Impressive Neighbors (Part Two) – Mt Edgar Thomson(2379m)

“On a Mish” #3 Impressive Neighbors (Part Two). Mt Edgar Thomson(2379m). Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. 30.1.2015. We are spoilt for choice in Aotearoa when it comes to big mountains. Bush covered, rock covered and some massive sculptures of snow and ice. If it is a type of uplift land you seek, then you are bound to find it. Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park is home of New Zealand’s largest mountain and it doesn’t stand alone. Surrounding Aoraki are his just as impressive neighbors and from their summits you get to see that there are plenty of big peaks in this neighborhood…

To make the most of the sunlight hours an early-ish start the next day was needed, and I poked my head out of the tent and into a thick, damp, motivation-sapping mist. The blue sky I was enjoying during the evening had been replaced by the opposite of clear visibility, dropping my view to around 10 metres. Oh well, the mountain isn’t going to climb itself, it’s time for a mish!

Hoping for the mist to disappear at some stage, I sorted my gear and began my mish by climbing the access gully I had camped near.

I was hoping to climb above the cloud higher on the mountain, but for now it was time to get into the rhythm of uphill travel. Before reaching the top of the gully I altered the route slightly by heading out onto the west face of Mt Edgar Thomson(2379m). Progress was going well until I reached a steep wall of solid rock which had been kept clean by constant avalanches down the gully during the winters. With the only other option being turning back and finding another way up I began to ascend the rock wall. My adventurous route turned out to be an excellent short-cut onto the east ridge, and back onto the normal way to the top of Mt Edgar Thomson(2379m).

It was at this point I finally got above the cloud, and all the mighty peaks of Aoraki stood out like islands on a fluffy white ocean.

I briefly climbed the rock of the east ridge to where it became very broken, so I then stepped out onto the snow of the south east face. Crampons and axes working together steadily got me up the steep snow face, and onto the final push up the south ridge to the summit. With the summit in sight I pushed on, and while I did my phone rang. I was able to take a call on the summit ridge (a brief reminder of the real world), before striding my way onto the mountain’s rocky summit.

By the time I got to the top of Mt Edgar Thomson all of the inversion cloud had cleared, and the famous Aoraki mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes in the area were on display. I could also see down into the upper reaches of the Dobson Valley, plus the turquoise waters of the glacier Lakes Pukaki, Tasman and Mueller.

I wanted to stay on the summit longer however, it was now time to begin my journey back down to my camp in the Hoophorn.

Hard work + Elevation = Epic Views!

After making my way back across the short south ridge I arrived at the top of the steep, snow-covered south east face. During the warm morning the snow had softened a lot, and this meant I had to be careful of snow building up under my crampons. A missed step here would send me on a slide to disaster / certain death. I carefully crept downwards until I was near the base of the face, where I crossed over some rock before getting forced back onto the slippery south east face again.

A small crevasse stood between me and the snow, and foolishly instead of finding a way around it I decided to save time and jump the gap. Due to the steep drop on the other side of the crevasse and me not clearing the snow from my crampons, after the jump I lost my footing and began to slide down the face on the other side of the crevasse. Luckily life saving instinct kicked in and with me speeding my way down the face I spun around to face the slope and performed an effective self-arrest. It was good to know that once again my survival skills learned while on mountaineering courses had prevented disaster. The fright got the blood pumping, and snapped my focus back onto the task at hand. Unfortunately it is very common for people to lose focus on the descent from a summit, and it is a well known fact that 80% of mountaineering accidents happen on the descent and this was a scary way to remind me of that fact.

Below the face and away from the snow the terrain switched to rocks where navigating bluffs became the challenge. It can be frustrating when you can see the point on the mountain you are aiming for but the mountain keeps putting outcrops, rocky blocks and massive drops in your way to slow your descent.

Eventually I arrived at the top of the gully back to camp and I knew from here it would be an easy scramble back to my tent.

The mountain proved to be a great day out, and the ease of access from the village makes it an excellent ‘quick fix’ peak for anyone visiting Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. I packed up my camp and within an hour or so I was back in my little house in Aoraki / Mt Cook Village reminiscing about my latest adventure in the land of massive mountains!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter