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Helicaching In Queenstown

As part of the recent NZ Mega 2012, Moneydork found his 15,000th geocache during our road trip south. As he knew he was getting close, he started thinking about a special way to mark the milestone.

What you see below is a seven-minute video that I put together outlining our little helicaching adventure. Read on for a bit more of the story …

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Once we got delivery of what appears to have been a very successful NZ Mega 2012 out of the way, we were at last allowed to go geocaching. Within a few days, Moneydork was very close to his 15,000th cache find. With a little planning, he identified Dud’s Rock (GCTDTT) as a ‘memorable’ cache to attempt to mark this milestone.

This cache consists of quite a significant drive up a hill to around 1500 metres’ elevation. When we started out, we knew that there was snow on the ground on the tops, and that we may not get there. Had a great drive most of the way up, and after making it through one small drift of snow, we hit another that we weren’t going to be able to drive through.

So, after the decision was made to turn around, Dunedin player nofs placed a cache nearby called Moneydork’s Milestone Missed (GC407WR) to mark our failed attempt. Still a lovely spot to stop. Luckily, this didn’t quench Moneydork’s thirst to do something interesting!

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Our temporary cache-mobile

On the morning of Monday, October 29th, we were greeted with an absolutely stunning Queenstown morning – literally not a cloud in the sky and very little wind. Absolutely perfect conditions! We set out to get prices for visiting a couple of ‘Terrain 5’ geocaches by helicopter, so as to cut out the significant hikes involved.

Our first stop was The Helicopter Line, but I think they were more geared for larger groups, not smaller more flexible flights. They directed us to Heliworks, and they quickly grokked what we wanted to do once we explained it to them, broke out the calculator, and came up with some pretty reasonable pricing. We quickly said yes, went back to the cache-mobile to change into gear more suited to being well above the snowline, and returned to start our adventure.

Our pilot Dave was awesome. We were in a four-seater Robinsion R44 Raven II helicopter. He also had a Garmin GPSMAP 496 GPS – so it was easy for us to give him the four potential geocaches we were looking at hunting. After loading in the co-ords, we took off and started spiraling our way up the face of The Remarkables mountain range.

We flew around the double cones, passed Lake Alta, and then came down to land on the ridge about 225m away from the first reasonable cache to attempt. We had already ruled out one optipn on our flight around the cones, so decided that Extreme Ice Cream (GC234NM) was our best option. What an absolutely stunning spot to land – check out this view from just above where Dave dropped us off on the ridge!

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One hell of a mission: The writer above the snowline.

From here, you can see where we landed, and up to the comms station where the cache is located. We started making our way slowly and considerately up the ridge to the station. You wouldn’t believe it but after coming to such a remote cache, we came across a muggle who was maintaining the equipment at the station.

We started having a good chat with him whilst trying to nut out where GZ was. In the end, it turned out it was in the snow directly under our feet betweem the antenna array and station.

The muggle pretty much confirmed where the cache was, and asked that we not dig up the snow. So we weren’t able to log this cache. Later we asked the cache owner very nicely, and as we provided suitable evidence that we had reached GZ and couldn’t log the cache, he generously gave us permission to record it as found. Yeah!

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Standing atop a cache our helicachers could not dig for.

Pretty darn awesome view from GZ! Back down behind us in the above image was another cache but, with all the snow on the ground, it was probably going to take way too long to walk down, let alone find it.

After that, we made our way back down the ridge, called up Heliworks on the mobile, and 10 to 15 minutes later our ride was back. Next we flew directly off the ridge with a sizable drop-off below us, and headed straight across Lake Wakatipu to The Ledge on Cecil Peak.

This was the site of the ‘easiest’ of our caches – One Hell Of A Proposal! (GC1B3P9) – and what was pretty much a sure bet to find, all relatively of course! It was here that Dave shut the helo down and asked us more about geocaching. Once shutdown was complete, the three of us headed 40-50m from the helicopter to GZ, hunted for a few minutes and then Dave, our pilot, found the cache. Again, absolutely stunning views from here of the lakes and mountains. Just so full of awesome!

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Moneydork and Rediguana posing on The Ledge.

You can see The Remarkables ridge over on the right where we did Extreme Ice Cream. After spending quite a few minutes enjoying the view, and taking heaps of photos, it was time for our adventure to end, and the flight back to Queenstown Airport.

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On high: Moneydork and Heliworks pilot Dave.

What a way to celebrate such a milestone! Now I’ve got to get my thinking cap on for what to do when my own 15K rolls around.

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