we left hobart at 6 in the morning. by a stroke of luck we were able to smile sweetly and not pay a cent for excess baggage. we had 78kg between us so it could have got expensive! we arrived in christchurch at 3 that arvo. we shot stright down the road to pick up the hire car and we were off! we randomly met another aussie climber at the airport and ended up sitting next to him on the plane. lifes funny like that! we were soon sucking back a cold Speights in wanaka with old mate Johnny Davison. hes just moved into a trailer for the summer so we pulled up a patch of grass and rested our weary little heads. the next day saw us getting supplies. we filled up a shopping trolley pretty quick, we were on a mission! after we bought to final odd's and sod's we sat down for a coffee before the drive.
the drive around to fox glacier is a beautiful one. the roads are quite windy so the rally driver in me came to the fore, more to keep myself entertained than anything! we arrived late and checked into the NZ Alpine Club hut in the village. with a final gear sort i dozed off into the fitful sleep of someone with big things on his mind. when we got up there were plumes on Mt Tasman, not a good sign. high winds cause the plumes and helicopters dont like wind! regardless we went up to the heliservices counter to see what they could do. we would have to wait! while we were sipping a hot latte we met a couple, Tess and Martin, who were also flying into pioneer hut. sweet, we could share the chopper and save some $$$, something none of us has!! by 9 o'clock to rotors were humming and we lifted off. the feeling of floating will always astound me. the transition from sunny sea level to the alpine world is always a bit off a rude shock! the body can notice the sudden jump to 2500m!
so we made it into pioneer hut. its a NZAC hut thats at the head of the Fox Glacier. from here theres heaps of good climbing as well as ski-touring. there was a guided party in the hut but there was heaps of space. our bags hadn't even hit the floor by the time Garry and i roped uop and were headed across the glacier. it felt so good to be back. we walked around to the cirque made up by Alack, Mt Douglas and Mt Haidinger. it was wierd looking up at the south face of douglas, the scene of so much personal anguish. we looked up at Alack and saw there was ice in the lower gullies. the ice was great, a steep step led into some perfect 65degree neve. the climbing was great but the ice-screws were worthless, definately a no-fall zone! 6 pitches fell and we found ourselves saddling the summit ridge, traversing so as to drop down the north gully. once we were off the south face it was a different world, going from the freezer to the oven. we wandered back to the hut. a classic route under the belt and an excellent warmup!
the weather pattern was just frustrating. we wouldnt have 24 hours of solid weather, it kept swapping and changing. after a few failed attempts to cross the glacier, due to rain etc, we were standing below the Marcel glacier looking at the West Peak of Mt Haast. a southerly flow had set in and frozen a crust on the snowpack. i set led up the access slope but everything started whoompfing, that is making buig sounds as i watched cracks grow all over the slope. i was in a bad place, 50m out and not wanting to down climb a slope that felt like it could go any second. i searched the rock above me and 15 minutes later had an anchor rigged to get off. we made our way into the sun, gutted we could get up. i was a bit shaken up. Garry suggested we try going up the guts, weaking our way through some bad-arse crevasses. we wound our way up and through and finally made it to the base of ou route, a possible new ice-line. as we looked up it we could see it was classic. Garry set off up the first pitch, a steep WI3 pitch with a funky step left to exit. we commented how the ice was as good as any canadian ice. we looked up at what we thought looked like a mini Polar Circus. by the time we were on pitch 2 the weather had set in. we were in a white out and it was starting to snow. soon spindrift was funneling down on top of us, pinning you in place for minutes on end. there wasn't even a discussion of heading down. we were soon standing under the final 6m step to the top. frozen and covered in rime ice i set off to dispatch the route! when garry got to the belay we rigged the v-thread straight away and got the hell out of there, a storm is no time for sniffing the daisies! with goggles and belay jackets on we staggerd back down the way we came. on the glacier it proved quite difficult. you could only see the snow about a metre in front of you and our tracks had been covered. after a few wrong turns and false GPS readings we were on our way back. a hot drink was a welcome reward for climbing an awesome route in horrendous conditions!
the forecast for the next day was the same, fine in the morning then a NW front coming through. with little time we decided to go for another short route, this time on Mallory. the route we would try was Home-Owners. everyone thats been to Pioneer hut has looked out at these routes, it was cool to go and try one! we set off under a starry sky and arrived at the base just as dawn was breaking. with a blue-bird sky i set up the first. the ice felt easy, i was back in the ice-climbing groove. after the steep section it angled back and we simul-climbed the 50 degree slope. Garry led out up a small step and around the snow-arete to put us on the final slopes to the summit. after a few more steep sections i found myself staring up the mixed exit gully onto the ridge line. with my last screw rattling around 10m below i cast off. the rock looked loose so i was treading lightly, thinking feathery thoughts. i wiggled in a wire, thank god! i streched the rope and just made it to a nice horn to belay off. Garry was soon up and balancing up the final ridgeline. we were battling the clock, with big clouds rising in the west we only had so much time. the plan was to rap off the back and walk back around. by the time we were on the glacier we in a full white-out. neither of us had been this side so we were navigating by the map and compass. we eventually found the pass and made it back to the right glacier. we knew there were som big ice-cliffs nearby so we tip-toed along trying to spot them. a way down presented itself and we ptiched down it, happy to be on the flat. it was snowing now as we followed the bearing back to the hut. the sun poked its head out just as we were slogging up the final slope to the hut. again a hot Raro was a welcome treat!
the next few days in the hut were pretty un-eventful. there were some small good weather patchs, but not long enough for another route. another big front was on our way so we decided to bail out of the hut with the others, its great to share costs! back at sunny sea-level it was great to put shorts on and feel warm again! we drove back around to wanaka and had some curry and beer. again we pulled up a patch of grass outside Johnny's trailer and stared up at the starry night sky in the warm air. life aint too bad...