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November 2013 Issue
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A view fit for a queen

A climber on Queens Drive. Photo: Fraser Crichton
From the Remarkables Ski Field just off SH6 on the road to Te Anau

Queen’s Drive, The Remarkables

High above Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu in the Remarkables, Queen’s Drive is the spectacular approach to New Zealand’s best mixed ice and rock climbing. The snow traverse is a steep ramp that stretches from under the snowed up schist crags of Telecom Tower all the way to the West Face of Double Cone. It’s a giddy balcony accessed from Shadow Basin high on the Remarkables ski field with stunning views of Mt Aspiring and Mt Earnslaw.

The climbing routes on the vertical faces here were first established long before the ski field road was opened in 1985. Return of the King, first climbed in 1973, entailed a punishing 1000m ascent from lake level just to access the bottom of the route. It’s no wonder climbers Pete Moore and Steve Subritski bivouacked on the first ascent of this mixed line. ‘Mixed’ climbing involves climbing on steep rock coated in thin ice or hoar frost. It requires ‘dry tooling’ where climber’s wedge, hook and cram ice axes into thin cracks whilst teetering on tiny rock holds with their crampons to make upward progress.

More than fifteen climbs have now been established between Telecom Tower and the West Face of the Double Cone, including classic mixed lines such as Friday’s Fool M4 / WI3- 200m and The Clearances M4 200m. The climbs here require a high level of mountaineering skill and technical experience in rock climbing. Less technical ascents in the area include the Grand Traverse of Double and Single Cones. This is a fantastic mountaineering adventure involving a traverse across a sharp ridgeline.

At any time of year it’s unlikely you’ll see other climbers. It’s a popular spot, but unlike the mixed climbs of the Northern Hemisphere there are never queues.

It’s a truly amazing place to go climbing.

– Fraser Crichton