I slept well though under the shadow of a migraine. Altitude and hard work and my dreams are vivid and ridiculous and I turn through the night to get away from them. We cracked a window to ensure we didn’t suffocate and I enjoyed the cold air blowing over my face although we rose to a drift of snow across the floor. I lay in bed ‘playing trains” with the vapour form my breath. First order of business however was digging out the latrines. Nothing like shoveling a few cubic metres of drifted snow to focus on what is really essential. To my amusement the kea pestering us yesterday appeared with her two chicks and quickly we were playing a game of “I’ll throw (a shovelful of snow) you duck” Score: about a 5 all draw. By the time I was done I am well and truly warmed up and the overnight polys came off very quickly.
Back now after our first half day out in the snow. After some instruction on knots, ropes, abseiling using a prussic knot (from the hut ceiling we were let loose outside. After the massive snow dump last night we dug a 1x1m hole and had a look at the ice profiles. And gained an understanding of what might slide off one layer or another. Then its ice picks in hand and off we go. I love the approach to this instruction – do it. After three hours we stop and already I have got a feel for what trek into and what to avoid. And more quickly and with more confidence than I would have given myself credit before I started this training. We have moved along narrow ridges on 30cm wide, along cornices which hang over space and deep drops. I found myself leading along one of these things and surprised myself by not being concerned. Maybe ignorance is bliss. Mind you on the return leg the sun was throwing my shadow down the slope at an alarming angle and the mental game became one of avoiding any glance at my shadow. There was the slightly delicious feeling of getting to the top of a knoll (it can only be called such in the shadow of these sharp spires and peaks) and we all celebrated it as the first snow height of more to come. With an eye on the return trip we stopped at 6,700’ and surveyed tomorrows adventure before turning around. On the way up we also stopped for some instruction on setting snow anchors and on the last return swung down off a rock to test those new skills and knot knowledge.
It’s a world as about as divorced from the rest of the planet as you can get. You can’t drive here. In Nepal we trekked a well trafficked track but here you see no one and keep your eyes peeled so you don’t lose the track. That sense of dislocation is exacerbated buy the Middle Peak of Mt Cook and stunning white we are living with right now.
We finish the day after dinner with a game of UNO. Which I lose so do the dishes. Its still light at 9.15 when I head for the latrine, picking my way carefully across the snow. In shorts and a T-shirt it does not feel cold but the soft snow of a few hours earlier is not frozen solid which makes Wolfgang happy. He assures us it augers well for safe walking tomorrow.
(Maximum height today 6772’/2065m)