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New Route on the South-East Face of Ferintosh Peak

Updated: Jan 8

For me one of the great most rewarding aspects of alpine climbing in New Zealand is the vast range of objectives that we have on hand at our finger tips. Especially for those who are prepared to be flexible and are willing to venture slightly off the beaten track when circumstances beyond our control dictate. Often due to the unpredictable and rapidly changeable conditions, and weather, we face in our mountains I believe that having this ability to be flexible, and a decent repertoire of back up plans, is essential if you want to get anything done.

Tucked under the shadow of their larger neighbours on the Main Divide the peaks of the Ben Ohau range are unfortunately often neglected, despite offering a vast range of noteworthy objectives. Especially when heavy winter snowfall on the Divide peaks can lead to significant avalanche risk and long impeded approach walks. Given the right conditions it is an area that is well worth a visit.

Until the night before the climb I had never even heard of Ferintosh Peak. And yet less than a day later I found myself standing alone on the summit after completing the first winter ascent of the South-East face.

Jump back to the previous afternoon I found myself at the head of Lake Ohau staring down into what had until recently been the road, and what now appeared to be a new branch of the Temple Stream. My plans of a weekend trip up the Hopkins had taken a significant hit. So it was either a 35km+ approach walk to attempt a peak I had never even seen before or a change of objective was on the cards. I went for option B – whatever that was going to be!

Shortly after I was sitting back in the truck flicking through the guide book when I chanced upon an appealing photo; Ferintosh Peak from North Branch of Whale Stream. Steep rock, southerly aspect and a short approach. I had my back up plan.

Despite a few minor discrepancies on the topo map, it turns out there is no longer a 4WD track up Whale Stream, or a hut for that matter. Access up into the North Branch was straightforward and allowed for a quick approach. Setting out in the pre-dawn darkness I followed the river bed and by mid-morning found myself at the base of the peak. Eyeing up what I hoped would be a line of weakness through the steep rock band which guards the lower section of the face.

A shallow corner system filled with a thin smear of water ice provided the break I needed. And after delicately making my way through the steep initial section I found the face proper opening up in front of me. Stretching ahead was a wide expanse of firm neve plastered thickly to the rock, which led up into a steep constriction at the base of a shallow gully tucked under the right hand side of the central buttress. The neve on the upper face offered perfect climbing conditions and allowed for rapid progress, while a series of short thinly iced mixed steps ensured that the climbing remained challenging throughout. A final steep mixed headwall, followed by a quick scramble and I was on the summit ridge eyeing the drop down into Twin Stream. A short traverse of the ridge led to the summit proper, where after soaking up the impressive vista of the Main Divide peaks beyond I dropped over into the head of Stewart Stream and back into Whale Stream via the saddle below point 2218.

Thirteen hours after starting out and I was back at the main road, enjoying a hot brew while I savoured what had been one of my most enjoyable and rewarding day trip climbs in an often overlooked range of peaks which holds some great potential.

New route on the South-East Face of Ferintsoh Peak (2497m). The route starts up steep ice through the lower rock band, slightly right of centre, before following a vague gully system to finish just right of the crest of the main buttress. 450m, WI4-, M4, alpine grade MC5. Ben Dare solo 8th July 2014.

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