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Easter in Mt Aspiring National Park

Photo: Pat Barrett

The ultimate multi-day trip traverses at least one high pass, a major summit, at least one high camp and visits to a couple of huts. This trip ticked all the boxes, however, the snapshot here captures a moment when it nearly all unravelled

We were in Snowy Creek below the Rees Saddle. It was fine and sunny but with a cool wind and with the cloud billowing to the west. 

Our route lay through the upper valley and out under the huge rock and ice ramparts of Mt Tyndall where we left the floor and climbed directly up steep tussock for a couple of thousand feet to the ridge above. 

It was straight up, with hardly any respite till the ridge top. 

We hiked across the crest to the high, isolated basin of Pine Creek, draining to the Shotover River several thousand feet below. First, a steep snow chute tried our nerves, and later the snowgrass slopes leading to the next ridge; with ice axes out, we swung pick-first into the 70-degree slope of tussock, hauling up with heavy pack and scraping boots, avoiding looking at the dizzying slopes gaping underneath.

The top at last and there lay the lake far below. 

But wait! 

“Hey, there’s no way off this ridge! We can’t do this.”

Moirs guide covered this part of the park and described the route we were on – yet it looked impassable.

We were on a very narrow, broken rock ridge, and toward Lochnager, our destination, lay giant, featureless rock slabs tilting steeply downward till they plunged off in bluffs. 

We wobbled off along the razorback ridge balancing above the 150m slabs and hoping on hope that there was indeed a safe way down.

February 1993