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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.