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HOW TO passports. One day, as we traversed the nevé, we were treated to frontrow seats to an afternoon storm. Cocooned in a cloud we managed to get in a few hours of ice-climbing, establishing a belaying station at the base of a vertical slab of ice. As I reached up and swung the axe, it pierced the cool-blue surface, raining ice-chips over my cheeks. I repeated the kick-kick, swing-swing process and felt grateful for years of Taekwondo training. The fitter, more experienced climbers crawled around the frozen waterfalls like spiders on a ceiling, anchored only by ropes, lifesaving ice-screws and harnesses.

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A SWING SET The next morning our helicopter arrived and the pilot took one shocked look at our comical beards of sunburn and wind-worn cheeks and said “what have you lot been doing?” As we flew through the narrow tunnel of the Fox Glacier, our trials were over. I smiled to myself with the knowledge that in just a few hours we would be enjoying a shower and lakeside beers in Wanaka. See for more information. Photography courtesy of Damian Ross-Murphy, Christie Board and Teokotai Ruland-Marsters. n


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As the bad weather settled in, we spent the next day abseiling from our bunk beds and practising crevasse rescue while dangling from the ceiling beams in preparation for our journey to Pioneer Hut. On the map, the distance between our base (at the top of the glacier) to the head of the Fox Glacier was two hand-spans. In reality it would take us two days. The weather was unusually hot and I found myself sweating heavily under my pack before the perspiration froze in the breeze! I had to bite my tongue and force my mind to appreciate the expanse of brilliant snow around us. The afternoon sun turned the hard ice to slush, and crossing the glacier fields felt like pack-marching through soft sand in summer. Climbing the saddle, we took in lunch and the view across the Tasman Sea. A quick walk up Mount Von Bulow and Chancellor Dome and we were all smiles once again with the sense of achievement and top-of-the-world view that comes from summiting any mountain. After being on our feet for 10 hours straight, we slept out under the stars. A thin tarp, goose down and a bivvy bag barricaded our flesh from the mattress of ice. After a necessary amount of giggling we settled in and admired the otherworldly sunset crowning Mount Tasman. In the morning, our tiny campsite was frozen solid and stray bog rolls and gloves accidentally went skidding downhill. As we tramped the length of New Zealand’s version of Nepal’s Khumbu, our environment slowly changed, leaking in colour and the sound of running water. Outside Pioneer Hut my body ached as I peeled off my boots and harness for the last time. That final afternoon saw us play a fierce game of cards where we battled it out for a shot of whisky we found abandoned on the window sill. Just six days ago we were strangers, but now we shared a camaraderie earned from surviving in the wilderness.


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