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