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.
Short approach, many pitches, interesting and challenging climbing. Personally when it came to climbing in NZ I had always hoped I could either climb or develop a true big wall style route. While we have many nice granite cliffs in NZ most of them require a long approach and many do not have sustained climbing throughout. Being a bit lazy in terms of walking 6-10 hours for 300-500m of climbing I often found myself lacking inspiration as I searched through guide books and maps looking for a new climbing challenge. When it comes to rock climbing I love long climbs with short approaches, t
It seemed like the first reasonable break in the weather for weeks. I'd like to call the response an orderly mobilisation of the troops, or maybe it was more like the first week out of COVID-19 lockdown; a rush to line up at burger joints and takeaways, a line headed up the Hooker to Empress Hut, and Gavin and I joining in line with three other skiers up to Plateau Hut. We had an excess of cabin fever to sweat out, solid looking snow conditions, and weather up our sleeves to look at more than a few possibilities.
More like the Learning Curver ! Lighter packs and a better looking weather window had myself and Lionel walking up the Hooker for the second time in a couple of months with the South face of Hicks on our minds. After seeing the epic trip Al and Ben had we just wanted to go and check it out for ourselves!
Accompanied by Elliot and Luke doing all sorts of things I would never have guessed you could (or should?) do in a stock standard Grand Vitara, the sunny, braided, Godley river valley passed by in a rocky montage of dotterels, geese, paradise ducks, and the inevitable ever-present grey and orange rocks. On reaching the lake at the head of the valley, we portaged gear across this last undriveable stretch and settled comfortably into Godley Hut.
The great virus of 2020 dealt a sweeping blow to anyone planning an overseas expedition. With our plans to travel to the Himalaya cancelled, the lockdown forced us to consider how we could exert an expedition-scale effort here in our backyard, the Southern Alps.
The lead up to the Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival is always an intensely satisfying, full on week for the NZAT. Day after day we head up the mountain, getting in a wide variety of different climbing partners and climbing styles. By virtue of being up there every day, as the weather changes through the week we also often climb in a wide range of conditions.
First ascent of the South Face of Pyramid Peak (2295m) – Ben Dare (solo), July 2020.
'Frost Flower', Grade 6- (M5, WI4), VI, (1200m).