|6.45pm. We were the first to arrive at the meeting point for those going on the Basic Snowcraft course for the weekend. Gradually more people arrived and we began to assess who we would be spending our weekend with. Bernadette was a middle-aged Kiwi who seemed good fun; Taki was a visiting Japanese student whose Engrish wasn't very good; George was a gentle giant who was a bit simple but very sweet; and Brad the gay Tasmanian.
Last to arrive was our leader for the weekend, Adrian Busby, a plain-speaking Derby man who had emigrated 20 years ago (I congratulated myself on guessing his origin within 5 minutes). Kate and I went in his truck with Taki, while the others went with George in his truck, and we set off towards Arthur's Pass where we were staying.
It was clear that Adrian had a lot to say. A lot. Although he was very entertaining, he was one of the people who could instantly match your story with one that was even more outrageous.
The 2.5 hour drive to the hut went quickly enough on the Old West Coast Road and through Sheffield and Springfield. On the way, we passed the scene of an accident where a car had smashed into a stray cow. The cow was clearly dead on the road but it was hard to say if anyone was hurt. The emergency services were already there so we drove on. Apparently, that kind of accident happens a lot on these roads as farmers have a relaxed approach to corralling their cattle. I kept my eyes peeled from now on. At this point, Adrian informed us that the reason George might seem a bit odd is because he was in a car accident and sustained a bit of brain damage, although he was generally OK.
Once we arrived at Arthur's Pass, we found the hut just off the main road. It was actually quite a large hut with enough beds for around 14 people. In the centre was a pot belly wood stove to heat the place, although there were all the mod cons too - cooker, fridge, showers etc. Another guy, Rodney (kiwi) was there to meet us and he seemed like a good bloke.
Adrian didn't waste any time getting us started. We spent the next hour trying to fit our crampons (strap on spikes for ice and snow climbing) on to our boots, so that we could just quickly put them on when needed tomorrow without too much fiddling. Kate and I had rubbish hired ones but we eventually made them work for us.
Soon it was gone 11pm and we decided it was time to go to bed. It was pretty cold and it was the first test for our new sleeping bags.