Mount Williams, South West Face, Solo First Ascent

The South West Face of Mt Williams is situated at the top of Thomsen Stream, halfway up the Hopkins Valley.  The face stretches approximately 400 m above a glacier, which separates the lower slopes of the mountain from the face.  Until now it has never been climbed.  The most obvious line is a left to right slanting buttress starting from the lowest point on the glacier and finishing just below the south summit, a length of about 300 m.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday 29 January I found myself at the base of the obvious line, considering whether to solo it, or not. Paul had accompanied me to the base of the route, but there wasn’t time to pitch or even simul-climb it.  Paul had graciously decided to head back to our camp.

I was in the zone and confident of my ability to climb the face.  The angle was just low enough for me to see most of the route from my vantage point and above this I knew the angled eased back.  The rock quality looked reasonable, although not quite as good as it had looked from a distance.

The first 200 m proved to be generally consistent rock and difficulty, about grade 14, with only a few overlaps or steps being harder at grade 16.  The route changed to a scramble for the last 100 m with poor quality rock and sections of scree.  The descent back down the south ridge was straightforward but with rotten rock.  While not the best quality rock, the route was enjoyable and worth doing.  A light rack of natural gear would be adequate for those not keen on soloing.

Shelley Hersey has kindly edited Paul’s video footage of the trip into a short video below.  Thanks also to JP for the use of his truck to drive up the river bed.

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