top of page
  • nzalpineteam

South Face Aspiring – New Route – Shooting Star

Updated: Jan 7

As we walked towards the South Face of Aspiring early on Saturday morning I watched several shooting stars dash across the night sky. Two weeks before our friends Ari & Frazer had climbed the South Face of Aspiring. On the descent Ari slipped, falling to his death near the base of the North West Ridge. At Ari’s service in Golden Bay the Pastor described his short life like a shooting star, burning brightly, touching many but only lasting a short time. This analogy stuck with me over the last two weeks and as I approached the South Face I watched the shooting stars remembering all the good times I had shared with Ari.

Many friends have died climbing over the 15 years I have been active in the mountains. It has never made me want to stop climbing, but it does force me to pause and question the reasons why I climb and if my decision making is calculated and measured. Death comes quickly on a mountain. Mistakes and poor judgement are punished, leaving very little room for human error, ego or the judgement of others. I guess that is part of the appeal and what makes mountain climbing special. Having the opportunity to test myself in a true and honest way, where my actions have real consequence. In a strange way the risks of alpine climbing help me to appreciate the people around me more, as each day I can really appreciate simply being with them. On occasion being close to death on a climb is one of the things that helps me feel completly alive and makes me fully appreciate each day I have.

As we talk over different objectives for our weekend mission Ben flatly refuses to go and repeat an existing route. I just want to climb something and with only Saturday and Sunday available Aspiring seems like the perfect way for me as a climber to say goodbye to Ari. Both of us have also had a nasty cold for the past two weeks so are feeling fairly unfit and tired, reducing the amount of climbing options available to us. Friday night after work we catch a ride in a Helicopter to Bevan Col, not long after our tent is pitched near the base of Mt French with a great view of the South Face at our front door. It felt a bit strange looking up the South Face at Ari’s last climb. Ben had flowers from his girlfriend for us to plant on the summit. I guess we all had our own ways of wanting to remember Ari.

8am after a quick brew up I am climbing steep ice above the shrund. We have found a nice unclimbed corner that leads through the lower rock band. A traverse above this will bring us into another unclimbed corner high on the South Face. However if I can not pass the rather large double layer cornice above the shrund there will be no new route for us. I have one go at the cornice. Basically i get scared and climb back down to my ice screw. Allot of excuses follow, I ask Ben if he wants to take over and for a few minutes we play the classic game of partner motivation. “No mate you can do it, if you cant I cant” this goes on and on while Ben trys to provide maximum encouragement to ensure I give it one more go. The double cornice is quite large and I am very concerned if the bottom one breaks while im on it the top cornice will also fall burying me in the shrund below. I guess this is one of those risk assessment calculations. I do the math and perhaps it is safe enough. I put a new pair of warm gloves on, my hood goes up and after an hour of digging I make a very delicate traverse across the top of the cornice. All goes well and we are through pitch one established near the base of our new route. From here the climbing is very good. Some excellent alpine ice around WI3 – 3+ and some pitches of mixed up to M4. Our legs burned from the constant front pointing. Ben is having a hell of a day battling his cold and in general feeling tired and mentally drained. We climb slowly and inefficiently. I also think we were being extra cautious, constantly reminded of the risks we were taking and the stress to our friends and family another climbing accident would cause. At one point Ben suggests we rap the face when we reach the ridge. Seeing as he has been to the summit of Aspiring four times and I have never climbed it, I point out there is now way in hell im not going to the top. I also felt that seeing as we were doing a new route to remember our mate by it would be fairly bad form not to summit. With that in mind we push on reaching upper Coxcomb ridge around 8pm.

On the ridge we stop for an hour brewing up, eating and relaxing. From here it is a few easy rope lengths to the summit which we reach at 10pm. Aware of the risks associated with descending while tired we take our time ensuring we are well hydrated and fed before moving. On the summit we stop and have some time for Ari. Ben plants his frozen flowers and we enjoy the moment admiring the view of the Southern Alps under a full moon. The descent goes smoothly. We find the entry to the ramp and down climb to the glacier below. Conditions are very icy so we take our time paying attention to every step. I notice more shooting stars as we head back to the tent. I had really felt Ari with me every step of the way on this climb. Coming to Aspiring and climbing a new route to remember him by was our way of saying goodbye. I tell Ben of my idea for a route name, he likes it and for a change we have no debate on what to call the route.

Route Beta

Shooting Star, Grade 5+

12 x 60m pitches plus four pitches along the Coxcomb ridge. Cruxes pitche 1 WI3 & M3, Pitch 3 WI3+ & M4, Pitch 10 WI3+ & M3, Pitch 12 M4

8-12 ice screws, single set of cams 0 – 2, single set of wires 1 – 7, 8-12 draws.

19 views0 comments



Subscribe to our blog

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page