Saturday, January 27, 2007

Armageddon – The End of the Project…

With the recent sub optimal conditions the team has spent the time since Sabre training at the crags and equipping new routes. But with a great day on Friday we had the opportunity to finally finish off the project on the Mates Little Brother. This great little wall is accessed via homer saddle by running along the ridge then traversing across the face, about two hours walk. With Mayan still resting her knee we recruited Stefan Hadfield for the attempt. All went well and I quickly climbed the third pitch that had thrown me last time – very tricky slab climbing nonsense. Stefan took up the challenge of the intimidating and long last pitch, 55m with four bolts and a few cams. He fought through the pitch valiantly and soon we were on top! The two new pitch’s make the climb a very hard and serious undertaking; 21, 28, 28 and 25. Craig was there taking photos and scooping so we then spent the afternoon equipping another monster line for the next fine day…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


First major mission accomplished, an entirely new line, climbed ground-up on the North West face of Mt Sabre. This is the first time the main part of this huge, dark and imposing face has been climbed for 30 years. We managed to it in the best style, each pitch was on-sighted and placing only natural (removable) protection.

A reasonable amount of cloud lingering on the Western faces led to a slow start with much deliberation about how to best use the approaching fine weather. JC had come to the Darrans for an adventure fix, Mayan wanted climb something big, rad and scary and Derek needed to be convinced that there would be enough hard climbing to warrant the walk.

Finally, after much coffee and deliberation we decided to head into Lake Adelaide with the intention to free-climb the ‘Kamikaze’ line the following day; this intimidating route was first aid-climbed in 1975, and has not seen a repeat. It was three o’clock by the time we had sorted gear, divvied up the load into our three packs and started up the track. As it turned out this late start set the mood for the rest of the trip.

We made reasonable time, but still only got to Phil’s Bivvied by 8pm. We were all a little tired and were lured into staying there, in comfort, rather than heading up to camp at the base of the route, as we had planned.

We left the bivvy at a leisurely 7am and headed up the steep snowgrass covered approach slabs, stopping with every 100m of hight gain to re-scope our proposed line. We stashed our gear at the base of the buttress and continued up to the base with only two small camelback packs containing a little food and water. We stoped just before crossing the last small snow patch to reconfirm exactly where we thought the ‘Kamikaze’ line went. Information on this route was sketchy at best, we had several ideas of how to climb it and all the starts were wet. Derek suggested attempting a new route on the beautiful, steep orange unclimbed buttress to the right, it did not take us long to agree.

Mayan opted to throw herself in the deep end by choosing to climb the first pitch, which ended up being considerably harder than any of us expected and the crux of the route. We started up the middle of the buttress, but were soon pushed right into a weakness, just to the side of the actual buttress. We continued, alternating leads climbing up faces, rooves and corner systems on adequate gear. We were all surprised by the immaculate rock, lack of gardening and varied nature of the climbing. Half way up our route and quite late in the day we briefly considered rappelling down and returning the next day. We quickly decided to “punch” for the summit, as this was by far the Rader and more adventurous option. With the clock ticking we decided to continue up the slightly easier looking ground using a much faster method of climbing…”simul-climbing”. In this way we managed to climb about 220m, until the climb eased off enough for us to scramble up the ridge to the summit.

It was 8pm by the time we reached the summit. We stoped there for just long enough to grab a bite of food, drink our last sip of water and enjoy the incredible view of the central Darrans in the soft evening light. Then we were back on the go, well aware that we did not have enough gear to sleep up there, and that we had a long, steep descent ahead of us that needed considerable concentration. We scrambled down the steep, blocky ridgeline, until we found the first of the temporary rap stations. Darkness descended on our third abseil, but after another abseil and some more down climbing with head-torches we arrived safely in the chasm between the base of the cliff and the steep snow slope.

We had opted to climb light and left all our boots at the base of our route, only bringing one ice axe between us three. Unfortunately the snow had just hardened up a little too much to down-climb with only rock shoes, so we opted for the slow but safe method of tying our ropes together and rappelling 120m, then belaying the last person down. We did this twice then scrambled down the wet slabs to our bivvy site (the only flatish spot for miles); finally arriving at about 3am. At this point JC was on a roll and decided to try to climb back up to retrieve our boots, unfortunately he got disorientated in the darkness and after up and down scrambling in circles, he returned empty handed.

The next day we awoke to the blazing sun a about 8am, all feeling a little beaten up and with feet that definitely did not want to be squeezed back into climbing shoes, but very satisfied that we had completed a new route on that notorious face and got down to tell the tale!

After retrieving our boots, we had yet another late start for the trek back over Adelaide and Gertrude saddle to Home Sweet Homer! While heading down to Phil’s Bivvy (right at the start of the walk) Mayan’s knee started playing up, making for a very slow gruelling day and once again we had to pull the torches out, arriving back well after dark. The following day the rain set in, and we were able to send JC back to Australia content.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Mission Begins!

We head back to the Darrans today to make the most of the next fine spell of weather. First on the cards is the Project on the Mates Little Brother, a steep wall the towers over the homer tunnel and the Cledeau Valley. We are lucky enough to have the extra energy of Jonathan Clearwater along for a week. Craig will meet us there and next week we will hopefully attempt Sinbad.

Picture: Mitre Peak with Sinbad Gully to the left

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Training and Preperation Trip

Mayan and I have been down here for two weeks of acclimatization to carrying heavy packs and twelve hour days of climbing and bolting. The first week of the year and Fiordland was blessed with seven days of perfect blue skies for melting snow and climbing at the crags. We climbed every day.
We climbed at Babylon and two days at the Mates Little Brother where we attempted JC’s and my project from last year; a striking and intimidating multi-pitch route straight up the middle of the wall. This will be by far the hardest alpine rock climb in New Zealand. The first pitch a delicate 21 slab which leads to a 30m 28 with a feisty crux and wild moves though two overlaps. The next pitch was going to be a short 24 – and it was except for the last 4m of desperate slab climbing which had me falling two moves shy of anything that resembles a hold. We will be back.

Picture: Mayan sending ‘White Admiral’

Babylon, the best crag in the country, has had a new surge of development from the usual suspects – Bruce and Jon sending the massive climb ‘Piro Piro’, a 25 then a amazing 35m 27. Mayan finished a tricky project ‘White Admiral’ 29. We both added a third pitch to ‘Natures Melody’ to create a great steep 27. I was sent in to send Thomas’s project ‘Whirling Dervish’, a bouldery 29. We bolted two routes on the steep head wall above the cave which give 15m of sheer 20-30 degree overhung climbing. The left route is a power endurance 30 with big shouldery moves. The right route has bouldery sections and has yet to be completed…