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A New Alpine Rock Route on Cloudy Peak

Updated: Jan 7

The Expedition Climbers Club (ECC) recently organised a rock climbing trip to Cloudy Peak in late February this year with the intention of encouraging alpine rock climbing on new and existing routes. With a reasonable but less than ideal weather forecast, Steve Fortune along with Arthur Lachat and Coco of the French Alpine team headed up to Erewhon late on the evening of the 23rd, armed with a rack, a savage looking machete and several rolls of pink tape. As well as climbing, they were hoping to improve the existing approach route to the base of the scree fields below Cloudy Peak’s rock walls.

On the Friday, Steven and the two Frenchmen climbed Mission Accomplished, a stunning 8 pitch line on the Hourglass Wall. The team encountered great rock and lots of cracks resulting in good protection and climbing. After topping out, they scrambled down the easy scree field splitting the Hourglass and Upper Walls back to the base of the Hourglass Wall and their bivvy site for dinner.

Meanwhile, Jack and I (Sarwan) were driving up from Christchurch planning to walk in halfway on Friday night to position ourselves for an assault on Saturday at a potentially new line Steve had spotted on his last trip into Cloudy Peak. After walking to the base of Cloudy Stream late Friday night, we enjoyed a comfortable bivi on grassy flats before heading up through the excellent route Steven, Arthur and Coco had marked and cut two days before.

We collected a load of dry wood for a fire at the scrub line and continued to the bivvy site, meeting an abandoned Steven around 9:30am with us all gagging for some climbing. With the stoke level running high, we boosted up to the base of Steven's line where Jack racked up for the first crux pitch – a steep 45 metre series of cracks with 2 over hanging blocks spaced through the pitch. Jack did a stellar job leading the grade 22 pitch on excellent gear, pulling through the 2nd overhanging block and setting up a belay on a wide comfortable ledge. Steve and I grovelled up after him finding the climbing powerful, sustained and pumpy. None of us got this pitch clean so it's still there for the taking!

Foaming at the mouth and armed with his crack climbing gloves, Steve lead the second immaculate pitch through a stunning grade 18 splitter crack with the crux being a pull through a small steep roof with a perfect sized fist jam and bomber gear at every stance. Shortly after, there was a huge crashing sound of rockfall followed by a short and sharp yell coming from the Great Prow where the Frenchmen were climbing. We could see nothing but decided to continue to the top, hoping for the best. I got to lead the third and easiest pitch up another awesome crack with amazing gear and arrived near the southwest ridge on a wide belay ledge. From there we decided to simul-climb together through some short sections of fun scrambling for the next section.

An hour later, the rope came off and rock shoes were replaced with approach shoes for the rest of the scramble up to the summit. We were briefly greeted with awesome views of the surrounding peaks before the cloud had other ideas and blew in over us as we began our descent. The descent was an easy scramble down the col between Cloudy and Ferrar Peaks. From the col we ran down easy shingle screes back to our bivi site at the base of the Hourglass Wall where the Frenchies were waiting for us. The boys had spent the day climbing the Great Prow, a Cloudy Peak classic first climbed by John Entwisle and Chris Moore in 1979. The mysteries of the large rockfall sound were made clear when Arthur showed us their almost severed half rope which had been crushed by a large fridge sized boulder which they had dislodged during their scramble to the summit. The boys had climbed several pitches through great rock before reaching scrambling terrain taking them directly to the top.

That night we enjoyed the fruits of our labour with a small campfire providing us with a warm glow as the cloud and drizzle rolled in. Retreating to our small fly bivvy, we endured a damp night's sleep in the hope of climbing another route the next day. Unfortunately, the drizzle throughout the day had other ideas for all of us and forced us into a retreat back to the scrub line where we worked on improving the route into the scree fields. We spent most of the day flagging and cutting the route to in the hope of improving access to the base of the walls. Later that afternoon the weather cleared as we headed down the Havelock River and back to our cars to arrive back in Christchurch late on Sunday evening.

Cloudy Peak is an ideal weekend alpine rock objective for anyone looking for a realistic weekend adventure!

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