North West Ridge

(5 routes)

Variations of the North West Ridge

Face (Alpine)
Reference Title Grade Length Quality Bolts Gone Natural pro Link to edit content
19 Original North West Ridge III 2
The North West Ridge was first climbed by Samuel Turner, Harold Hodgkinson, Jack Murrell and George Robertson on March 11, 1913, during the second ascent of the mountain. After climbing French Ridge and the Quarterdeck, they then travelled down the Bonar to reach the ridge near its junction with Shipowner Ridge. The exposure and difficulties of the climb were subsequently greatly exaggerated by Turner, who concluded that ‘the first climb and probably the last of Mount Aspiring’s east precipices was finished’. Turner was geographically disoriented; his ‘east precipices’ were actually the northern slopes of the buttress, and their route, far from being avoided, has become instead the most popular on the mountain. Nevertheless, the achievement of this party, torn as it was by acrimonious bickering and with only one experienced mountaineer in its ranks, should not be underrated. Their climb involved more than 60 hours without sleep, including a bleak benightment in a storm above the buttress before continuing the descent in rain and wind the next day. For a short time in 2008 there were some protection bolts on the lower ridge, but due to loud opposition from a majority of mountaineers they were removed.
Samuel Turner, Harold Hodgkinson, Jack Murrell and George Robertson, March 11, 1913,
Shipowner Ridge III 2
From the hut Shipowner Ridge is followed to 70m below its junction with the North West Ridge, from where easy snow immediately below the rock on the north side leads around to the lower, level, gendarme-studded section of the North West Ridge. All the gendarmes may be turned or traversed easily. As the ridge starts to rise towards the big rock step of the buttress a prominent sloping slab leads out and around on to the Therma Face. After a short, steep pitch a series of ledges and intervening rock steps may be traversed on an ascending diagonal line until the ridge is regained at the level section above the buttress (2400m). Alternatively a route may be made directly up the Therma Face of the buttress and then along the crest of the ridge. Above the buttress a broad easy angled ridge of snow or slabby rock leads to the ice cap and the short, but narrow and exposed summit ridge. This route can be accessed from the Bonar Glacier by traversing north 400m.
21 The lower section of the North West Ridge III 2
The lower section of the North West Ridge below the buttress may be avoided by descending to the Bonar from the hut and regaining the ridge at the foot of the buttress. It is doubtful if this variation is any faster than the original route , and it is certainly less interesting.
22 The Ramp III 2
The lower part of the North West Ridge and the buttress may be avoided by descending to the Bonar from the hut and following up easy crevassed slopes to where a steep snow or ice ramp (45–55°) on the south face of the buttress leads up to the level section on the ridge above. Rock showing through on the bergschrund of the ramp may cause considerable difficulties in late summer (grade 13) and windslab avalanche conditions may be encountered from wind loading from the west at any time of the year. ‡ This route has been the scene of several fatalities. The factors of late afternoon soft snow and a steepening slope require extra caution.
23 Early summer rapid access to the ridge III 2
In early summer rapid access to the ridge above the buttress may sometimes be gained by descending from the top of Shipowner Ridge into the Therma Basin and crossing easy snow below the North Face of the buttress to a point where an all snow route leads back to the ridge. This route, on the sunny face, is soon cut by schrunds as the season progresses. This is also a good descent route early season. A rappel can be made from the flat spot at 2470m. Times for the North West Ridge vary greatly; a rapid return climb time would be 8 hours. The average is 11–12 hours and slow parties have been observed doing overtime up to 18 hours!
Allen Uren & John Cocks. Photo VC Browne.