4-6 September 2009
The pre-trip planning meeting was held on the Tuesday. Here we covered off the important items including trip objectives, special gear we would need to take and the current weather. Thursday’s forecast was for rain and wind but this was due to clear on Friday, with the weekend looking good. The trip was on.
Friday evening we left Wellington at 5pm on our journey up to North Egmont, arriving there at 11.30pm. Our base for the weekend was Tahurangi Lodge (Taranaki Alpine Club), which sits on the north eastern side of Taranaki/Mt Egmont at 1520m. This made for a beautiful 600m climb in the moonlight.
Saturday morning was anything but an alpine start. Having arrived at the lodge at 1am, we slept in until around 7.30am when the bacon and porridge went on for breakfast. The weather forecast was looking better for the Sunday and so Saturday was used as a practice day climbing in the Warwick Castle/Organ Pipes area.
Of the eight of us on this trip, three of us had just completed our AIC course this year (me being one of them) and were looking forward to using and building on those skills we had learnt. The Saturday did not disappoint. Just like on our Snow 1, we had some fantastic hard snow and ice to walk on!! We climbed/descended 30 to 40 degree snow slopes, used prussic knots to move along a safety line, did some abseiling and then got shown the uses of (and help construct) T-slot snow stakes and snow bollards.
We arrived back in the lodge at 3.30pm in time to start a game of Monopoly (the mountain version) before preparing that evening’s dinner. The very different strategies adopted in the Monopoly game meant it was not a late night!
Sunday. Today we were going to climb to the summit so we were all up at 6am. Breakfast was prepared and pictures were taken of the sun rising behind Ngauruhoe; what a view it was while we ate. Everyone then busied themselves doing final preparations for the day ahead.
At 7.40am we left the Lodge, walking up the Hongis Valley to the standard North Ridge summit route. Although it was a clear day, there were strong south easterlies as we ascended the initial slopes, with ice and small rocks being blown at us. This eased as we approached the Lizard.
Climbing up the Lizard then gave us lots of practice of cramponing on heavily rimed icy surfaces. Despite being tricky to negotiate, it was amazing to see how the ice had formed into what looked like steps.
At the end of this section, we all stopped for a quick break and took in the spectacular views (well most did; I found it difficult as all I could see was this long steep slope down and I really do not have a good head for heights!).
After this break, ropes were set up for the last 150m or so to enable us to safely climb the final snow face to the summit crater. We climbed three rope lengths, following a rope with prussic, entering the summit crater at approximately 12.15pm. This was the first time we were able to walk on a flat surface since leaving the Lodge and it was great. We left our packs in what would be our lunch area, and then climbed to the true summit (2518m), reaching there at 12.30pm.
It was just amazing. We had views to the central plateau, South Island (Kaikoura Ranges and Nelson Lakes), Ruahine and Tararua Ranges, Kapiti Island, and north to Mount Pirongia. Here we took a team picture for posterity and then walked down and had a well-earned lunch break, with those who were still feeling particularly energetic doing a spot of ice climbing.
It would have been nice to sit in the warm sun all afternoon, however at 2pm we started to make our way down. Whilst the snow face had softened, the ice on the Lizard remained firm and as a result we down-climbed to approximately 2300m using rope-lengths and ice screw anchors. This was very time consuming but was the safest way to descend this section of the climb given the conditions.
The final 800m then took a further hour and a half in very firm conditions. Right to the point where we reached the Lodge door at 5pm, I was concentrating on just putting one foot in front of the other so that the crampons had a good grip, but what an amazing day.
With everyone safely back, fed and watered, and the Lodge tidied and closed, we made our way back to the road end looking back at the summit we had climbed as the sun went down.
What a fantastic weekend.
- Party members
- Dave Grainger (leader), Steve Hutchison, Scott Miller, Fiona Morrison, Patrick Arnold, Jane Boydon (scribe), Sean Buchanan and Oliver Seiler