Dope on a Rope (Strewth – I’m getting very excited)

I feel like I’ve eaten far too much over the festive season, although I do need to have a little extra body fat as I head to climb Mt Aspiring in New Zealand’s Southern Alps for a couple of weeks.

Well, it is a great theory and the one I will be running in any case.

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

However, training is back on in earnest,  and I was lucky enough to get out for a couple of paddles on the lake over the past few days, despite the weather being less favourable.

Although, being out on the lake is more than just training or exercise, it is great for the soul watching the pelicans glide over the water, and other people out and about with family and friends, just having fun, the kite-surfers, the wind-surfers, and paddle-boarders…

Narrabeen Lake, Australia
Narrabeen Lake, Australia

But as time is ticking away I will be doing a full gear check over the next few days, and that will raise the excitement level in our household – it will be reaching fever pitch in another few days!

And of course, Janet and TomO are very excited, as they will be following me to New Zealand a few days after I depart.

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

You just wouldn’t want to be dead for quids…

And of course, if all else fails, remember, just remain out of control and see what develops!

Climbing Mt Aspiring – Crikey (I’m getting excited)

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

It is now one month from my next mountaineering experience in New Zealand, an ascent of Mt Aspiring in the Southern Alps and the excitement level in our household is reaching fever pitch.

 The trip is significant as it kicks-off a big year and hopefully some big steps towards that audaciously big goal I have to climb some of the world’s largest mountains, including Mt Everest.

 My last trip to New Zealand was in September this year when I spent time with the team from Adventure Consultants on Pioneer Glacier, in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Pioneer Hut, Fox Glacier
Pioneer Hut, Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Pioneer Hut, looking west to the Tasman Sea
Pioneer Hut, looking west to the Tasman Sea

That trip was a true eye opener as to what lies ahead.

Mt Aspiring is known to the Maori people of New Zealand as Tititea, the glistening one, rising 3,027 metres out of the landscape to tower over anything nearby.

It is described as having sheer faces and graceful lines.

We will travel from the headquarters of Adventure Consultants in Wanaka to Bonar Glacier by helicopter as it is usually a 12-14 hour walk otherwise. We then have a 2-3 hour walk on the glacier to reach our destination, Colin Todd hut.  And depending on how many people are at the hut we may need to camp out in our bivvy bags on Bevan Col.

The first couple of days will be spent acclimatising and revising cramponing skills, ascending steep snow and ice, and of course, importantly, crevasse rescue. I have spent a lot of time on rescues in the Blue Mountains in recent times and I have a strong belief that you can’t do enough of it – it may save your own, or someone else’s life and the skill needs to be second nature.

Baz - Fox Glacier, practising crevasse rescues
Baz – Fox Glacier, practising crevasse rescues

Prior to an attempt on the summit of Mt Aspiring we will spend a day climbing some smaller peaks in the area, such as Mt Bevan. It stands at 2,030 metres and they say the view from the top is glorious. It was also the scene of a rescue of a number of people trapped on Bevan Col and recounted in the book by Paul Powell, Men Aspiring.

There is something like 27 different routes that can be taken to the summit of Mt Aspiring all of varying degrees of difficulty. Many of these routes will not be available to us due to the time of year we are attempting it.

We are anticipating our route to the summit will be the classic North West Ridge route, but a final decision will be made at the time.

Ascent day will begin at 3am in the morning and may finish as late as 7pm that evening and we can expect a mixture of snow, ice, and rock as we progress towards the summit.

After spending 7-days on the glacier, and hopefully with a successful summit of Mt Aspiring under the belt, we will return to Wanaka where I’ll be joined by Janet and TomO for a few days of rest and relaxation, before once again heading into the mountains.

Grey's Peak, Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Grey’s Peak, Fox Glacier, New Zealand

The second week in the mountains will most likely be spent in the Mt Cook region, where we will concentrate on some ice climbing as well as a number of ascents over the course of the week. The structure of the week will be decided at the time and where we climb will be dictated to by the prevailing conditions.

Baz - Chancellor Dome in the background
Baz – Chancellor Dome in the background

There are a number of possibilities, including Mt Aylmer which stands at 2,699 metres, Mt Elie de Beaumont which gives commanding views of the Tasman Sea from its 3,109 metre summit.  Other likely climbs include Mt Green and Mt Walter, which both stand just under 3,000 metres.

After making our way back to Wanaka once again, I will be meeting up with Janet and TomO who will also be full of tales of adventure after their week travelling around in the Southern Alps. They are planning a helicopter trip to Fox Glacier as well as taking in the fabulous Southern Alps…

Before we leave for home, we will strap ourselves in the world’s largest canyon swing located near Queenstown. TomO can’t wait, and he’ll go twice he says, a tandem with both Janet and myself.

I am hoping to achieve as many summits as possible on this trip, especially Mt Aspiring, however there could be many reasons why a summit is not possible. Above all else, what I am looking to achieve is safe mountaineering as that is what will assist me the most as I head to Nepal at the end of 2013 – but that is a story for another time, for now it is simply, one step at a time!

And remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…

Grey's Peak New Zealand
Baz on top of Grey’s Peak, New Zealand