MT ASPIRING: WOW WE MADE IT!
Aspiring Guides clients Gary and Graham recount their tremendous achievement of climbing Mt Aspiring.... What started as a goal became their reality through hard work, a strict training regime and being sufferers for punishment.....
The first idea of climbing Mt Aspiring was during our first hike with Aspiring Guides, climbing the Cascade Saddle. At the end of the first day, we made camp and climbed beyond the bush line for perfect views of Aspiring as the sun set. Turns out our guide had climbed Aspiring, so we started to think, why don’t we climb it? The deal was sealed during a long lunch in Auckland, with both of us wondering the next day "bloody hell, what have I agreed to?" We turned to Aspiring Guides who had already guided us through two alpine treks; the Cascade Saddle and Gillespie Pass, who gave us the confidence we could indeed achieve our goal.
Aspiring Guides provided a list of equipment needed and supplied the technical climbing gear. As well, they made some very helpful suggestions about climbing training before the climb and fitness levels needed. We tackled a climbing wall in early preparation and decided to add to our personal challenge by tackling three NZ mountains in three weeks. We climbed Mt Ruapehu (2797 metres) and Mt Taranaki (Mt Egmont - 2518 metres) for fitness and in readiness for the challenge of Mt Aspiring. These are challenging mountains but require no particular technical mountaineering skill if tackled along popular routes.
Arriving in Wanaka we were provided with climbing harnesses and helmets, made our lunch and were transported to our first rock wall; our guided experience included two full days of mountain training. Thrown off the deep end we climbed up what seemed near sheer faces and learned to abseil back down. Gary fell at one point but being properly roped up and secured to the rock face, he quickly learned that this is a "managed safety" sport and to have confidence in the gear.
We helicoptered the next day to the drop off point, traversed a glacier and arrived at Colin Todd hut. Dinner was expertly prepared by our guides, Taichiro ably assisted by Ervin. Both have extensive climbing experience and have tackled a number of the world's most well regarded mountains.
After breakfast at the start of our third day we put on crampons and go climbing in the snow and ice. These things have so much grip! Mountain training continues with learning about pitons and how to climb as a team; Gary with Taichiro and Graham with Ervin. The weather is looking brilliant for tomorrow and the excitement of some real climbing takes hold.
We are woken at 4:30 for a 5:00 departure after breakfast. Setting off in the dark with head torches we move past the rock onto the snow. As day breaks we can see that this is a day out of the bag; brilliant sunshine and no wind, very rare for the mountains. Ahead we see the buttress, a looming rock face we must climb. The guides are excellent, governing the pace and ensuring we are securely roped in before we are instructed to climb. At one point we walk along a ledge above a sheer drop of 870 metres. Not the place to stumble! After the rock, more snow up to the summit, so back on with the crampons. And after 6 hours we arrive at the summit. Spectacular views are available in all directions, handshakes and hugs and big wide smiles. Ervin has a GoPro and has videoed us both arriving at the summit- check it out here.
Back down and into abseiling. We watch the sun starting to set at the end of a glorious day of achievement and 14 hours after setting off, we are back at the hut. Food and water are both gratefully taken in. Tired but happy we crawl into sleeping bags until the next day for the walk out to Aspiring Hut. Wow we made it!