Full moon (ish) ascent of Ha Ling Peak

It was actually the day before full moon, but the dubious forecast was looking slightly better for Sunday than the actual full moon, and I had managed to convince a fellow mad-man that it would be a good idea to come with me and go for a night-time hike in the snow. Towards the evening there were threats of winds gusting to 40-60 km/hr, but we laughed in the face of danger and decided to go ahead and hike anyway.

We managed to leave town not too long before 7pm, driving to the trail-head on the grounds of common sense/boringness/time considerations (delete as appropriate). The sky was looking thoroughly overcast, and my fellow mad-man was making comments about the clouds thickening about the Three Sisters and the east end of Lawrence Grassi, yet we decided to push on.

The trail was just packed snow until we hit the tree-line, where we were suddenly slowed by deep drifts and very breakable crust. There was a little waist-deep wallowing, and then a little more waist-deep wallowing, some scuttling across wind crust and hoping it wouldn’t break, and then we were hopping from rock to rock, making our way through the scree.

On sticking our heads over to admire the view from the saddle, we decided that the wind really wasn’t too bad, and we may as well push on to the summit. It was a bit too windy for any camera balancing or long-exposure tripod action though, so there was just a lot of trying-to-stay-quite-still photographs, while not really wanting to remove gloves or turn off my headlamp, as it was still quite cold up there, and getting colder with all that messing about with a camera.

In a strange moment of serendipity, the clouds in front of the moon cleared for about 15 seconds just as we reached the summit, and the full moon peered out at as from a tiny hole in the overcast sky. Not long enough for a photo, but long enough to go “Ooh look, the moon really is out tonight”, what an excellent idea this was.

As we turned around and started to head down, we realised that it was indeed quite windy, and battled downhill into the gusty wind, back through the scree and down into the punchy snow for some good old-fashioned snow slogging. After not quite forever we actually made it into the trees, then scampered/slid our way back down to the car again.

In the end it was a three hour return trip, door-to-door, which is fairly slow, but not bad given the amount of the hike that was spent waist deep in snow. Same time next month?

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