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.
A couple of days of high pressure were forecast; the weather window looked like it was wide enough to sneak through on Tuesday. Gavin sent out a call – could anyone make it down for a climb? As the forecast updated however, the incoming cold front looked set to sweep through sooner than we’d thought. Early on Saturday morning we decided to shift the climb a day sooner to match. I had to get down to Wanaka! I cancelled my Saturday plans and quickly rolled out of bed, threw an assortment of gear in my overworked car and hit the road. Objective: the South Face of Tititea/Aspiring.
The faces were looking dry as Alastair and I made the journey up the Hooker Valley – as we picked our way through the rocky moraine we were quietly hoping that there would be some ice on the South Face of Hicks for us to climb. We weren’t disappointed with what we found!
When Al suggested a trip into Empress Hut, I jumped at the idea, keen to use the ice climbing skills I had picked up during the team trip to Canada in February.
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.