Cirque Creek Bluffs

(11 routes)

Face (Alpine)
South East

In winter access is frighteningly simple. Walk down the road to Bakehouse Creek and cross the river. The crossing can be unpleasant in the dark; stripped to the waist and watch for slippery boulders. Good luck. Once on the other side, travel is straightforward (if your legs aren’t too numb) on the true right. Travel times vary, depending on how much snow is around but allow more than what you’d think, two and a half hours to the lower cirque or at least four hours if heading into the upper cirque.

There are no easy descent routes making these climbs committing. Assess the avalanche hazard before choosing a descent. Think changes in altitude. Near the top it may be winter but as you get near the bottom wet point release avalanches may occur.
For the routes left of Cul de Sac, the most popular descent is the Crosscut Bluffs, the west facing slopes of Crosscut opposite Homer Hut. Finding the entry point into the Bluffs can be tricky. Complete a rising traverse of the snowfield to some pinnacles above Gertrude Valley. Descend the true left of the left gully, crossing to the true right of the right gully above the bluffs. Easy slopes lead to the valley floor. A longer but potentially safer way down is to traverse all the way to the South Ridge of Barrier Peak and descend to Gertrude Saddle.
Rapping the routes would take a while, possibly a last resort.
For the routes right of Cul de Sac, rapping is likely the best and safest descent option. Unless the avalanche hazard is low to bomber, don’t be tempted to abseil to the shoulder to traverse left into the upper terraces of Cirque Creek. The ground in here is death on a stick.

Reference Title Grade Length Quality Bolts Gone Natural pro Link to edit content
Mama Say's it's Alright to Dream III 4 100m
Snakes up a thin line of ice just right of a prominant and deeply recessed slot canyon on the lower west wall of Cirque Ck. The route climbed bulges of good ice scattered between areas of thin ice, frozen moss and rock.
Kristen Foley, Max Kaufman, July 1993
Early Cirque Creek left of deep ravine left of Scratch/Tickle. Rarely forms. 300m of snowy vego Darrans approach including a few short steep steps with thin slab/turf top outs. 200m of comfortable and scenic 1-3m wide neve/ice gully with a short steep rarely forming ice crux at top of triangular rock face to the right. Then moderately exposed neve/mixed arête to shoulder plateau of Crosscut. Rappel the route to descend.
Lincoln Quilliam, Alastair McDowell
Scratch IV 3
The first prominent ice gully on the left looking up Cirque Creek, take the left-hand fork at half height to finish on the high terrace, nine pitches. The first prominent ice gully on the left looking up Cirque Creek, take the left-hand fork at half height to finish on the high terrace, nine pitches.
Hugh Van Noorden, Anton Woperis, July 1984
Tickle IV 3
A variation to Scratch, continue right at the fork for three pitches up corners and wide cracks. Traverse left to join Scratch for the last two pitches.
Mike Abbott, Brian Alder, July 1988
Sign of the Times VI 5
wire representing trad
Climb Cul de Sac to the cave. Gain the ice flow above the cave, either by traversing in above the cave from the right, or up the pillar on the left of the cave. A number of ice pitches and steep snow lead up the fault to the summit. A fine companion to Cul de Sac. The first ascent of the lower part of the route was halted at the snowfields on the left at half height due to bad weather, The ascent continuing the line to the summit was probably the second ascent overall.
Brian Alder, Andrew Milne, September 1988 (To the snowfields)
Penelope’s Brain III 3
Not really worthwhile. Climbs the walllto the right of the Lindsay Stewart Buttress at about the hieght of the Cul de Sac cave. Named after a certain weather producer. The mushy ice was likened to a certain part of her anatomy. The descent was down Cul de Sac.
Dave Fearnley, Matt Evrard, Brian Alder, 1992
White as a Sheet IV 5
About 300m up valley from Cul De Sac. The first three pitches go up the right hand side of the slab to a small cave beneath a large overhang. The next pitch is the crux - the Sheet. The ice is usually thin on the 70 degree slab. Then there is a 3m vertical icicle. The last two pitches are straightforward ice. It isn’t the technical difficulty that gives this route the grade but the sustained angle and tenuous climbing on the Sheet. The only sensible descent is by rapping the route, although it is possible to traverse around to the terrace of the Upper Cirque. This route is named after the pallor of Richard Thomson’s face after he fell off the crux icicle.
Dave Vass, Richard Thomson, August 1989
Southern Man IV 4
About 300m up valley from Cul De Sac. This is the companion route to WAAS. It goes up the corner to the right of WAAS into a cave then up a 60m pitch of ice that is reminiscent of the crux on WAAS, but easier. The first ascentionists reckoned you could get the Missus and the dogs in the Ute up the first four pitches, but you’d struggle getting even the ute up the last one. Grade: Harder than losing to the Aussies. Rappel the route.
Allan Uren, Clinton Beavan, July 1993
Picked the Wrong Week to Climb Everest III 4
About 300m up valley from Cul De Sac. This short steep route is part of the longer gully bisecting the WAAS wall and the line of bluffs below the Upper Cirque. Two pitches, the short second pitch an icicle, finishing at the base of the snowfield. Rap off or continue up the snowfield.
Dave Vass, Richard Thomson, Brian Alder, July 1989
Squealing IV 6
Six steep pitches of pumpy technical climbing. The fifth pitch is a 45m vertical ice column. It may need a good hard winter to for the water ice pitches to form and be joined up. Rap the route or descend down the steep gully at the true left hand end of the lower Cirque Creek wall. It’s hard to say definitively, because it hasn’t had a second ascent but Squealing will probably prove to be a test piece.
Paul Rogers, Dave Vass, 1993
Na Fianna
ice line through the centre of the rock buttress to the right of Squealing
Ben Dare, Danny Murphy 7/2015
Craig Jefferies. Allen Uren.