Posted on: December 1, 2003

Dave Vass on the north face of the West Peak of Haast in New Zealandís Southern Alps. Dave Vass, Rich Turner and Allan Uren established the route Natural Gas in the New Zealand winter in an eighteen-hour push. The large rocky mountain in the background is Mt. Malte Brun (3159m). [Photo] Allan Uren

The West Peak of Haast (3081m) is a predominately rock peak that, with the High Peak and Middle Peak, forms a wall of peaks near Mt. Tasman. The face had one summer ascent, in November 1981, by Bill Atkinson and Rob Hall. To climb on a north face in a New Zealand winter requires good timing and cold weather. Falling rime ice can be a serious hazard. Because of this, Dave Vass, Rich Turner and I dealt with an element of intimidation to do the climb, even though conditions proved to be perfect. We had reason to be wary: on an attempt last winter I was bombed off the Atkinson/Hall Route.

We left Pioneer Hut at 2249 meters and skied to the base of the route in the dark in three hours. After the sun had risen our fears proved unfounded: the rime stayed put. The route climbed six sixty-meter pitches up steep, mixed ground. The crux was more rock than ice. By 5:30 p.m. it was dark, so we escaped off the face by traversing to the West Ridge. Back at Pioneer Hut at 1 a.m. after eighteen hours, we turned on our propane gas heater and basked in the afterglow of opening up a whole new playground of mixed climbing. We graded it 5+ on the New Zealand grading system, more because of the technical difficulties than the isolation.


- Allan Uren, Fox Glacier, New Zealand

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