Climber's winter ascent hailed as exceptional

Chch mountaineer battled gale-force winds

BRITTANY PICKETT
Last updated 17:26 22/07/2014
GUY MCKINNON
GUY MCKINNON

ON CLOUD NINE: Christchurch mountaineer Guy Mckinnon on his Pope’s Nose ascent near Mt Aspiring. 

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A mountaineer's winter climb of Pope's Nose has been described as "possibly the finest alpine achievement of New Zealand's modern era".

Guy Mckinnon, of Christchurch, completed his second winter ascent of the east face of Pope's Nose, near Mt Aspiring, this month.

Without helicopter transport to reach the base of the climb, Mckinnon started his climb at 9.20am on Friday and reached the summit five hours later.

He is one of the country's top mountaineers despite a fall in January 2005, after which doctors told him he might never climb again. He's been proving them wrong ever since.

Despite the frequency of mountaineering injuries and deaths, Mckinnon said the sport was a positive activity.

When he got to the peak of Pope's Nose, he was ready to start his next challenge, ascending the northeast face of Mt Aspiring. "I've got half of it in the bag and now I just have to keep going and try to finish off the second climb."

From there, he descended the Volta Glacier, from which he planned to attempt the ascent. His plans were thwarted by poor weather and instead he crossed the Bonar Glacier in gale-force winds and white-out to seek shelter in French Ridge Hut.

"The unfolding of this attempt was long and arduous beyond words and required mental effort and determination in excess of anything previously required of me by alpinism," he said.

The descent to French Ridge Hut was not something he would forget any time soon.

"Generally speaking, in mountaineering the descent is considered the hardest part, when you're exhausted and tired, that's when people make mistakes."

The wind and white-out made for one of the roughest descents he'd had, he said.

The Climber magazine editor Kester Brown said Mckinnon's ascent "must rate as possibly the finest alpine achievement of New Zealand's modern era".

"The first ascent was completed by a team of four, who flew in to the base of the face, bivvied en route, and flew home from the top. That ascent stood as a benchmark for difficult winter alpinism in this country for 24 years," he said.

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- The Southland Times

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