Mayan adds more firsts to her listIn October in California’s Yosemite Valley on the famous El Capitan granite monolith Mayan Smith-Gobat, New Zealand’s top female rock climber, added a few more firsts to her list of achievements. The 32-year-old from Christchurch became the second woman ever to climb the Salathé Wall, one of the original technical climbing routes up the 900m El Capitan. This also made her the first Kiwi to free climb it. She also became the first Kiwi and fastest woman to free climb the Freerider route in a day. Smith-Gobat shaved nearly 10 hours off the previous record. “Everything seemed to really click into place this time on El Cap,” Smith-Gobat told Wilderness. “I hadn't really climbed anywhere with that sort of difficulty before. “At 900m off the deck, with a free fall to the valley, it’s really exposed and being on my own I had no one else to rely on. “If you hit the wall you hit the wall, you've got no one else to give you a word of encouragement. “You've just got to dig it out of yourself and that's a really powerful experience. It taught me that I have a lot more in reserve than I [thought].” Getting up at 2:30am and hiking for two hours to the top of El Capitan, Smith-Gobat used the early morning hours to practise climbing the Salathé’s top and most difficult pitches. By mid afternoon she would be back down in the valley where she would hang out with her climbing friends. “It's a beautiful place to be able to hang out and chill, have a few beers and look up at where we were climbing the day before,” she says. “It's an awesome lifestyle.” After coming back to New Zealand for a couple of months, Smith-Gobat returned to California in December where she will focus on bouldering and sport climbing. Since climbing the Salathé she admits she’s been feeling lost about what her next mission will be. After having tunnel vision focus on El Capitan for so long, Smith-Gobat says now she feels like she’s drifting. “When I did it I was stoked and really happy, but really quickly felt a bit lost,” she says. “I haven't managed to snap out of that yet.” However she says this won’t last long because the self-described climbing addict has a big year ahead of her. Along with a few friends she is going on an expedition to Patagonia to scale a never-before climbed 1500m rock face. Because the granite wall looks so similar to El Capitan the group have dubbed it El Hermano – the brother. Then, later in the year, after a stint of climbing in Europe, Smith-Gobat will be returning to Arapilles in Australia to settle some unfinished business. Earlier this year she attempted to become the first woman to climb the Punks in the Gym route on Mt Arapilles. “Once I've tried something and got close to it, it's hard to let it go,” Smith-Gobat said. “I just felt so close so many times, but for some reason couldn't quite nail it. It was really frustrating.”
River Crossing[caption id="attachment_22558" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Trampers demonstrate the mutual support method for crossing rivers[/caption] The summer tramping season got off to a bad start in December when one Richmond tramper drowned in Mt Richmond Forest Park and two tourists drowned while attempting to cross a river near Franz Josef. So, how do you cross a river safely? The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council recommends you ask yourself three questions when approaching any river crossing situation: 1. Do we cross? If you decide that you need to cross, assess whether the river is safe to cross and if all group members are adequately equipped and capable of crossing safely. If in doubt, sit it out until the water level drops or conditions change. 2. Where do we cross? Choosing the safest place to cross is vital. Try to view the river from a high bank. You may be able to see gravel spits or sandbanks just below the surface and get an idea of the depth and position of channels. 3. How do we cross? The Mountain Safety Council recommends three methods for crossing rivers: Mutual support method: The group lines up with the strongest person at the top upstream. The others insert arms between each other’s pack and their back, grasping their hip belt or pack strap. Cross the river as a group. Using a clothing grasp: Similar to the mutual support method, except you grab the pants at hip level. This is a good variation for straightforward crossings where the river is knee to mid-thigh deep and there is a weak current. Cross the river as a group. Individual method: A useful technique for solo trampers. Use a strong pole, about 2m in length and comfortable to grasp. Hold the pole in both hands diagonally (upstream) across the front of your body, leaning on the prop as a ‘third leg’ to balance as you move each foot forward. - The Mountain Safety Council runs River Safety courses throughout New Zealand. For information on courses visit www.mountainsafety.org.nz River warning signs When approaching a river or stream, look for the warning signs:
- Discoloured, surging water
- The sound of rolling stones on the riverbed
- Trees and debris being carried along.