The Macpac New Zealand Alpinist of the Year awards are judged over the 12-month period that follows the previous year’s Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival. The awards recognise the best alpine climbs during a one year period, taking into account style, difficulty and creativity of the ascent. The award is open to all New Zealand citizens and Expedition Climbers Club members for climbs completed in New Zealand or overseas. This year’s awards ceremony will take place in August at the Ice and Mixed Festival in Queenstown, NZ. A few weeks out from that event, we take a look at the nominees, and the climbs that earned them a nod.
Ben Dare – Solo new route on the South Face of Saber Peak (2162m), Fiordland, NZ
The rarely visited South Face of Mt Saber provides some of the best alpine rock in New Zealand. This classic face is on many climber’s wish list. It is remote and hard to access making a solo ascent all the more challenging. After climbing 600m of solid granite between the original and Campbell Howard routes, Ben topped out on the East Ridge. In the process, he also made the first solo ascent of the South Face. After climbing the face, he traversed over Marian and Barrier Peaks to a high bivy on the summit of Barrier Peak before descending back into the Gertrude Valley.
Ben Dare – New route on South Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook (3724m), Remembrance, Grade 6 [M5, WI4] V, 550m, solo first ascent
A new ice and mixed route on the right-hand side of the South Face. Climbed in memory of Conor Smith – with whom Ben first attempted the line during their last trip into the mountains together. The descent was made down the South (Hillary) Ridge and upper Caroline Face, via Endeavour Col, to the Noeline Glacier.
Ben Dare – New route, solo first ascent on the South Face of Mt Suter (2094m) in the Darran Mountains, ‘Elysium’ Grade VI, 6 (AI5), 750m
Follows a faint corner system, via a tenuous thread of interlinked ice runnels, which snake up the right-hand edge of the face. A long and committing climb on thin ice of variable quality. Followed by an arduous traverse of the six kilometre long East Ridge before descending back into Falls Creek. This was the first solo, and second overall ascent of the South Face.
Steven Fortune, Daniel Joll – First ascent of the South West Pillar on Lobouche East, 6119m, Nepal
This ascent took the climbers 2 days and follows a large granite buttress to the true summit of Lobuche East. The line was conceived by Australian mountaineering legend, Tim Macartney-Snape who pointed it out to the team during the 2017 Remarkables Ice and Mixed Climbing Festival. Offering challenging snow and ice pitches along with rock climbing difficulties up to grade 17 . Australians Matthew Scholes and Kim Ladiges also climbed this line. The nomination however goes to Dan & Steve as they spent the majority of the route as the lead team.
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Matthew Scholes, Kim Ladiges – North Face of Cholatse, 6440m, Nepal
The immense 1800m high North Face of Cholatse poses a daunting climb. It is devoid of sun; steep and cold. Over 3 days, the team climbed this steep imposing line. This was the first successful climb of this face by an NZ and Australian group, with a number of expeditions previously failing. Kiwis Daniel Joll and Steven Fortune also climbed this line. The nomination however goes to Matt & Kim as they spent the majority of the route as the lead team.
Jono Clarke, Daniel Joll – One day on-sight ascent of the Lesueur Route, North Face of Les Drus, Chamonix
This steep and technical alpine route on a famous North Face provides a classic challenge. With difficulties up to M7 and almost 1000m of climbing, one day on-sight ascents are few and far between – and with good reason.
Rose Pearson, Brette Harrington – New route up the west face of Mount Blane in the Canadian Rockies
The team Christened this route as ‘Life Compass IV’ 5.10a M4+ 80 degree, TD+, 980m of climbing. The route was named after, and is dedicated to, the memory of Marc-Andre Leclerc, Brette’s partner.
This peak is named after a young Kiwi climber, Phil Herron who died at its base in 1977 aged just 19. Punta Herron has been an objective for many Kiwi expeditions over the last 40 odd years. The team climbed Punta Herron as part of an attempt on Torre Egger. It was the first time a Kiwi team has made the summit, and an appropriate tribute to a young Kiwi climber who died far too young.
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Another ascent which did not make the short list due to the use of fixed ropes and bottled oxygen was Guy Cotter’s ascents of Everest and Lohtse on consecutive days. This is an incredibly strong effort by a veteran Kiwi guide and climber, and is well worth recognising.