A QUEENSTOWN adventurer has become the first person to ski the length of the Southern Alps.
Erik Bradshaw, 43, skied 800km along the spine of South Island from St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes, to Fiordland.
The arduous journey took the businessman almost three months.
“Without doubt this is the hardest thing I have ever done,” Bradshaw says.
“Sometimes it was miserable; in a small tent coated in ice being flattened by a storm and knowing you’re a long way from home.
“But other times it was breathtakingly beautiful with towering snow-capped mountains, blue skies and amazing snow.”
Bradshaw survived skiing and climbing for 12 hours a day and camping in sub-zero temperatures at night.
This is only the second winter traverse of the Southern Alps, after Graeme Dingle and Jill Tremain in 1971.
It is the first time on skis.
To complete the journey, Bradshaw had to make the best use of his Kiwi ingenuity – inventing new ski equipment.
This included a unique exoskeleton binding of carbon fibre and Titanium that fitted over a normal walking boot to transform it into a ski boot with crampons.
It also required good old fashioned grit.
“I had to know what would work and what was too dangerous.
“If I was too timid I would never succeed, but if I was too bold I wouldn’t make it home again.
“Developing a good understanding of how my body worked was critical as I pushed myself very hard for 12 hours per day, skiing and climbing then camping in sub-zero temperatures.
“Waking the next day and repeating day after day. To do that without getting tired, sick or injured required a careful and innovative approach.”
Bradshaw has been a keen mountain climber since his youth and started back country skiing at 15.
The Royal Humane Society presented him with its Bravery medal for the rescue of trampers in the Matukituki.
In 2006, he went to Antarctica with his partner Christine Ryan. They run Queenstown software firm Ibis Technology and have 15-month-old son.
He began the traverse on August 8 and finished October 26.
Highlights included remote areas such as the Snowball and Volta Glaciers, the Upper Hunter and Te Naihi Rivers, the Gardens of Allah and Eden Ice Plateaus.
“At first I thought it was a crazy idea.
“But as I developed new ski equipment and experimented with how to travel fast in the mountains I realised I could succeed.
“In the end, the hardest part was maintaining the optimism and mental drive to keep pushing over what is a huge chain of steep mountains.”