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Trip Report – Spring Adventures

By: Jaz Morris

Source: Otago Climber Newsletter (Nov 2017)

At the end of September 2011, I handed in an Honours dissertation and immediately left to climb the South Face of Mt Tutoko with Danilo Hegg, where we snatched a rare spring weather window. At the end of September this year I handed in a much larger thesis and found myself two days later at Lake Alta, thinking about this coincidence and wondering where the time went. One thing hasn’t changed: in six years, I’m still convinced there is no finer sound than the crunch of crampons on perfect frozen névé.

Penzy Dinsdale enjoying Single Cone

On this occasion, I was off to Single Cone with a few friends – Lottie Armstrong, Rowan Cox, Penzy Dinsdale and Jamie Gardner – and the plan was to see if we could scratch our way up the ‘South Face Classic’ route. This involves climbing the short ice route Touchdown, and then apparently making a rising traverse for a few hundred metres through snowy ramps that lead up and left, to wind up reasonably close to the summit. Remembering Touchdown being about 40m of easy WI2 ice (in winter), the ice conditions on this occasion left me with more than I bargained for, running out 55m of WI3/3+ brittle, late season ice with only 8 or 9 ice screws.

Following this initial excitement our large party, initially climbing independently, more or less coalesced as a few bare patches of snow combined with suboptimal route selection saw us heading up a different line to wind-up more or less directly above Touchdown. Despite a few challenging steps of unconsolidated snow over short bluffs (“faith-based climbing”), and options for decent anchors spaced at inconvenient intervals of about 61m (with 60m ropes), we eventually topped out on the face on dusk and wandered back down the ski field after an excellent day out.

After this rather good start to post-PhD life I decided to embark on a bit of a road trip with the excuse that I was waiting to hear back about some work possibilities. After skiing closing day at Treble Cone and then running up Breast Hill near Hawea, I wound up tramping in the rain for a few days in the Victoria Forest Park near Springs Junction, with Laura Doughty and Tom McKellar.

This most excellent tramping area, composed of granite and beech forest, is essentially a northern outpost of Fiordland, complete with scrub, steep bluffs and (after a suitable effort) some excellent and occasionally quite challenging tops travel. After traversing north from the tops above Duffy’s Creek we climbed Pt. 1573 above Shaw Stream and descended into Lake Stream to stay at the excellent biv at the valley head.

Beth onsights Aqualung at Mihiwaka

Then, following an afternoon climbing back in Christchurch and the CMC’s mountain film festival I drove up to Hangdog for a few days climbing at Paynes Ford. Frequent rain meant that I mostly climbed at Pohara, but an excellent day was had running the Abel Tasman track in 5.5 hours or so from Totaranui to Marahau. I was climbing with Meg Buddle but was surprised to bump into Danilo who also happened to be in the area.

Subsequently, I drove back down to Christchurch again for a day of climbing at the Altar Crag in Diamond Harbour with Pete Harris and Rose Pearson. From Christchurch the final leg of the trip was Ben Dare’s stag do at Wyn Irwin Hut, Mt Cook, where he was made to (among other things) drag a ball and chain of ice (harvested from the Tasman Lake), and crash the NZMGA’s AGM happening at Unwin Hut to enquire about guide biscuits and someone to take him up Aoraki. Following this I was, naturally, a tad tired, and I returned to Dunedin after two weeks away and 3200 km on the road.

Post script: Huey hadn’t been altogether kind during that fortnight and naturally the good weather coincided with my return to town. A day at Mihiwaka in the sun was a satisfactory excuse to stay away from work, and so I went off and climbed several of the classics with Beth Scott and Lottie Armstrong.

Appropriately, Beth managed a good onsight of Aqualung with the eponymous song echoing loudly around the crag from my portable speaker. In nice weather, in my opinion Dunedin has no finer crag than Mihiwaka!

I was very pleased to see that the crag remains inviolate with respect to its complete lack of bolts, and the memorial plaque to our late friend Calum Hudson is a good reminder that this is how it should stay.

Posted: 23/03/18

Posted By: Narina Sutherland