Summiting is optional – getting down is mandatory (Mt Aspiring)

Mt Aspiring - viewed from Colin Todd Hut
Mt Aspiring – viewed from Colin Todd Hut

It is said that summiting a mountain is optional and getting back down is mandatory.

 And with this in my mind, with climbing partner, Richard Raynes, I headed off for my climb of Mt Aspiring in the pre-dawn hours of Monday 7 January.

Richard is an exceptionally experienced mountaineer and specializes in mountain rescues, so I was in extremely good hands. For me, this was a great opportunity to learn.

Richard - on Bevan Col
Richard – on Bevan Col

We had planned to climb on Thursday, however the weather was forecast to deteriorate over the week and our climbing window had narrowed significantly.

This was it…

I was feeling rather daunted as we headed off across the Bonar Glacier towards the “Matterhorn of the South” which was standing tall ahead of us.

Baz - Bonar Glacier
Baz – Bonar Glacier

The moon was rising over the mountain and as we climbed the steep snow and ice slope towards the rock buttress a thin golden line was appearing on the eastern horizon signalling the dawn of a new day.

I remember thinking this was the dawn of just more than the sun rising on a new day, but of a wonderful new world for me.

The Buttress - Mt Aspiring
The Buttress – Mt Aspiring

There were two other climbing parties of two ahead of us and we could see their headlamps bobbing up and down as they made their way.

The weather had been forecast to be better than we had earlier expected and according to the most up to date report we had received the previous evening. So far the report was proving accurate.

But as we climbed onto the exposed side of the mountain and climbed up through the rock formation, called The Buttress, the weather started to turn.  We had made it through the most technical section of the climb, and now had a long slog up the steep snow and ice towards the summit.

The peak shrouded in cloud and high winds
The peak shrouded in cloud and high winds

We could see the summit and the winds were roaring over it at least 100 kilometres an hour and the cloud was now starting to obscure the top.

The groups ahead had turned back by now and as we made our way back down through the rock buttress, abseiling our way back to the snow, we were being buffeted by sleet and strong winds.

Baz on the Buttress - Mt Aspiring
Baz on the Buttress – Mt Aspiring

It was not to be our day on the summit…

But that is not to say it wasn’t a great experience. Of course our goal was to make it to the top, but above all else, I was here to learn the craft and skills necessary to become a competent mountaineer.

 Perhaps the mountain understood this and she gave me an experience that provided a great learning opportunity, so it is hard to be disappointed…


40 thoughts on “Summiting is optional – getting down is mandatory (Mt Aspiring)

  1. alissadoherty January 16, 2013 / 5:27 am

    A wise and difficult choice–certainly the right one. Like the title of this post.


    • Baz - The Landy January 16, 2013 / 6:16 am

      Absolutely – the decision was quite simple though, we would never have been able to stand in the winds that were being generated over the summit.

      That’s mountaineering for you I guess! – Cheers Baz


      • alissadoherty January 16, 2013 / 6:21 am

        I do know about summit winds. Was once caught crawling in 85 mph winds at night on a summit and wouldn’t wish that kind of mess on my worst enemy!


  2. Baz - The Landy January 15, 2013 / 5:17 am

    Thanks Alarna…well the summit isn’t going anywhere, so we’ll be back for it. Next week I will be climbing on the West Coast, some other peaks. And yes, the views are always spectacular!


  3. Alarna Rose Gray January 14, 2013 / 8:15 pm

    Wow. At least for all your efforts, you are rewarded with the kind of sublime views that are the envy of us lazier types! Kudos to you… even if the summit wasn’t quite in reach.


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