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Chockstone Forum - Crag & Route Beta

Crag & Route Beta

 Page 1 of 2. Messages 1 to 20 | 21 to 25
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Mt Aspiring difficulty question
llewg
9/05/2012
1:21:58 PM
Hi all,

Wasn't sure if this should be in Beta or General. I'm thinking of heading over to NZ at the end of the year to have a shot at mt Aspiring. A buddy of mine is really keen to come, and while he's very experienced on rock he has never seen snow, let alone climbed in it.

I'd thought that as a possibility we could head into the Aspiring range, hit up a few days learning/teaching on some lower stuff, then head up via the Ramp. While i'm confident in my own skills, I guess i'm unsure if this is going to be tough for him, never having climbed Aspiring before. And I guess my own leadership, never having led anyone upa mt before.

If anyones got any info on technical difficulty, especially as a begginer that would be awesome.





sleake
9/05/2012
2:02:28 PM
Nothing of any real difficulty really - moderate daggering up the ramp and from there it is a walk. It has been skied a bunch of times.........

However - It is difficult to really use a rope on the ramp with much effectivness, even with 4 snow stakes you will still go for a massive ride, not much fun. Some rock gear is possible on the butresses above the ramp as you climb past them, a few pins etc.

Then coming down during slushy warmth would be pretty horrible if you took yourt] time, (CLIMB IT REAL FAST!!!!!!) and has caused a few fatalities over the years - dont have a rope on with no gear!

I would reccomend you both get confident on that type of terrain - then just set out intending to solo the whole route, but being prepared to put the rope on if need be.

As for the guiding angle......... tough call - you will be juggling many many factors as the 'leader' - i reckon keep it even and call it a day when either of you get too sketched out.

nmonteith
9/05/2012
2:03:23 PM
The ramp is almost snowless by January. I have only descended the ramp (after climbing SW ridge) and it just seemed like really easy angled walking on scree for most of it. Certainly no front pointing or technical stuff. The biggest danger will probably be crossing the glacier from french Ridge to get to the hut (unless you cheat by flying in).

I'm not sure where you are located but over winter drag your mate into Blue Lake, Bogong or Buller so at least he understands snow. The glacier travel bit needs to be practiced on the real thing though.... no glaciers in Oz.
llewg
9/05/2012
2:46:10 PM
Thanks that's some good advice.

Yeah I was thinking late nov, early Dec.

What's the sw ridge route like as an alternative?

nmonteith
9/05/2012
3:27:16 PM
SW Ridge certainly contains proper front pointing and semi-hanging ice screw belays. Not a good place to take take a beginner!

cruze
9/05/2012
3:55:08 PM
I disagree with sleake and Neil. I can't understand what they are saying. The OP's partner hasn't even been on snow. When I climbed up and down the Ramp last November coming DOWN we wailed in top clips and at times were on the front four points. That is it was WAY firmer on the way down than up. This isn't normal (a brutal unforecast cold front came through just after we got to the top of the Ramp) but you could easily get caught out by the conditions. Saying "you'll be fine" is crazy. Being prepared is much better.

nmonteith
9/05/2012
4:14:30 PM
Maybe I was being a bit ambiguous...

Technically it's easy (certainly compared to rock-climbing). Objectively it's still a real mountain and thus dangerous. You won't die because you aren't technically competent enough - you will die from avalanche, exposure, rockfall or crevasse fall. Climbers perish on it EVERY year. And many of them are Australians with limited snow experience. It's a real mountain with real dangers. There is plenty of total numbties that have been guided up it before by experienced mountain guides. That doesn't make it safe though.

Certainly spend a few days up at 2000m on one of the easier NZ mountains and get your systems on snow/ice dialed. If your mate is endurance fit and has good trad experience (the ability to set and judge his own anchors and be able to run it out) then he has the base skill set he needs to climb Aspiring.
llewg
9/05/2012
4:16:04 PM
Sounds condition dependent then.

Full nw ridge looks like an alternative though if the ramp is out of play?

cruze
9/05/2012
4:28:52 PM
On 9/05/2012 llewg wrote:
>Sounds condition dependent then.
>
>Full nw ridge looks like an alternative though if the ramp is out of play?
I went in November and didn't touch rock all day. NW ridge buttress was powder over rock which could be pretty intimidating.

skink
9/05/2012
4:30:51 PM
On 9/05/2012 nmonteith wrote:
>The ramp is almost snowless by January.

You can't state this as fact, it depends a lot on how big a snow season there has been and how warm summer has been to this point - check out http://www.aspiringguides.com/conditions_mt_aspiring_national_park.html to get some idea of conditions. The history on this link gives you an idea of what you may be in for.

>I have only descended the ramp
>(after climbing SW ridge) and it just seemed like really easy angled walking
>on scree for most of it.
You weren't on the ramp then - if it is dry, the bottom is a tricky slab. The ramp is usually avoided for both ascent and descent when snow free.

> Certainly no front pointing or technical stuff.
Descending firm snow or ice on the ramp is not 'technical', but certainly risky if you don't have solid experience on crampons.

>The biggest danger will probably be crossing the glacier from french Ridge
>to get to the hut (unless you cheat by flying in).
Huh? You rope up on the glacier = very little danger. And flying in only gets you to Bevan Col, you still have to cross the glacier from the col to the hut. No landing allowed at the hut.

>I'm not sure where you are located but over winter drag your mate into
>Blue Lake, Bogong or Buller so at least he understands snow. The glacier
>travel bit needs to be practiced on the real thing though.... no glaciers
>in Oz.

You can totally practice glacier rescue procedures off a glacier. The only thing you need the snow for is to practice snow anchors, which aren't rocket science.

nmonteith
9/05/2012
4:40:26 PM
* Disclaimer - I did it 10 years ago and my memory is pretty foggy. We certainly went down the Ramp (I remember Jono heading downwards too early and almost coming a cropper when it steepend up). I have a very hazy memory of perhaps abseiling off - so maybe that was the rock slab bit? I'm a self taught mountaineer - a mate and I just rocked up to NZ and rehearsed on easier ground for a few days and then hit the big mountains. I can't see why others can't do the same. We both had broad experience in other outdoor sports such as hiking, BC skiing, canyoning and climbing which IMHO are a massive advantage to getting started on big mountains. Conditions apply. See your doctor if pain persists.
llewg
9/05/2012
4:48:07 PM
Hmm im begining to think it may be better to wait a couple weeks, go in mid/late december up the full NW ridge.

stugang
9/05/2012
5:16:10 PM
When I did it I was pretty much in the same situation as your friend - I had been rockclimbing two years and was pretty solid on rock up to 22ish (in those days before gyms and bolts), but I had barely even seen snow let alone climbed it.

We spent a bit of time based at french ridge practising basic skills like self arresting, snow gear and did a few peaks in the area (including sth face of avalanche which turned out to be way more technical than anything on nw ridge aspiring).

Then over to colin todd, which was full, so dug a cave and did the full nw ridge next day (ramp out of condition) - didn't ever rope up or raise a sweat.

So overall clearly possible BUT:
- I was lucky to have a very capable 'mentor'.
- we were blessed by the weather gods with pretty much 10 days straight of good weather
- when we descended the nw ridge I kind of freaked at the drops beneath some of the weetbix boulder probs we did by torch (BTW davidn they prolly weren't even V0).

I'd go for it, but you need to decide if you are capable or not (even the all powerful chockstone has limitations). I'd also recommend your mate supplement his rockclimbing training with a regime of walking up hills with a backpack.

My final advice don't stress about "getting him up aspiring" - go up to french ridge, hang out and teach him some ice and snow techniques (during which time you'll build on the hill climbing fitness - especially if you walk up), and if the weather gods are with you there's a good chance you'll breeze it.

epic steve
9/05/2012
5:20:09 PM
Hey Llewg

Have climbed Mt Aspiring 11 times by 4 different routes and Mt Cook 4 times as well.

My two cents worth is this:

Local weather/snow conditions are what will pretty much decide the route you will take on Mt Aspiring...speed is the key as speed = safety as lighter packs and less time spent in the alpine environment.

The full NW Ridge when free of snow (usually Jan/Feb) is a bush walk...I could do it in my Teva sandals...just need to cut a few steps near the top!!! A return trip from Colin Todd Hut is about 10 - 12 hours...only actual snow and ice is usually the last 100m summit cap and a small snow slope at the top of the Shipowner Ridge nearing the Rolling Pin saddle. If the weather is funky and the ridge is clear I would blast up this first...you can always go up the Therma Glacier Route or The Ramp a day or two later if the weather holds...plus it is always good to know the descent route.

The Ramp is good for going up but can be icy pre-dawn...if in doubt pitch it or go solo...can be slow if pitching as about 8 - 10 pitches of 50 degree snow on a traverse to the right. On descent it can be the opposite...slush or balling up snow so more dangerous for tired or inexperienced climbers...better to run down the NW Ridge (that you did a few days earlier so you know the way down!!!). You will want to allow 12 - 15 hours for this. And it pays to do a recce to the base of The Ramp the day before to have your footsteps in the snow to follow. Route finding at 3:00am by headlamp is not much fun and will waste valuable time and energy!!!

The SW Ridge will make you pass lumps of poopy in your pants...STAY OFF IT UNTILL YOU HAVE A FEW YEARS MORE EXPERIENCE!!! (Scary exposure!!!)

A few pointers for NZ alpine climbing:

1. All NZ alpine rock (other than in the Darrans) is pure choss...test everything and trust nothing...unless the size of a VW Combi-van!!!
2. Plan for a week in the hills...if your lucky you will get 1 or 2 good weather days...so don't waste them having a rest day...go for it!!!
3. Walking in is the the only option for Mt Aspiring...choppers are for pussys!!!
4. Plenty of places to practice crevasse rescue techniques either around Bevan Col or on the Quarterdeck above French Ridge Hut.
5. Take a GPS...a life saver in whiteout conditions for finding the hut, pass, saddle, etc
6. NZ snow is rarely firm...or frozen...so it balls up in your crampons and tries to trip you up...have anti-balling plates or good old gaffer tape on your crampons to stop this.
7. NEVER rope up unless worried about crevasse fall risk or danger...
8. NEVER climb slopes greater than 45 degrees whilst roped together unless using either fixed belay or running belays...THIS IS WHAT KILLS PEOPLE ON THE RAMP AND THE LINDA SHELF ON MT COOK...the rope is not there to make you feel safe...if it ain't attached to the mountain all it will do is drag you off your feet and gravity does the rest.
9. Don't let a trip turn into a slip or a slip turn into a slide...self arrest looks and sounds great but if this is what you are doing as you hurtle on your back at 50km/h towards a 100m ice cliff...then it had better work or your $#&@ out of luck...mountaineering is pretty much just walking around on icy/slushy/snowy/sometimes rocky stuff...so as in rock climbing, footwork is the key...plan not to ever need to self arrest if you can by having good footwork and balance.
10. Softshells rule in alpine as the don't slide anywhere near as much as Goretex!!!
11. Flooded rivers kill more climbers than the mountains...!
12. Skinny ridges and summits aren't a good place to be in 70km/h winds!!!
13. Wear a helmet...falling or tripping with 24 steak knives attached to your feet a a samuri sword in each hand can get messy so protect your noggin!
14. Most guides are total knobbers...but there are exceptions...if you need advice then just ask...but speak in a language other than Australian or Japanese...NZ is good!!!
15. Above all have fun in this awesome alpine environment!!

Steve 0411502117

P.S...I have plenty of photos if you want a photo CD of the Aspiring area...just ask!




nmonteith
9/05/2012
6:15:15 PM
^ great advice
sleake
9/05/2012
8:01:47 PM
>"I disagree with sleake and Neil. I can't understand what they are saying. The OP's partner hasn't even been on snow. When I climbed up and down the Ramp last November coming DOWN we wailed in top clips and at times were on the front four points. That is it was WAY firmer on the way down than up. This isn't normal (a brutal unforecast cold front came through just after we got to the top of the Ramp) but you could easily get caught out by the conditions. Saying "you'll be fine" is crazy. Being prepared is much better."

While I may have been a little 'gung ho', im not sure what dont you understand?

Ramp is not technical........ daggering is not technical - it is physical - particually after a few hundred meters, and certainly dangerous if you take a tumble, but it is not TECHNICAL.

You want to be bloody confident, but it isnt going to be technical difficulty that will turn you round. as everyone else said it is conditions, exposure, the "holy sh!t this is a real mountain" that will turn you round or kill you.

Take it easy, and as I said in the first post - if either of you feel out of your depth go home.

llewg
10/05/2012
9:08:56 AM
Awesome advice thanks Steve, much appreciated. Now i've just got to wait six months..lame.

Would love to see pics, havent been to nz in a coulpe years and need something to get me through to the end of the year!

Llew

cruze
10/05/2012
10:18:49 AM
On 9/05/2012 sleake wrote:

>
>While I may have been a little 'gung ho', im not sure what dont you understand?
>
>Ramp is not technical........ daggering is not technical - it is physical
>- particually after a few hundred meters, and certainly dangerous if you
>take a tumble, but it is not TECHNICAL.
>
>You want to be bloody confident, but it isnt going to be technical difficulty
>that will turn you round. as everyone else said it is conditions, exposure,
>the "holy sh!t this is a real mountain" that will turn you round or kill
>you.
>
>Take it easy, and as I said in the first post - if either of you feel
>out of your depth go home.
>
Yeah, maybe I just read your post wrongly. I couldn't understand how on one hand you were saying a rope was ?ineffective on the ramp but suggesting that 600m of face-in downclimbing in conditions that could vary from very firm to slushy mess would be OK for a guy that has not yet even seen snow. In my opinion facing in for that long requires good fitness and good technique to do it efficiently. It is perhaps just a technique (technical) that you take for granted. I don't think a rank beginner should take that for granted. I understand that a number of the deaths have been caused by facing out in bally soft conditions and/or not pitching. One option would be to lower the weaker member off good T-slots down the Ramp if it is soft and have them set an anchor and belay the stronger member down.

I also found the bullet hard ice covered in sastrugi/rime on the top ridge above the ramp very unnerving at times when the angle changed and think good French technique (to a beginner this is technical) and the ability to make sure you do not snag a crampon is very important. Stuffing up this technique will sure as hell "turn you round" (and send you shooting off the ridge!).

Doesn't really matter anyway, epic steve said everything that matters. Depending on the season/conditions it could be a doddle or an epic. Agree about the accent thing, the irony is that the guiding industry over here relies so heavily on the Aussie dollar! Walking in/out provides a much harder but more rewarding experience IMHO, especially if you do a round trip (eg up French Ridge, down the waterfall route - check local conditions)
sleake
10/05/2012
12:18:30 PM
haha sorry man - I thought the not seeing snow thing was a rev up - if it is actually true then yeah........ it is full on terrain - he will need to know more than just "dont eat from the yellow patches"

That said - it is certainly a route that is within reach of anyone sensible enough to take all the information above seriously and who is prepared to spend a few days getting used to being on points - in all different snow types and come to terms with when/how/where to use the rope and in which manner to use it.

Good luck to both of you, and if you want some photos of the area and the climb check out my parteners shots from a few years back

https://plus.google.com/photos/107270070658732818020/albums#photos/107270070658732818020/albums/5429087633917940609/5429094494947265490



PDRM
10/05/2012
2:21:22 PM
This has some great pics and commentary too.

http://www.ericandlucie.com/New%20Zealand/Aspiring/Aspiring.htm

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