03 November 2004
Kiwi free skier, Todd Windle conquers Mt Cook descent
Dare devil extreme free skier Todd Windle completed his free ski descent of New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki, Mt
Cook on Monday afternoon. Windle who recently returned from Tibet has been on Mt Cook for the last two weeks preparing
to descend one of the most treacherous parts of the mountain.
The team which included Axel Naglich (Austria) and Baptiste Blanc (France) climbed to the summit at 2.30am on Monday
under the light of a rising full moon. The final climb took eight hours and the team descended from the West Ridge into
the North West Couloir of Mt Cook at 11.45am Monday morning.
“It was unreal once we hit the top. Looking out over Caroline Face the adrenalin started pumping. It was really intense
at the top as we were exposed to the South Face which is incredibly intimidating," says Windle. “We were very lucky with
the weather although spring conditions meant ice breaks throughout the glacier.” Windle has spent the last two weeks on
Mt Cook basing himself at Empress Hut scouting out lines and waiting for perfect conditions. The mission meant climbing
and skiing two different grades. “For the most part it was a grade 3 climb however this turned into a grade 5 once we
got closer to the top,” says Windle.
For the past 17 years, free skiing has been Windle’s whole life and he has faced the challenges of some of the world’s
greatest mountains including Death Valley Mt Elbrus, Russia and the Himalayas. The descent from Mt Cook has always been
a goal for Windle.
“This has been one of the most challenging and difficult terrains to conquer. Mt Cook is not the easiest mountain in the
world in fact it is one of the hardest,” he says.
This trip was, for Windle and his 15 man team, particularly unique and completed in a very authentic Kiwi way. Unlike
other missions Windle and his team had no assistance from air transport. Over 25 loads of food and equipment weighing
45kgs each, and 150kgs of camera gear were trekked up the mountain.
“We could’ve taken an easier more accessible route but choose one which reflected a traditional ski descent," says
Windle heads back to Europe later this month with plans to return to Mt Cook and challenge the un-skied Caroline Face.
Also on the cards for this death defying Kiwi is the world’s longest ski descent from Mt Elias in Alaska.