Monday, November 30, 2015

Girdlestone - Mt Ruapehu

The clear sky was brilliantly orange to the east as we set off from Blyth Hut at 5am. Three hours of walking up the volcanic boulder fields brought us to the snowline on the south face of Girdlestone (2658m), where it was time to gear up with crampons, ice axe, harness and helmet. A steady plod up gradually steepening snow for a while before the ropes were hauled out. The conditions were great for cramponing, each foot biting firmly into the snow.

The first couple of pitches were nice and easy allowing us to get our systems sorted and practice rope handling. This was my first time leading and I relished the opportunity to put into practice the skills which I have slowly been absorbing over the years. The route steepened but at no time was I outside, or even on the edge of, my comfort zone.

6 pitches brought us to the summit ridge and then another two pitches, including a rock step, led to the top - 11 hours after setting out. We basked on the summit for an hour before descending down the Mangahuehu Glacier on the north east side. By this time the snow was soft so it was easy trudging down the slope. Once off the snow it was a long plod back down the flank of Ruapehu towards Blyth Hut. 

Five minutes before the hut we watched as the vividly orange sun sank below the horizon. A glorious end to a glorious day. 15 1/2 hours on the go, 1,300m ascent, 8 pitches, lots of learning and loads of fun!

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