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Trip Report: Mt Arrowsmith, Labour Weekend 2015

By Jim Anderson

The Wellington section trip to Mt Arrowsmith over Labour Weekend came together superbly with climbers, weather and travel coming together seamlessly.

The rental car was left at the start of the track up the Cameron River. After laying out the gear and deciding who was carrying what, we started walking the 16 Km into Cameron Hut. Despite a tangle with a nasty matagouri filled gorge and a twisted ankle for one of the team, we eventually made it. The hut was busy with groups from both Christchurch and Dunedin who had fortunately left us a message back at the carpark. This lead to us splitting up and bringing a tent. In hindsight, I think we were better off with the tent pitched in a sheltered hollow anyway, as the wind tried its hardest to blow the hut down in the night before dropping around 2am just before we got up and started to get ready for the climb.

The view from Cameron Hut.

The view from Cameron Hut.

We had a 20min head start on the Dunedin group who were heading up the central couloir route of Mt Arrowsmith while we were headed for the north ridge via the South Cameron Glacier. After wandering off route into a dark, scree induced nightmare the other group caught us up as we extricated ourselves and eventually we all gained the pleasantly frozen snowfields higher up. We then separated again as we both flew away in ideal conditions to tackle our respective routes. With a bright moon, and shooting stars overhead it was a pleasant night out. Interestingly, with the All Blacks playing South Africa in the world cup at 4pm that night, a good part of the rest of the country would have been up as well.

We sidled to the foot of the South Cameron glacier and then climbed easy and un-crevassed slopes up the col. From there we made a left up a gully to the ridgeline. Unfortunately, while we were underneath some slatey bluffs one of the team was hit by a golf ball sized rock from above. He went down but then got straight back up and we continued up the ridge.

The ridgeline, for the most part, provided easy enough going along snow with the odd bit of rock to scramble up but it did have some great exposure on both sides, especially the Lawrence Valley side. Eventually we reached a rocky step steep enough to require pitching and our best climber took the lead bringing the other two of us up on each of the half ropes we had been carrying.  

At the next belay point the pain from the rock must have set in and a nasty gash and quite a bit of blood was discovered. Some water to clean the wound, a pressure bandage, strapping tape and some southern toughness and we were set to take on the next pitch. One more pitch after this we put away the rope as we found that the Lawrence side of the ridge became less steep allowing us to turn the larger gendarmes on the right just before we reached the peak of Mt Arrowsmith itself.

The Dunedin party had beaten us there and already left so we could use their tracks to climb back down the couloir and then trudge back across the glacier. With the benefit of daylight we avoided the scree gully adventure from the morning and wandered back down to the hut.

We spent our final day walking out early in the morning in order to get some rock climbing done at Bristol crag in Christchurch. We then had beer, pizza and an early night ready to catch the plane home before work in the morning.

Posted: 18/02/16

Posted By: Sefton Priestley