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Climbing ‘4VLOLZ’ on Single Cone

Updated: Jan 7

The term 'For the LOLs' and its variations speak to the deeper reasons of what motivates us to climb. It is not infrequently that a climber's asked; Why do you climb? by one of the uninitiated. George Mallory stated his reason purely being 'Because it's there', while others like Edward Whymper speak to 'the evolution of those noble qualities of human nature, courage, patience, endurance and fortitude.' However sometimes the reality is somewhat different; sometimes it's not quite so glamorous, not quite so heroic, but rather is that insane urge to walk all the way round a mountain purely to find a difficult and unclimbed ice and rock rampart.

There are generally two things on my mind when I begin to climb a route. The first is 'What the hell am I doing here?' and the second is 'Where the heck is my next piece of pro supposed to go?'. This particular Saturday was no different. Having abandoned Mt Cook and the Hopkins in search of good conditions, Steve, Ari and I found ourselves standing at the bottom of the South Face of Single Cone, contemplating our route, whilst being torn at by a rather ferocious Nor-wester. Leading the first pitch, I had a few exciting moments when you look down thirty metres to the ground and only see a single piece of pro, or when your feet struggle to find traction in thin air due to the ice disintegrating. However, in hindsight it was a great pitch, replete with a couple of short ice steps, joined by sections of stunning neve. The next couple of pitches were charming wee numbers, mostly involving exceptional neve interspersed with a few small rock steps and a nice icy chimney. At the top of the third pitch, we arrived at the base of a blocky rock buttress. Taking it in his stride, Steve waltzed up the face, which swallowed protection like there was no tomorrow. Seconding it, Ari and I almost took longer than the lead had taken, with a number of occurrences of tangled limbs and jammed tools across some eerie ledges.

The final two pitches were more or less meanders up gentle slopes, made mildly more exciting by the near-gale force winds, which at times, had other plans for us than our desired upward progress. Clambering over the ridge, we found the welcoming party having a picnic, after just completing another new route (‘The Piking Potato Princess‘ M6, WI3, 170m) on the South Face of Single Cone.

Sometimes the reasons for climbing can be as simple as the rush of adrenaline you get after a crux move, or the joy of daggering up snow slopes in exceptional conditions. It doesn't always have to be a matter of personal conquest, but instead can sometimes merely be a climb 'for the LOLs'.

4VLOLS, M4+, 400m


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