By Terra Dumont, 02 October 2009
How to make sport climbers hate mountaineering in 3 days
August 24th to September 6th 2009
All good trips start with great plans. The plan was a ski mountaineering trip across the Craigyburn range, then climb the South West Ridge of Mt. Aspiring, and possibly the South Face while we were at it. Then I met The North Westerly. I woke up to a beautiful clear blue sky over
That night Kate, her brother Neil, some of his skiing friends and I went to a friend’s batch in Castle Hill in the hope the weather would improve and the ski fields would open up. Kate and I had given up any hope of ski touring and decided that a club field would be our last hope. As the evening progressed Kate and I started feeling more and more out of depth with the conversation as Neil and Si enthusiastically talked about skiing. It got to the point I was picking up about one word out of 10 and Kate asked me if I could teach her some climber terms so we could have our own little exclusive conversations. Sadly the mountain did not open the next morning, but Castle Hill was still sunny, so Kate and I spent the day repeatedly sand bagging ourselves on top roped routes, as we had neither; guide, boulder mat nor hangers. I was repeatedly found saying “Kate, is there any climbers looking?” before I tried some ridiculous move to try and make a few more millimetres on the featureless rock. They mostly failed. Luckily there were few climbers around.
The next day Kate and I were awoken by Neil coming through the living room wearing his ski gear. That got us very excited, and he told us that Craigyburn Ski Field was open so we quickly grabbed our gear and piled into the car. By the time we reached
I kept praying the weather was not going to destroy my Aspiring plans as thoroughly as it had destroyed my skiing ones as I went to pick up Whit (Brierley) from the airport. That night over dinner with Dave (Manning) and Alex (Wross), Dave and I agonised over the forecast. We gave up planning the next week and started planning our summer instead. The next day after picking up Tom (Belgrano) from the airport, Tom, Alex, Whit, Kate and I headed back to the Port Hills to enjoy the sunshine and try not to look west. It was great to get back doing some trad though as it had been much too long! It was also my first time really ever climbing cracks, which ensured hilarity and Tom ended up giving me a ‘cookie rescue’ when I got stuck on a route (yes the cookie monster is real and he is a climber J).
After a feast of hamburgers at Neil’s, Alex, Tom, Whit, Alex’s friend James and I headed out to Mt.
I had never been to
The next day James, Whit and I played around on Christian Principles wall while Tom and Alex did Simintar (in which they both successfully led the 21 pitch – it impressed me!! J). The weather started out lovely, until about 2 pm when we were literally blasted off the rock by horizontal rain. So we sadly said good bye to the rock and headed home. To the horror of the other three, James and I decided that trying to get home via the gorge over the waterfall was a good idea. Tom decided we were autistic and were going to catch multiple forms of pnuemias and thermias. I decided they had just never discovered the awesomeness of canyoning. Sadly James and I did not manage to get through and decided to turn back as the canyon got really narrow and if anything went wrong the river could rise before help arrived. But it has made my things-to-do list when heavy falls are not forecasted upstream. So I guess we are only half autistic. And we didn’t catch anything.
We spent the next day doing errands in town and watching the sun set on the beach, and then hit the Port Hills again on Tuesday. We started out at Cattle Stop and I decided to dry-tool a 14 for laughs and just about had my tools blown off my shoulders while clipping, so decided to head down to Britten, were we found some good routes and shelter.
At last the storm was moving through and by Thursday we were to have good weather, so Tom, Whit and I packed up the car and headed out early Wednesday morning for Queenstown. After filling up on Fergburgers we drove the long windy road up to The Remarkables ski field, where we met strong winds and snow. We decided the weather couldn’t be any more shit higher up the mountain, so we turned on our head lamps, strapped on our snow shoes and started following the lifts up. At the top of the lifts the vis was close to nil and there was no guaranties of any shelter for camping further on, so we decided the lift shelter looked like heaven and pushed stuff around to make some room inside. The next morning when the ski patrol didn’t look at all phased about us being there we had a sigh of relief and got going before the lifties came up. I had a few swigs of Fizo* to boys horror (6am drinking isn’t in their repertoire, which amused me as I’m always the most sober one at parties) and then we all headed out into the beautiful day. Whit was still excited about snow (he is from
We found a nice rock with a big drift behind it to make a snow cave in (we didn’t know about the bivy behind the waterfall…) dumped our gear and jumped onto the ice. It was at last time for the boy’s virgin crampons and axes to taste real ice. They sank in beautifully, which was good as Whit had used up all the ‘emergency’ money left to him by his parents when they went to
After a cosy night in the slightly to small cave where we had to help each other undress and dress due to the crampedness, we woke to a brilliant sunshiny morning. We headed up to the top waterfall and had great fun exploring under the waterfall and gazing up in disbelief at the M11 and deciding Kester was definitely our idol for having sent it. We then decided the ice was steeper than we thought and above our ability, so we went back down to the easier ice at the bottom tier, where Tom did an amazing lead (made even more amazing for being his 2nd time on ice!) which Whit and I seconded. Tom and I then decided that the second tier didn’t look so bad now and should have another go at it. We again backed off. Tom then gave one of the bolted mixed routes inside the ice cave a go, and after loosing his tools twice, backed off that as well. By this time it was well dark, so we decided we better go down and find Whit, make some dinner and increase the size of the cave. By this point I was in heaven and still literally jumping up and down in excitement and utter bliss while the boys were wanting a corner store where they could buy beer.
One of the ways to definitely make sport climbers hate mountaineering (other than by making them walk) is to give them frost bite (well sorry Tom, more like frost nip). I had forgotten I had told Tom I would find him some gaiters… Despite his best efforts of duck taping his pants to his boots snow still found its way in. In the morning Tom asked me if it was a problem that he could not feel his toe…Upon inspection it hadn’t turned black and seemed to still have circulation so I told him he would live and it should warm up on the walk out.
We said a sad farewell to the ice and started back up the hill. I was sad to leave as I was totally in love with the place but I think the boys were doubly sad to leave as leaving involved walking up the hill. We were not to sure of the best route out, and decided going back near where we came down was probably going to be the best bet. We picked a little gut between two bluffs that looked the least steep of the options and headed up it. It got steeper, and steeper and steeper… good thing I had the last holidays at the Darrans to practice my frozen turf climbing! Needless to say after Tom and I got up it we told Whit we would lower him a rope down a different section. By the time he fought his way up the rocks and powder I was informed that he was from then on going to live by the mandate that he would not go anywhere he couldn’t wear cotton and that this trip report was to be called “I hate mountains”. Together Tom and Whit decided they would write a complementary appendix called “100 reasons I hate mountaineering” and “100 reasons I hate Terra”. The rest of the trip back was all a bit easier and only included a few episodes of them lying on the snow telling me they were going to die. Well Aspiring would have been an even more extreme AIC!! At least by the time we got back to the car they did admit though it was the hardest 3 days of their life it was also the best J. It was definitely one of the best two weeks of my life and would have been nothing without them J
* Fizo = vodka and Fishermans Friends. Taught to us by some Finish friends. We couldn’t remember if it was 5 packets of Fishermans Friends or 5 tablets per litre, so we went with 2 packets and it was plenty strong! J