A follow up mountaineering trip to New Zealand, given the success of the previous season, was always going to be on the cards. Five of us flew over near the new year for 2016, for a couple of weeks climbing up at Pioneer hut. I was excited about this trip for the entire year, and it was a possibility that we may make an attempt on Mt Tasman, something that, if the conditions were favourable, should be within our ability.
Flying in to Pioneer, we looked down and saw the remains of a snowman, and a Happy New Year MUMC sign. These were still visible messages from our friends who had spent the previous two weeks climbing and mucking about. The logbook was a bit of a mystery, filled with what was evidently a clash of emotions and personalities. After an afternoon jaunt on the pink cliffs above the hut, Jules found the accordion and we were in for a lazy evening of banter.
After a push up the west ridge of Haidinger, the conditions could aptly be referred to as a slop fest, we were all hanging out for a decent freeze so we could go and climb some mountains. Jules and I made it back to the hut early one afternoon. As the clouds closed in, We decided he should play the accordion on the balcony to guide the others to us.
A fresh load of helicopters crammed the hut full of climbers, and we no longer had the peaceful place to ourselves. An Italian guide and his obnoxious Kiwi client dominated the conversation, the latter declaring that he was a very loud snorer, and there was nothing we could do about it! It was not long before we learned from a young guide that there had been an accident over on the other side of the range. A couple had fallen off the Silberhorn just after Christmas, and their bodies recovered and identified as none other than our good friends Dale and Stu.
I decided not to climb out of respect for my family who undoubtedly would have heard the news before us and be worrying about me. Several days were spent contemplating what this meant. In the background the loud and annoying Kiwi fellow hadn't the empathy to notice that some of his comments struck a little too close to home.
A few days later, three of us left early, the desire to be in the mountains squashed by the disaster.
Like good friends do, we stuck together and made the most of our holiday, going on several tramps to some of the most beautiful places I have ever had the pleasure to be in. The Hollyford track gets a solid five stars in my book!