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Three climbers missing on Mt Cook – may they have the strength to weather the storm

After the terribly sad news of the QZ8501 AirAsia disaster, I was alarmed to come across more bad news last evening regarding three climbers who are reportedly missing on Aoraki/Mt Cook (click here to read more).  They were reported to be climbing the Linda Glacier route to the summit of the 3754m – Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain.  As with most climbing parties who climb Mt Cook – it seems they left Plateau Hut in the early hours of the morning, to make the most of the cold morning conditions (freezing the snow making it easier for travel) and under normal circumstances should have been back to the hut by evening time. They have since failed to return to the Plateau Hut sparking the Search and Rescue efforts.

The Linda Glacier route to the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook is a route I know well, having attempted it three times and succeeded twice – most recently in December 2013 during our Peak to Peak expedition from the summit of Mt Ruapehu to the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook completely by human power.  Climbing Mt Cook, from Plateau Hut by the Linda Glacier route is a massive day, my first attempt in 2009 took us 19 hours for the round trip and in December 2013, it took us 21.5 hours to reach the summit and get back down.

There have been some factually incorrect press statements and diagrams of the route released (which is nothing unusual) – however to get an idea of what the actual route is REALLY like I made a 3-d fly though in Google Earth which you can view in Youtube in 3 minutes below:

There are a number of possible scenario’s that may be unfolding now.  I will not speculate on what may have have happened to the team, suffice to say I am optimistic that these guys may still be ok.  The best case scanario is that due to what ever reason they have been delayed, hopefully they will have found shelter from the storm in a suitable crevasse or snow hole in the Linda Glacier or on the Linda Shelf, of which there are many.  It is possible to be caught out, and survive terrible weather on Mt Cook, I have been in this situation myself. Together with Alan Silva we were attempting to climb the Grand Traverse route on Mt Cook in December 2012.  We got caught on the Hooker Glacier (the opposite side of Mt Cook to the Linda Glacier) and spent a very wet and cold night sheltering from intense wind and rain in a crevasse which we dug out further into a small snow cave.  Whilst not a comfortable evening, we were cold and frost nipped but relatively unscathed the next morning, and were able to make our retreat (you can see a small Youtube clip below about our evening).  Admittedly we were much lower down the mountain than these three chaps but similar survival stories are not uncommon through the years – one of the most notable being Mark Inglis and Philip Doole who were stuck very high on the Grand Traverse route for 13 days in 1982.

You can also see an interactive model in Google Earth showing the route we took up the Linda Glacier as tracked in real time by a satellite tracking system here. Be sure to choose the map overlay as GOOGLE EARTH on the left hand side of screen to see it in 3D.

I am still at this stage very optimistic for these three gentlemen. It is very important to remain positive.  As with all fellow climbers that I know, we venture into the mountains to become closer to life rather than to death.  Do join with me to send all positive energy in their direction.  All storms eventually pass – may they have the strength and endurance to weather this one.

(For a description of the climb from Plateau Hut to the summit of Mt Cook up the Linda Glacier route, click here to download an excerpt from my recent book From Peak to Peak).

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Favorite images from Peak to Peak 2013

Well as with all things in life – they come and they go.  At the end of the day all we have left are the memories.  Photo’s can be very nice to help preserve the nice times and I would like to share here our favourite images from Peak to Peak 2013. Thanks to Alan Silva and Tim Taylor also for contributing,

CLICK the above image to see an interactive map of our route on FOLLOWMYSPOT website!

CLICK the above image to see an interactive map of our route on FOLLOWMYSPOT website!

 

Robert Mills and Grant Rawlinson heading up the crater rim towards the summit of Tahurangi Peak, Mt Ruapehu

Robert Mills and Grant Rawlinson heading up the crater rim towards the summit of Tahurangi Peak, Mt Ruapehu. Photo Alan Silva

Grant Rawlinson, Jim Morrow and Robert Mills enjoy the view in the high winds from the summit of Tahurangi. Photo: Alan Silva

Grant Rawlinson, Jim Morrow and Robert Mills enjoy the view in the high winds from the summit of Tahurangi. Photo: Alan Silva

Grant Rawlinson, Jim Morrow and Robert Mills enjoy the view in the high winds from the summit of Tahurangi. Photo: Alan Silva

Grant Rawlinson, Jim Morrow and Robert Mills enjoy the view in the high winds from the summit of Tahurangi. Photo: Alan Silva

Alan Silva, Jim Morrow and Robert Mills descend the crater wall of Mt Ruapehu after reaching the summit.

Alan Silva, Jim Morrow and Robert Mills descend the crater wall of Mt Ruapehu after reaching the summit.

Alan Silva starting the cycle down the slopes of Mt Ruapehu towards Taumaranui.

Alan Silva starting the cycle down the slopes of Mt Ruapehu towards Taumaranui.

Grant Rawlinson starting the paddle in the 'Divorce Machine' inflatable kayak down the Whanganui River.

Grant Rawlinson starting the paddle in the ‘Divorce Machine’ inflatable kayak down the Whanganui River. Photo Alan Silva.

Kayakers on the banks of the Whanganui river.

Kayakers on the banks of the Whanganui river.

Campsite 'Poukaria' on the banks of the Whanganui river.

Campsite ‘Poukaria’ on the banks of the Whanganui river.

Canadian kayaks line the banks of the Whanganui river.

Canadian kayaks line the banks of the Whanganui river.

Grant Rawlinson paddles the final 20km stretch of the 245km  to Whanganui town.

Grant Rawlinson paddles the final 20km stretch of the 245km to Whanganui town.

Alan Silva and Grant Rawlinson enjoying the paddling in the rain.

Alan Silva and Grant Rawlinson enjoying the paddling in the rain.

Low could lines the banks of the Whanganui river as we paddle in the rain

Low cloud lines the banks of the Whanganui river as we paddle in the rain

Alan Silva and Grant Rawlinson in the middle of the Cook Strait.

Alan Silva and Grant Rawlinson in the middle of the Cook Strait. Photo Tim Taylor.

Tim Taylor approaching Arapawa Island after paddling the Cook Strait.

Tim Taylor approaching Arapawa Island after paddling the Cook Strait.

Grant Rawlinson takes a photo of the Tory Channel  entrance after paddling across the Cook Strait from Makara beach in Wellington.

Grant Rawlinson takes a photo of a ferry exiting the Tory Channel entrance after paddling across the Cook Strait from Makara beach in Wellington. Photo Tim Taylor.

A ferry enters the Tory channel as seen from Arapawa Island.

A ferry enters the Tory channel as seen from Arapawa Island.

Who is that in the paper?

Who is that in the paper?

Another day, another puncture on the ride south towards Mt Cook.

Another day, another puncture on the ride south towards Mt Cook. Photo Alan Silva.

Alan Silva getting wet during a rain storm on the cycle south.

Alan Silva getting wet during a rain storm on the cycle south.

Alan Silva enjoys a rest break on the cycle south.

Alan Silva enjoys a rest break on the cycle south.

Alan Silva cycles along the Kaikoura coastline.

Alan Silva cycles along the Kaikoura coastline.

Alan Silva cycles past Lake Tekapo.

Alan Silva cycles past Lake Tekapo.

Enjoying a rest break on the ride south.

Enjoying a rest break on the ride south.

Alan Silva climbs steep moraine above the Tasman Glacier on the way to Cinerama Col.

Alan Silva climbs steep moraine above the Tasman Glacier on the way to Cinerama Col.

Grant Rawlinson just visible on centre right about to cross under the Anzac peaks on avalanche and rock fall threatened slopes.

Grant Rawlinson just visible on centre right about to cross under the Anzac peaks on avalanche and rock fall threatened slopes. Photo Alan Silva.

Alan Silva climbs the summit ride on Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Alan Silva climbs the summit ride on Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Alan Silva climbs the summit rocks on Aoraki Mt Cook.

Alan Silva climbs the summit rocks on Aoraki Mt Cook.

Grant Rawlinson on the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Grant Rawlinson on the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook. Photo Alan Silva.

Alan Silva enjoys his 7th time on the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Alan Silva enjoys his 7th time on the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Alan Silva descending the summit rocks on Aoraki/ Mt Cook.

Alan Silva descending the summit rocks on Aoraki/ Mt Cook.

Alan Silva descending through the crevasses on the Linda Glacier.

Alan Silva descending through the crevasses on the Linda Glacier.

The next adventure! Peak to Peak 2013 by crampons, kayaks and bicycles!

The what?

‘ Peak to Peak 2013’ is an attempt at a 1300km traverse from the highest point of the North Island of New Zealand (Tahurangi/Mt Ruapehu) to the highest point in the South Island of New Zealand (Aoraki/Mt Cook). The journey to be undertaken completely by human power and will include climbing, kayaking and cycling through/across and up some of New Zealand’s most rugged and beautiful terrain. Using crampons, kayaks and bicycles.

Peak to peak route

Route map – click to enlarge.

The when?

November 29, 2013 -> December 28, 2013

The why?

Why are we doing this? Mainly for fun 🙂

Some other less important reasons are:

–  I have long wanted to do a trip which combined some of the disciplines I enjoy in the outdoors, (climbing/ kayaking/ cycling and trekking).

–  Over the years I am becoming more and more interested in human powered expeditions. I have traveled extensively around the the planet in my working life.  However I get so much more enjoyment from human powered adventures, sleeping outdoors and ‘bumping into’ locals than I do from jetting around in aircraft and staying in luxury hotels.

–  It’s nice to put together a trip which should be a fantastic adventure but will not break out bank accounts.

The how?

‘Peak to Peak 2013’ will involve a non-stop human-powered adventure-journey comprising:

1. Climbing to the summit of Mt Ruapehu (2797m above sea-level) in the central North Island of New Zealand

On Mt Ruapehu with the summit - Tahurangi is the highest point of the North Island and is visible as the highest point in this photo above my head.

On Mt Ruapehu with the summit (Tahurangi) clearly visible above my head. This is the highest point of the North Island of New Zealand at 2797m.

2. Cycling 60km from Ruapehu to Taumaranui.

We finally got some nice coastal views on the last day ride from Coromandel to Thames

Cycle touring in New Zealand

3. Paddling inflatable kayaks 240km from Taumaranui down the Whanganui river to the coastal town of Whanganui.

Paddling the Whanganui river - New Zealands third longest river.  Photo: richardtullochwriter.com

Paddling the Whanganui river – New Zealand’s third longest river. Photo: richardtullochwriter.com

3. Cycle 200km from Whanganui to Makara beach in Wellington

4. Sea kayak 60km across the Cook Strait, all the way into Picton in the South Island of New Zealand. The Cook Strait can be one of the worlds roughest stretches of water.

A ferry does battle in the Cook Strait on rough day.  Photo: Straithipping.co.nz

A ferry does battle in the Cook Strait in rough weather. Photo: Straithipping.co.nz

5. Cycle 700km from Picton to Mt Cook National Park

6. Climb New Zealand’s highest mountain – Aoraki/Mt Cook (3750m above sea-level). Our route to the summit will depend on the conditions and how much energy and time we have remaining.

Sphagetti Junction, Dave Ellacot on the lead, Summit rocks, Aoraki Mt Cook, December 2009

Climbing Aoraki/Mt Cook

The journey will be completed without support vehicles and on a shoe-string budget.   We have arranged a little help from some friends and family to get the bicycles and kayaks into the right positions in the North Island section.

The who?

The 2-man team will comprise Alan Silva and Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson. At the start of the trip we will be joined by Jim Morrow, Robert Mills and Jack Rawlinson to climb Mt Ruapehu. We will attempt the paddle across the Cook Strait with Tim Taylor. The rest of the trip we will travel as independently as possible.

IMGP0299

Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson and Alan Silva having fun hanging out on a freezing cold bivvy at 3AM on the West Ridge of Malte Brun in the New Zealand Southern Alps.

Follow our progress?

If you are interested to follow our progress then we will be carrying a SPOT GPS tracker which you can monitor our positions during the trip in near-real time (It updates every 10 – 15 mins).  Don’t worry – we will not be hounding you with requests for donations and sponsorship!

You can follow our progress by:

1. Signing up to this blog with your email address. To do this navigate to the home page by clicking here and sign up with your email address in the box on the left hand side of this page.

OR

2. Checking this website regularly to follow the SPOT GPS realtime map and check for trip update reports and photo’s.

OR

3. You can follow me on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

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