Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Remarkables Ice And Mixed Festival

Shelley and I headed over to Queenstown for the festival, not really sure what to expect. I guess this would have been the same for festival organiser Daniel Joll, as this was the inaugural event. We turned up for registration at the Frankton Ale House on Thursday evening, and found the pub filled with keen climbers, all chatting excitedly about the long-weekend's prospects. More than 100 climbers had registered for the event. Aged legends rubbed shoulders with wide-eyed newbies. The vibe was positive...and exciting. The event was the first of its kind ever to run in New Zealand and, by the looks of things, nearly all the top alpine climbers active in NZ had turned up. The next morning Shelley and I drove up to the Remarkables ski field car park. I'd never seen so many alpinists gathering in one place. The feeling was infectious. Everyone wanted to climb! Along with a friend Sally Ford, we hiked over to Wye Creek to tune in to the ice. Despite a warm temperature, the ice was still in reasonable condition.
We all led a route, and then trudged back over the hill to our vehicle.It was great just to get amongst the mountains again.
On Saturday, Shelley and Sally teamed up with Jean Kenney for an all-womens assault on the west face of the Telecom Tower, climbing Saturday Morning Special. By the looks of things, they were one of two all-women teams climbing on the weekend. Meanwhile I tagged along with mates Scott Blackford-Scheele and Rob Frost for an ascent of a route called The Clearances.
Conditions were pretty scratchy, but Scott and Rob made short work of the cruxes. This was the first time I had climbed here, and the setting was awesome. Lake Wakatipu twinkled gently in the dappled sunlight beneath our feet, while Queenstown hummed away to its 24/7 beat.
I also got to see fellow Backyard and Beyond team member Jamie Vinton-Boot work himself to a frazzle on some heinous-looking hook-fest of a route, while Troy Mattingley swung from ropes to capture all the action. Another friend Steve Fortune bathed himself in glory, picking up the Black Diamond Alpinist of the Year award, the hardest send of the event award, and the fastest time on the Double Cone-Single Cone traverse. Huge ups to Daniel and the crew for running a sweet event. I'm sure everyone who participated in it made new friends and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I can't wait for next year. On a slightly different tone, I want to say that I'm sick of the fractious and, quite frankly, arrogant comments occasionally arising about Kiwi climbers needing to move on from their 'one pitch' routes and travel overseas. Climbers do not have to venture to the 'greater ranges' to be considered 'real' climbers. Judging by last weekend, alpine climbing in New Zealand is alive and swinging, thank you very much. All of the smiles and laughing and personal epics waged on different routes showed me that everyone there was doing the most important thing in climbing...having fun!