Sunday, June 14, 2009

Storms and Tea-Cup's

so now that ive got my blog up to date with all the adventures ive been having at the start of the year i can finally get done to what im doing right now!! currently im sitting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

after a fantastic weekend of partying, and saying fond farewells to all my friends i was at the airport. as always i was arguing my case with the check-in chick. virgin have cracked down on excess baggage so my 55kg saw me forking out for the privelige. luckily i had met a friend of a friend, Liz, so i had a place to stay in Sydney overnight. i was in the heart of struggletown tho making my way from the train to her apartment with my body-weight of gear! i was soon involved in the goon frenzy going on and a good night ensued!! i woke early with a sore head and bleary eyes and made my way back to the airport to get on with the next leg. fog in sydney led to my flight being delayed. this meant i would miss my next flight, costing me dearly! by the time i rocked up in Auckland there were no more flights to Christchurch so i pulled out my sleeping bag and settled into the international terminal for the night. a cheap Air New Zealand flight later and was standing at the counter for Jucy car rentals, signing my life away. i had some time to kill before i picked Garry up from the airport so i made my way into town, to sift and peruse the fine wares on offer.
Garry was also delayed a bit, but we were soon on our way down to wanaka. i had some things to pick up from a shop there and we had to stock up for a mission. we checked the forecast, our best bet was heading up the hooker valley to Empress Hut. here we might steal a chance at climbing the might south face of Mt Hicks. the weather looked like it would be grim but we had to try! we stocked up on everything we thought we'd need and made our way to Mt Cook village to launch our assault from there.

the walk up the hooker is a grim and gruelling prospect. going from the plains in the village to 2500m. we set off just before dawn and were making good time. watching the transformation of vegetation and scenery was amazing. we even had some wild tahir(?) run past us. getting down onto the glacier from the moraine wall proved to be 'fun' little escapade. we soon had snow crunching under-foot as we made our way up, always up. the hardest section is getting past a big hill called pudding rock. in a good year u can walk straight past it but we had a bit more exciting time. theres a couloir on the right that i led up. it was steep sloppy uncosolidated snow, quite hairy! i even had to pull up off a snow stake to get past a steep bulge!!

once on pudding rock we collapsed into Gardiner Hut. we decided that this small hut would be home for the night. we were pretty tried from the previous 8 hour slog and didnt feel like navigating the next bit in the dark. dawn broke and we were soon up and at it slogging our way the glacier, navigating crevasses to get through to Empress Hut. we made it by late morning and slumped ready for a cup of tea! with some good weather still about we went for a wander over to the base of Mt Hicks and climbed the first rope-length of ice on the Dingle Button couloir. it was getting late so we rapped off and made our way back to the hut.
during the night the foul weather set in. the following 3 days were a blur of reading, tea, stretching and sleep. anything to shake the boredom of being stuck in a small hut while the wind howled! with so much snow being dumped it looked like we would not be able to safely climb, due to avalanche danger, even when it was clear. with this in mind, and the forecast looking even more grim for the following week we decided to get out when we could.
the snow was so deep when we left, snow-shoes proving invaluable! it was crazy to see how much was dropping off all the slopes around us. the whole valley would rumble from time to time, white out conditions preventing us from know where it was coming from. after nearly falling in a few crevasses the clouds lifted enough for us to make our way ot Gardiner Hut. we stopped for a brew and pondered our next move. we decided the safeest option was to try and locate abseil anchors over Pudding Rock. however these would be covered in snow and ice!
we found the first cable alright. i abseiled lower to try and find the next set of anchors. after 45 mins of frustrating chopping i finally found another anchor. Garry joined me and i set off to find the next one. 30 mins later i couldnt find the next one so i had Garry fix our 70m rope so i could go to the end to keep searching. luckily i soon found something, some steel cable buried at both ends. i wrapped a prussic around it, that would do. a 40m free hanging abseil saw us touch down onto the glacier. the snow here was so deep we were soon wading, up to our thighs thru the wet slop. we now only had about 1 hour of daylight so we hurried down the glacier.
we continued on once darkness fell, navigation was fairly stright-forward. it did however get increasingly difficult as we went lower down the glacier, where its more chopped up. we had to find the right bit of the moraine wall to scramble up and exit onto the track, but in the dark this proved a pretty grim prospect. equally grim was the other option we settled on, and open bivy. after trying to make the rocks around me as flat as possible i crawled into my light-weight bag (only rated to 0 Degrees) and shivered the night away. i managed about 45 mins of crappy sleep.
the sun in the morning was a welcome sight and i soon warmed up as we trudged up the moraine to get on the track. my feet were soaked, cold and starting to rub but i grit my teeth and pressed on. theres no other option! just after lunchtime we collapsed back at the car, barely able to hold myself up! a well deserved meat-pie at the hermitage saw me feeling mych better!! we checked in with the Department of Conservation (DoC) to let them know we were safe and then decided to bail to christchurch. the weather forecast looking shit for the rest of the week.

so last night we stayed with Freya and Jeremy (jez) from tas which is great! really good to hear about their trip to India. Garry heads home on wedsnesday so im not exactly sure what to do for the next three weeks, but im sure ill find something to climb with someone!!!

rock on!!!

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