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A nice long yarn

Last post 02-10-2006, 11:08 PM by admin. 0 replies.
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  •  02-10-2006, 11:08 PM 36

    A nice long yarn

    After been so graciously accepted into the official clb ranks I've shamfully neglected my reporting duties so here's a nice long yarn to make up for it.

    Mt Rolleston

    Mt Rolleston, the second highest mountain in Arthurs Pass at 2275m, was the main objective at the start of the year and is proving somewhat elusive. We’ve made two attempts on it and so far and made it to Low Peak, which while only being about 50m below the summit doesn’t make for an impressive story

    Rome Ridge

    This was our first attempt, the classic ridge line going over low peak and along the summit ridge to high peak. We sort of doomed the attempt from the start as we planed to do the round trip from Christchurch in a day. This meant we didn’t start until 10. The Rome ridge route starts on a track to the west of the road just past the high point of the pass. It’s a quick 400m or so up a steep track to get onto the ridge which was also where the snowline was on the day, unfortunately we weren’t so quick as my shiny new plastic boots were destroying my feet. From here it was a relatively easy walk along the ridge with a few rocky bits to scramble round, although a fair bit of fresh snow slowed things down.


    This leads to “the notch” a dip in the ridge before the final rise to Low Peak, passing this involves a steepish upwards traverse across slabby lose rock which got a little interesting with the drop down into the valley below you. The rest of the way to Low Peak was a matter of trying to get the snow to get its act together and support some weight. We reached Low Peak at 4ish and unfortunately our beautiful clear skies had turned into whiteout and wind so with no idea how long it would take to get to the summit we decided to head down. The route drops down onto Goldney Ridge, the one north of Rome, then down into the Otira Valley via the Otira Slide. In all my experience I had forgotten the compass so we had some exciting moments up in a whiteout trying to work out which bit of the Otira Face to walk down to find the ridge. Once we finally picked a direction, this took us about half an hour, and dropped down about 50m the ridge materialized out of a gap in the clouds which I though was quite poetic, also somewhat of a relief. The Otira Slide makes for 400m or so of ass-sliding which reversed our 2 hours of height gain in about 20 minutes. The walk out along the valley provided just a bit more drama as Peirs managed to misplace his ice axe along the river. We got back to the car at 10 and while we hadn’t made the summit we completed the Rome Ridge route so I’d call it a pretty successful trip.

    Otira Face

    Our next attempt was aimed at a slightly more ambitious route, Central Direct the recommended route on the Otira Face climbs the most prominent rock buttress on the face. This trip has forced me to accept that things like season and condition really are important. There is a ridiculous amount of snow down here and isn’t all settling, so the weekend we put aside for this trip came with a significant avalanche warning. On top of this it is a rock (read summer) route and it was pretty covered in snow, anyway we went and had a look. This time we drove up the night before and made a 5am start, after a reasonably pleasant 3 hour walk we were at the head of the valley. It’s at this point the route goes up a gully under a snowfield. Considering the avalanche issue we didn’t really want to go up the gully so tried to make our way up the bluffs beside it. Although we weren’t actually aware of it at the time these bluffs turned out to be one of the steepest sections on the face and after a few tries sent us heading back down. So while we didn’t actually make it to the start of the route proper it was a highly successful reconnaissance effort and I made it back to Christchurch for dinner.

    Ice Climbing

    While I haven’t been in Arthurs Pass the focus has been on giving this ice climbing thing ago, while it has involved a lot more time getting to the ice than actual climbing I’ve still gone out and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a whole new set of gear which proves it does have it;s appeals.

    Trip 1:

    This was at the start of June and a bit early really to expect an abundance of ice, but we went looking anyway. The first stop was Bush Stream just down the road from Mt Cook Village. We left Friday and spent the night in some miscellaneous car park. This turned out to be a campground carpark and the owners were understandably a little annoyed to find us squatting there in the morning. Bush Stream is also private land and as it turned out the owner was now shouting at us a demanding camping fees. So you may be surprised to find we didn’t get permission to head in, this is actually because there were hunters in the valley as she calmed down after we coughed up. In our defense I will say their offices did look a lot like DOC buildings. After this we headed down to Wye Creek which is right by the Remarkables Skifield. We camped in the Skifield carpark, where 8 of us managed to forget to tie the tents down which would have been fine for the night but of course we couldn’t be bothered taking them down in the mourning. So while we were of wandering around without a care in the world our tents blew off the side of the mountain. Somehow the skifield guys got them back and we could bring the tramping club their tents back with nothing but a few rips in the fly. We headed up past Lake Alta and into Wye Creek, here we found two tiny ice lines and even climbed one. This first go at Ice climbing for me was not exactly ideal but definitely a learning experience. I was using a pair of very blunt mountaineering crampons so the purchase provided by my feet was minimal. All my rock climbing experience lead me to stay as close to the ice as possible, as it turns out this results in one being unable to swing ones axes making things somewhat awkward. Anyway all in all it was a good thing it was only about 60 degree ice (and about 5m of it) but I would recommend getting a few pointers before giving it a go if you want to try. Having exhausted the ice at Wye Creek (there may actually have been more, it turned out we were looking in the wrong place) it was of to the Fox Glacier. This provided all the ice you could ask for climbing the sides of crevasses half an hours walk from the car. While only short, 10m or so, the ice is nice and soft and it’s a great place to learn. So that was the first weekend with 1500km of driving and the vans still going strong(ish).

    Trip 2:

    This went on for a week and a half during the midyear break, and while you were all enjoying Nelson Lakes we decided to go camp in places that never see direct sunlight. First it was back to Wye Creek and this time after a slightly closer look at the map we found some proper ice flows. The fat ice was to be found on the south face of Double Cone which while only being 3-4km form the skifield took a bit of effort to get to with fresh snow and big packs. It was this point I considered the merits of skis, with the other climbers in the area zipping by on them. Another piece of wisdom I can pass on is it pays to take some form of waking device when you want to get up before the sun rises. In our case the sun couldn’t be bothered so we ended dragging ourselves out of bed at a punishing 11am. The ice was good though, plenty of moderate stuff for the aspiring leader with a bunch of vertical sections to get the other guy to lead and a choice of length from 30-60m. Even better if you do the 60m pitch there’s a bolt at the top to rap from. This was the day of my first lead which was another learning experience. I had a series of screws that wouldn’t go in, one was just buggered the other still full of ice because someone (definitly not me) forgot to clear it after it was last used. Also when I got to the top it dawned on me I didn’t really know how to build an anchor. But we got back down, and spent another day there before walking out to meet the rest of our merry band. They brought word that Bush Stream was the place to be so it was back up there. Unfortunately the place is cursed, maybe it’s what we get for pissing off the owner. Two of the guys we were with had been there a few days ago where they watched their tent blow into the river from the top of a climb (we’re doing our best to destroy these club tents although they appear to be pretty susceptible to blowing away). This trip didn’t go any better. It was meant to be a 3 hour walk in so we decided to get up at 4am and be up there by dawn. The waking up went perfectly, the problem was the both our cars batteries gave up and we spent the next 3 hours trying to push start on snow. After that small delay the snow conditions turned the three hour walk into a 7 hour one, after 4 hours we kept stopping to try figure out where we went wrong which could account for up to 2 hours of that. It could have been worse though the others had gone up to Muller Hut the night before and ended up spending the night outside as it took them 8 hours all up to get there (as opposed to the 3 they expected). At the end of the somewhat agonizing walk up the valley Bush Stream had one more surprise for us, this came with the smell of petrol as I put my pack down for the night. My crampon had punched a hole in the fuel bottle denying that dinner we were all looking forward to. This leads to the next bit of wisdom, if your going to take sausages make sure they are precooked. The next day was a surprisingly pleasant walk out to the road to get another fuel bottle, which shows what a difference a pack makes. The next surprise awaited for me when I rolled back into camp at 8pm, after my water bladder broke on the way up of course. The second tent couldn’t stand up to the storm that had joined us which made for a cosy night all squeezed into the one tent. There was one last scare as we went searching for the fuel pump, still on the old fuel bottle buried somewhere in the snow for safekeeping. The next day the storm stayed with us also it rained, which doesn’t make for safe ice. The day after the weather was decent enough to turn beautiful in time for us to leave.

    Trip 3:

    This was a weekend back in Bush Stream, notable in the fact I actually climbed something! In fact nothing at all went wrong and I got some good photos. It does lead to the last bit of wisdom which there is no petrol stations open late on the way from Mt Cook to the east coast (we had to spend the night at Lake Tekapo), apart from possibly Fairlie. If you want to pay the premium there is an eftpos pump at Mt Cook Village.

    David Manning
    The Official Vice Presidant of Foriegn Affairs
    VUWTC Foriegn Department
    Office 112 Ngata
    University of Canterbury

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