|Jack, Paul, Ryan and I went ski touring and climbing in Mt Cook national park. The plan was to do the 2-3 day "Symphony on Skis" route, which crosses the Alps from the East to the West, but the weather and climbing conditions were so amazingly good that we ended up staying for seven days, crossing back to the East via Pioneer pass and the Grand Plateau, and climbing Hochstetter dome, De La Beche (not as epic as on First Crossings!), the Minarettes, Ledenfeld and Glacier Dome. For an added bonus, Jack and I climbed the North ridge of Mt Tasman, NZ's second highest mountain!! It was the most exposed route I've ever done, and even more exciting with an ice axe borrowed from the hut. Thanks guys for an awesome trip, and thanks to all the people who fly-in and leave food in the huts, and all the people who gave us a hitch or a shuttle :)
Day 1: Bivi at the Rutherford, and an early start to climb the pass right of Armadillo saddle. I thought the steep and avalanche-prone Murchison headwall might end our trip, but it turned out to be an easy skin to the top, with 20 other ski-tourers following. Stayed at Kelman hut.
Day 2: Made an early start with the intention of climbing Ellie de Beaumont, but poor vis kept us in the hut playing Monopoly until the afternoon, when we climbed Hochstetter dome.
Day 3: Another early start to cross to Centennial hut in the West, via a long descent down the Tasman and a long climb up the Rudolf (which again was in condition--we could skin almost the entire way to the top). We were following/being followed by a Salomon-sponsored team of skiiers who were filming a re-enactment of the first Symphony on Skis trip 30 years ago.
Day 4: Yet another early start to go climbing! We climbed the NW face of the Minarettes (3040), then crossed to De La Beche (2950, with a bit of mixed climbing to the summit). We skied a few laps near Graeme saddle, then back to Centennial hut for dinner, before an epic long descent to Chancellor hut while the sun set over the Tasman sea.
Day 5: We had a morning off enjoying the sun and warmth at Chancellor hut, before climbing back up to Pioneer hut.
Day 6: Mt Tasman! (3497m). Started at 2am and got back at 2.30pm. Climbed Ledenfeld 2x on the way. 1 pitch of WI2+ through the obvious schrund on the lower ridge, then lots of soloing WI2 (mixture of frozen snow, ice, and cruddy snow). Conditions were great for us, but the Linda route and the Silberhorn route on Tasman were both blocked by crevasses apparently.
Day 7: Longest day so far: crossing back to Mt Cook Village via Pioneer Pass. Ryan and Paul had cut a route through the cornice, and we rapped down over the schrund and onto the Haast glacier. More schrund-jumping, 2 more abseils, some awesome route-finding by Jack, and a fast ski through a rockfall got us through the seracs and eventually to Glacier Dome (2424), Plateau hut, and the Grand Plateau. We skiied down the Boys glacier, then dropped into the gully for an easy crampon down avo debris to the Tasman glacier. A short stroll accross the morraine took us to Garbage Gully, Ball hut, and eventually the road at 10.30pm. Pippa and some climbers from Unwin hut were waiting with cold beers, which was exactly what we needed, cheers!!!
Day 8: Not finished yet! Some more hitching (cheers!), then I biked back to the start to collect the bivi gear.
Total climb was 10km, with 8 named passes and 8 summits. An awesome trip, I doubt any of us will see a weather window that good again.