As always in Fiordland, no matter how prepared you are, the weather has the final say about what you climb. This is what we have done in the last fine spell-
First we went into Sinbad Gully - and free climbed Shadowland!
A short Chopper flight took us up to the head of Sinbad Gully, into a
beautiful hanging valley surrounded by a cirque of 300m walls… some of
the cleanest, steepest walls any of had seen in this part of the
world! As the sound of the Helicopter subsided we realised what a
remote place we had been left in… we only saw one plane (from a
distance) in the 4 days we spent there.
That afternoon we headed straight over to the base of the cliff and
made short work of the first 2 pitches of Shadowland. At 19 and 20
they were a great warm-up for the rest of the route, even though they
were a little wet (from the water falls pounding off the top of the
cliff). We fixed a static rope to the ground, and headed back for
The next morning we jugged up to the ledge, then Derek and I led the
next 2 pitches while Paul and Craig aid-climbed ahead and re-bolted
the fifth pitch. The 3rd pitch was a beautiful sustained grade 23
seam; then the 4th pitch continued up the same crack system, but
stepped it up a little to grade 26/27. Derek climbed the left variant
of the 5th pitch, which ended up being grade 25/26, and while Craig
headed up the Lightening Bolt crack, I figured out the right variant
of pitch 5. It was a little harder at grade 27 with some great moves
in a shallow corner with small finger locks. By this time it was
getting late, so we fixed the static and called it a day.
The 6th pitch… the "Lightening Bolt" crack is the most obvious feature
on the route, and ended up being a stunning pitch to climb. A corner
crack leading around the base of a square-cut roof and into another
sustained corner, which went at 22 and ended at a grassy ledge. From
there the 7th pitch headed up a just over-hung crack for 30m. This was
one of the most beautiful pitches, fairly sustained grade 26, climbing
the crack and small edges.
The next pitch was a short steep and rather powerful, grade 24
climbing. At the top of this we realised that it was getting on and we
only had two pitches to go, so Derek tackled the 9th "Bombay Chimney"
pitch, while I jugged past to try to finish the route. The Bombay
Chimney was a desperate 27, requiring some crazy knee bar action. I
headed up the last pitch, expecting to find some amazing water-worn
jugs, but instead it was a deceptively steep corner crack leading to a
few of the promised jugs in the last few meters of the route.
Unfortunately I fell off within meters of these jugs and was forced to
retreat to the ground, as it was getting dark.
The next morning Derek and I did the 250m jug, up to the base of
the10th pitch, and managed to finish the route with another sustained
grade 26 pitch.
Then with one rest day of rain we went to the Ngapunatoru Plato to attempt to climb on Kaipo Wall. This is New Zealand’s biggest wall (1300m) and is fearsome in size and location. The Team made camp right on the top of the wall
and then the first afternoon rapped down 200m and all climbed out again. Below us the wall drops away out of sight for 300m before if ledges out on to easier ground (800m of scrambling?). The next day the rigging team of Paul and Craig went down first and fixed another hundred meters of rope and Mayan and Myself rapped all the way down the head wall to the snow. The first three pitches are relatively easy (sub 20) climbing; then there is 200m of wall that overhangs 10-15m. The climbing was sometimes very marginally protected and was a lot harder than expected (24, 23, 24, 25). The last was climbed just as it was getting dark and afterwards we speed up fixed lines to the top.
After this we went straight back in to Sinbad Gully - after seeing the potential for amazing new routes we had to go back.
Kester Brown hopped in to take photos, film and belay. We met a climber Steve who was super keen to learn about the ways of the Darrans and the Force so suddenly Sinbad Gully did not seem like such and inhospitable place.
Hanging out in the Biv.
Paul, Craig and Steve cranked out 200m of a new route to the right of Shadowland and freed most of it at grade 21! (Incredible on such a steep wall). Mayan and I headed up the steepest, hardest bit of wall we could find with the aim of reaching a seam 150m up the wall. We got four pitch's up in two days and the next day free climbed them - the rest will have to wait until next year!
We where very lucky and had three alpine gecko sightings! They are very rare in NZ except on Sinbad wall it seems!