The Olivines our quintessential heartland of New Zealand transalpine adventures, few are there among us that aren’t inspired by the area’s great challenges and beauty.
I could sense rather than see the face above me as I stumbled through the snow-covered moraine. A presence that loomed out beyond the edge of my vision as a darker shade of black on black in the inky pre-dawn darkness. Flickering glimpses in the beam of my headtorch the only real hint of what lay ahead. Alpine starts can be both a blessing and a curse in that respect. You don’t have to deal with the intimidation of a large face hanging over you on the final approach. But the uncertainty can be equally as daunting. Not knowing what lies ahead and what the coming day will bring.
The Showa TEMRES 282 gloves have recently gained something of a cult following. Designed for commercial fishing in Japan, it turns out that many of the demands of mountaineering & fishing cross over – warmth, dexterity & waterproofness. I recently bought a pair and used them for a few alpine routes on 3000m peaks around the Fox Glacier and can confirm: the Showa TEMRES 282s deliver all three. Too good to be true?
The guidebook raves that the South Face of Douglas Peak is one of New Zealand’s great ice climbs. We too can attest this is a classic ice route on a beautiful peak. Based out of Pioneer Hut, you'll see that Douglas Peak is the second most commanding peak in the Fox Glacier area besides the mighty Tasman-Horokoau. As you approach the face the structure of the mountain emerges and it is clear this is a perfect peak for alpine climbing.
I’ve heard it often joked that the most important thing learnt since March 2020 in these pandemic times, is to just not make any plans. Perhaps more accurately, we should say; be prepared to change them as the conditions change. In the mountains it’s perhaps not a good idea to make NO plans, but changing them to suit conditions... now that's not a bad idea is it? Humans are not actually good at changing plans once committed. Just as we get overly committed to plans, we get overly committed to beliefs.
Everyone enjoys a little voyeurism from time to time, and if it can be combined with a spot of education, then we all come away a little better off – regardless of your proclivities. As such, here goes a brief accident analysis of a climbing fall – replete with (mildly) gory details, some photos, and some lessons from the trenches.
Avalanche training is very important for anyone who ventures into the snow. Below are some tips on avalanche transceiver rescue from Wanaka SAR ranger and NZAT veteran advisor, Lionel Clay.
1. Know your transceiver
Practice with your transceiver. Every transceiver works differently. Research your model of transceiver to understand its range, flagging modes and interference with other electronics. Know how long the battery will last and carry spare batteries if necessary.
2. Keep your phone away from your transceiver
Free at last, free at last. I could sense James summoning the words of Martin Luther king as he dreamed of finally leaving the hanging belay at the base of pitch 8. After six days potentially waiting, belaying, climbing, camping on the wall and enduring some wet cold suffer bivies he could finally return to the ground. The free ascent was now complete and we could say goodbye to the Sky Couch bivy our home for the past week.
Yosemite here we come.
Yosemite was the second of the NZ Alpine Team’s training trips, the first being Canadian Rockies in 2020. Well, not according to COVID-19, bummer what should we do now? Lucky enough we have our very own version of The Chief or Half Dome right in our back yard.
The Airport Wall, in the Milford Sound, just out the plane window under Barren Peak. With the recent establishment of ‘The Mile High Club’ perfect for our big wall training trip, we wouldn’t even have to book plane tickets.
"Many Canterbury men know that a tough trans-alpine crossing can be a harder test of competence in unorthodox travel and stubborn endurance than a deal of high climbing" - John Pascoe, one of the fore-fathers of early Southern Alps exploration, in Unclimbed New Zealand, 1939.