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‘Antics’ – new route on the South Face of Mt Joffre

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Team member Jaz Morris along with Ruari Macfarlane and Maddy Whittaker recently made the first recorded ascent of an often-looked-at line on the south face of Joffre Peak in the West Matukituki Valley.

Going at grade 5, III (WI4 crux) and seven 60-70 m pitches (450 m total) in length, the route 'Antics' makes a great direct approach to Colin Todd Hut! The route name references the annual journal of the Otago University Tramping Club (of which Maddy and Jaz have both been President) and the long connection of the OUTC to the valley.

Fonts of knowledge Allan Uren and Nick Cradock tell us the line was attempted back in the 90s by Dave Hiddleston and Anna Galooly, but they retreated after a big leader fall. We believe the route was unclimbed prior to the July 2020 ascent. In July 2020 conditions it's a fun route and a classic prominent line visible from well down valley.

Both Ruari and Jaz were keen to take Maddy on a new routing trip and she was keen to get a taste of alpine ice climbing. Luckily, Ruari was fresh from a first ascent on the South Face of Aspiring the previous week. He’d seen a promising looking line and thought it looked in condition. It didn’t take much to convince Maddy and Jaz. They had a short walk in to a frosty fly camp on the first day. On the climbing day, a slow and steady pace combined with tricky protection and delicate climbing on material ranging from cruise blue ice to above vertical snice saw darkness come during pitch 4. They topped out near midnight before heading up towards the summit of Joffre, climbing to the high point above the route (the true summit of Joffre appears to have shifted from the point on the map, perhaps due to glacial recession) a few tens of metres along a very corniced ridge to the summit. Rather than go the long way round and make the easy after-midnight ascent from the Bonar, the team began a series of abseils on v-threads back to a stash of gear near base of the route. They got back to camp as dawn broke the next morning after a leisurely 25 hours out. A quick nap in the frosty forest and a short walk out to Raspberry Flat in frigid conditions completed an excellent trip.

Approach by dropping down snowslopes from the Breakaway, turning a small rocky spur, and a gaining an easy approach slope to the climb. Alternatively, the climb can easily be accessed by following a dry creekbed just beyond Scotts Biv to where a small promontory overlooks the debris zone from serac avalanches. Gain some height, run the exposed gauntlet at a narrowing and cross over to the true right of the drainage where slopes (exposed to snow avalanche but not serac fall) can be followed to the route. Abseil the route or easy walk off to the Bonar.

P1 65 m crux WI4 start up steep snow and ice moving through vertical steps. Belays on rock at left available

P2 65 m WI3 steep steps with occasional respite, belay near the base of a pillar of good ice on the left

P3 70 m crux WI4 climb a steep vertical pillar. Some gentler 65 snow before another vertical pillar that on during the first recorded ascent had formed slightly beyond vertical snice. Take options for protection when you get them. Great belay below rock roof (rock belay possible)

P4 70 m WI3 short steep step then long 60 degree snow slope

P5 70 m WI3 remainder of snow slope then short steep step

P6 70 m WI2 short steep step then long 50 degree snow slope

P7 60 m 50 degree snow slope to exit. A cornice may require tunnelling

Gear: 70 m ropes useful. 12 ice screws (mix of lengths to suit thin water ice and deep snice), handful of wires, 1 each angle, lost arrow and knife blade piton, small-medium tricams, 1-2 cabled snowstakes for upper pitches

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