Several members of the NZAT made the most of average conditions at the recent Darrans Winter Meet, putting up three new routes in the Homer/Macpherson area. Saturday 13 July started clear and cold, promising a good start to the week.
However, finding only thin ice at lower altitudes, NZAT member Ben Dare (Queenstown) went searching for better material. With Danny Murphy and Steve Skelton, he put up a new ice route in the upper Macpherson Cirque 'The Elusive Leprechaun' (III, 5).
Meanwhile, Rose Pearson (Christchurch), Frazer Attrill (Dunedin) and Jaz Morris (Dunedin) of the NZAT teamed up with Al Walker and Anna Seybold to establish a three pitch mixed route on the Homer Tunnel Bluffs. They picked an obvious line promising plenty of turf, which (fortunately for them) had been ignored due to a guidebook error mistakenly labeling the route as the previously climbed 'Homer Sapiens' (the original Homer Tunnel route). In the end, their route, 'Double Vision' (II, 2+) was an enjoyable day out and a good way to introduce Rose and Frazer to the delights of frozen turf. Both teams ended up late back to camp that night, being chased back to Homer Hut by developing snow showers. These stuck around all day on Sunday and the only climbing to be found was on the thin verglas of The Pebble (Homer Hut).
The next day deep fresh snow shut down any bold climbing ambitions, but Rose and Jaz returned to the Tunnel Bluffs to send a new line, the mixed 'Grovelly Chimney of Joy' (II, 3), which they described as a perfect way to spend a short day with poor conditions. Further climbing during the Meet was curtailed by the unwelcome arrival of high temperatures and rain. The final hours of good weather were spent at the fantastic ice crags of upper Cirque Creek, training the calf muscles and improving ice technique. Despite its fearsome reputation, the Darrans is turning into an awesome training ground in ice and mixed climbing to rival Wye Creek and the Remakables. In safe avalanche conditions, easy access to areas like the Homer Tunnel Bluffs and Cirque Creek, combined with the proximity to major classic winter routes and virtually unlimited new lines, means the Darrans promise to be the venue of choice for many NZAT missions.