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. RedRoadDiaries January 14, 2013 / 12:58 pm

    Look forward to hearing the rest of your adventure… Great photos.


  2. Michelle Martin January 14, 2013 / 11:59 am

    What a great effort Baz. Well done. Thanks for sharing it with us, but I’ll leave you to it and I’ll stick to my triathlons – much closer to the ground 😉


    • Baz - The Landy January 15, 2013 / 5:16 am

      Thanks Michelle…Some more climbing coming up next week on the West Coast. But funny you should mention Triathlons. There is a full iron man version here in Wanaka this coming weekend. Perhaps you and David could put it on the 2014 calendar. It is such a lovely place!


  3. sweetlybalanced January 14, 2013 / 11:00 am

    Wow! Awesome pictures!!! It’s too bad you guys didn’t make it to the top, but like you said it’s all about the experience!! 🙂


    • Baz - The Landy January 15, 2013 / 5:14 am

      The scenery was fantastic, unfortunately the climbing tends to get in the way of taking photos sometimes so can’t capture it all…!


  4. Figure Girl Wanna Be January 14, 2013 / 1:36 am

    I’m sorry you didn’t make it to the top Baz but it did sound like a learning experience. You have to know when to call it quits and turn around for your own safety. Well done!


    • Baz - The Landy January 14, 2013 / 4:25 am

      Thanks! Had a great time and not too disappointed about it. Another wee of climbing coming up from Tuesday however we won’t be going back to Mt Aspiring this time around…Baz


  5. Carol Page-Potter January 14, 2013 / 1:16 am

    Was thinking about you this past week and how you and the mountain were getting on. Sorry you didn’t get to make the summit, but those pictures were amazing!! Well done.


    • Baz - The Landy January 14, 2013 / 4:24 am

      Thanks…not too disappointed, the experience was fantastic, plus I did climb another peak the next day…before getting caught in a blizzard for days!


      • Carol Page-Potter January 14, 2013 / 11:55 pm

        Oh my! Will be looking forward to your posts about those experiences.


  6. Sas January 13, 2013 / 10:59 pm

    I’m happy to hear that you got back down safe and sound. You made the right choice to listen to Mother Nature when she warned you. Thanks for sharing the stunning photos with us 🙂


    • Baz - The Landy January 14, 2013 / 4:22 am

      Oh yes, mother nature is not to be ignored. We would never had been able to stand up there the wind was blowing that hard…


  7. AndrewGills January 13, 2013 / 6:03 pm

    Glad to read you erred on the side of safety 🙂 Not that I would have expected anything else. Beautiful photos.


    • Baz - The Landy January 13, 2013 / 7:10 pm

      Hi Andrew…safety first, but it was still a great climb!


  8. hikingtohealthy January 13, 2013 / 3:46 pm

    Beautiful pictures! Sometimes the summit is out of reach but you will get there! Love reading your blog!


    • Baz - The Landy January 13, 2013 / 7:08 pm

      Thankyou…and yes the mountain will always be there for another day!


  9. January 13, 2013 / 1:36 pm

    I am inspired indeed sitting at my little computer as a voyeur…Bravo!!


  10. Deliberately Delicious January 13, 2013 / 11:38 am

    Baz, you have such a great attitude! I’m sorry the mountain didn’t cooperate, but she did provide you with learning that will move you forward in your quest for the big ones. Amazing pictures! And I’m glad to know that you’re safe. I’ve been wondering how things were going for you.


    • Baz - The Landy January 13, 2013 / 12:12 pm


      Well I guess it is a patience game, the mountain will always be there! We did manage to climb Mt Bevan, a smaller peak on the Tuesday. I have more to tell, but our route out of the mountains last Friday is billed as being as hard as the climb of Mt Aspiring itself.


  11. thebudgetwanderer January 13, 2013 / 10:35 am

    With such a great view at the peak, indeed it is quite sad to be going down. Like the tranquility of seeing photos like these. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


    • Baz - The Landy January 13, 2013 / 12:09 pm

      Yes…two parties made it up on the Sunday, we could see them as we came across the Bonar…we’ll be back. and more climbing to be done from Tuesday.


  12. myfitfoot January 13, 2013 / 9:04 am

    Beautiful pictures, thank you for sharing.


  13. icescreammama January 13, 2013 / 7:40 am

    whew,,,you can’t control mother nature. getting down is definitely mandatory. glad you made it!!


    • Baz - The Landy January 13, 2013 / 12:08 pm

      Thanks…and yes, no controlling nature, crikey…be like trying to keep icecream away from you for a day!


      • icescreammama January 14, 2013 / 12:42 am

        Ha!!! Yeah, you just try to do that, buddy! 😉


  14. barbara grandberg January 13, 2013 / 7:33 am

    great to hear from you….sounds like even though you did not summit it was a positive experience…btw, being a knitter i love your have a yarn with me :}


    • Baz - The Landy January 13, 2013 / 12:07 pm

      Thanks BG, all good over here, and Janet & TomO are having a great time!


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