The first twinkle of hoar frost came just at the entrance to the Eglinton. The full moon lit the peaks with a silvery glow of snow on the tops and ice on the valley floor. Winter had come to the mountains, and a well-timed high-pressure system coincided with the annual Darrans Winter Climbing Meet at Homer Hut. However, I’d only managed to scrape three days off work, had left town late, and I was driving late in the night and was desperate to get some sleep before the next day’s climb.
Tears welled up in my eyes. With each step I choked them back. 50m from the summit several escaped and with no one nearby I simply let them go. The day was stunning, three sixty degree views, stretching out past Mt’s Hunter and Foraker over the tundra towards the sea. I had never cried upon reaching a summit before but something that day was unique and special.
Three of our other options for our biennial brothers’ trip had been abandoned due to weather or conditions. An idea which had been mooted, but remained on the back-burner due to the mystery and unknown nature of it, was an attempt at Lyttle Peak. Inspired by Rob Frost’s article in The Climber, we decided that regardless of what happened, it was sure to be an adventure, and as such, late one Thursday afternoon, we set out for South Westland.
A contender for the worst rock in the Alps would have to be Mt Huxley, which sits at head of the Ahuriri River with the Chosspile Peaks immediately south and Shingle Hill not far away. Funny then, that on an autumn 2012 trip to climb Huxley via the South Temple Stream, my eye was caught by Steeple Peak. Grovelling up henious scree slopes to V-Notch Pass we could look downvalley and see, inconceivably in the circumstances, some solid-looking rock. We knew some routes had been put up there by the likes of McLeod, Hersey et al. - and shelved the idea for the following summer.
Cyclone Luci was making her way south across the Pacific, bearing down on the north island and due to hit land on Saturday. I too was making my way south, in the back seat of a car sitting next to Lucy, my friend. We had a narrow window of good weather before the cyclone was due to give the country a wash and we wanted to make the most of our weekend. We met the rest of the team in Te Anau for some fish and chips and the seven of us headed into the Fiordland, arriving at Homer Hut around 10pm.
I'd been wanting to go into the Central Darrans for years. Ever since I stood on the top of Barrier Knob - a Darrans neophyte on my way to climb Sabre - and looked over and past Lake Adelaide to the south sides of Taiaroa and Tuhawaiki. Those faces looked far away and inacessible. They seemed to represent the unknown, and I felt the associated mix of apprehension and lure that comes with being a climber unversed in the vagueries of Darrans rock climbing.
One night, sitting around the fire in the Warden's Quarters at Homer Hut and listening to the heavy rain that signalled the end of the Darrans Winter Climbing Meet, my thoughts turned to the following summer. By then, I would be one year into my PhD - time to get some writing done. Homer Hut - what better place to settle down and get away from the distractions of the internet, General Joll and the monotony of Dunedin life? So I talked with Al Walker, 'Hut Bastard,' about wardening over the summer.