South Face

(21 routes)

The south face of Mt Hicks is the stuff of legend. Due to the face’s proximity to Empress Hut it is sometimes
considered a large crag (‘large’ being the key word there). The face has some of the best hard climbing in the region;
for most routes the first two to three pitches provide the crux.
There is no easy descent route from the top of Mt Hicks. If you’ve summited via one of the rock routes in
summer, the best descent is probably Route 3.37. If you’ve climbed an ice route it’s probably easier to abseil on
v-threads, either down the route you’ve climbed or down the Right Icefields (Route 3.60).

Face (Alpine)
South West
Reference Title Grade Length Quality Bolts Gone Natural pro Link to edit content
3.39 Dingle-Button II 3+ 4-
This route is popular due to its accessibility and lack of commitment, compared to other routes on the face. It is seldom climbed to the summit. Start at the second obvious gully right from Harper Saddle. A couple of pitches of moderately steep ice followed by 200m of lesser-angled snow and ice leads to the Divide Route. A number of variations have been added further left, all of a similar grade.
Ray Button, Graeme Dingle, Jun 1979.
3.40 Dance Commander IV 4+ 4+
Start up Dingle-Button, traverse into Deardissima to gain the large shelf, then traverse right and finish up Highway to Hell. A comparatively easy way to the summit on moderate ground.
Guy McKinnon, Jan 2014
3.41 Tales of Choss III 4+ 4+ 13
Start at the bottom of the D-B couloir and climb the rib on the right of the gully (crux 13). Join the Divide Route after six rope lengths.
Roger Parkyn, Andy MacFarlane, Feb 1984.
3.42 Deardissima 4
Gully immediately right of Dingle-Button. Crosses Tales of Choss to join the top of Dingle-Button
Marty Beare, Pat Deavoll, Jun 1999.
3.43 King Hit IV 6 5+
Follows a line of weakness through the steep area just left of Highway to Hell. Cross the obvious right-trending ramp system between the second and third shelves, then climb the final headwall to reach an extensive area of easy ground half way up the left side of the face. The first ascentionists descended from here by traversing left downclimbing Dingle-Button. Five or six pitches.
Dave Vass, Hugh Barnard, Jun 1995.
3.44 Highway to Hell V 5+ 6
Start just left of HD in a right trending gully on 65-85 degree ice (probably thin) then traverse right across a snowslope and step into a narrow gully. Follow the obvious gully and short steep walls. After the first shelf continue up a narrow gully to the second shelf and easy ground. Move left across the shelf then up right through the rock band to gain the summit icefield. Thirteen pitches.
Hugh Grierson, Jade Pope, Dec 1996.
3.45 Heaven’s Door V 5+ 6
This route aims for the prominent ice flow immediately right of the large shelf on the left side of the face. Start up steep, loose ground to the right of Highway to Hell. Five pitches of hard climbing lead to easier ground to the right of the large shelf. Take the line of least resistance from there to the summit icefields, usually as shown in topo opposite, but variations between there and the upper section of Route 3.47 have also been climbed.
Russell Braddock, Kim Logan, Jan 1983. Nick Cradock, Paul Aubrey, Jul, 1987
3.46 The Curver Direct
This route seems to have been unaffected by the rockfall. The usual start is about 20-30m left of the very steep cliff on the left side of the rockfall gully, but there are a few different versions. Climb about five pitches of steep terrain to join Route 3.47 at an obvious small shelf.
Lionel Clay, Richard Kirk, August 1986
3.47 The Curver Neo-classic V 6 6-
The lower half of the original Curver ‘Classic’ has been destroyed by the rockfalls. The new version of The Curver, up the rear left side of the new gully, is likely to turn into one of the most popular hard ice routes on the South Face, as it forms regularly. Climb the obvious steep ice flow in the back of the gully, which is usually thin, to reach the right end of an obvious small shelf, then traverse slightly left and take your pick of the best looking line above, up ice gullies and possibly some mixed ground for about six pitches to reach the summit icefields.
Nick Cradock, Tobin Sorenson, Aug 1979.
3.48 One for Pavle V 5+
A strong Slovenian team climbed the difficult lower pitches of the Gunbarrels during the brief period between rockfall events, then traversed delicately towards The Curver before finishing further right with a new extended finish. Depending on conditions, the upper part of this route looks like a great alternate finish to Route 3.47. The grade reflects the difficulty of the upper variant line only. The lower pitches of this route were about Technical Grade 7.
Pavle Kozjek, Grega Kresal, Simon Slejko, Mar 2004
3.49 Gunbarrels V 7 6 WI5
Pick a line up the upper-right region of the recent rockfall wedge, probably climbing a new route as you go, to reach a gully that leads up and right to the base of the prominent double ice couloirs (the Gunbarrels). Climb the Gunbarrels (grade 6), then climb sustained moderate-angled ice to the summit. On the impressive first ascent of the original Gunbarrels, Bill Denz aided the first two vertical to overhanging pitches (including a 50m ice pillar) on Doubek ice screws. Then in a game of oneupmanship, numerous parties attempted to free the lower pitches. Allan Uren and Julian White made the first free ascent, only to have the lower 2.5 pitches obliterated by the 1999 rockfall. These lower pitches were climbed in November 1999 by a strong kiwi team, but it was visiting climber Gren Hinton who was the first to climb the full route post-rockfall. Only one more party got to climb the route before the 2007 rockfall, which appears to have made the lower area quite thin and steep.
Bill Denz, Phil Herron, Murray Judge, Jun 1975. with aid
3.50 Yankee-Kiwi Couloir V 6 6+
When this classic route was first climbed it followed the steepest line into the Gunbarrels that existed at the time. Climb either 3.51i or 3.51ii, then up a steep ice couloir to the left of the Left Buttress (the Yankee-Kiwi Couloir) to the base of the Gunbarrels. Continue as for Route 3.48. Awesome fun on a sustained line.
Nick Cradock, Tobin Sorenson, Aug 1979.
3.51 Left Buttress Direct Start V 6 6 18
Climb directly to the ledge traversed by the Original Route by either (i) the sustained face to the left of the lowest promontory of rock, possibly dealing with a couple of small overhangs en route, or (ii) a corner system directly below the upper buttress. Some parties have started up 3.51ii and traversed into 3.51i. From the ledge, continue up prominent wide cracks in the bottom cliffs to the right of the crest of the buttress (grade 18). Joins the Original Route where the gradient eases.
Nick Cradock, Nic Kagan, February 1978
3.52 Left Buttress V 6 5+ 15
Ascend two pitches on the bottom wall nearer the Central Gullies, then traverse left directly below the main buttress to reach an ice ramp left of the buttress. Then either ascend directly up the buttress crest (crux 15), or up the ramp for a short distance before regaining the buttress, or up a short buttress left of the ramp before cutting back right again. Follow the buttress up progressively easier rock until the icefields. Then, depending on the state of the icecliffs, traverse left and up, or else through the cliffs. Superb.
Graeme Dingle, Murray Jones, December 1970
3.53 Desolation Row VI 5+ 6
Start up Route 3.52, then traverse slightly right for 50m and up diagonally left for another 100m before ascending directly to emerge near the top of the Left Buttress.
Bill Denz, Nigel Perry, January 1981
3.54 Generation Y IV 6 WI4 M5
A variation direct start to Central Gullies. Start from a thin gully just right of Desolation Row (MC6). Difficult mixed terrain on the third pitch where the variation exited the thin gully and tended right towards Central Gullies. Seven pitches.
Jamie Vinton-Boot, Matt Thom, October 2011
3.55 Central Gullies V 5 6-
The first of the big ice climbs on this face. There are a number of variation starts and finishes—all of the main ice flows between the Left and Right buttresses generally count as the ‘Central Gullies’. The climbing is fairly sustained, through ice couloirs and icefields, until easier 45 degree slopes lead to the icecliffs. Depending on the state of the cliffs, find a route through them to the summit. More recently the cliffs have ablated back to a slightly protruding shield, but this may change again in the future.
Bill Denz, Peter Gough, Etienne Kummer, Nov 1972.
3.56 Logan’s Run V 6+ 6+
One of the stand-out lines on the face, involving steep and sustained climbing up to WI4 and M5. From the edge of the Central Gullies, climb the upper of the t wo major vertical couloirs which run up the left side of the R ight Buttress. If sections are devoid of ice, then it is possible to dry-tool/aid climb through them. Near the top of the couloir it is possible to traverse onto the crest of the buttress. Finish up the Right Buttress route, or rappel off. There is some fixed gear, but it would be unwise to trust or rely on it. In 1985, Nick Cradock and Kevin Boekholt eliminated the aid used in the first ascent and completed the top of the route, which is where the ‘Logan’s Retreat’ jibe came from (check out the old journals for more).
Kim Logan, Pete Sinclair, Dec 1983.
3.57 Tingler IV 6+ 6+
Ascend the lower of the two major vertical couloirs on the left side of the Right Buttress. Five or six pitches of very steep, mixed ice and rock lead onto the Right Buttress. The second pitch is the crux with a small overhung section of ice. This is a shorter, good hard technical route, without the commitment of the routes on the main face. It is straightforward to abseil.
Dave Fearnley, John McCallum, October 1987
3.58 Right Buttress V 5 5 14
Avoid the first 60m by using the icefield on the right. Traverse onto the crest of the buttress then directly up on or right of the crest (crux 14). Then head up the icefields and through the icecliffs.
Graeme Dingle, Noel Sissons, Dec 1972.
3.60 Right Icefields 5
Climb through the bottom cliffs which usually have two pitches of hard climbing, then up a sustained shield of ice. There are a number of variations.
Mick Browne, Keith Woodford, Nov 1972.
Aoraki Tai Poutini 2018