|Syme Hut - frozen solid|
Ice-blasted marker poles were half buried by snow, but still allowed for easy navigation up the face and across the undulations of Fanthams Peak. Our head-lamps switched to spot light mode to pick up our awaited hut - all we saw was a faint blob of ice in the distance. A twenty minute ice hacking frenzy eventually gave us headway into the top half of the door, and squeeze into the ice-box hut...
|Excavating the door of Syme Hut|
|Taranaki Like No Other|
|Climbing through rime ice feathers on the South Ridge|
|Team on the crater rim|
Guide book in hand with lunch, I eyed up the left-hand groove of the most aesthetic Shark's Tooth. Andy stationed on belay, I began the lead. Finally up close and personal with the Tooth, I became accustomed with the infamous hollow Egmont ice. It was insecure at best, layers upon layers of aerated wind blasted storm ice. I clipped into a screw early on but became less trusting of the ice strength as I climbed. Wired nuts secured me to the face as I climbed precariously to the summit ridge, an airy 40 metre pitch.
|Getting stuck into the groove|
|Harriet slamming her tools over the lip, good ice|
|Harriet feeling the exposure on the crater face|
|Andy walking off Shark's Tooth|
|Sunset at the hut|
With an early night at Syme Hut, we rested up for the trip's main objective - Ted's Alley. Owen had told us excitedly about a really steep section he had seen near the top of the Alley, a narrowing icy couloir running below the famous East Ridge route. We collapsed into the bunks at 7, the midnight mission finally catching up on us.
|Traversing hard icy slopes to the base of Ted's Alley|
Next day from Syme, we tackled an hour's icy sidle to the bottom of Ted's Alley. We felt we were slightly cheating the route, starting more than halfway up the mountain, but the climbing below appeared a straight-forward walk up from Manganui skifield, somewhat easing our guilt.
As I glanced upwards, the ice step was immediately obvious. A tingle of nerves and excitement ran through my veins. Andy climbed steadily up to the base of the ice cliff, slinging a large ice horn backed up with a screw as our belay anchor. I followed close behind, mentally preparing myself for the job ahead.
|Pysching up for the climb|
I knew I had to lead the pitch. Though intimidating, I felt a sense of self-imposed pressure to take on the challenge. Andy seemed relaxed and more than happy to be brought up on the blunt end. I racked up with five ice screws, two snow stakes and a selection of nuts. We exchanged few words as I set off up the cliff. The first move was the crux - fortunately I found surprisingly solid, thick ice to sink my tools into as I pulled my crampons over the lip of the rock cliff.
Relieved after the first strenuous move, I put in a screw; it twisted in deep and solid. The nerves had worn off now and I was loving every swing of the axe. I continued up the 65-70 degree icy slope, keeping close to the rock in case any rock protection showed up. The pitch gradually relented in steepness, and I had soon run out the 60 metres of rope. I put in two stakes for an anchor and pulled the rope up fast and tight to signal to Andy, out of sight, that he was safely on belay. After twenty minutes he appeared over the crest, stoked and clearly reveling in the exposure.
|Andy following the crux pitch on Ted's Alley, high up the east face|
Clouds swirled below, just revealing a solid crowd enjoying the snow at Manganui Skifield. We packed up the rope and pros, and soloed easily a few hundred metres to the summit crater. Glorious. To complete our route, Andy led up 10 Second Gulley on the south side of Shark's Tooth to secure the double summit.
|Andy taking the sharp end up the tooth|
|Team stoked to do the double on Shark's Tooth|