Finally weather, partners and work lined up for five brilliant days in Mount Aspiring National Park with Adrian, Ala and Efraim.
We helicoptered into Bevan Col (which made me feel like I should be doing something much more epic probably involving a snowboard and a film crew) and made our way to Colin Todd Hut. This was my favourite hut of the trip as it felt like a real mountaineers’ place, with lots of adventure stories and local tips shared.
The next day Adrian and I planned to head up Aspiring’s North West Ridge via the Kangaroo Patch. We chose this route as we previously learnt from mountain guide Paul Rogers (who you’ll probably hear more about in future posts!) that the ‘classic’ route via the ramp is no longer advisable as snow conditions make it unstable especially late in the day – the area has been the scene of several recent fatalities.
Adrian and I woke early to fairly good conditions underfoot but significant cloud cover. Early on the route was easy to find with Adrian placing some gear to protect rock sections. About half way along we lost the route briefly and ended up front pointing up some dodgy snow which stayed attached to the mountain long enough for us to re-gain the ridge, then had a relatively straightforward scramble to the summit. It was fairly breezy on with the snow and fog making it a pretty brief stop before heading down.
The next day Adrian took a rest day having already spent several weeks in the hills at Mt Cook National Park. Ala and Efraim however, who had just done an introductory alpine course, were really keen to get out. I had super amounts of psych for anything snowy and mountain-like so offered to help them up the NW ridge, equipped with good knowledge of how to stay on route and a bit more experience in the Alpine environment.
The second summit day wasn’t quite as adventurous as the day before where Adrian and I had been scratching our way up verglas whilst being buffeted by the wind, nevertheless it was well worth it for the view from the top and the chance to be out with new friends getting their first taste of the mountains.
Later in the day we had a bit of excitement as both Ela and I slipped on the soft ice and had to practice our ice axe arrest for real – fortunately we both glided to a slow stop on a large rock ledge. We’d taken much longer on the route than ideal so pitched the section of soft snow to make sure we didn’t all slide our way into any crevasses.
We arrived safe and tired back to the hut that evening, and then spent the next few days hiking out via French Ridge and Aspiring hut.