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Heels 1974

A.I.C. - Mt Egmont

page 43

A.I.C. - Mt Egmont

Fifty people in full storm gear, crawling up a near vertical road covered in ice during a blizzard in the middle of the night. You're right, it had to be the start of a VUWTC Alpine Instruction Course, held this year at Tahurangi Lodge from the 4th to the 7th of July.

The next morning the beginners were dragged outside and instructed in self-arrest, shaft belaying and pruning plants under ice (otherwise known as step cutting). The final exercise was in relocating a hut in mist. The experienced mountaineers knocked off all the north faces of Egmont that afternoon, or so rumour has it.

The night, and rolled up newspapers descended upon us as Moriarty was played to the delight of all but the participants.

The next morning didn't really dawn upon us but the murk did get lighter. During the day we adjourned from eating, sleeping, playing cards and scrabble to practice the art of crampon use. One of the instructors got quite a fright when a beginner followed him up a small ice face and at the top handed one of his crampons which had slipped off his boot near the bottom without his noticing. Some snow caves were dug but weren't tested that night owing to lack of confidence and the commonsense of those responsible for their construction.

The entertainment for that evening consisted largely of beating up Taranaki Alpine Club members, crawling around tables, attempting to eat drawing pins while upside down on a chair and walking across beams using ones hands.

At about 10 o'clock the wind dropped and the sky cleared. There was much whispering and arguing and by about 10.30 p.m. an assault team had been formed to conquer Egmont by the Surrey Road route in the moonlight. Soon after, the intrepid climbers commenced the ascent. We fought our way up through the sastrugi and soft snow, passed Bryant Rocks, and climbed onto Sharks Tooth. We dropped off Sharks Tooth down an ice funnel then completed the ascent of Mt Egmont. The moon was nearly full and the snow silvery velvet. The lights of New Plymouth, Inglewood, Hawera and other towns shimmered below us. We celebrated the ascent with two apples and a tin of pineapple rings on the summit at 2.15 a.m.

The descent was completed in style. On our arses for 3000 ft. Tremendous until we hit the sastrugi! We apologise to those we woke when we returned to the hut at 3 a.m.

The second assault party of about 50 left the hut a little after sunrise and followed our footsteps to the summit. In daylight the climbers were rewarded not only with a view of Ruapehu, which we could see from the hut, but also the coast far to the south and north, and the Ruahines and Tararuas.

We all returned to the North Egmont Chalet in dribs and drabs. The course was very enjoyable and useful for everyone. Thanks are due to the organisers and instructors.