Two years ago Toby and I went on a mountain skills course in New Zealand which was severely affected by storms and we spent most of the next six days stuck in a hut (see our original blog post). It was definitely an education but didn’t give us much opportunity to get outdoors and put theory into practice. I came back for a short trip with Simon Howells via Aspiring Guides who was a guide on the first trip. After what happened last time I figured that we’d be able to get on well no matter what happened. The weather was again a feature – we lost the first day waiting for a weather window that would allow helicopters to fly up the Fox Glacier to Pioneer Hut and came out a day early to avoid forecast storms in what proved to be the right decision.
The intervening days had beautiful blue skies and provided a good lesson in the need to move quickly and get up and off the objective to avoid having to slog through soft snow in the afternoon sun. We were well out of harm’s way but the afternoon sun also brought an increase in falling rock and ice heralded by a cracking sound like a gun shot. I am taller and heavier than Simon and felt this great sense of injustice that the snow crust would hold his weight in places whereas my foot would break through into soft snow. We went up Grey Peak which is only a minor peak but provides incredible views of the Southern Alps (and the sight of helicopters passing below us through Pioneer Pass) and were able to look down the other side of the divide at Plateau Hut where we had been stuck two years before.