A fairly gentle end to 2015 training wise and as with most things the blog gets longer as the action gets smaller. A little biking and weekly runs of about 4 plus hours each over the Arthur range with Sergio whilst kids were at school led to some interesting pokes into nooks and crannys usually missed. Sergio who is an ex Chilean Olympic steeple chase runner races the legs off me and also with the snow all but gone he demonstrated some pretty good rock climbing and mountain goat scrambling abilities when we got side tracked. Finally Carl trying to get back in shape for the summer season came up with us on a Sunday up the leg sapping Cowin spur (also on Arthur Range) - and even more leg shattering descent.
A quick family trip run down to stay with Carls inlaws in Kumara led Carl and I to waltz off into the Arthurs Pass National park , an area we had no familiarity with except for an Otira map. With just under 3 days total and half of 2 driving with most of rest doing family stuff we both realised that any major exploits were in the back ground and sleep would not be part of our overall strategy. Regardless we set off anyway late at night on 26th December and after 2 hours walk bivvyed under Avalanche peak at 1 am on the 27th. I won't comment on Carls lack of preparation for anything but a tropical night but will say that the brand new bivvy bag I was testing was little better than worthless. The 4.30 am wake up wasn't really a wake up as there was no sleep but at least we got going early up Avalanche peak and across to the Rome ridge. It was nice going over rock and scree slopes and eventually up to a snowy col. The bulky form of Mount Rollerston was in front the whole way but much prettier was a big pyramid in front. Some vague memories of reading about Rollerston came to mind that Rollerston had three peaks and after a while I realized that it must be the Rollertson low peak. From the col at about 1900m it appeared tantilisingly close and offered no visible difficulties but time was pressing.Wives and kids had been told we would be back for lunch and the Rome ridge below looked complicated and indeed It was rather difficult in places and a little exposed on occassion although more challenging than scary - Carl leading well on much off the down climb. Then a race back to the car at Arthurs pass. Carl shirtless in striped long johns, an old long handled ice axe over his shoulder walking down the main road in hot sun painted a picture much more from the 70's than the modern mountaineer.
Sergio showed up that night and we decided with a few short hours sleep we could do a second short trip in the morning before driving home. Mt Philistine was the easiest and closest objective and we set off at 4 in the morning from Kumara and were busy walking up the easy approaches with the beautiful snow coated summit pyramid above us at dawn. Our nonchalant attitude was rudely interrupted as we found ourselves going up the most precipitous bluffs. Perched on loose rock cliffs hanging desperately to tuffs of tussock the only thing that kept me going up was that I was pretty sure I couldn't go down. Eventually after about 200 meters of vertical we came to easier slopes and Mt Philistine was at the back of my mind as at the front was how to get down outta here. We had about 7 meters of rope and 3 carabiners between us and I didn't like any of it. Sergio seemed less concerned , perhaps having had some sleep in the previous 3 days makes you more confident but I started a search westwards for an alternative descent route as we continued our climb. It was a beautiful ascent after that through big rock walls on snow fields but both Carl and myself run out of energy in all forms before the summit leaving Sergio to do the last 100 meters alone. Whilst sitting on a snow ledge just below the summit I noticed a lone figure moving very purposefully up the mountain. He was obviously very very good with the speed he was making and he soon passed by me. The West Coaster was on a solo traverse of the whole range and obviously in a different league than us. I asked him if there was an alternative route down than the bluffs and he looked at me as though I was daft. Yes there were , all much worse and the bluffs were easy , his mates had come outta there in the rain a week before. That dipped morale even lower and after Sergio rejoined us we made our way rapidly down to the the waiting cliffs with a great deal of trepidation weighing on heavily on me. A thread of hope remained in the back of ones mind that since the probality was that the average punter coming here must be more on my level than the guy who had just aced past us and since the mountain was obviously well frequented than logic (?) surely dictated that there must be a better way!!
On the way up I had noticed what seemed an easier route to the West and rather than going straight over the side I attempted to sidle across slopes to it. My initial foray was halted by a water fall and Sergio by now undoubtly lacking confidence in any of my abilities in route finding or climbing of any form started down the cliffs by himself. I yelled to Carl above that I was sure I was on the right track and would try another route across. But now Carl also had lost confidence in me as well and started following Sergio down. I did a small exposed traverse and found myself on a well beaten track , one that one could practically bound down - if we had only gone up this at the beginning of the day the whole trip would've been so different!! . Sergio was already on it having traversed across but gripped with fear was Carl desperatly clinging to a pile of stones 30 meters above us. Sergio proving to be a mountain goat went back up and spotted him down to the track. We ambled out finding time to play with a Kea and after looking back up wondering what blind folly had led us straight up the bluffs in the morning.
Back to Kumara , pack up , race home in bed by 10 and finally some sleep. A great 2 days in Arthurs pass - pushing limits again this more in finding out once more it seems that rest is a crucial aspect to any performance (and safety in mountains). Checked the web this morning , seems like the Rome ridge is a New Zeland alpine Classic route (too Mount Rolerston low peak). Than there is a very good description of Warnocks Bluffs below Mount Phlistine which have proved deadly on several occasions (it seems this easy peak has easily led to a bit of blind folly more than once). The straight forward track we found in the end is well explained as the normal route - the route we ascended by ignorance are the bluffs adjacent to an winter ice climb route. Perhaps we should've got this info in advance but when you learn the hard way you learn it well!!
The New year approachs and as usual plans and resolutions are abounding in ones head for more adventures hopefully involving mountains , biking and great companionship.