After dropping our packs on the hut's deck, we turned our gaze upward. Horizontally, we were quite close to the summit of Mt Barff, which loomed over us only two horizontal kilometres away. From this angle, the crevasses were less prominent, but we could still see them. I could still trace a possible path for us along the southeast ridge route.
Closeup Mt Barff Summit
Cracks in our ambitions arose when I brought up talk of planning for the next day's climb. Caroline was expressing doubts about her state of readiness for a climb early the next day; Brian said that he had flagged badly on the climb up the Liverpool Track and that his legs were killing him. Jenn complained of a very sore toenail, an injury received on the fast hike back on the last day of our Abel Tasman outing.
Pu sounded a more optimistic tone, saying that he found the hike up to the hut strenuous, but that he was still up for climbing to the summit. That was great, but there was a problem with this: the upper part of the climb to Barff's summit was on active, crevassed glacier. On such terrain, I feel safest while climbing with at least three people, which allows a much better safety margin for dealing with crevasse falls. If it was only Pu and I going, then we wouldn't have that margin. Not only that, but Pu was the least experienced in the art of glacier climbing of the five of us.
Route to summit
It would have been wrong to attempt to coerce anyone into doing something with which they felt uncomfortable, so I stated my case for doing tomorrow's climb, for giving it our best shot, and then stood back and let the conversation play out. Unfortunately, Caroline, Jenn and Brian decided they would not be attempting the climb the next day. So, that was it - climb cancelled. There would be no mountaineering for us on this trip. I can't deny that I was bitterly disappointed with this turn of events, of not being able to try to reach the summit.
Interior, Liverpool Hut
There was nothing more to discuss about Mt Barff, and we turned our attention to the immediacies of our night at the Liverpool Hut. The hut was indeed busy, and the regular bunk area had a capacity of 10. There were clearly more than 10 people already present, so we had to figure out where we were going to stuff ourselves. The most obvious option was to stake out a spot in the kitchen or dining area, but I didn't like the idea of sleeping where other people might be walking around.
The hut had a fairly sizeable vestibule room. It was full of boots and a few cleaning implements, but we decided that if we cleaned it up and organized the boots into a far corner, we could actually make a serviceable sleeping area, one with the space to host four (out of the five) of us and which was out of the main traffic areas in the hut. We had also brought up a tent in case we had space issues, and Pu offered to sleep outside. Hut accommodation problems solved.
Sleeping Quarters, Liverpool Hut
After reorganizing and setting up our little space in the vestibule, we prepared our dehydrated dinners and mingled with the crowd of visitors at the hut. As it turns out, we were the only group planning (or rather, who had planned) to do mountaineering. Everybody else was a non-climber, staying at the Liverpool hut only as part of a backpacking trip. A friendly bunch they were - some even lent us some extra mats and padding to soften our sleep on the cold steel floor of the vestibule.
After dinner, we took some time to enjoy the spectacular views from the hut. The weather was no longer clear - instead, high, grey clouds obscured most of the sky, although they were well above the level of the peaks. From the hut, we had a partial view of Mt Aspiring, only a few kilometres across from us. Other major peaks visible included Mount Avalanche and Rob Roy. The edge of the large and thick Bonar Glacier could be seen, as well as the sloping tiers of the Quarterdeck Glacier. Across the valley, we could see the tiny square of our sister lodging - the French Ridge Hut.
It became breezy around the hut near dusk, and Pu needed a helping hand to set up his tent on the grass outside. We then returned to our hut's vestible to arrange our sleeping gear and get ready for sleep. Since we no longer had an alpine climbing start on the schedule, we did not fix a specific wake-up time.