08 September 2011

Early Climbing Days - Four

The summer of 1956/7 was my first major ambitious climbing expedition.  Jim Wilson, Dave Elphick, Mike White and I teamed up and set off up the Rakaia from Lake Heron with grand plans to tackle several unclimbed routes in the Arrowsmiths and from Erewhon Col again.  We came out down the Whanganui River to Harihari.  Our first destination was the Jagged Stream and from our high camp, while Dave and Mike climbed North Peak, Jim and I managed to do first ascents of some of the Spires and Steeple above the Reischek Glacier.  The Spires Steeple traverse was  accomplished in mist and the rock was steep and dreadfully rotten.  In retrospect we should never have been there but we were pleased to have finished the climb of our first virgin peaks.  After a day of rest and sunburn we took off for another unclimbed route (soon after midnight) getting to the top of Jagged Peak at 7 am.  From here the unclimbed ridge to Couloir Peak lay ahead.  We didn't quite make it.  Late in the afternoon I slipped and Mike burned his hands badly holding me on the rope - on the Twins just short of Couloir.  Further climbing was out so we dropped into the Lawrence Valley where we had a cold hungry night out.  Luckily the weather was OK.  The next day witnessed an exhausting day of climbing to get back over to the Cameron Valley and then more climbing over Peg Col to our tents and FOOD.

Jim Wilson on Jagged - Twins Traverse
Dave Elphick traversing Evans to Red Lion

And so on up the Rakaia to Erewhon Col.  Here we had our sights on one of the remaining prizes of the Southern Alps, the unclimbed NE ridge of Mt Evans.  This climb was magnificent, embracing all the things climbers dream about, pristine morning weather, climbing virgin territory, Spectre of the Brocken in mist high on our ridge, sunset descent and moonlight return to our snow cave abode.  Very satisfying - maybe the next post.

We did some more climbing on Red Lion Peak and Mt Whitcombe before returning to civilisation and compulsory military training - if that is not some sort of oxymoron!  And also to start university!

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