The interns, the young ones, newbies, bottom of the pecking order... whatever anyone wanted to call us, we were the new kids on the block and amped for the days ahead.
This is a trip report for an ascent of the Walker spur by Kim Ladiges & Daniel Joll on the 22/3/2019 (first day of spring so not quite a winter ascent but certainly “wintery”).
Temperature for 4000m max : -11C min : -17C light winds.
Major snowfall occurred 5 days previously, strong winds had stripped a fair bit of this snow off the ridge so that it mostly appeared rocky from a distance.
Spending a whole season in a place as dynamic as Chamonix in the heart of the French Alps is an interesting experience. Observing the conditions & season change through the months, and adapting to the most practical way to experience the mountains is a great learning process. From skiing, ice climbing, mountaineering, or rock climbing, all is possible in the Mont Blanc massif and surrounds, and is all a matter of patience. Here Alastair recalls the various trips made over the course of the winter by the NZAT contingent of himself, Daniel Joll, Lionel Clay and Kim Ladiges.
Salathe Baby! There were people everywhere! Coming up underneath us, rapping down on top of us, jugging fixed ropes and haul bags from every angle. Freerider is a 3 pitch variant of the famous Salathe Wall on the south-west face of El Capitan. It has become an incredibly popular route, and after climbing it you can see why!
Eyeing the next thin slot above, I jammed my fingers in deep and wedged them into the constriction. Far above my last piece of protection, I reached for the silver cam on my harness that would fit inside the crack, before suddenly noticing a rusted piton in the granite to my right. Hammered to the hilt and likely fifty years old. I tried to imagine myself in the footsteps of Fred Beckey, and Yvon Chouinard, questing up the 2000 foot west buttress of the South Howser tower, way back in 1961.
My legs hung over the edge. Daisy chains reined me in taught to the wall. I reeled myself back onto the ledge, shortening the tethers with my fifi hook. A bout of cramp surged through my dehydrated legs. I jerked stiff and straight, hamstrings tingling where the harness dug in, then slumped back over the edge and waited for dawn to arrive over Camp V. Only seven pitches remained between us and the summit plateau of El Capitan.
The Expedition Climbers Club (ECC) recently organised a rock climbing trip to Cloudy Peak in late February this year with the intention of encouraging alpine rock climbing on new and existing routes. With a reasonable but less than ideal weather forecast, Steve Fortune along with Arthur Lachat and Coco of the French Alpine team headed up to Erewhon late on the evening of the 23rd, armed with a rack, a savage looking machete and several rolls of pink tape.
After two months of fantastic ice & mixed climbing in the Canadian Rockies, finally the seasons were beginning to signal a change, with warm temperatures melting off ice pillars and sending avalanche ratings up to extreme. Colours of Instagram were also transforming, from the white, blue and grey of the alpine to the rich orange and red of the desert. Canadians were flocking southwards to the sandstone splitters of Moab, and I felt compelled to join them.
The words “Arthurs Pass” and “ice” are two words most climbers never use in the same sentence. The fact of the matter is, ice routes do exist in the Arthurs Pass area. These routes are often not in the form of semi- transparent blue pillars with easy approaches but instead may be mixed with rock, turf and may be difficult to access. Some climbers often slag off climbing around Arthurs Pass, but the benefits gained from a backyard of Arthurs climbing can quickly silence the staunchest climbing folk.
I’d done several of the classic rock routes up on Moir’s and on the back of Barrier Knob over the past summer months but I’m ashamed to say I’ve done none of the winter routes at all in the Darrans. I was eager to see what it was all about. So with a fairly dry and dismal start to winter, Steven Fortune, Kieran Parsons and myself remained optimistic and headed to Fiordland to catch the last few days of the annual Darrans Winter Meet based out of Homer Hut.