Heidi & I have just had the first holiday within 8 years with no kids.  🙂

Last Friday we ended up leaving Dunedin a bit later than we had planned, and got on the road just before 11am.  We drove fairly directly up to Unwin hut, just 2 km before Mt Cook village.

We got in about 4pm, and by the time we’d dropped off our stuff & quickly visited Mt Cook village for a weather forecast from the guides.  We then headed over to the Zurbriggen boulders.  To get to it you need to drive to the Wyn Irwin hut campground, then walk for a couple of minutes along the track.  About half-way to the memorial 50m or so to the left of the track is a large boulder with varied climbing & soft landings.  The back side is easy to walk off, or a good introduction to the rock for beginner climbers.  I would have loved to play around there a bit more, but I was feeling the need for some dinner, and I hadn’t cut my toenails, so wasn’t keen to wear my climbing shoes for long.

We went to bed early, and got up at 6am.  We were up at Sevastapol bluffs by 7:30am.  What a day.  We started by climbing The Red Arete, a 2-pitch climb graded at either 15/14, or 13/13 depending on the guidebook.  I’d probably agree with the first of the two options mainly because the height of the first bolt was ridiculously high.  Rock deluxe gives the second pitch 3 stars, and It definitely deserves it’s starred rating.  It was pretty cool climbing on nice rock, with long pitches.  Even though none of the moves on the Red Arete are difficult at all, and though there are heaps of holds, the variety in the angles of the rock mean that you need to keep thinking about how you are going to use them.  It’s a great intro to climbing in the area.

Our next climb was a three-pitch number on the same face.  After a short period of waiting for some other climbers to finish off on the route we wanted to do, I headed up the first pitch of Shark Attack (15).  This started off pretty easy, but kept me thinking especially in the second half.  The entire pitch was 50m in length which was easily the longest single pitch I’ve ever done.  The entire rope was hanging off me by the top, creating a fair bit of drag which was interesting.

Belay ledge, Pitch 2, Shark Attack

Belay ledge, Pitch 2, Shark Attack

Heidi - pitch 2 Shark attack

Here’s me and Heidi at the top of the first pitch (Heidi’s looking up at me, and I’m looking down at her).  Unfortunately it looks as if Heidi’s standing on the ground.  She’s not, she’s actually 50m off the ground on the a ledge.

The next bit of the climb was a scramble left up a vegetated ledge to a higher ledge and the belay point for the start of Mako.  After getting sorted out at the belay station, Heidi headed off up the rock with the rope on her back.  I could see she was struggling with the climb at times, but she flashed it (led it without a rest, or a fall).

This was my view at that stage.

Pitch 2 Mako

Pitch 2 Mako

I followed Heidi up, and by the time I’d gotten up past the bush on the right, I was feeling pretty impressed that Heidi had managed to lead the climb with a rope on her back.  This was only 1/3 of the way up the route, and it didn’t get any easier.  By the time I reached the top, I was shattered both physically and psychologically.  According to our guidebook this pitch was a grade 16 which normally should be well within my capabilities (when we got down off the climb and had another look at our guidebooks we realised that the other guidebook graded it at grade 18 which fits a bit more with our experience).  I was thinking ahead to the next pitch, also a 16 which it was my turn to lead.  I didn’t think I was up to another climb of similar difficulty, especially because my shoes were killing me.  Luckily Heidi had been up here before, and she convinced me that the climbing was easier going ahead.  Soon enough I found myself climbing up the final pitch of Mako (actually grade 15).  She was right.  It was much easier, and I didn’t have too much trouble finding my route up the rockface.  The climbing was nice and varied, overlaps with nice incut holds, traverses, and interesting moves, but nothing that was really difficult.  I topped out, belayed Heidi up, and it was time to rapell back down the face.

Rapell down

Rapell down

The rapell took ages, particularly because we were both so tired.  We finally got back to Unwin hut about 6:30pm after a day of climbing solidly for 11 hours or so. What a day!

I almost couldn’t be bothered with dinner.  Instead I lay down on one of the bunk beds and just vegetated for 20 minutes or so until I had enough energy to sort out some kai.  We went to bed pretty early again.

On Sunday neither of us really felt like climbing (our toes were too sore for one thing), so we ended up walking up to the Red tarns, which was a nice little slog up steps for 40 minutes or so up to a lake with a fantastic view of Mt Cook.

Red tarns

Red tarns

All too soon it was time to head back to Dunedin, but we stopped in to check out the Pukaki boulders on the way (although my feet were still too painful to wear Heidi Pukaki

Heidi Pukaki

my shoes).  It was fantastic trip.  We both returned feeling much more enthusiastic about life, the universe and everything.

Pukaki boulders

Pukaki boulders

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