The Remarkables Ice & Mixed Climbing Festival

Wednesday 28 August 2013, 11:18am -- Pete Harris

Steve Fortune leading the direct finish to Sgian Dubh (M4)

Creator: 
Ari Kingan

It was with some trepidation that I threw every single piece of gear I own, into duffel bags and packs, in preparation for heading down to Queenstown for a week of training with the Team prior to the Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival. From the information which had been circulating, it was clearly going to be an initiation by fire, evidenced by the fact the whole Team had been warned that we were going to be ‘encouraged’ to set new routes around the Remarkables.

A cloudy Saturday morning turned out to be an omen foretelling the type of weather we were to see all week. As half the team ventured round to the South Face of Single Cone for a crash course on ice and mixed climbing, Team Dunedin comprising Frazer Attrill and Jaz Morris, made light work of Friday’s Fool (WI3, M4). With reports of the climb being “fat” and in “the best condition ever seen”, Ari Kingan, and your humble author decided to go and test the waters of this classic on Sunday.  There was an expectation that we'd breeze up the climb, given Frazer and Jaz's performance the previous day, but it was with a fair amount of apprehension, that I gazed up at my first ice lead. It became crystal clear to me in the first ten metres of the pitch, as I frantically punched my 16cm screw through the ice and out the other side, that the term ‘fat ice’ is inherently subjective. At the same point, both my legs went into sewing machine mode, and with bad things coming in threes, I also had the misfortune of discovering the true meaning of the ‘screaming barfies’.  Summoning my last bout of will-power, I slowed down, swung the tools with a little more precision, and after what felt like an eternity, eventually reached the belay. The remainder of the climb became progressively easier, and it was a jubilant pair who topped out on the ridge a short while later. Meanwhile, Team Auckland (Peter Ramage & Jason Horrocks) scoped out the possibilities around Lake Alta, settling on a suitably fearsome project boulder which somehow managed to thwart their stalwart siege style tactics. Jaz and Frazer spent the day scampering around Lake Alta, making a foray up Altered States (WI2), as well as scoping out the action on the Flight Deck.

IMG_1639.JPG

Jono Clarke attempting The Fly (M12) with Steve Fortune

Creator: 
Daniel Joll

Jono Clarke attempting The Fly (M12) with Steve Fortune

Creator: 
Daniel Joll

Monday’s events threw a pall over the Team, with the shared burden bringing everyone a bit closer. Sticking together, all the Team ventured down to the Pink Palace, where Jason’s true colours came out, sending an M6, despite two initial encounters with the bouldering mats.

IMG_6039.JPG

Frazer Attrill & Ari Kingan en route to the Pink Palace

Creator: 
Jaz Morris

Frazer Attrill & Ari Kingan en route to the Pink Palace

Creator: 
Jaz Morris
It was a tough, and memory laden trip up to Queen’s Drive on Tuesday. However, it turned out to be Ari’s time to shine, as he lead two pitches of solid M4 on a new route (Ari-an Supremacy) through an obvious gully on The Second Buttress, and then along a ledge, and up the arête, topping out on the ridge down from Telecom Towers. During this, we were heralded by Frazer’s screams of exertion, rivalling those of any female tennis star, as he attempted Force It (M4), a little further down the Buttress. True to form Ari later scooted up it, making use of Frazer & Jaz’s pre-placed gear from their siege attempts. While the diet of 5:30 a.m. BP Pies had eventually caught up with Jason, Peter chased Di Drayton up an M3 gully just around from the Buttress, later joining the queues to attempt Force It.

fc-20130814-00077-DSC_0332.jpg

Jono Clarke leading Force It (M4).

Creator: 
Fraser Crichton

Jono Clarke leading Force It (M4).

Creator: 
Fraser Crichton

Wednesday saw the team scattered across the mountain. Team Auckland went round to Alta ice, but halfway up, they found it rather thin and sketchy, necessitating a hasty retreat before the sun had its way on what remained of the ice. Joined by an Irishman, Jaz and Frazer sniffed out some turf around the Alta Slabs, setting a classic M3+ route aptly named ‘On General’s Orders’. Back at Queen’s Drive, Team Canterbury/Westland was shepherded up Sgian Dubh (M4) by Steve Fortune.

IMG_7069.JPG

Ari Kingan on the second pitch of Sgian Dubh (M4)

Creator: 
Steve Fortune

Ari Kingan on the second pitch of Sgian Dubh (M4)

Creator: 
Steve Fortune
This new route boasts a truly impressive belay cave for the first pitch, coupled with an exceedingly photogenic direct finish onto the obvious pinnacle. Taking a break from our familiar haunt on Thursday, we went around to Alta, climbing a small two pitch line on the right of Border Crag, with the primary challenge added by the dearth of any quality gear. Jason & Peter had a similar problem with finding suitable gear beneath the snow as the attempted Saturday Morning Special. Frazer had the most productive day, repeating Ari-an Supremacy with Jono Clarke, sending the direct finish to the climb, which goes up over the small lip directly just above the belay. The finish was rather fittingly named ‘Ari-an Retreat’ with the same M4 grade as the original.

With Jaz instructing on the Snow skills course, Team Canterbury/Westland coerced Frazer to join them on State of the Nation (M5) on Friday. Being the first day of the festival proper, we encountered unexpected traffic jams along Queen’s Drive, and coupled with slight geographical challenges about where the route exactly began, the result was a somewhat delayed start. Running the gauntlet - yours truly inched his way up the climb, with little consideration to his poor belayers, who quietly froze as the minutes painstakingly ticked by. There turned to be a wee gathering at the first belay, when I finally reached it, with another party who had discovered the correct start to the route. Eventually, all three of us were reunited at the top of the first pitch, and a hasty team conference convened, where it was decided that at the present pace, we wouldn’t top out by night-fall, and bidding three of my wallnuts farewell, we bailed off the side of the climb. Peter and Jason spent half the day unexpectadely cross-training as they walked up and down from the top of Telecom Towers. Determining conditions better suited to establishing a route much closer to the coffee; they instead bouldered on an M4/M5 problem on the bluffs just above the base buildings.

fc-20130815-00034-DSC_0504.jpg

Part of the Team at the Festival Registration

Creator: 
Fraser Crichton

Part of the Team at the Festival Registration

Creator: 
Fraser Crichton

Saturday turned out to be the last day of climbing, with Team Auckland heading up Number One Gully (M2), where Ari and myself met them - having earlier followed Friday’s trend, and bailed off a new route just to the left of State of the Nation. Failing to find the elusive bolt anchors at the top of the route, Jono came to the rescue, making it a considerably less expensive bail, by retrieving both the cam and piton which were lowered off.

Jaz, Ari and Tiff Stephens made a solid effort on the traverse race on Sunday, backing off in conditions which deterred all but the two winners: Danny Murphy and Mike Buchannan. In hindsight, being thrown in the deep end can teach you to swim rather quickly, and the week was testament to the fact that a concentrated period of climbing really solidifies the skills and abilities necessary for ice and mixed climbing. The Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival has to be one of the best events of the climbing calendar, and with some serious unfinished business, you can guarantee I’ll be back same time, same place next year!

Tags: