FJG guide Tai shares one of his epic back country missions with us.
Tai and the boys love getting amongst the West Coast back country, here Tai shares his Mt Tasman / Mt Lendefield mission. Sounds awesome.....
At 3497m Mt Tasman is the second highest mountain in NZ. Our mission was to climb Mt Tasman and ski down neighbouring peak Mt Lendenfield (3192m).
TJ, AJ and myself are all glacier guides with Franz Josef Glacier Guides, here's the story...
Although the valley was covered with cloud, the pilot flew us through a break in the clouds to Pioneer Hut - located at the top of Fox Glacier and the start of our climb to Mt Tasman.
After a quick and easy dinner, I crawled into a sleeping bag while watching the sun set to the west. We set the alarm for 1am because we had to get off the mountain before the snow gets too loose and increases the risk of avalanches.
At 1am, it was a beautiful night - no wind, a starry sky and very quiet. We put our climbing skins on the skis and left the hut for our adventure. The moon was so bright we didn't even need head lamps.
On the way to Marcel Col, there is an icefall like a maze. We found a few dead ends but after jumping over crevasses and walking gently over collapsed seracs, we managed to find the exit.
We arrived at the col at dawn. We were directly above the Southern Alps. We looked down at the sea of clouds on the east side and theTasman Sea on the west side. Mount Cook was so close.
It was then an easy climb to Mt Lendenfield. We had to be really careful because there were huge overhanging cornices and standing on any of these could mean a fall of a few hundred meters. We dropped our ski gear at the top of Mt Lendenfield ready to for a fast climb up Mt Tasman.
We now began the most difficult part of the climb. A route called "The North Shoulder" was the most popular route up Mt Tasman. This route had been climbed by only one party this year, because you had to traverse underneath a 60m high crumbling ice cliff. guided party who left the hut the same morning was abandoned here because the risk was too high.
So, we stopped and discussed what we were going to do.
We tied the ropes together. I jumped on lead and placed protections along the way. AJ followed me and TJ collected the protections. Doing it this way meant that all of us kept moving and we had less time under the dangerous ice cliff.
But every time TJ stopped and collected the protections, he was taking a lot of time. AJ and I had a building-sized ice cliff right above our head and we didn't know when this building would collapse.
" Stop mucking around, TJ. Hurry the fxxk up!" In situations like this, the youngest member gets the most harassment.
It wasn't until we we came up the Syme Ridge and clipped onto the anchor that we felt safe and very relieved. From here we followed The North Shoulder ridge line to the summit.
The snow and weather were perfect. The sun was so bright. It was a beautiful blue sky and the cool southerly wind kept us sweat away - perfect.
By 10am we still had a little bit further to go until the summit but the snow was beginning to loosen and it seemed it would be better to make our descent as soon as possible.
After a quick bite to eat and some photos, we rappelled down the left side of the ice cliff, instead of traversing under the ice cliff at warmer temperatures.
We returned to Mt Lendenfield and retrieved our ski gear. Now we were going to ski all the way to Pioneer Hut.
Beneath the summit it is a 45?? slope with heavy sticky snow and 800m of vertical. But the conditions were a bit tricky. Heavy snow on the surface moves easily and makes it hard to control turns, but fortunately we all skied safely down to Marcel Col. It was great spring skiing from Marcel Col.
We arrived at the hut at 3pm and had a toast to celebrate. One of the best things about living on the West Coast is that we are right next to the Southern Alps and we can go out anytime and have a great time in the mountains.
With a smile on our face we flew back to Franz Josef township.