Glancing down, I saw a horrible sight. My boots, my beautiful yellow Asolo plastics, were falling apart. On both, the wide tongue section had snapped in two near the toes and was at risk of falling off. I had bought these boots probably 15 years earlier, just as work, family and mortgage were tipping the balance against mountaineering, and they had hardly been worn.
We held a council, poking and prodding at the plastic and wondering about the weather and the snow, and my feet. The summit beckoned, however, so up we went.
The snow now changed radically. The chilly, south-facing slope had been converted to a vast field of brittle stalks of rime ice, some as long as 15cm. Any thought of skiing was now banished as we crunched upwards, sending a symphony of tinkling ice down behind us.
After meeting a few climbers from the north side at the summit area, we nosed around the crater. With the iced-up cliffs of Sharks Tooth rearing up to my left, I shuffled gingerly out to the snowy roll-over at the top of Teds Alley. It was too steep to see clearly, but seemed to funnel into what Eden describes as a dramatic narrowing under East Ridge.
Even without skis on my feet, I was convinced: Teds Alley is too much for me.
As we retraced our steps for the descent, the south side route remained crisp and tinkly almost all the way to Syme Hut, where, foolishly, we lounged for half an hour. Sunset caught up with us for the last of the bushy track to Dawson Falls, where I removed my Asolos for the last time.