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Chris Bennetts-Cash

Climber. Software engineer. Audio geek.

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The climb was planned for New Year’s Day 2015 and so, naturally, we were looking for an early night to get plenty of rest in for an early start and a big day. We hadn’t quite realised what a madhouse Queenstown became at New Year’s Eve and were pretty worried that would be impossible. But we survived.

As we were leaving the campground on New Year’s Day Wendy pointed to some snow-dusted ranges and asked if I’d noticed the snow the previous day.

It must have snowed overnight I respond, At least they’re not the mountains we’re going to.

As we drive my mind, gears moving slowly in the morning, realises that the Remarkables are significantly higher than that mountain range, and begins to wonder what we’ll have in store for us.

The climb begins at the rightmost of this shot, over both peaks of Double Cone to the right before crossing to the higher Single Cone

More or less a light dusting of snow. Not so much that anything is obscured or slippery, although rock climbing like this could be mighty unpleasant. At the end of the road we follow faint tracks up the range, eventually realising we’ve gone about a kilometre in the wrong direction and turn back toward Telecom Tower. The climb starts at The Helipad, apparently a well-known area by climbers in the area and so we’re left to our own devices to figure out how to get there.

Looking down on Lake Alta from the track up
Looking up to the end of the road

On arriving at Telecom Tower we try various options to follow the range South, with the most likely being a precarious climb with significant exposure. We may have been defeated today as Wendy suggests it could be time to turn around.

Double Cone and Single Cone. The large flat area to the right of the peaks is The Helipad

As we return from Telecom Tower Wendy notices footprints worn into the snowdrift well below Telecom Tower, and following those we pass below a large chasm to the South of Telecom Tower and then gain the ridgeline and are able to walk/scramble to The Helipad.

Lake Alta looks very different from when I was last here in Winter

By the time we reach The Helipad, having gotten lost multiple times and been moving quite slowly because we didn’t really know where we were going, nor whether our chose direction would get us there, we’d been moving for four hours. And hadn’t yet started the actual climb. Despite long Summer days, and particularly with an unknown route of unknown difficulty ahead of us, we succumb to uncertainty, have lunch and return to the car, prepared for next time by now knowing the approach to The Helipad.

Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu sitting 2000 metres below the ranges

We return on January 6, on another clear, crisp morning, and this time reach The Helipad in around 90 minutes.

Some exciting - but all easy - rock pitches interspersed with walking, rock scrambling or, in some cases, edging along a knifeblade ridge with about 400m of air on one side down to Lake Alta and 2000m on the other down to Queenstown make for an amazing day.

Rapping off Single Cone at the end of the day we’re thankful again for the ice tools that we used crossing the snow banks at the start - With the south face being so sheltered the snow bank was hard, slippery ice and we were forced to cut steps to make it off the ice.