A contender for the worst rock in the Alps would have to be Mt Huxley, which sits at head of the Ahuriri River with the Chosspile Peaks immediately south and Shingle Hill not far away. Funny then, that on an autumn 2012 trip to climb Huxley via the South Temple Stream, my eye was caught by Steeple Peak. Grovelling up henious scree slopes to V-Notch Pass we could look downvalley and see, inconceivably in the circumstances, some solid-looking rock. We knew some routes had been put up there by the likes of McLeod, Hersey et al. - and shelved the idea for the following summer.
Cyclone Luci was making her way south across the Pacific, bearing down on the north island and due to hit land on Saturday. I too was making my way south, in the back seat of a car sitting next to Lucy, my friend. We had a narrow window of good weather before the cyclone was due to give the country a wash and we wanted to make the most of our weekend. We met the rest of the team in Te Anau for some fish and chips and the seven of us headed into the Fiordland, arriving at Homer Hut around 10pm.
Queenstown is the ideal location to live as a climber in NZ. Close enough to all the major South Island alpine climbing destinations it is perfect for taking advantage of short weather windows and maximising your weekend adventures. Ben Dare and I left home at 6am on Saturday morning with high hopes of a climb on the South Face of Barrier Peak. We were expecting overnight showers to have cleared by the time we reached Homer Hut. Unfortunately this was not the case and light rain greeted us on our arrival.
I'd been wanting to go into the Central Darrans for years. Ever since I stood on the top of Barrier Knob - a Darrans neophyte on my way to climb Sabre - and looked over and past Lake Adelaide to the south sides of Taiaroa and Tuhawaiki. Those faces looked far away and inacessible. They seemed to represent the unknown, and I felt the associated mix of apprehension and lure that comes with being a climber unversed in the vagueries of Darrans rock climbing.
One night, sitting around the fire in the Warden's Quarters at Homer Hut and listening to the heavy rain that signalled the end of the Darrans Winter Climbing Meet, my thoughts turned to the following summer. By then, I would be one year into my PhD - time to get some writing done. Homer Hut - what better place to settle down and get away from the distractions of the internet, General Joll and the monotony of Dunedin life? So I talked with Al Walker, 'Hut Bastard,' about wardening over the summer.
The Climbing Space!
To succeed in Patagonia, you must take a chance,
you can’t just sit waiting, your head bowed and cast.
Don’t get in a twist, don’t walk down that path,
just go day by day, then climb hard, light and fast.
North-East Buttress, 700m, 15/16, first ascent.
Something really struck home with me while reading an article by Jane Morris in the recent 2013 New Zealand Alpine Journal. In particular her closing sentence – “Doorstep adventures: make the most of them wherever you live.”
The BMC International meet is held every winter. It's a fantastic event bringing together climbers of all abilities from around the world to experience some of Scotland's finest Mixed and Ice climbing. When I found out about it in August 2013, I was particularly keen to attend on NZ's behalf as I was preparing to immigrate to the UK. I did hesitate, however, as I was effectively bed ridden at the time with a broken pelvis. Eventually, I reasoned it would be pretty much healed by then, so I should be able to climb 'something'. I downgraded my mixed and WI abilities accordingly and sent off my application.
Mater Dei, 1000m, 20, first ascent. Trip report and video from the ascent.
The spring of 2013 will not be remembered for its sustained periods of settled weather. Instead much like the winter that preceded it, it was dominated by warmer than normal temperatures and frequent squally frontal systems. What few clear spells that did come through were short lived and often directly followed heavy snow falls. This all coupled together to make for less than ideal climbing conditions.