I have been freaked out!! All day. Along knife edges. Up ice and rock. More knife edges. One preceded by “if you have to choose, fall right not left. If you fall right you are less likely to die.” He was serious. Heck, so was I. I actually started the day marveling at the teal blue light that beams out of the ice when I withdraw the ice pick. As if a soft neon light was lit under the ice. Why does no one ever write about that when they are talking about the mountains? There is glory and majesty underfoot it turns out, just as much as there is on my horizon.
Today was a day of lead climbing and belaying. The ridges/spurs are the cllange for me. Sheer drops off either side. Have I mentioned them? Each step is absolutely focused. Concentrate, concentrate. We cross over Ball Pass and drop to the base of an ice slope and modest rock wall. Well, its modest once you are over the top of it. Up some interesting inclines and multiple pitches to the top of Kaitiaki Peak at 2222m (7,290’). Dean laughs and congratulates us on “bagging our first peak”. So I do just that. You have to start somewhere and I am very happy that Kaitiaki Peak is my first.
I was wondering about the descent all the soft snow, and anticipating a very careful climb down. But there was no slow climb, falling into knee deep snow at every step. Rather a “sit on bum” rocket to the bottom of the base of the last rise of that peak, then we rejoined our walk-in track and picked our way back to around knife edges and rocky outcrops we hug – and avoid looking since if you do you are reminded there is nothing but empty space until you bounce off the bottom far out of sight somewhere below your precariously placed feet.
We started the day with crampon familiarity and then self arrest drills – all useful stuff and which gave me a whole lot of confidence about using the kit. It was a great way to start the day. Learning to trust my equipment is really one the key things to making this sort of climbing possible and every other half hour or so I find myself saying “Just trust the kit”. And the drills came in handy later when, on the last bum slide down to the cabin my left heel caught the snow and I tumbled head first out of control. I was happy that the reflex action was to implement a drill I had only learned a few hours later which righted and oriented and stopped me just as it was supposed to do. Only trouble was I didn’t realize my sunglasses had been ripped off in the process. Back at the hut I discovered their loss and had to turn around and plod back up the slope in knee/thigh deep snow to recover them. Without the glasses I will be useless tomorrow.
(Wednesday 13 Nov 12)
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