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Trip Report – Plugging Snow Steps in Rock Shoes

By: Riley Smith

Source: The Otago Climber (Otago Section Newsletter) (May 2018)

Riley Smith enjoys his last days as a 16-year-old

The biggest weekend trip of my life started like an ordinary trip. The weather looked like it would hold nicely over the weekend, before a cyclone hit on Sunday afternoon, and Beth Scott and I decided to go to attempt Steeple Peak, between the North and South Temple Valleys. Beth soon discovered that Rowan and Jamie were also headed up to the same area to climb “Butterfly Buttress” on the nearby Bruce Peak, so we carpooled up on the Friday evening with plans of walking to the turnoff that night. However, after stopping for fish and chips and roadside apple trees, we were ready for bed by the time we got to Temple Campsite.

Saturday started at 5am with a quick brew of Tea, and a bowl of hot porridge (A.K.A. the best breakfast available in the world – according to Beth, the Scotswoman). We set off up North Temple valley, getting soaked and almost losing Beth to the raging Temple Stream about one hundred meters from the carpark. As we walked up the valley, we could see more and more snow, which is a bit disconcerting when you’re planning to go ‘rock’ climbing. We took the Intermediate ridge to a col on the ridge, had early lunch, and dumped our sleeping gear in packliners.

From here, Beth and I traversed through the snow left, trying to keep as much height as possible, while Jamie and Rowan went downwards and right. That would be the last we saw of each other for a good nine or so hours. There had been quite a bit of snow from the first cyclone that came through a few days earlier, which made travel slow, but we made it to the base of the rock climb eventually.

‘Weta Prowl’ is a route that is around about a 7-8 pitch grade 14 climb up the face of Steeple Peak. We scrambled the first sixty or so meters until we reached the main cliff. What followed was pitches and pitches of excellent climbing! The rock quality was overall pretty good (with some exceptions), and the views were stunning. It took us seven pitches and about four hours to top out onto a snow-capped summit, where we grabbed a photo then hopped back down the South ridge to another col which was sheltered by the wind.

From here, we could definitely see the beginnings of Cyclone Gita on the horizon. We made it back to the gear stash at about 8:30 pm in howling winds. Earlier that morning we had agreed with the other two that the first party would wait for the second here until 9pm, then if they had not arrived – go back down and find a place to bivi for the night. It got to 9pm, so Beth and I started wandering back down the ridge into the North Temple, looking for a bivi site that we heard about from ClimbNZ. Long story short, it was real hard to find a bivi site in a sloped boulder field, however in the end after moving rocks we managed to find somewhere acceptable. Just as we began to set up the fly, we were relieved to see two head torches descending the ridgeline towards us, turns out they had an epic!

Rowan’s quote of the trip – “I’ve never plugged steps in the snow wearing rock shoes before”

I was so tired from the big day that I didn’t wake up during any of the five or so times that Rowan had to get up and re-tie the guy ropes (sorry mate!). Finally, at around 3am I woke up a to the feel of spits of rain on my face; the bad thing was that the fly was down, the good thing was that it was still with us. From then on, we used it as a four person blanket.

We woke up to windy drizzle that grew stronger, then vanished as we scrambled back down to North Temple Valley (thankfully it wasn’t bucketing down as forecast for the afternoon!). By the time we got back to the car, I was exhausted! What a way to end being 16!

Posted: 14/05/18

Posted By: Narina Sutherland