Salathe Baby! There were people everywhere! Coming up underneath us, rapping down on top of us, jugging fixed ropes and haul bags from every angle. Freerider is a 3 pitch variant of the famous Salathe Wall on the south-west face of El Capitan. It has become an incredibly popular route, and after climbing it you can see why!
I recently snuck off from a social tramping trip to the Copland Hot Pools to make a solo ascent of the West Ridge of Mt Sefton. The easiest route on Mt Sefton (MC 2+), the West Ridge provides a straightforward snow climb from Welcome Pass. The route either follows the reasonably level Douglas Neve to where a final snowslope leads to the summit, or else a much more interesting and crevasse free option involves gaining the ridge crest shortly after Welcome Pass and sidling a beautiful sharp snow ridgeline until the final summit slope.
Eyeing the next thin slot above, I jammed my fingers in deep and wedged them into the constriction. Far above my last piece of protection, I reached for the silver cam on my harness that would fit inside the crack, before suddenly noticing a rusted piton in the granite to my right. Hammered to the hilt and likely fifty years old. I tried to imagine myself in the footsteps of Fred Beckey, and Yvon Chouinard, questing up the 2000 foot west buttress of the South Howser tower, way back in 1961.
My legs hung over the edge. Daisy chains reined me in taught to the wall. I reeled myself back onto the ledge, shortening the tethers with my fifi hook. A bout of cramp surged through my dehydrated legs. I jerked stiff and straight, hamstrings tingling where the harness dug in, then slumped back over the edge and waited for dawn to arrive over Camp V. Only seven pitches remained between us and the summit plateau of El Capitan.
"Alastair! Come help me!"
I spun around and sprinted down a slope of broken granite, when a whiff of something toxic temporarily blinded me. Confused, rushing, I tripped down the scree to find Gemma doubled over, screaming, a quivering hand held up covered in orange oil. "What's happened to you!" Strolling down from the summit of Half Dome an hour earlier, our tallest big wall climb to date, we thought all the difficulties were over. Who would have known the last two hours to the valley floor would prove to be the crux.
What is the New Zealand Alpine Team?
The New Zealand Alpine Team is an initiative of the Expedition Climbers Club Inc. that represents a new concept for climbing in this country. It is born of a desire to support and encourage aspiring young Kiwi alpinists looking to improve their mountain skills. Some of New Zealand's best alpine climbers have volunteered their time to mentor a future generation of alpinists. In doing so, we are hoping to help a group of young climbers to learn valuable skills and knowledge that might have otherwise taken them many more years to acquire.
The Expedition Climbers Club Inc., as administrators of the New Zealand Alpine Team, wish to announce the commencement of an independent review into the Marian Peak accident that sadly resulted in the deaths of our teammates Sarwan Chand and Conor Smith late last month.
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of two team members Conor Smith and Sarwan Chand. Over ANZAC Weekend Conor and Sarwan were climbing in the Darran Mountains (Fiordland). They had been attempting a route on the South Face of Marian Peak. Based on an examination of the scene we believe that while climbing the leader fell before being able to place gear after the belay. This resulted in a factor 2 lead fall, pulling the team off the wall.
The Expedition Climbers Club (ECC) recently organised a rock climbing trip to Cloudy Peak in late February this year with the intention of encouraging alpine rock climbing on new and existing routes. With a reasonable but less than ideal weather forecast, Steve Fortune along with Arthur Lachat and Coco of the French Alpine team headed up to Erewhon late on the evening of the 23rd, armed with a rack, a savage looking machete and several rolls of pink tape.
After two months of fantastic ice & mixed climbing in the Canadian Rockies, finally the seasons were beginning to signal a change, with warm temperatures melting off ice pillars and sending avalanche ratings up to extreme. Colours of Instagram were also transforming, from the white, blue and grey of the alpine to the rich orange and red of the desert. Canadians were flocking southwards to the sandstone splitters of Moab, and I felt compelled to join them.