A close friend asked if I wanted to join him to climb Mt Aspiring, New Zealand’s second highest mountain on its magical South Island; I didn’t give taking on this picturesque technical climb a second thought, I was in!
Unfortunately, we were delayed to get up into the mountain because of bad weather, then after a day of rock climbing on the outskirts of Lake Wanaka, we finally got a helicopter up into the belly of the beast. It was beautiful landing on Bevan Col, with Aspiring’s summit, and Bonar Glacier beyond us, the camera got a good workout. But as swiftly as we landed and attached our crampons to our boots, the weather turned and we were left with only about 20 metres of visibility at best.
We climbed and summited Mt Bevan before trudging through the extremely soft snow to Colin Todd hut, sitting snug at the base of Mt Aspiring’s summit. For nearly three hours we struggled through the (at times) knee deep snow, until eventually arriving at our small red tinned mountain residence. The hut was constantly battered with wind, rain, and snow, while we spent the next two days waiting for this unpredictable bad weather to disappear and give us the 12-16 hour window of decent weather that was needed to reach the summit and return back to Colin Todd hut.
We had no luck, and unfortunately had to prepare to head down the mountain. The nine-hour picturesque hike across glaciers, down snowy slopes, rocky ledges, valleys, and luminous green forests was spectacular; think Lord of the Rings and you’re getting the picture.
The weather never let up, with constant heavy rain battering us the entire way down. A river crossing was needed after a bridge had been wiped out only a week before by an avalanche. Our guides secured a rope across the raging waist deep water, before we crossed one at a time with our harnesses securely attached to the safety rope.
Arriving at Aspiring hut after nine long hours of walking, climbing, and swimming in the mountains, a change of clothes and warm drink was much needed. The following day we walked the final two hours to where we were picked up and taken back to Lake Wanaka. Although we never made the summit, our trip was deemed a huge success as we celebrated with a silky smooth Pinot Noir from the Central Otago wine region.