Rolleston Revisited

Rolleston1In Arthur’s Pass on Friday night we pack ready for an early start. DJ has a cold and has so far refrained from reminding me that he is on an alpine sabbatical. I decide to sleep in the main room at the Alpine Club Lodge so DJ is not disturbed by me checking my watch every hour. Instead we are both disturbed by a steady stream of Friday night arrivals, the last at just after midnight. The just after midnight arrivals wake me up again at 2.15am as they start getting ready to go climbing. “You’re going up Rome Ridge as well?” asks Nick from Utah, “What time are you leaving?” “Earlier than I had planned” I reply as I abandon all attempts at sleeping.

It’s 3.45am as we start up the Coral track. Although there has been no overnight freeze there is plenty of snow on the track. I volunteer to do the early route finding as I know I’ll be calling on DJ to do plenty of that later on.


Above the bush line we pause to put on over-trousers and crampons and to let Nick from Utah and his Swiss companion pass us. I figure they owe us lots of step plugging. As we make our way higher up Rome Ridge the sunrise is muted but gorgeous. Although the ridge is hardly knife edge it is nice to have the extra light. When the sunlight hits the ridge we quickly warm up. Like yesterday there is no wind. The amazing views, the excellent snow and weather conditions and fear that DJ’s cold will return keep me going at a steady pace. Soon it is time to leave the ridge and traverse round to the start of the bit where Rome ridge is broken. Known simply as “the gap” this bit is often the crux section of the climb to the Low Peak of Mt Rolleston.

The traverse is fine. The snow is quite soft but I sink in rather than slip off it. Soon we are putting on our harnesses and tinkering with hardware while we let a female climbing pair pass us and head to “the gap”. I take a look. “The gap” doesn’t look too scary to me, there is no wind and the snow is not icy. I think I’ll be okay to down climb unroped I tell DJ. I follow him down, across and then up. It is a great day to be out climbing I tell myself as I concentrate on doing everything correctly. A fall here would not end well.

The sun has been on the snow for about an hour now. In places I struggle to make my ice tools stick but patience and persistence is all that is required. Gradually we leave the soft stuff behind and find some firmer snow. We keep heading up one foot in front of the other, one ice tool in front of the other.

At 10am we reach Low Peak. The vista is amazing. I’m pretty sure DJ is not thinking about his sabbatical as he studies the Middle and High Peak. He doesn’t think they are in condition. I don’t really care. We are probably too late to try them anyway given my speed, the softening snow and we want to descend via the Otira Slide rather than going back down Rome Ridge. Later Nick from Utah confirms DJ’s assessment of the Peaks although I’m pretty sure getting to the very top posed no problem for the women climbers we let past.

We take a few photos then DJ leads the way down the top of the slide. I am the tortoise of all down climbers but DJ remains patient, probably the warm conditions and glorious views help. Perhaps he is feeling a bit tired now. Finally we reach a small col where it is flat enough to have a bit of lunch, reapply the sunscreen and just sit and contemplate the snowy mountains.  Not for long though as the snow continues to soften.

Soon we are able to walk comfortably although for a bit we sink in the snow up to our knees. I mention to DJ that at least we should comfortably beat our mate Stu from TTC who reckoned it took him 19 hours to do this trip a couple of weeks back.

Back at the Village we call in to see Geoff and Renee who very kindly feed us and entertain us with stories of life in Arthur’s Pass. If you head down that way, and I hope you will, it’s a choice place, don’t forget to look up Geoff and Renee they would love to see you. (Contact details are in the member’s part of the website or Renee works at the Visitor Centre 3 days a week).

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