So at last we make it into the mountains. After a 1 day delay due to poor weather we drive north to Mount Cook National Park and the tiny airport just below the mountains. After an amazing 25 minute ride up onto the Tasman Glacier the silence and isolation of this place becomes very clear as the heli disappears into the distance.
The Kelman hut, (center right in the picture), was a 25 minute skin above us, perched precariously on the side of the ridge. With a big pile of packs, skis and boxes of food, we had to get on with getting it all up there! Our guide Andy had told us that this hut was christened the ‘Kelvinator’ due to its fridge like ambience. Unpacking in the hut I could see why. My bed, a top bunk on the ground floor, (which I thought might be a touch warmer), was covered in ice! So much for a warmer option. I was now sharing a bunk.
As it happens, a couple of days later and back in the shared accommodation in Wanaka on our last 2 days of the course, I spotted this in the kitchen.
On our first night up in the glacier the temperature was a balmy 2c in the hut, ‘it’s like living in your fridge’ Andy quipped, as if to say ‘toughen up you lot!’ We soon got used to it! The good news is that my months of equipment research and purchases really paid off. The down sleeping bag, thank you Dennis for pushing me to buy this, was pure genius. Once inside with the various zips and cords pulled in, I was actually too hot and had to remove my socks and hat! #Toastyinthefridge.
Ok so let’s talk about the toilet. The icy throne! Let’s just say, you really don’t want to go to the toilet in the middle of the night! Although the view is utterly spectacular the trip outside & down a 10ft icy step ladder is not what you need to be doing at 4am. And that’s just getting there. We were quickly reminded to take toilet roll with you, just incase you got down there and there was none. Good tip! Once inside you quickly realized that the right hand toilet was a marginally better experience than the left. Marginally. Despite the ice rink flooring it didn’t have a ‘shitty stick’ used for moving the contents around to help it de-compose. Actually it was more like a plank which I raised at breakfast the following morning and we renamed the said left toilet, the one with the ‘S.P’ not the ‘S.S’! Despite all this you have to marvel at possibly the best place for a loo I’ve eve been.
Life in the Kelvinator was pretty industrious. Once you’ve taken off layers of clothes, boots and harnesses, you quickly add a few more. The down jacket, down booties, woolly hat all making life pretty warm-ish. Then we work on gathering snow for water and making dinner begins. All the gas burners are constantly busy melting snow & boiling water. And then dinner prep by head torch. Food always tastes good on the mountain and especially the NZ venison stir fry we had with rice on the first night there. We followed this with more hot drinks and chocolate and then started the process of getting ready for bed. No electricity in the hut so it’s an early bed. Once the washing up is done, we boil more water for our smaller bottles to help dry the ski boot liners. Then into the down mummy, armed with ear plugs! It took a while to get adjusted to life in the Kelvinator but very quickly you realize what a special place this is. I’m very thankful for getting the chance to be there for just a few very memorable days.