Mt RollestonĖLow Peak via Rome Ridge (Climb M/gde 2-)
1-4 July 2011
"Imagine," I said to my climbing partner, "if we just keep cruising up the ridge. It looks sweet aye. Hang on, I'll just run over to the last rock buttress before 'the gap' and check it out." This was in March 2011 and we had just walked up the Coral Track and along the first part of Rome Ridge (to the ridge which joins with Avalanche Peak). Having set off from the carpark at the leisurely time of 11 am, and having no technical gear, the continuation of the climb up Rome Ride was unfortunately, at the time, just a dream.
Fast-forward to July 2011 and I'm standing at the base of the last rock buttress before 'the gap', same place and still imagining climbing the rest of Rome Ridge. This time it becomes a reality.
Rome Ridge was my first trip with the TTC since becoming a member in May. My climbing companions were Stu (who had climbed Rome Ridge before but was back with the lure of High Peak), Dan and Rob. The schedule for the Rome Ridge trip was somthing like this:
2:47am My alarm goes off Ė a loud "Cock a doodle do".
3:40am We start walking up the Coral Track.
6:00am After charging up the hill we come to the first major rock buttress on the ridge. We decide to traverse left and drop to avoid it. After traversing some of it (and seeing some alarmingly large cracks appearing in the snow above us as we load a snow slope) we decide to head up to the gendarme instead. This makes for interesting mixed climbing (just enough snow and ice to make it difficult). Half-way up and it's starting to get light.
7:30am At the top of the rock buttress there is debate whether to stay high on the ridge (as I did in March) or drop down and avoid the last rock buttress (as Stu did last time). We decide to drop but after a while it becomes apparent that this will involve a lot of height loss and we decide to go back up again!
8:00am The climb up to the final rock buttress before 'the gap' looks much worse than last time (when I climbed it on rock). We get a rope out and I offer to lead the pitch. Its maybe 15m high with no protection except almost at the top (where I place a sling before climbing out of a cave via some nice under-clings). Climbing mixed is pretty new to me, itís pretty fun in a focused, run-out kind of way. I belay the others up. This pitch ended up being the crux of the ridge.
9:30am We are all on top of the last rock buttress and walk along then start down-climbing it most of the way (towards 'the gap') and rap off a sling and piton for the last 15 m or so.
easy snow slope and the traverse and regain the ridge. We find a piton here and I use it to belay up Dan.
but Stu reassures us that we have got the hard stuff out of the way.
3:30pm Having spent the last few hours cruising up the ridge in poor snow conditions and loose rock we are finally getting close to low peak. The weather has been excellent, but alas winter days are short. We have to traverse from one ridge to another via a snow gully. We decide to pitch (it turns out the snow is well frozen here but given the poorly bonded snow we had encountered below this was a good call).
4:30pm We all arrive at Low Peak! Sweet, Rome Ridge done. Nice. A quick look west shows the usual access route to High Peak (Crow Glacier) is out of condition with large crevasses (according to softrock.co.nz there is only 10% of the snow in Arthur's Pass for this time of year). High Peak via Middle Peak is theoretically an option but we are all keen to get off the mountain ASAP. Descent is down Goldney Ridge for a few hundred metres and then down 'the slide'. We set off at a frantic pace, with the aim of getting to the top of 'the slide' before dark. We end up doing one abseil just above the Goldney Glacier. I head off around the corner and then climb back up to the col which is at the top of 'the slide'. Poor Rob later admitted to being somewhat dismayed when he saw me climbing up again so soon after an abseil (he thought we had dropped into the wrong place). But have faith Rob. It all works out. I see the top of 'the slide' just before dark.
6:00pm We down climb the col and arrive at 'the slide'. The snow is waist high in a few places but generally OK.
7:00pm Itís about this time that I start telling the others "itís only about 30 minutes to the top of the Otira Valley", and then one hour or so later "itís only about 30 minutes to the track." The Otira Valley is slow going (snow covered rock which goes on and on) and my claims are believed less and less as time wears us down.
9:15pm We finally hit the track.
finish things off.
day on 2 hours sleep. Totally worth it though - it's been another great day in the hills! Sunday was spent recovering and a few hours as Castle Hill doing some easy climbs and boulder problems (no boulder mat and no energy!). Monday proved to be another excellent day weatherwise and Rob and Dan made light work of Mt Philistine while I got on a bus to Hokitika and Stu took it easy. Thanks guys for making me feel welcome on my first trip. Plenty more to come!
- Party members
- Simon Bell (scribe), Robert Hawes, Stu Hutson, Daniel Rogerson.