Mt Rolleston Crow Face

Continuing the trend of recent weeks, and making the most of the outrageously and uncharacteristically good weather window that had been hanging around for some weeks we decided to head up the Crow Face on Mt Rolleston.  It would be a pretty tight timeline for me, I would arrive back from Australia at 9pm, had to pack my gear by 11pm, and get a couple hours rest before heading for Arthurs Pass at 2.30am.  We were a party of four heading up Rome Ridge, with two continuing direct to Low Peak, and two of us heading for Crow Face.
With a 5am start we made casual progress up to the gap; the views were superb and so many photo taking sessions ensued, as well as a certain member of the party continuing his usual tradition of high altitude al fresco cable laying.  We were very excitable about the near perfect conditions for the trip - there was a solid boot pack all the way up Rome Ridge which made for effortless travel, and the ice on the face was the best I have ever seen it.

Mystic conditions on Rome Ridge

Mystic conditions on Rome Ridge

Calm and clear conditions above the valley cloud

Calm and clear conditions above the valley cloud

We arrived at the bottom of the face, and at this stage I had in my mind that we were just going to be doing the standard Central Direct route in the guide (grade 2+).   When we stopped below a steep section of ice, I knew I was in for something a little more exciting.  It was decided that we would find our own route up the hill, taking the juiciest looking lines available and try to top out as close to the summit as we could.

Our route

Our route

The first pitch was a nice step of ice to warm up, then a small plod to the bottom of the face proper.  From here, we traversed left to a nice looking line of ice, but on closer inspection it wasn't as solid as it first appeared, so we tried another slightly less steep line next to it which turned out to be quite fun, with a 5m near vertical step at the bottom.

We tried this line first, then went left instead

We tried this line first, then went left instead

From here, we ascended a small snowfield and section of ice that wasn't too steep.   Pitch 4 and 5 contained the most strenuous climbing of the day, with several steep sections with hard ice not allowing any respite from the front pointing.  We made use of some dubious simul climbing on these pitches, as comfortable belay nests were few and far between.  My gloves managed to perform a disappearing act at the bottom of pitch 5, I can only assume they took themselves for a flying lesson down the mountain.  Luckily some spare Ice Ninjas were procured.

Fun climbing on good easy angled ice/snow

Fun climbing on good easy angled ice/snow

Steep slab of ice on pitch 4

Steep slab of ice on pitch 4

From here we continued on straight-forward terrain to Rome Ridge some 100m below the summit, and from there followed the Rome Ridge boot pack to the top.  Grade wise it felt something like 3+, but with my limited climbing at this part of the spectrum it's hard to say.

A quick bum slide down the slide to the head of the Otira took about 30 minutes, at which point the excellent condition of the Philistine Bluffs was noted.  An invitation to quickly nip up a nice 60m section of water ice was politely declined as I was keen to get some cold beverages down the hatch, but Al was going with or without me so I waited whilst he nipped up and back, and before long we were back at the carpark with a round trip time of more or less exactly 12 hours.  After returning all the seats to the upright position (the previous inhabitants of my vehicle had obviously been having a snooze), we were back to Kennedy Lodge and the Wobbly Kea for some quality mountain yarns with other climbers and skiers.

We rounded out the weekend with an afternoons skiing at Mt Olympus, where despite the large number of hazards still protruding through the snow, some excellent skiing was had, and several Stoke beers enjoyed.

| September 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Storytime |

Leave a Reply