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Fastness Pk

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To gaze up at the East Face from Ruth Flat… ‘a great featureless rock wall rising 1000m with no lines, no cracks, no ledges’ and the reason for the name is clear.
No less awesome today than how it was perceived fifty years ago, the East Face of Fastness has proven to be a little shorter at 750m and there are cracks and ledges. But the climbing is as awesome as it was originally perceived to be, as Peter Dickson and his Polish partner, Miroslavc Sveticic found out when they made the first ascent in 1990. The pair accessed the face directly from Ruth Flat up the waterfall issuing from the face. In Peter’s understated comment ‘It’s not a good way to get there’, he sums up how well defended the face is.
The West Ridge of Fastness and first ascent of the peak was completed by Paul Powell, Colin Marshall, John Sage and Earle Riddiford in Dec 1945 from a camp on the Volta Glacier. Twenty years later Paul Powell was again camped on the Volta, this time to make the first ascent of the North Ridge with Keith Skinner, Peter Child and Geoff Bayliss on January 2, 1965.
The South Ridge was first ascended by Garth Matterson, Don Mee and Dave Tarrant on January 4, 1959. The mountain, and in particular the East Face, has everything the modern alpinist could wish for and will always deliver an intense experience.

POINT (168.80824162 -44.36259568)
CA11 660 793
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Type Name
Face East Face


Reference Title Grade Length Pro Quality Operations
 North Ridge, III,1+ III,1+

  • P1
  • Alpine (Commitment) III
  • Alpine (Mt Cook) 1+

The first 300m are steep and are climbed by a series of steep and loose rock couloirs, with some difficult pitches towards the top. The angle then eases and a long section can be turned on easy snow on the west side, before a final short, steep rock pitch leads to the summit.

 South Ridge, III,1 III,1

  • P1
  • Alpine (Commitment) III
  • Alpine (Mt Cook) 1

The South Ridge is a straightforward rock ridge rising from the Volta Glacier near Rainbow Col. This col is not accessible from the east. To descend the South Ridge to Moncrieff Col would take about 3 hours.

4 4East Ridge, III,3+ III,3+

  • P1
  • Alpine (Commitment) III
  • Alpine (Mt Cook) 3+

The ridge rises steeply for about 400m in a series of buttresses from the west end of Wilmot Saddle. The rock is generally poor, and is muddy and vegetated on the East Face side. Belay points are found using pitons and a good selection are recommended for this route. The ridge was also descended after the first winter ascent using two 60m ropes and pitons. Normal descent routes available are via Moncrieff Col or Ruth Ridge. Gain the foot of the ridge from Wilmot Saddle or by steep gullies leading to a prominent notch at the foot of the ridge. When there is sufficient snow the gully option is the best. The first buttress is good rock and may be climbed direct; thereafter the crest of the ridge is followed where practicable until the angle eases and either the ridge or a snow route on the South Face can be followed to the summit. Although the first buttress is the most technically demanding part of the climb, the first party considered a very steep, poorly protected pitch of mud and rubbish necessary to bypass the third step, as the crux. It may be possible to bypass this pitch by continuing straight up the buttress, although this may be more technical. Times. From Wilmot Saddle to the top of the steep section takes about four hours, with a further two hours to the summit. From the summit to Moncrieff Col requires about three hours.

 South Face, 13,4 13,4

  • P1
  • 13
  • Alpine (Mt Cook) 4

Lots of stuff at about rock grade 13. Quite a complicated route with lots of off-angle ledges.

Peter Dickson

Miroslav Sveticic was Slovenian, not Polish. The correct spelling of his name is Miroslav Sveticic

Fri, 13/01/2012 - 00:19 Permalink
Allen Uren & John Cocks. Photos: John Clyma, DG Bishop & Ducan Ritchie.