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South Face, Glengyle Peak (2283m)

Updated: May 2, 2023

An Otago team have claimed what may be the first ascent of the south face of Glengyle Peak (2283m) in the West Matukituki valley, Mt Aspiring National Park. The route, Central Gully (MC 4-) follows an obvious snow gully in the centre of the face for about 5 pitches to reach the summit ridge about 100m from the summit of Glengyle. NZ Alpine Team member Jaz Morris and a Dunedin friend Alexis Belton climbed the route from a high camp at 2000m on the south ridge of Mt Rob Roy.

Accompanied to their camp by Frazer Attrill and Tiff Stephens, the team endured deep snow on the long approach up a rough side valley of the Matukituki. The trip was nearly abandoned at camp when it was discovered that the tea had been left in the car. Despite this potentially crippling setback, perfect weather and stunning views kept spirits high. Belton and Morris approached the route sidling deep snow from camp and were very pleased to prove their theory that the steepness of the face might leave the snow in better shape. Morris led the first three and final pitches, finding good snow for belay anchors but virtually no rock pro among the compact schist of the face. Their rock rack was carried in vain, as cracks were generally found only on detaching boulders. The entire route went with only one runner, a tied-off knifeblade on the first pitch.

Although the majority of the route went on reasonable snow at around 60 degrees, with strenuous steps (up to 90 degrees) on good snow-ice on the first and second pitches, more pro would have been appreciated on this highly run-out route. The route proved deceptively long, and Belton and Morris topped out on the face and on to the summit ridge around midday. They attempted to reach the true summit but were shut down by poor snow on poor rock and a lack of time. Although they managed to descend their route with four abseils (on bollards) and some downclimbing in only an hour, it was near dark that evening when the team broke through scrub and rough ground to reach the valley floor. The desision to turn around, although disappointing, was prudent, especially given the lack of tea if the team were forced to bivvy.

If the face proves to be unclimbed, it is likely because it is naturally hidden, being invisible from the valley floor. Morris spotted the line descending from Mt Rob Roy in 2010 and had harboured aspiriations of climbing it ever since. He reports that more lines exist on the face, including a thin line almost direct to the summit likely to go at around MC 5-6 but almost certainly with poor to non-existent gear.

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