As part of our training for the up and coming team trip to Canada, the team spent the weekend prior to the Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival at one of New Zealands premier Ice climbing locations,Wye Creek, to hone skills, work on technique and gain more mileage on steep ice. The aim of the weekend was not to slay routes as such, but to climb as much ice as possible, learn new things and iron out any flaws in technique. Given its close proximity to the Remarkables ski field, Wye Creek is super accessible and offers a great location to train for ice climbing. After a casual 2.5 hour ski tour and snow shoe up the Remarkables ski field followed by an enjoyable descent to the ice flow, we arrived at our bivi site just a short walk from the base of the cliffs.
5 “stations” were established, giving the mentees a chance to climb and learn different skills with all 5 of the mentors. Kester and Ben set up stations on the far left of the lower tier, setting up routes near Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (WI4). Jono established himself close to Quite Bent (WI5) with Dan near Fear of Flying (WI4) and Steve on the far right of the lower tier. We spent about an hour with each mentor, talking over things that needed improving and working on different techniques. Various methods were used to hone certain skills such as climbing without tools to work on footwork, speed climbing for efficiency and climbing with just one tool. As mid afternoon rolled round Chen put in a blistering speed climbing time at Dans station on Fear of Flying and a large crack in the ice accross the face began to increase so Dan moved to a thin mixed gully on the left hand side. Connor worked his way up the gully utilizing delicate feet and hooks in thin ice where he could. Alastair breezed up the gully too with Gemma looking solid on a vaiation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels beside him. By the end of the day, all of the team had climbed 8-10 pitches of ice and had learnt a lot and were ready for a hot brew.
But with Steve, Kester and fruit boots in tow, Chen made a b-line for “Northern Exposure”, an M10 route established by Kester Brown in about 2005. While drinking copious amounts of chai tea, the rest of us watched Chen scramble up and disappear behind a hanging pillar of ice from camp. Shortly after, the hanging pillar became dislodged with a huge crack, and crashed down onto the lower slopes, exploding into smithereens. We anxiously watched, wondering if Chen had been part of the smashing icicle. Seconds passed then we breathed a sigh of relief as Chens bright yellow pants with Chen inside them were spotted being lowered down the cliff.
After a solid nights sleep, Sunday provided a chance for more climbing. Warmer temperatures meant there was a lot more water in places but there was still a lot of good ice climbing to be had. Charged up on chocolate coated coffee beans courtesy of Jono, Chen and Kester spent the morning working on Chens project to clean Northern Exposure. Chen came close to finishing it but fell on the last few moves and will no doubt return to complete it in the coming season. Connor and Gemma disappeared with Steve to climb an awesomely steep 2 pitch route on the lower tier. Alastair, Sarwan and Jono teamed up to climb 2 quality single pitch routes on the top tier. Sarwan lead the first route, enjoying a steep and delicate start on a thin pillar before reaching a wider face and easing ground. It was Alastair’s turn to lead on the second route, there was noticeably more water today and he was muttering something about water on the route around the corner. He took off and made short work of the route. As the belayer was lowering him off, he came into view completely soaked, looking like he’d just crossed a flooded Hollyford river. Kim Ladgies and Dan arrived soon after and started up a spicy M5 WI5 route. Steve, Connor and Gemma also arrived at the top tier and started up a single pitch route. By this time, there was a noticeable difference in the standard everyone was climbing which was great to see.
As mid-afternoon rolled around, people were starting to head off but Jono was foaming at the mouth for one more route so I happily belayed him. As he started around a steep curtain, I stood there yarding out slack wondering what treats this pitch had in store for me. I followed Jono’s route up a steep, sustained pillar with a super fun exposed transition to a second pillar before reaching easing ground and Jonos belay. Soon after, it was time to make the ascent to Wye saddle and head back to the carpark. We enjoyed more hot chai at the car before heading back to town to heal our wounds (particularly Alastair who looked like he’d been in a bar fight), have burgers and prepare for an awesome weeks mixed climbing on the Remarkables. A big thanks to Jono, Kester, Ben, Dan and Steve for sharing their knowledge and belaying us for the weekend! For anyone looking to improve their ice climbing and gain more mileage on ice, this crag is a great asset. Wye creek is an awesomely accessible ice climbing destination and a great place to train for ice climbing!