Aoraki Mount Cook and Westland summary. There were a number of standout climbs at Aoraki Mt. Cook during the last year, with Allan Uren and Craig Jefferies’ ascent of the northeast face of Torres Peak (3,160m) being the most significant. Climbed in early July, Godzone (14 pitches, grade 6+) tackles consistently technical terrain as it negotiates a more or less plumb line up the face. The 500-meter route was climbed with two bivouacs and is a definite contender for the badge of “hardest route in the country.”
A few days later Glenn Pennycook and Tshering Pande Bhote tackled Mt. Haidinger’s east face headwall via a prominent ice lead high above the Tasman Glacier. In a comitting effort the pair climbed the route from Pioneer Hut by crossing the South Ridge of Haidinger and abseiling and traversing steep slopes to access the direttissima. White Steel tackles 200 meters of ice from 65-90 degrees and is graded 5+.
Continuing with his penchant for soloing Southern Alps classics, Guy McKinnon upped the ante last winter with solos of the remote and difficult to access Hidden and Balfour Faces of Mt. Tasman (3,497m), both grade 6. The Balfour has been soloed in winter before, but not often and the Hidden (climbed via the Direct) was a first winter ascent.
In January this year Guy attempted a solo of the north ridge of Aoraki Mt. Cook (3,754m). Tackling the crux, the Beare Step, still shod in his big boots, Guy slipped, but his would-be fatal plunge was cut short after five meters by a small ledge that he was lucky enough to strike and remain on. The landing broke his left fibula and he remained on the ledge for 13 hours before being rescued by the Aoraki Mt. Cook SAR team.
Australian climber Gren Hinton also made some very impressive winter solos. On the south face of Mt. Hicks (3,198m) he made an ascent of the Yankee Kiwi Couloir (6+) and a mixed free-and rope-solo of Logans Run (6+).
Other winter highlights included a first winter ascent of The Balcony Line (4+) on the south face of Mt. Mallory (2,756m) by Tsering Pande Bhote, Johnny Davidson, and Glenn Pennycook. Pennycook also made the first winter ascent of Albino Merino (4) on the southwest headwall of Mt. Haidinger. Pete Camell and Nick Monteith climbed a three-pitch variation to the Valentine Gully on the Marcel Face of Mt. Haast and a new route on the south face of Mt. Barnicoat (2,800m).
Glenn Pennycook and Andrew Young also made the first winter ascent of the Gray-Williamson Couloir on the southwest face of Conway Peak (2,899m).
The readily accessable Murchison Face of My Aylmer (2,699m) was climbed in September by Paul Knott and Adrian Camm. Archbishop Of Canterbury is sustained 400-meters of ice with occasional rock steps, with an overall grade of 4/5.
Summer saw the usual throng of activity in the park, though few significant ascents were made. Early in the season Tim Billington and Paul Stephanus climbed a new line on the east face of Mt. Nazomi (2,925m).
In January Mike Madden made a solo ascent of the Direct (4+) on the east face of Mt. Sefton (3,151m). Vaughn Thomas and Thomas Evans made a quick ascent of the Central Buttress on the north face of Mt. Hicks—12 hours hut to hut.
The end of the season was marred by tragedy with the death of accomplished climber and guide Erica Beuzenberg. Beuzenberg was short-roping two clients on Ball Pass, just south of Aoraki Mt. Cook, when one slipped, dragging the trio over a 200-meter bluff.
Season summaries from Mark Watson, New Zealand Alpine Club