The trip up Mt Aspiring was amazing. Everything happened very quickly, as we (my Guide Dave and I) were aiming to avoid what we thought would be some pretty nasty weather.
Day 1: The helicopter took us from the base of the mountain to Bevan Col, which was about 2 hours hike from the hut. We got to the hut about 30 minutes before the front moved in which resulted in about 24 hours of near white-out conditions. We were quite lucky to sneak in before the bad weather arrived. This did mean that we spent the late morning and the rest of the day in the hut. Fortunately only myself, my guide and 2 others were occupying the hut this day. I read a particular bad novel during this down time. The front also brought rain, and overnight it stormed and rained the whole time. The typical 3:00am wake-up and 4:00am departure to the summit was not going to happen.
Day 2: However, around 10:00am the front had moved on and the weather cleared. We decided to "go out for a look". The snow was terrible, the overnight rain caused the snow to be very soft and the lack of freezing conditions meant it was hard to walk on the snow. But after several hours of plunging knee to thigh deep in snow, and several pitches up a steep section, we made it onto the ridge for lunch. After all this energy sapping work, we were now on good snow. There was a mutual understanding that we would attempt the summit, as we did not want to repeat the last 3.5 hours again tomorrow. We made the summit about 1.5 hours later. Wonderful views, but very cold and high winds (40-60kph) meant that we decided to head down after only 15 minutes on top. The decent was more rapid, as we could rappel down the steep sections and the tracks we made earlier in the day made progress faster. We were also heading down-hill. After three hours we made in back to the hut (total round trip time being 8 hours). This was all very quick, and did not allow time for lots of photos (a pity really). We were the only people that day to climb to the summit. The afternoon was spent relaxing and enjoying the wonderful surrounds (something we could not do the previous day). Another 4 people joined us in the hut.
Day 3: At 3:00am the hut awoke and 6 people readied themselves to climb the summit. We slept in and awaited the 8:00am weather report. More bad weather appeared to be on the way. As it turned out, this day was wonderful. We departed across the most amazing glacier (Bonar) and descended down to the next hut. The snow condition was perfect, and it was like walking on solid glass (that is, a very firm footing). I will not forget this glacier walk, and was the best part of the trip. We rappelled off the glacier. This was a little dicey, as the whole thing had recently avalanched (probably during the rain two nights ago). We moved quickly through the avalanche debris and made the lower hut (French Ridge Hut) after probably 5 hours continuous hiking. As we were making good time, and rain was forecast for the following day, so we descended further into the valley and stayed the night in the valley hut (Mt Aspiring Hut). It was a long day, but we hiked in excellent conditions and meant we would not have to spend too much time in the rain tomorrow.
Day 4: A mere 2 hour hike to the trailhead saw us board the shuttle about an hour before the weather turned bad. Perfect timing (in hindsight). Mt Aspiring is a great mountain for a first climb. A degree of fitness and confidence is required, but is quite achievable. I loved it.
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