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Ascent of Mount Ollivier on 1993-11-16

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, November 16, 1993
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Ollivier
    Location:New Zealand
    Elevation:1933 m / 6342 ft

Ascent Trip Report

Monday, November 15, 1993:

I wanted to climb Mt. Cook, and I started investigating how one goes about this. Although only 3754 meters (12,316 feet) high, the mountain is extremely steep and gets terrible weather, making it a very serious climb, far more difficult than anything I had done before, including my climbs in the Alps this past August. In 1991 a huge landslide had taken off the top 10 meters of the summit, plus most of the east face, leaving behind a very unstable knife-edged ridge of steep snow and ice. Going solo was pretty much out of the question, so I needed either a partner or a guide. I thought I'd put up a sign in the hostel advertising for a climbing partner, but I was wary of this approach, since when doing Mt. Cook you want to be roped to someone you trust with your life, not some guy you just met.

I started looking into getting a guide, and was utterly shocked at what they charged: NZ $2,600 (US $1,400) for a five day trip, plus the cost of food and the airplane trip up to the base of the peak, with only one client per guide allowed. I was used to paying in the neighborhood of US $300--500 for a two to five day guided climb on peaks like Mt. Rainier or the Grand Teton, so was bowled over at this price, especially since everything else in New Zealand was so cheap. I knew I was basically broke at this point, too, so a guide was out of the question.

I drove back to the hostel and checked in, paying for two nights, and hung out and started striking up conversations with the usual international clientele in hopes of finding someone to team up with. I met two Australian climbers who had just come down from Mt. Cook, and one of them was going back up solo on a hard route, but he didn't seem interested in company. There were two Irish climbers, too, who didn't seem too friendly. After walking to the small, expensive general store to buy food for dinner I hung out more, but all the others in the hostel were non-climbing tourists--I ended up talking to a German woman for an hour or more before going to sleep.

Tuesday, November 16:

Since going for Mt. Cook was out of the question for today, because I hadn't lined up partners or NZ $2,600, instead I decided to climb an easy, low peak of the Southern Alps, Mt. Ollivier at 1933 meters (6342 feet). I rented crampons from the shop in Mt. Cook (I still had my own ice axe) and hiked on the Kea Point Track trail north, and then steeply uphill to the Sealy Tarns, arriving at there at 11 AM. From there I hiked up on easy snowfields to the Mueller Hut, located on the crest of the Sealy Range.

There was a Kiwi couple there I talked to a bit before continuing south along the ridge to Mt. Ollivier, and even a little further towards mean-looking Mt. Kitchener before taking a long, long rest and returning to the hut. It had been cloudy this morning, and raining a little bit on the way up, but now it was clearing nicely, and the close-up views of the icy giants of the Southern Alps was really awesome--quite possibly the most stunning alpine scenery I had ever seen in my life, the European Alps included. Mt. Sefton, with its enormous hanging glaciers and continuous avalanches, was right in my face. These were really serious mountains.

Back at the Muller Hut there was now another couple there, an Italian/Swiss couple who I had seen hitchhiking yesterday. I had a long chat with them as the clouds over Mt. Cook finally parted, and we all went out of the hut into the sunshine to admire the snowy meat-cleaver 10 miles to the north. I then hiked back down to the village of Mt. Cook, the upper snowfields giving me problems due to soft, deep snow--I postholed terribly, and not once did I need my rented crampons on the whole trip.

Back in Mt. Cook village I bought some more food and hung out in the hostel--I talked more to the Australian and Irish climbers, but again no invitations to join their trips were forthcoming, and I didn't want to be pushy. These groups were waiting for the wind to die down so they could be flown into the high Mt. Cook basecamp on a glacier, saving an arduous approach march. After a shower and cooking some tater tots I had bought in the hostel's kitchen (the only time on my whole trip I actually prepared hot food myself), I watched the video A Fish Called Wanda on TV before turning in. I didn't drive my car all day today.

Mount Ollivier was the first peak ever climbed by Edmund Hillary, and remains a popular scramble from the nearby Mount Cook Village area (1993-11-16).
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1214 m / 3980 ft
    Trailhead:Mt. Cook Town  719 m / 2362 ft
    Grade/Class:1
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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