Aoraki Mt. Cook and Westland summary. The Aoraki Mt. Cook and Westland region is a shadow of its former self as far as new climbs are concerned. The region of greatest focus for new routes and first winter ascents is now the névés west of the Main Divide, where shorter, more technical routes abound and are easily accessed. Hopefully this trend will bring another shift, with the refined techniques being applied to the bigger faces.
Boxing Day 2002 saw saw Jo Haines and Australian Adam Darragh make the first ascent of the North East Buttress of The Nun’s Veil (2,749m), Mt. Cook Grade 4+, crux 15 (5.8). This route follows predominantly good rock for 17 pitches.
The Fox Glacier Névé has been the area with the most new route activity reported, mostly duing the winter. A well-iced north face of Mt. Haast (3,114m) made possible Natural Gas (5), by Allan Uren, Dave Vass, and Richard Turner. A couple of first winter ascents were made: the Atkinson Hall Route on Mt. Haast’s north face by Craig Jefferies and Steve Eastwood, and the Moonshine Buttress by Allan Uren and Craig Cardie. On the popular south face of Douglas Peak (3,077m), Vass and Jefferies climbed some new pitches on the central rock buttress of the face. Mt. Mallory (2,756m) saw a new route, Homeowners, by Uren, Craig Cardie, and Jeff Richards. A couple of first winter ascents were made on the south face of Mt. Barnicoat (2,800m). The previous November saw the addition of a new route by the female team of Anna Keeling and Laetitia Campe: Kiss My Axe is six pitches and grade 4.
The Balfour Face of Tasman, New Zealand’s second highest mountain at 3,497m, was the scene of the most notable new route of 2003 with Surreal Insommnia, 8 pitches (6+) climbed on the extreme left of the face by Mark Sedon and Guy Cotter in April 2003. The route follows sustained and steep ice.
The Caroline Face of Aoraki Mt. Cook (3,754m), which rarely sees ascents these days, was climbed twice during the 2003/2004 summer, once solo by Nick Wall, and by a party of three including Pat Deavoll, Mike Erown, and Paul Knott. The south face of Mt. Hicks (3,198m) saw its second guided ascent when Heaven’s Door (6) was climbed in November by guides Nick Cradock and Phil Penny, and client Neil Hickman.
The summer season at Aoraki Mt. Cook was sadly marred by a number of deaths, including a high profile tragedy involving the deaths of guides Paul Scaife, David Hiddleson, and David Gardner in an avalanche and resulting fall on Mt. Tasman.