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Mt Greenlaw, NZ - kinda tramping, kinda climbing 5-Oct-2011 At 10:11:29 AM cruze
Mt Greenlaw (3rd and 4th September 2011) - Arthur's Pass Region, Kiwiland
Route map (1 km grid; 20 m contour)

A small party of four shot up to Kennedy Lodge on Friday 2 September for a crack at Mt Greenlaw (2315 m) from the Anti Crow river. We had heard rumours that Temple Basin had received 9 cm of snow in the previous two days, and with a brisk breeze forecast about the tops, it was difficult to know how the conditions would pan out.
We made a reasonably early start on Saturday morning, leaving the bridge across the Waimakariri at 6 am for the pleasant walk up the Waimak and past the Anti Crow hut, making the confluence of the Anti Crow after a couple of hours. Hanging a left we started the dance with the river - left bank, cross, right bank, over the flats, rock step here, fallen tree there. Many of the chutes were full of avalanche debris from the past storm cycle, a number of which had swept over the river.

Avalanche debris in the Anti Crow river

It was now mid-morning but our fears of postholing the entire valley had been put to rest as the sun shone brightly through the still air. Making good time we stopped at around midday to change out of our light weight shoes and into our boots at 1200 m, nearing the head of the river.

Firm conditions in the upper Anti Crow river

Now well above the snow line we took a rising line on the true right of the river to sidle above the waterfall and reach the delightful basin which would inevitably take us towards Gizeh col (1971 m) and our highpoint for day one. Because of the Anti Crow’s steep valley sides we hadn’t been completely sure of which col we were aiming for until we were within a kilometre or so of it.

The final steps to Gizeh Col, looking back down the AntiCrow river

As we ascended the snow slopes to the col the most obvious line took us to climber’s right. By this stage we were getting pretty warm in the still air but were spurned on in the heat by the spindrift coming off the col. The obvious line took us to a very windy point about 10 m above the true col, providing our first view of the goal of the trip – Mt Greenlaw.

Mt Greenlaw from Gizeh Col – our route took the red line to the summit - the vertical gain from the toe of the lower buttress to the summit is approximately 715 m

The other side of the col consisted of a couloir descending to the flats at about 1750 m and our camp for the night. We got to our campsite at 4 pm so we had plenty of time to set up. Despite it being quite still, we were taking no chances and walled off our tents under a clear sky.

Camp beneath Mt Greenlaw
The night passed quickly and uneventfully and we made another civilised start at 6:15, descending to the upper Avoca River before rising on steepening snow slopes to the Avoca Glacier. We had been playing guess the summit all morning, but now it was time to pick a slope and hope for the best. Fortunately the easiest looking slope also looked the most promising and we headed up.

To this point we had been plugging up snowy faces, so it felt suddenly strange to climb to the top of the slope and be on a rather sharp ridgeline with significant exposure to the south. Unfortunately there was also a rather unhelpful rock step to negotiate. We had a good look at the rock quality for about 5 seconds before deciding we had to go back down a bit and find another way. Fortunately there was an alternative, involving a sneaky 10 m traverse to climber’s right across a narrow, firm slope with a bit of exposure, then up a 20 m chute leading to the firm summit crest.

Sneaking back across the sneaky traverse 20 m below the summit
With only a light breeze blowing and the sun shining we had been blessed with perfect conditions and a great view across the valley of Mt Murchison and back over to Mt Rolleston. But we still had a long way to go to get out and it was already 10 o’clock.

Just below the summit – still a long way to go today (Waimak in the distance and Gizeh Col in the mid-ground)

Descending through softening snow we trudged back up to our camp and scoffed down lunch, before reascending to Gizeh col and back into the upper Anti Crow. The snow had softened considerably from the day before, but by taking a few slides in the upper basin and travelling on the true left below about 1100 m meant that postholing could be reduced.

By the time we turned the corner into the Waimak valley our minds had drifted to warm cars and hot coffee. Unfortunately it seemed that while we had been away someone had moved the bridge about 10 km downriver, or so it seemed, meaning we slumped into the carpark shortly after 8 pm.

A fantastic trip in very good conditions and perfect weather. We are still trying to work out where tramping ends and mountaineering begins. Most active Kiwis would call this trip a moderate weekend tramp.

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