Ascent of Mount Cook on 2002-12-05

Climber: Morgan Batt

Date:Thursday, December 5, 2002
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Cook
    Location:New Zealand
    Elevation:12218 ft / 3724 m

Ascent Trip Report


“Let us go to a lonely place “ – These are some of the famous words of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. Jesus loved the mountains around his home town and lands; those lonely places. In fact it is recorded in the Bible that he went up mountains 42 times.

The Army Alpine Association Exercise 3000m New Zealand objective was to climb 14 lonely peaks during December/January 02/03. I chose to attempt the “Cloud Piercer’ Aoraki (or Mt Cook) the highest peak in New Zealand at 3756m. Why? Well, in March 1882 in true Himalayan style a Church of Ireland vicar, rev William green, and his companion Mr. Emile arrive din new Zealand intending to climb this great southern peak – truly a lonely place by all accounts then. They shipped 15,000ks, traveled by train, then by horse and cart to arrive at Birch Hill farm 15k from the present day Cook Village. Then they walked up the Tasman glacier, turning right they struck up the Linda Glacier and turned back 50 m from Cook’s summit due to a strong NW wind storm developing. Green believe he had all but climbed Cook.

This first attempt on Cook was overshadowed by the real first summit bid on Christmas Day 1894 by Fyle, Graham and Clarke (this time by the Hooker Glacier on the other side of the mountain). Interesting is that the third ever summiting of mt Cook was b y a young Church of England Minister, Canon HE Newton of Ross. So in true religious style why not an attempt on Cook by and Army Chaplain Roman Catholic. I am by no means the first Catholic priest to climb Cook but I hope to be the first to celebrate Mass there. I arrived in Mt Cook Village 3rd Dec 2002. Checked in with my guide from Alpine Guides – good friends. Rev was to be my guide and coming along with us was a trainee guide Severin from France.

On the 4th Dec we flew up to Platue Hut 2,200m on the Grande Platue, base of the Linda Glacier. Cook was first summited via the Linda Glacier in February 1912 some 25 years after Rev Green’s attempt. The Linda Glacier, while the most straight forward and most climbed route, is also the most dangerous being menaced by over hanging ice cliffs shower ice blokes the size of fridges. The lower Linda is often heavily crevassed and there is considerable danger from Avalanches on the Upper Linda.

At 12.00 midnight 5th December we awoke, ate breakfast and was on the glacier by 0100. We traversed crevasse after crevasse after crevasse after crevasse twisting our way up the Linda, turning left half way up the glacier at Tiechelmans Corner. Dashed under the loose ice cliffs of Mt Vancouver and the Gun Barrels. Then across the Lind Ice Shelf to join Zurbriggen’s Ridge below the Summit Rocks. A good rock scrabble of 3 pitches to the top of the Rocks. Then cramponed up the summit ice cap – usually pitching on ice, it was a good 60 degree walk and for us no ice. Walking past the chandelier we summated at 1000hrs (well 2 meters below as I did not want to go to the top out of respect for the Maori culture which has asked climbers to avoid the sacred top). We were the second summit party for the season. A few pictures and the I celebrated Mass. We needed to be quick as there was as strong NW storm brewing in true Rev. Green tradition. With the winds now picking up and becoming a menace we descended back down the Rocks and this time veered left with four pitches down a 60 degree ice gully. Back down to the Linda which was by now mushy and thigh deep in the midday sun. We wallowed like seals as we plod through the snow for hours. We arrived back at the hut 1600hrs – a 15 hour successful climb. A cuppa and went straight to bed waking the enxt morning at 0900hrs. I met Chris a young 15 year old lad training on the mountain who had visions of being the youngest person to ever climb Everest. He told me that he has come to knock the bastard off (the summit of Aoraki. I berated him for a few minutes about the sacredness of climbing and that it is the mountain that lets you climb not the other way round. “Go gentle young friend we come to climb not conquer” my only advise. It was a lonely place but a good place. Kia Ora.
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