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Heels 1968

Mount Aspiring, November 1967

Mount Aspiring, November 1967

I met the other five members of the party near Lindis Pass, not as planned, and we continued to the Matukituki Valley in Phil's mother's Vauxhall Victor. Most of us abandoned it when the exhaust pipe fell off about a mile from Raspberry Hut.

The weather was bad for the next eight days. Nevertheless, we were neither idle nor dry for much of that time. We spent two nights in Scott's Bivvy, a big rock not far above the bush line in the Matukituki Valley. There was snow on the ground with more falling. Scott's Bivvy would probably be a good shelter provided that there is no wind, rain or snow. After two moist nights I was reluctant to retreat, but it was pointed out to me that my sleeping bag was the only one with a dry patch. Anyway, the route to Bevan Col, when we could see it, was being avalanched on frequently.

Back to commodious Aspiring Hut to dry out. Then, as the weather appeared to be improving, up to French Ridge Bivvy. After one night at the bivvy we ventured to the top of French (7800'), descending by a fairly steep direct route through icy bluffs. The mist had discouraged a preliminary walk on the Bonar Glacier.

Soon after this, Phil, Arthur and John (Carlo) had to leave for the comforts of office jobs in Wellington. Then there were three. A snow storm raged for a few days. The storm stopped on the afternoon of our fifth day at the bivvy.

By this time our permit for the use of French Ridge Bivvy had expired and since four Otago bods and two Japanese arrived with the improving weather we were obliged to move out. We slept out under the stars on the snow about a page 32thousand feet lower down the ridge,

Up at one o'clock for breakfast. Past French Ridge Bivvy at three, in the light of a beautiful full moon. Ploughed up to the Bonar Glacier in knee deep snow. On the quarterdeck at five thirty. Roped up, crampons on. The snow on the glacier was windpacked, ideal for fast travelling. All the slots were covered.

The climb onto the northwest ridge of Aspiring was hard work. The snow was hard enough for front painting. Progress was slow, moving one at a time with three on a rope. We were pleased to get into the sun on the ridge at about ten-thirty. The view was already tremendous. We looked down over the whole of the glacier region of the Otago Alps. Close, there were the Bonar, Therma and Volta Glaciers, the Haast Range, and the Waipara and Waiototo valleys. Further away, the Arawata Glaciers and the Olivine Peaks.

The climb to the summit about 1800' higher, was easy, but would have been easier on a slightly cooler day. We dined on the top. Not a cloud in the sky (photos to prove it) and calm. If I could have found the candle at the bottom of my pack the peak would certainly have passed the candle test (Candle must stay alight one minute in most exposed position possible. Can anyone beat Ruapehu (9175'), 6.12.64?). It was just like the pictures in the Weekly News.

About two-thirty we went back down to our camp on the bush line. (Well, it wasn't quite as easy as that - it took eight hours). Brew and collapse into pits.

The following day was also fine but windy. We went down to Aspiring Hut. Clive and I had a touch of frostbite on our toes, which slowed us down a bit. My frostbite could probably be attributed to 1) getting wet socks leading through soft snow in the morning and 2) constricting my feet by having tight crampon straps over my boots for too long (about 13 hours continuously).

We understand that the next fifteen days were stormy and the Japanese expedition was unsuccessful in climbing Aspiring.

It appears, from my experience especially, that one of the techniques and skills to be mastered before attempting to climb this mountain is waiting.

- T.C.

Party: Phil Burgess, Arthur Robson, John deJoux, John Nankervis, Clive Bolt, Tom Clarkson.

Happiness is a warm river to swim in at night.