Day 3 already on the Artists’ Alpine Retreat

September 24, 2012

Day 1  Artists Retreat

The weather up here at Whare Kea’s Chalet is keeping us inside for today. We have seen perfect conditions since our arrival on the 22nd – sunny and still – and we have achieved several things since settling in. Our first job was to dig out an access to the chalet from the heavy drifts of snow all around. Next was to store the mountain of gourmet food supplied by Whare Kea’s Chef James. Some foods can be kept in the chilly bin on the south side of the building, in effect the vegetable chiller.

With the snow in every direction absolutely pristine we were compelled to begin right away to make a sculpture to the north west of the chalet, carefully skirting below the sightline to keep footsteps out of the camera angle. We worked hard in the sun with snow shovels but after several hours the sun weakened the structure and it collapsed. It took less time to reconstruct and Martin worked on till dark using a headtorch and the dropping temperature to finish the finer work on the form for photographing in the morning.

Above: the beginnings of the first work in progress. It’s to be the first part of a three part concept.

The physical work primed our appetites for the first of Chef James’s preprepared vacuum packed meals: Seared Aoraki Salmon with chick pea ragout. Coconut panacotta with passionfruit sauce was our dessert.

With a warm bed to go to and 9 more days to focus on creative work it was a good start to the project.


Day 2 Artists retreat

The light pours into the building in the morning and its impossible to linger inside in such conditions. Martin carved the frozen sculpture into its final form and photographed it against a dramatic dark sky over Mt Aspiring.

We prepared to climb up the ridge to the north where Guide Laetitia had been the day before. We had seen her figure on the skyline: what a site for a sculpture. Laetitia instructed us on the use of the transceivers she supplied us with and supervised our preparations.

We climbed with crampons and ice axes to the highest point on the ridge visible from the chalet.

We all worked together to build a substantial sculpture that we discovered later could be seen from way below in the chalet.

Another good days’ work meant we could relax a little, play some music, linger over another wonderful meal and listen to Laetitia’s tales of her adventurous life. There was time in the afternoon also to reflect on being in such a remarkable place with free time and both she and Philippa began to draw and paint, and Martin to sketch out some ideas for work.

Artist Retreat Day 3

With continuing good weather we got an earlier start to climb Dragonfly Peak behind the chalet. This steep north facing slope would be soft and unsafe in afternoon conditions for us to be on and in fact was too steep for Philippa in spite of Laetitia’s short roping, so she returned to “safer ground”.

Martin and Laetitia climbed up to the top and back with the wind rising quickly and thick cloud amassing.

It was indeed very slushy for their fast descent without crampons.

With James arriving by helicopter in increasingly poor conditions in the mid afternoon to resurrect the webcam and connect us to the internet Laetitia made a judgement call to fly back to Wanaka instead of returning on foot down to the East Matukituki the next day as planned.

Suddenly in the space of half an hour we were connected to the outside world by a router but on the other hand completely on our own. The range of communications – a radio telephone, handheld personal radio telephones, the satellite phone and the internet wi fi and Farmside telephone – would see that (provided we are diligent at keeping them all charged up) we are isolated only in some ways. Add to the list of technology a personal locator beacon and of course the transceivers.