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.
A quick discussion and objective change to what we thought was the West Face of the Twins. We reasoned that as the approach was straight forward and therefore did not require dry rock we could make our way around to the face then climb the following day when hopefully the rock had dried out. Turns out this is actually the South Face - clearly we did not consult a map or compass before heading off. We also did not look in the guide book and mistakenly thought the face was unclimbed. As it turns out the face was originally climbed by Geoff Wayatt, Calum Hudson, Bruce Clarke and Dave Begg back in 1974. Turns out the line we took more or less follows where their team went. If we had consulted the guide book we would have read "quite grassy & not recommended" and could add to that after a day of heavy rain quite wet and slippery, rather average climbing and marginal gear.
We set out in the light rain approaching what we thought was going to be a nice new route on good quality rock. From Adelaide Saddle the South Faces of the Twins look excellent. Up close they leave quite a bit to be desired. Both faces are covered in grass and plenty of moss. They also have quite a bit of run off thanks to the summit snow fields.
Click on the YouTube link below to watch video from the ascent
We headed over to the faces by descending the West Ridge of West Twin. This involved a bit of down climbing and three 30m absails. In future for people heading to this face we would suggest abseiling the col between the Sentinel and East Twin. This would be faster and more direct. The traverse across the snow ledge is straight forward however crampons and ice axe are needed. We followed a line on the left hand side of the South Face of East Twin. At 450 meters high the South Face cut an imposing figure from our bivvy below. We got away to a causal start after making the most of our luxurious bivvy spot, brewing up and watching the sun rise. By 7.45am we were headed up the first pitch, a moderate chimney at around grade 17. This was followed up by some terrible wet moss covered slabs and several pitches up to grade 18. By 3.30pm we were sitting on the summit admiring the view back down to Milford. A quick descent down the North Ridge of East Twin saw us hitting the base of the face somewhere close to 5pm. Ben had his first meetings at 8am on Monday morning so taking our time was not on the cards and we hauled arse getting back to Homer Hut at 8.15pm. Even though the day was not particularly long or taxing, climbing a few hundred meters of wet run out slab still takes it out of you and knowing your legs have enough energy to run the last half hour back to the hut with a pack on was a good feeling.
Overall even though the climbing was average and we had missed out on the new route this was still a perfect weekend mission to the Darrans. An amazing bivvy overlooking Milford Sound, exploring new areas of the Darran mountains, sharing good times and the odd scary pitch with a good mate, no better way to spend your weekend! I guess in the future we will consult the guide book and maybe even a map so we at least know which aspect we are climbing on and if it has been done before! The good news though is that exploring any new area always shows you the potential for a new adventure and the waterfall that runs for around 350m between the East and West Twins will make an excellent winter objective!