The Remarkables Ice & Mixed Festival is happening again this winter and we’re keen too see as much of the club down there as possible!

The dates for this years event are 13-16th August and for those of you who don’t know, the event is a great, all inclusive opportunity to meet fellow climbers and learn new skills in one of the most beautiful and accessible parts of the country! And if that doesn’t convince you, beer is generally provided each night! (For more info, check out the event site here: www.iceandmixedfestival.co.nz).

We will be organizing carpooling to Queenstown and if there’s enough interest we can also help organise accommodation for the group, so If you’re keen to get involved fill out the form below and we’ll create a group for everyone to communicate! If you’re keen on splitting accommodation, please fill out the form by July 12 so we can book things in advance. Also, don’t forget to sign up for general climbing or one of the remaining instruction events ASAP as they’re selling out quick!

Google Form – click here
Contact Jamie Macalister jamiemaca@gmail.com

Trip Report

CMC take on the RIMF – Jamie macalister

Even the threat of a second COVID-19 lockdown couldn’t stop The Expedition Climbers Club from running another successful Ice and Mixed Festival at the Remarkables this August. A great group of 10 CMC members got together for the festival, sharing rides for the migration to Queenstown and taking over the adventure hostel for the weekend. During the day we all split up for our respective activities with most people participating in a range of courses from snow craft to ice climbing. Although there was very little snow around, the conditions were great for fast travel and once you knew where to look, plenty of ice could be found.

Eoin and myself drove down Wednesday evening to allow a full days climbing before the festival kicked off. We had heard through the grapevine that if we were looking for ice, the south face of single cone was the place to be and we certainly weren’t disappointed! We decided to climb the whole south face starting with a beautiful ice pitch. This was my first time leading ice and for some reason I decided to use all of our limited ice screws on the first half of the pitch which made for an exciting second half and great entertainment for Eoin… From the top of the ice we began following snow slopes up the south face and quickly became bored. Seeing as we were pretty fresh and had “all the time in the world”, we decided to spice things up a little and ended up spending a few hours negotiating a single pitch. We then quickly realised that we did NOT have “all the time in the world” and jumped back on to easier ground all the way to the top, making it back to the car just before dark.

Jamie on Touch Down

Friday was an early start for those on courses but as I had only signed up for ‘general climbing’, I was able to sleep in and nurse my mild hangover. Eoin was off on an Ice & Mixed clinic and so I replaced him with Ed who had arrived late Wednesday night. Our theory was that there was no point risking an early morning just to get beaten to a route and that a much smarter strategy was to be so late that everyone else on the mountain would be out of our way by the time we got there. We took our time walking up to telecom tower enjoying the morning sun and arrived to find half a dozen climbers working their way up different routes. As expected, there were already groups on all of the classics we were hoping to try, however we decided to jump on MK couloir as the group above us were already finishing the second pitch – exactly as we had planned. After winning a contentious round of ‘paper, scissors, rock’, I got to lead the first pitch and as an eternal optimist, I tried to enjoy the constant barrage of ice from above by telling myself I was in Scotland. Things were going pretty well until Ed arrived at the top of the first pitch and took some ice to the face which was about the same time we started to re-think our sleep-in strategy. We continued on and topped out early afternoon to a beautiful, still and sunny day. Thursday night consisted of some great talks from a range of climbers followed by a pub quiz which I’m sad to report ‘Team CMC’ did not win. In fact, I suspect we came dead last.

Ed & Eoin on the GT (Photo: Eoin M)

Saturday was much the same as Friday with most people on courses. Ed and I however, as the alpinists we are, woke up bright and early with our hearts set on climbing ‘Fridays Fool’ before anyone else had the chance to come near it. But, once again we were beaten and seeing as Ed already had one black eye, we thought it best to try something else instead. We ended up hopping on ‘The Clearances’ which began with an exciting couple of mixed pitches followed by a snow gully to a steep and very dry wall. After a good hour or two of me trying to pick a line up the final section we eventually made the decision to bail as it was just a bit out of our league. Once again, we had a great night at the festival listening to more talks, catching up with climbers from all over the country and sinking double browns.

Sunday was yet another perfect day with blue skies and no wind. I again replaced my climbing partner as Ed and Eoin went off on the grand traverse and Ben offered to drag me up some rock. After another fine days climbing, the long weekend was over and it was back to reality, starting with the long haul back to Christchurch. Thanks to all the CMC crew who made it along! (Eoin, Ed, Daiki, Aleksandra, Christine, Eric, Hamish, Lily and Julie!), I look forward to doing it all again next year!

the remarkables – EOIN o’Mahony

I was only in the country a few months and I heard about the Remarkables Ice and Mixed Climbing festival through a few trail runners / members of the CMC– all great reviews for the event! New place to climb, chance to meet other climbers (always a tough one when you move to a new country) and get some tips/tricks from more experienced climbers- happy days.

Ed on MK couloir. Photo Jamie Macalister
Eoin on Touchdown_ south face of Single cone. Photo Jamie Macalister

Jamie McAllistar (CMC) kindly put together a group chat for everyone to plan our trip which was a collection of ~10 climbers from the CMC. With carpooling & accommodation sored, weather forecast & good avo risk, photos of the NZ Alpine team popping up on FB the excitement was building- something had to go wrong eh?

Covid. That sneaky rascal was back and not ideal just before a festival. Clusters were being monitored in ALK- heard the term JAFFAs a lot when this news came out (Jaffa was one of the first NZ words I learned when I arrived in NZ funnily enough!). E mails questioning the fate of the event were sent out by organisers, keeping everyone fully informed, although everything was organised on our end so plans were alive to travel down regardless (which was not in any contradiction of gov restrictions). Another e-mail confirming the event was going ahead, complying with government restrictions with certain restrictions – a sigh of relief from participants and organisers I’m sure.

The day before the courses, Jamie McAllister and I planned to climbed Touch Down RHS and the South Face Classic of Single Cone. We were greeted with nice blue plastic ice on Touch Down RHS – a great start which was a bit of a surprise considering the warm temps, and photos detailing the completely stripped ice from Wye creek a few hundred meters lower. The pitched climbing was fantastic on the ice, although this gave way to a bit of simul climbing on a snow ramp so after a while we intentionally broke off the route to climb a more direct route to the ridge. There was great climbing once we did this, with difficulty as you would like it, just pick your line! This climbing turned into more of a veneer of snow on the rock face, so we put the ropes away and climbed on this snow to the summit ridge. We aimed for the most accessible area to gain the ridge, but this had a rock section of 3/4 m in height, with soft snow on top of the rock and not much to get a hold of, and the consequence of a fall was falling down the full south face, not ideal for a Thursday. The ropes had to be taken out of the rucksack, anchor built, tied in, on belay, to get up 3/4 m. Jamie and I had a plan that after he gained the summit ridge, he would just walk down the other side of the ridge and just keep walking to keep my rope taut and on belay. On the ridge we were greeted with a beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains surrounding us at dusk, NZ you absolute beaut!

The next day I was signed up to the ice and mixed clinics where the first day was the mixed climbing day. Blue skies, not a puff of wind and a cloud inversion greeted us as we walked to the crag. What a beautiful area to climb! The prominent peaks were shown to us out in the distance, Mt Cook & Mt Aspiring to the main ones that I can remember, showing the extent of the visibility that we had that day. Geared up and ready to rock, there was around 10/12 participants in the course and 3 instructors which was a fantastic ratio, there was always someone to give some information/ guidance. There were around 5 ropes set up on varying levels of difficulty which was fantastic as you could work your confidence up to the harder climbs, always in the knowledge that you’re on top rope so life is not too bad and you weren’t going to plummet to your death if the axe pops off the rock – not ideal for a Friday.

The evenings were held in the event centre for the post climbing meet, apparently there is usually free beer at this festival but with Corvid restrictions this was no longer permitted- not ideal for Fri Sat night. BYO was order of the day, and with some fantastic talks such as the Alpinist of the year, Mountain Research Council avalanche talk along with many others to mention, and a great “pub” quiz too. There was a great social aspect to this and great to hear what others climbed that day or got up to.

The next day was the ice climbing and we went to Touch Down where there was already ropes set up from the previous days clinic so we could get straight into it, only after one of the instructors, Ben Mangan, had to hack the ropes out of the ice as they had frozen solidly into it! This was a fantastic day out of the searing heat on account of the south face aspect with some great instruction from the NZ Alpine team from ice screw placement, to V threading and most importantly climbing technique. There were a number of top ropes set up (~5) so there was always an option to jump onto some climb, and all climbs were top rope so you could concentrate on technique and get some real time feedback from the instructors.

The Sunday was the day after the courses officially ended but several folks planned to do the Remarks grand traverse. I teamed up with Ed Cromwell (CMC) and left at a reasonably early– although it seemed as if we were the last to hit the traverse. We soloed the route which was in great condition, the rock was warm to the touch and the weather was amazing, and we got to meet up with a good number of folks along the route as we were passing through – everyone was stoked for the day. After a small swig of whisky of the summit of Single Cone we descended and back to the cars – the drive back to CHCH was going to be a long one and the pie shop in Fairlie was going to be closed – not ideal for a Sunday.

The Remarkables Ice and Mixed festival was fantastic from the unplanned variables such as weather and conditions of climbing, through to the controlled variables such as clinics & instructors, to the evenings talks etc. The course I went on (Ice and Mixed Clinic) was fantastic and the “syllabus” covered everything to give more confidence and improve technique. I use the term Syllabus in inverted commas since the event is run by volunteers from the NZ Alpine Team and are therefore very fluid on what the student wants to take out of the courses. I also use the term volunteers gingerly, as I do not want to take away the extensive planning that must have gone into the event, with the added complications that Covid was producing that encompassed the country in every variable. Overall a fantastic festival and will definitely be going back!

Ed on Queens Drive Photo Jamie Macalister
Jamie Macalister on The Clearances Photo Ed Cromwell