By Terra Dumont, 22 August 2009
TERRA AND BENS NEW PLAYGROUND
DARRAN MOUNTAINS WINTER CLIMBING MEET JULY 2009
We had to keep wiping condensation from our breath off the windscreen as Ben and I leaned as far forward as possible to see high up onto the moonlit mountains. “I think we have just found ourselves a new playground Terra". "HOLY SHIT!!" was the best I could come up with. I was petrified in the most brilliant way ever. We missed the turn off to Homer Hut, and ended up at the tunnel. I got out of the car and slowly spun around in circles, taking in the view of
After finding the hut and getting within 20m of the door before having to put on chains, we where very excited to see around 15 people in the hut when we had heard only 6 turned up last year!
We rolled out of bed around 7am and sorted out the large piles of gear we had brought. We decided to start off by taking a peak at Barrier face, as it was nearby and had some easier routes on it that where relatively short compared to what else was around. Upon reaching a good view of the face we pulled out the guide book and realized all of the shown routes where rock routes... so we took a look around and decided on a route (which we are pretty sure now is Barrier Cream) and decided to give it a shot. We used our 'expert alpine navigation skills' (the sign for the Gertrude Saddle trail informed us we required them, as well as a high level of fitness...) and ended up groveling over slabs covered in powder due to walking to far up the trail before turning off. Upon reaching the base of the climb I took one look and told Ben he was going to have to lead it - steep with thin ice... Was I ever glad I made that decision - I found seconding challenging! So needless to say I gave him the next pitch too... Half way up, upon reaching even thinner ice, vertical powder and tussock, he decided maybe down climbing was a good idea as the climbing was getting a bit too exciting to be so un-protectable. It was "welcome to the Darrans!"
Having checked out Barrier Direct while on Barrier Cream, we decided it looked like it could be slightly easier and really fun. So at 6am the next morning we were on our way. We ended up on a snow slope that looked like a nasty avalanche waiting to happen, so decided that either we get the hell out of there, or go fast and not come back down until after dark. It was definitely going to be after dark if we made it to the top of Barrier Peak, but decided that given how far we had made it up the last climb maybe going home was a good idea as otherwise we may end up hanging off half an ice screw for 8 hours. In retrospect I'm glad we turned around, as another group that did it that day found that it was un-protectable and soloed the whole thing. I don't think my soloing abilities are up to 100 m+ of thin, steepish ice. So we ran back down the avalanche slope, and decided to check out the waterfalls at the bottom of
Having talked to the pair the previous night just back from trying it, we decided to head up into the Macpherson cirque and give Coumshingaun a go. We got up to the point the previous group had turned around from due to running out of time quite easily. We got through the first hard pitch with no trouble, and then took a look at the next pitch - what would normally have been an ice step was a vertical rock step covered in powder. Ben tried it first, then gave Howie (Howie and Steph where also climbing the same route) a turn, Howie decided it was crazy, and then Ben tried it again. Ben got up it this time, undergoing some very exciting bridging moves, using his first pitons and putting an ice screw into a hanging block of frozen turf. After pulling himself over the top he yelled down to me that there was another similar step in front of him, and that he was coming down unless I was keen to lead it as his head space had taken a beating. So needless to say we backed off. Howie and Steph had already decided it was time to get out of jail and were on their way down. In retrospect we probably would have been fine, as the group that tried climbing it to begin with finished it the next day and said we had done the hardest part. But we didn’t know that!
Ben on the hard pitch of Coumshingaun
I had been checking out the Gabites-Rogan route while on Coumshingaun, but upon hearing that four other parties had also decided to climb it the next day, we decided to join Pete and Ant on a little ski touring trip up Barrier knob. At a much more respectable hour of 10am we set off with our skis on our backs. Above the waterfalls we where able to skin up to Gertrude Saddle, enjoying the sun we had not seen in days due to climbing south facing climbs. At the saddle we had a lovely picnic lunch, enjoying the view of Milford Sound, then gave up on the idea of actually going to the summit and just had a little walk up the ridge for a better view. On the way down Pete and I had a competition as to who was the worst skier. Needless to say it was a tight competition! On my 190 cm teli skis, without really being able to telemark, I never managed one proper turn without falling over, though he fell over before even trying a turn... Then I had some equipment failure and my ski kept falling off! I ended up wining the worst skier prize for simply not giving up as early as Pete. By the time I got down I was definitely in the mind that the only good thing about skiing was that it made me appreciate climbing!! Ben takes the opposite opinion of ski mountaineering.
Ben on Gertrude Saddle
So it was back to climbing the next day! We decided to give Gabites-Rogan a crack and see if we could actually make it to the top of something! Two other parties had and recommended it. I was quite disgusted with myself for not having lead anything yet, so decided I would start off and do the first pitch before my confidence deserted me. It ended up being a bit more than I had bargained for! A lot steeper than the waterfalls... And then I saw that the next bit was even steeper, so only half way through the climb I found a belay posie and told Ben he was doing the next bit! I yelled down to Ben “Well that was the hardest thing I have ever led!” Ollie and Miles who where below us had a good giggle! I was happy with myself anyway as I had only led ice once before and it had been a lot easier! Bens comment of "I'm glad it was you not me leading this!!" also made me feel better! Ben successfully did the next half pitch, and then from there on I was quite able to lead my pitches. It was a beautiful climb, with stunning ice formations and fantastic climbing :) Ben and I decided we could maybe at last consider ourselves climbers as we had completed a winter route in the Darrans :)
Terra on Gabites-Rogan
Ben on Gabites-Rogan
Ben on Gabites-Rogan
With only one day left we decided to go for a peak, and decided
Needless to say I was very sad to leave and I'm still not coping with being in town and not surrounded by climbers and mountains! I will be back! I have been sussing out what I want to climb in summer...
After this meet the fabulous Al's and co. can no longer moan about the sad state of
And a super big thanks to Al Walker for organizing the meet. I am looking forward to next years! :)