Archive for August, 2011

Under Pressure, M8 on Trad (is Rad!)

On Saturday Dan Joll made the first ascent of Under Pressure, a single pitch, grade M8 mixed route, immediately right of Fridays Fool on the Red Wall of Telecom Tower (West Face of the Remarkables). Thirty minutes later I fought off a mega pump to nab the second ascent. Under pressure refers to our friendly rivalry to get the first ascent and the fact that I was due at a conference in Queenstown about one hour after topping out (yes I was a few minutes late).

The exciting thing about Under Pressure is that we climbed it on traditional gear i.e. without bolts. Even better, Dan was very close to a ground up on-site ascent when we first tried the route on Friday night.  With the gear left in and only 3m to go I still didn’t make it, which is to say that Dan’s effort was no mean feat. Darkness and a gathering storm sent us packing, defeated but determined to come back the next day and send. And we did.

While our ascents were on pre-placed gear (left in after our first attempts on Friday night), which is not as pure in style as placing gear on lead, Under Pressure still represents a progression towards increasingly difficult standards of mixed climbing in New Zealand without fixed protection. What this means (at least for me) is that gone are the days of seeing a great looking line, but dismissing it as being too difficult to climb ground up. Instead, perceptions are changing to embrace steep and thinly featured mixed lines and the challenges these offer. Increasingly we are starting to think “wow that looks rad, I’ll give it a shot”.  All it requires is an open mind and a bit of dedication. Bring it on, I’m psyched!

Thanks heaps to Erika Tovar for taking the photos.

Dan on the first ascent of Under Pressure. (Photo by Erika Tovar).

Me on the second ascent. (Photo by Erika Tovar).

Me fighting the pump. (Photo by Erika Tovar).

Me nearly at the top. (Photo by Erika Tovar).


Honey Badger, Hopkins Valley

On Saturday Paul Hersey and I completed Honey Badger (WI4), a stunning 4 pitch ice route in a new area somewhere up the Hopkins.  Paul had started the route a few weeks earlier with Graham Zimmerman and Shelley Hersey but they didn’t make it past the 2nd pitch after an unlucky encounter with falling ice.  Fortunately they lived to tell the tale.  Their theme from that day was the fearless honey badger.

Up and coming photographer Troy Mattingley also came along to capture the action.  See his great shot of the climb here

Not wanting to miss out on the action Kester Brown and Steve Fortune turned up on Saturday night.  Despite the warming conditions they snatched the 2nd ascent of Honey Badger on Sunday.

Steve on the 1st pitch of Honey Badger

Kester on the third and crux pitch

Steve on the final pitch

Ice Is Nice

Check it out.  The latest video put together by Paul and Shelley for the Backyard and Beyond project.  A montage of our recent ice antics.  Enjoy.

Old and New Classics on the Fox Neve

I spent the whole of last week based at Pioneer Hut with Jono Clarke and Thomas Adamson.  The plan was to climb a few classics, attempt a new route or two if conditions allowed, and generally chill out eating good food and spinning yarns.  Unfortunately the weather was near to perfect all week long so I had to go climbing every day bar one.  Fortunately, all the good food meant we had plenty of calories to sustain us.

On day 1 we all headed to the Macel Face of Mount Haast where Jono and I had put up Talula Does the Hula (5 pitches, III, AI4, M5) on the low peak in 2010.

The Marcel (west) face of Mount Haast's Low Peak

We decided a warm up climb was in order and started up an unclimbed series of gullies in the middle of the face.  Our route ended up as  a direct start to Swimming with Sharks put up by Jono and Matt Quirk several years previous (see photo with routes marked below).

A small front was forecast to blow through on the morning of Day 2 so we decided to have a rest day and rece the south faces of Mallory and Barnicoat, and west face of Conway Peak in the afternoon, weather permitting.  The front never eventuated, but a feisty looking line was spied on Conway.

The west face of Conway Peak and the line of our route

On Day 3 Jono and I set out to climb our line on Conway.  The first two pitches were straight forward on good ice.  The third was pretty thin and tricky to protect, but not the crux.  This came on the fifth pitch and really gave Jono a run for his money.  It involved climbing a thin finger of ice and bare rock.  Halfway up Jono said “This is hard”, then a few seconds later “I think i’ll make it”, and finally “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in the mountains”.  After this the difficulties relented and one further pitch got us to the top of the face.  We named the route Technospectacle and decided it warranted a grade of IV, AI5, M7r (r = runout or risky).

Jono leading the crux pitch of Technospectacle

On Day 4 I climbed Central Gullies on Douglas with Thomas. It was super classic.

Thomas on the summit of Douglas

The weather was still good on Day 5 so Jono and I headed back to the West Face of Haast to see what might be done.  We decided on a dark looking but short gully system on the right side of the face.  Moderate ice lead into a slightly strenuous chimney pitch followed by an engaging pitch involving a free hanging pillar of which the bottom had to be broken off.  The fouth final pitch had a sting in the tail, just enough to keep the blood flowing.  This one we named Supergroove and graded III, AI4, M6.

Jono leading the crux of Supergroove

Routes on the Marcel face of Haast: 1. Left Gully, 2. Swimming with Sharks Direct Start, 3. Swimming with Sharks, 4. Talula Does the Hula, 5. Supergroove

Finally on Day 6 we woke up to howling winds which relented just long enough to let us fly out before the next front moved in.