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Trip Report: Southwest Ridge, Mt Aspiring

by Jaz Morris

OSONZAC members Gemma Wilson and Jaz Morris were lucky enough to sneak in a climb of Mt Aspiring’s classic South West Ridge during an excellent weather spell after Christmas. The day after Boxing Day, at the uncivilised hour of 2am, the alarm went off at French Ridge Hut, and by 2:45 we were off beyond the hut, torches almost pointless with a perfect full moon to light the way.

A few hours plod later and we were at the foot of the West Face, from where we charged up the ridge with great enthusiasm, despite each advancing step revealing poorer prospects for the conditions in the crux couloir at the top of the ridge. The snow was becoming firmer and the final 300m vertical to the couloir was bulletproof.

Gemma Wilson on the Southwest Ridge of Mt. Aspiring

Gemma Wilson on the Southwest Ridge of Mt. Aspiring

By the time we got to the couloir our calves were shot and it was clear that the rope was coming out for the crux pitch. The choice was between a 5m vertical unprotected smear of aerated ice, or, to the left, a tricky move off a steep piece of ice onto a verglassed slab. The latter option was the go, and Gemma did well to lead up and into easier slab and ice terrain above.

Traversing out to the NW Ridge, the snow softened and the angle decreased. A sigh of relief and a moment to shove the rope in the pack was followed by a glorious two minutes stroll to the top of Mt Aspiring. Afterwards we weaved our way down the ledges and bluffs of the Buttress before hopping off down the ‘Kangaroo Patch. A perfect rib of snow led down to the Bonar Glacier at a nice snow trough allowed a crevasse-free route between the seracs back towards Mt French.

The glacier was in perfect condition, but it was 8pm when we finally got below the crevasses on the Quarterdeck to outstanding glissading conditions all the way back to the hut. A 600m descent in 30 minutes was much better than the day’s average – it had been 18 hours since we left French Ridge and we were fairly done-in.

Posted: 18/02/16

Posted By: Sefton Priestley