23rd June 2020
A high pressure cell moved onto the South Island last week promising mild winter temperatures and a prolonged settled forecast. Needless to say it also increased excitement levels. It was time to find a climbing partner willing to suffer a little bit in order to complete this objective.
Ruari MacFarlane was first to agree to the ground up ascent, and after reaching Katies Col on Sunday, it was no surprise to us that no one had previously attempted to walk in via the Fox Range for a winter ascent. Peak after peak, rise after fall, and gully after creek were passed. There is endless terrain between the road end and Katies Col, and certainly a whole lot more than the 2300m vertical gain implies.
I woke to a sore throat on Monday morning and derailed our plan for that day. The weather opportunity was so large that we had time for me to regain some strength and willingness to continue the traverse.
We reached the summit of Torres Peak at 11.30am on a magnificent winter morning after just over 7 hours of effort. We reached the summit of Mt Tasman just before 5pm after negotiating multiple tricky sections and lengthy knife edged ridges.
Descent began as the last dregs of alpenglow fell away from the western slopes and we continued climbing down for hours in light winds, over the top of yet another 3,000m peak (Lendenfeld), finally reaching the shelter of Pioneer hut at 11pm, some 18 3/4 hours after we set off.
Tired and elated, we slept until daylight before completing the road-summit-road traverse with a two day walk out to the road end via Chancellor Hut.
After a brief glitch and slowdown due to Covid-19 it looks like we’re back on track to complete the final 6 summits before the end of Spring.