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First Ascent, South Face Dasler Pinnacles.

Updated: Jan 7

Resistentialism noun: The apparently perverse or spiteful behavior of inanimate objects.

It had been almost 3 weeks since the accident, since Jamie had been so suddenly swept away from me. This was my 3rd time back in the mountains I loved, and the 3rd time I’d changed objectives after getting scared by avalanche conditions. I was in the Hopkins, favourite stomping grounds of Jamie. I couldn’t help but keep thinking about him, shedding a few tears as I witnessed the beautiful sunrise over the mountains, missing him terribly, wishing he was there with us. What was I doing here? Why do I keep pushing so hard? What was I searching for?

Looking up the Hopkins valley at Sth face Mt Ward.

The day before, Ben and myself had wandered up the North Elcho, aiming for the SE face of Mt Ward. Massive crown walls on east facing slopes of the Main Divide were visible from miles away, debris ran all the way to the valley floor, piling high over the stream we were trying to walk up. My sphincter clenched so tight it was starting to get painful. We discussed other options. Dasler pinnacles was the obvious one. Last year Jamie did a new route with Paul Hersey, White Strike.

We felt there was plenty of scope for new routes and were intrigued by the South Face, a steep, high face that had no routes, and neither of us had ever seen, even in a picture, but seemed ripe for potential adventure. The popular West Face looms above the valley, and is visible on the walk up, but the Sth Face is tucked away, requiring a significant descent under the west face to get to. I guess that’s why no-one goes there. We rounded the corner, anticipation building, what were we going to find? I yelped with excitement. A large, appealing corner system split the face. It did not look fat with ice as we hoped, but was white with what we felt was fresh snow, leading to hard, slow tedious mixed climbing. I continued up under the face to see what else I could see, but came back telling Ben that this was the best line on the face, that this is what I wanted to climb.

The first pitch was, as feared, unconsolidated snow, with slow, awkward mixed climbing laybacking up angled flakes. We started late, I took a long time, I started to get that feeling that it was going to be a big day, and after driving back to Christchurch for work the next morning, a big night as well. To make up for my anxiety I told Ben to hurry up on the next pitch, and he did as we moved together over easy ground, and he whooped up a nice corner which turned out to be plastered in superb neve, not the feared powder grovel. So we moved together up the next pitch as well.

We had a few more, rope stretching, moving together type pitches up reasonable neve plastered in the corner. No screws on the whole route, but occasional rock gear steadied the nerves. Way more fun than I was expecting!

The route had a proper sting in the tail. The last pitch was the steepest, up a tight chimney. It looked intimidating and scary from below, but once stuck in, the climbing was steady, the gear reasonable and the climbing fun. I whooped with joy as I pulled over onto the snow slope above. And Ben whooped to, a great route in the bag, a great adventure and a stunning day in the hills with a good mate. Joy was the best antidote to self doubt.

Route details:

Resistentialism: South Face Dasler Pinnacles. Climbs the large corner system on the LHS of the face, sticking to the corner throughout, up a steep chimney at the top. MC grade 5, crux M5- ish. Could be a lot fatter in good conditions? Approx 400m.

Descended the large snow gully on the West Face (abseiled one step in gully, and one ice pitch at base of gully.)

FA: Ben Dare and Steven Fortune, 1 September 2013

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