up with 3 girlfriends from Scotland and Germany, on their Canadian powder hunting road-trip. We’re staying with good friends who have kindly let us take over their apartment and, almost more importantly, provided us with mountain knowledge and local adventure guides. Yeow! Will also be doing some scoping out for the potential locations to run Mission WOW events in Canada.

SCOTT MW

From Canada, I head to Scotland, with a quick 48 hours in Edinburgh before location 2- Chamonix beckons. Scott Sports are sponsoring Mission WOW, for the 3rd year, and this time we’re taking the women to the Bonatti Refuge on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, learning backcountry and touring techniques along the way. March 23-24, still room for you to sign up.

Location 3: Scotland, to catch up with friends and family and run the Mission WOW MTB bike skills weekend with Dirt School on 20-21st April at Glentress Forest, just south of Edinburgh.

Then back to NZ at the start of May. Woah.

Thanks for your time

Jo

SCOTT Contessa Genius review

I have had the pleasure and privilege to travel and enjoy this fine noble steed for over a month now. Huge thanks of appreciation go to Cat at SCOTT for arranging this for me. I have fully taken advantage of these wheels, adventuring from the Lake District up to Sandwood Bay on the far north-west coast of Scotland. The next journey it takes will be down to Bangor in North Wales, my new home for the next month while I work for Full On. I am sure that Contessa will fully relish Snowdonia National Park for the next month as I will make sure that plenty of outings are had.

I’m 5ft 4″ on a good day and have been riding the small frame. At first I thought it felt too long but once I had adjusted my riding position (after an amazing session with Dirt School) from weight far back to elbows bent, weight over the front, I felt much more at home.

The carbon frame is burley and stylish and with 2.35″ Schwalbe tyres. This combination makes for some smooth downhill riding with all the lightness you need for steep uphills. The SCOTT carbon technology is pricier than most but you really get what you pay for in quality, not only light but uber strong too.

The TwinLoc technology that is mounted on the handlebars allows you to switch between  full lock out, 95mm (3.6″) and 150mm (5.9″) on the rear shock. I’ve been using it in full lock out while doing my city riding of Edinburgh, turning it into a rigid frame bike. I don’t always remember to switch from 150mm to 95mm to climb but when I do I can feel the difference. (Often I think I should just to harden up and get stronger, but when you’ve got the gadgets on the bike you might as well use them)

The head tube angle is something I didn’t know much about but have realised how it can make such a huge difference in a bike. It is measured as the angle of the steering axis (where forks come out of)  relative to horizontal (the ground). Meaning the higher the number of degrees, the more upright the steering axis is, the more on top of it you are, ideal for cross-country (eg SCOTT Scale at 70º).  And vice-versa, the lower the number, the more relaxed/ forks pointing forward and further back your weights sits while on seat. (eg the Gambler, SCOTT’s downhill bike is 64 º). The Contessa sits relatively in the middle with a head tube angle of 68.3º, which is ideal for it’s mix of up and down abilities.

I’ve ridden a huge variety of trails on the Contessa Genius, carried it up some steep hills (Catbells outside Keswick, and Cackerton Hill above Hillend in the Pentlands) and descended some rocky, rooty terrain. Check out my route suggestions here

If you want more specs for the bike check out SCOTT website