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Eric Alexander and Erik Weihenmayer Mount Cook in New Zealand

Eric Alexander and Erik Weihenmayer are currently climbing Mount Cook in New Zealand. Mt Cook at 12,316 feet it is the areas highest peak.

After flying in to the Plateau Hut by helicopter Erik W and I were ready for a shot at this massive peak. The ten days of rain previous to this flight kept us pinned down in Queenstown climbing peaks in the Remarkables range and doing a bit of everything we could think of (with the exception of bungy jet boating and bungy rocket sky-diving) to keep our minds off of what we were not doing - climbing Mt. Cook.

Thursday, December 19th,2002 - Erik and I waited an extra day for the snow to do some more settling and firm up our route. It would be just the two of us on this difficult peak and I wanted to be sure it was as safe as it could be. We talked with some of the local guides and with the people who had been at the hut for some time. We chose our route - the Zurbriggen's Ridge. This is a 3,500 foot face of 45 - 55 degree ice and snow with really no place to stop and rest. Our descent would be via the Linda glacier route which is much easier (normally).

We departed at 11:30 Thursday night after saying a prayer for protection and guidance, under a full moon. The route was perfectly lit and the night was beautiful. After trudging through some breakable crust and avalanche debris we made it to our first obstacle - a pair of five-foot bergschrunds acting as the gateway to our route. Having delicately negotiated these we were off for a marathon adventure. Placing some screws and pickets in the more precarious areas when needed we moved constantly through the night not stopping for a break until we hit flatter ground at the top of the face.

Friday, December 20, 2002 - 9:00 am and the sun had been on us for the last few hours causing us to boil in our skin and also forcing us to change our route a little as the sun began to melt the ice freeing some rocks which were now falling down the route. We navigated the summit rocks as the parties from the Linda route were coming down from their summit success and we knew it wouldn't be long before we were there as well. At 2:00 we cautiously inched our way along the two-foot wide summit cap. It fell away four thousand feet to our left over the east face and four thousand more down to the right a seventy degree ice-slope.

Friday, December 20th, 2002 2:00 pm. - A spectacular summit and a wonderful view, but not really a place to celebrate with pictures and hugs, especially when your partner can't see that his ice axe just went in one side of the cornice and out the other. We saved our celebration for later.

We abseiled down to the Linda shelf roughly one thousand feet below the summit and began our long, slow, tedious, tortuous descent. The route was soft and the surface crusty, but at least our packs were heavy causing us to post-hole up to our hips. We were the last ones off the peak and all the previous parties had made holes all over the descent route making it a minefield for the "sightless legend" as the Queenstown paper had called Erik.

10:30 p.m. Friday December 20 - Finally back at the hut after a 23 hour marathon!

10:30 a.m. Saturday December 21 - A flight back to a good meal, and a drive on the wrong side of the road to Queenstown.

2:30p.m. Sunday December 22 - Aukland - Tea with Sir Edmund Hillary and Lady June.

One of the highlights of this trip was to meet with one of my climbing heroes and living legends, Sir Edmund. Erik and I were impressed by his kind and gentle demeanor and by the hospitality of Lady June. We shared a lot of stories and had a few good laughs - some, of course at EW's expense, and were even able to coerce Sir Edmund into signing a few NZ five-dollar bills on which his profile is pasted. Now back home we are beginning to plot our next adventure to another corner of the globe. Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander veteran climber, Everest Summiter, author and motivational speaker. To book Eric Alexander e-mail everestnews2004@adelphia.net


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