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New Route – Sheila Face Aoraki Mount Cook + Route Beta

Updated: Jan 7

We are excited to announce that NZAT members Caleb Jennings and Kim Ladiges have climbed what is arguably the last plum unclimbed line on Aoraki Mount Cook.

Caleb and Kim left Empress hut around midnight on the 5th of September arriving back to Empress 24 hours later having completed the first ascent of the direct line. They named the route “Pilgrim”, which goes at a grade of MC6, WI5, M6, 750M. The crux pitch involved a difficult detached ice pillar, with steep moves pulling over a small roof bulge.

This line has seen several attempts over the years with Steven Fortune and Ben Dare getting close to passing the crux last year. Caleb has also made several attempts on the line with various partners over the past few years and is very happy to complete this project with Kim. Caleb rated this route as one of the best he has done so far.

Sheila Face Beta

The Shiela Face is one of the most impressive pieces of technical climbing terrain in the Southern Alps. It has a number of large unclimbed mixed lines waiting for ascents. The combination of a solar aspect, the presence of large snowfields on the face and the higher elevation makes me think that it will form up most winters. Here are a few of my thoughts on climbing on the face.


Obviously with any ice line low freezing levels are key. FAFL was at 2100m the day we climbed Pilgrim and this was perfect, we didn't see anything fall during the day but it wasn't so cold to make the ice brittle overnight.

One of the main dangers of this face is rime (falling and killing you). Any time after a NW storm you can expect to find the wall very rimed. I would be hesitant to get into major gully features like Pilgrim in conditions like this, but lines further left on the face may be OK. Letting the face clean up in the sun for a few days after any storm from the north to west would be a good idea.

Most of the gullies face towards Fyfe's Gut so you can't see the ice till you are up near the RH ice fields of Hicks.


Climbing any couloir feature in the sun is scary - particularly in NZ. In September the sun hits the top of the face at about 10am and is fully on the wall by mid-afternoon. Except for the most brutally cold June/July ascents I would be thinking of climbing mostly at night.


On Pilgrim we carried:

  1. Camalots size.3 - 3

  2. Green and red C3

  3. 1x set DMM ultralight wires

  4. 7 petzl ultralight screws- 1×22, 3x 17, 3×13

  5. 2 stubby screws

  6. 2 knifeblades

  7. 1x 60m 9.1mm rope

  8. 1x 60m 5.5 mm tagline

This seemed appropriate and would be what I would carry for other routes on the face.

Potential Lines

When you look at the face there are at least another two obvious routes to climb around Ministry of Silly Walks. There could be a possible gully to the right of Pilgrim although the dry rock start could present some real problems. A direct finish to Pilgrim would be possible and would include another 6-8 pitches of hard ice and mixed climbing in my opinion. This might require sitting out the sun for half a day somewhere safe in the snow gut before climbing the upper section. It would make for an awesome route.

Good Luck!

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