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July 2012 Issue
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Climb a 3000m South Island peak

Traversing the lower section of the Aspiring's Northwest Ridge is generally considered the crux of the climb. Photo: Paul Hersey
Think you’re a good tramper, sea kayaker, climber, mountain biker and skier? Shift your horizons with one of these game-changing adventures

 

You have: Climbed Mt Ruapehu

You want: To climb a 3000m peak in the South Island

The climb: Mt Aspiring (3033m) is a popular first 3000m climb, partly because it is one of the most aesthetically beautiful mountains in the Southern Alps. But that doesn’t mean it is an easy climb. The north-west ridge is the most straightforward way up the mountain, with a 2+ alpine grade. To safely climb Aspiring requires ability to travel efficiently over glaciated terrain, along with the possibility of needing to pitch on the lower rocky section of the ridge. If you don’t feel that you have these skills, either do some more training or go with a guide (Alpine Recreation, Aspiring Guides, Adventure Consultants and Mountain Recreation all offer trips).

The best place to start the climb is from the nearby Colin Todd Hut, sited at 1800m on the base of the Shipowner Ridge above Bonar Glacier. Be warned – this hut can get busy during peak climbing times. Some people choose to carry a tent and camp nearby.

The quickest access to the hut is via Bevan Col, but in winter and spring it is best to use the French Ridge route to avoid possible avalanche risk. Useful information on both the Bevan Col and French Ridge routes can be found in the New Zealand Alpine Club’s Mt Aspiring guidebook.

From Colin Todd Hut, it usually takes around 12 hours to climb the remaining 1200m to the summit and return. There are a number of options to gain the north-west ridge. The Ramp used to be a popular option, but there have been a number of fatalities in recent years so this route is no longer recommended. A safer and more interesting option is to climb the ridge direct. This requires negotiating a short rock step, which may need to be pitched. The climbing here is exposed but not difficult. From the top of the step, a broad and easy-angled slope leads to the final narrow summit ridge. The last section is quite exposed, and some parties also put a rope on here.

The view from the summit is stunning, and certainly makes the climb worthwhile. The normal descent is the same way as the climb and will likely require an abseil or two.

You’ll need: A climb like this requires full mountain climbing equipment. Stiff-soled boots, a helmet, crampons and an ice axe are a must, as is a rope, harness, small rock rack and two snow stakes. Be prepared for whatever the weather might throw at you – you’ll need warm clothing and a good sleeping bag as well as a sun hat and sunscreen.

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