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A New Route on the South Face of Single Cone

Updated: Jan 7

The forecast was for one of those weak westerly flows that come in right after a clearing SW storm. Although the weather for the weekend itself was supposed to be alright, as we all made our plans to meet at Mt Cook it became increasingly apparent that the weather would be puking hard on Friday, increasing the avalanche risk to unacceptable levels. After a hasty change of plans, the Dasler Pinnacles became the logical destination for our various groups to meet, with cars coming from Queenstown, Dunedin, Greymouth and Christchurch.

I rolled into Omarama on a beautiful clear evening and pulled up by the pub to wait for a rendezvous with Dan and Ben. As soon as we caught up, someone mentioned the amount of recent rain and raised the question of crossing the Hopkins River to get to the Daslers. Oh yeah… Shit.

We drove up the road and had a look at the Ahuriri River, which was fairly pregnant with snow melt and rain. We elected to head to Queenstown to look at Single Cone. (That was a waste of petrol).

This final decision proved a good one, as the amount of ice on the road up the Remarkables was amazing for mid October. The walk up to Wye Saddle was fairly windy but the conditions looked stunning. We reached the South Face of Single Cone and took our pick of lines, knowing we'd find fat ice and awesome spring neve. Dan headed off towards a tricky looking overhanging crack, which would form a direct start to the route '$100 Whore' (M5, 350m). Unfortunately an unnamed Irish friend of ours had failed to turn up (having elected at the last minute to go sport-climbing with a lady-friend); the route was therefore pre-named 'The Piking Potato Princess.’ First Ascent: 19 October 2013. Info: (M6, WI3, 170m), South Face Single Cone, Remarkables, NZ

With bounding enthusiasm Dan took the lead on the first pitch, a corner system with a fine crack for the tools but poor feet on a tricky slab. Progress proved slow, and some time later 'off-belay' was called with less than half the rope out. Ben and I followed Dan's awesome lead, grateful for a top-rope on the strenuous crack, which was followed by an innocent-looking but rather tenuous slab. From the belay Dan took the lead again, this time into an off-width corner with average chock-stones for both tool-hooking and pro. Ben did well following the line but I had a grovel, falling out of the crack repeatedly and relying on belay assistance to maintain my slow upward progress until a 'thank-god' swing into fat ice to pull out of the corner.

From here, the route was fun on outstanding neve and ice, as we joined '$100 Whore' and reached its second crux. It was my turn to lead and the small vertical step of ice ahead looked exciting. Unfortunately I didn't find much gear to protect it, and spent a minute or two psyching up to commit to the step. In the end, decent ice made the moves easy enough as I ran the rope out into the straightforward gully on the upper section of '$100 Whore'.

At this point we were forced out of our position of shelter and into the teeth of a decent NW gale. Fortunately the final 100m to the summit ridge of Single Cone was in excellent shape as we soloed up, reaching the SE Ridge just below the summit. The climb had been outstanding: perfect conditions and everyone feeling great, as we waited just a few minutes for Steve Fortune, Ari Kingan and Pete Harris to top-out next to us after climbing their new route (‘4VLOLZ,’ M4, 400m), right of 'Stairway to Methven'. Last to finish their route were Steve Skelton and Vaughan Snowdon, who'd completed new line to the left of to the route 'Alejandro el Bicho le Gusta Sexu Duro.' Their line '$60 Sex' (M5, 350m) continues the strange Remarkables tradition of inappropriately named climbing routes.

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